Can I Save My Rust Spotted Knife?

Dear Home-Ec 101,

This morning I stumbled out to the kitchen to discover whoever (I have my suspects on a short list) had done the dishes last left my good knife in a sink full of water overnight.

This is what it looks like now.

Can it be saved? Are these rust spots harmful? Will the rust ruin my knife blade? Will the culprit live to see another day?

Spotted in Spateford

Heather says:

While the blade looks a little worse for wear, it’s only surface rust. Check out the comments of Why Is There Rust on My Stainless? If you want the lowdown on how rust can occur on stainless steel.

To fix your knife it’s time to break out our good friend Bar Keepers Friend¹. Wet the blade of your knife, sprinkle with Bar Keepers Friend and use a soft cloth to buff until all of the rust has been removed. You need to do this as soon as possible. Stainless steel, like all steel, can rust, it just occurs at a much slower rate than other formulas. Removing the rust will prevent it the corrosion from spreading.

Once you’ve cleaned up the blade go ahead and sharpen your knife.

In all honesty, I’m more concerned about the handle which is not pictured.

If it your knife has a wooden handle, has the wood swollen and warped? How is the handle secured to the tang of the blade? Can you see the bolts that secure the blade to the handle? A wooden handle may split after soaking in water. Keep an eye on it. If the wood does split, a knife repair shop can replace the handle. You’ll need to decide if it would be more cost effective to just replace the knife. If the handle is made of man-made materials you may be fine.

Send your questions to

¹There’s no disclosure, they don’t sponsor the site in any way, it’s just a wonderful product I’ve used for years and recommend highly. You can find it near the abrasive cleaners at most big box (Target / Walmart style stores). It’s in a gold can and very cheap.


  1. KeterMagick on October 23, 2011 at 12:30 am

    The fact that your stainless knife rusted so quickly means that it is better for its intended purpose. The additives put into steel to make it “stainless” also make it less able to accept and keep a sharp edge. Polish off the rust and feel good that your knife literally has an edge over most.

    I own two knives from Ikea, which despite their origins, are unusually good implements. They rust if you look at them with a damp eye, so I always hand wash them, even though they have bakelite handles. I’ve gone to all bakelite handles over the years, except for a fancy cheese knife and antique stag-horn carving set. Wooden handles are such a challenge to keep nice on daily use knives, but soaking in boiled linseed oil might salvage a wooden handle if it is not deeply cracked. Linseed oil takes a number of days to fully dry, so try not to get the handle wet again until its set. Then you can sand off any rough spots, wipe down again with linseed oil, and it should be good for a few more years.

    It doesn’t hurt to periodically “polish” all wooden handles – regardless of whether or not they’ve been treated with linseed oil – with olive oil or mineral oil. Use olive oil on pieces that get used (and re-oiled) frequently, and mineral oil on pieces that will be stored for a long time (because mineral oil won’t oxidize and smell funny).

  2. bookchick on October 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

    I recently bought a set of ‘cheap’ stainless flatware at Target to keep in my desk at work. (There’s nothing more annoying than trying to eat cereal with a fork because you forgot a spoon that day and nobody has any extra plastic ones). Under Instructions on the box, it stated the best way to clean stainless was to hand wash, that soaking or running in the dishwasher could cause rust spots.

    • HeatherSolos on October 21, 2011 at 9:31 am

      @bookchick and people still want to argue and say that stainless won’t rust. HEH

      • deneicer1 on October 26, 2011 at 9:39 am

        @HeatherSolos@bookchick Yeah, right….

        I usually buy plastic colanders because the metal mesh ones rust, even when they say they won’t. 🙁

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