Knives are some of the most essential tools needed in a commercial kitchen. Professional cutlery allows chefs and kitchen staff to make cleaner cuts, increase prep-time productivity, and stay safe—after all, a dull knife is much more dangerous to use than a sharp one. That’s why learning and practicing proper knife maintenance is vital for any foodservice business. In this guide, we’ll discuss handy tips for cleaning, drying, storing, and sharpening your knives to ensure optimal, long-lasting use in your kitchen.

Knife with oranges

How to Clean a Knife (and Dry it)

In a professional kitchen, not all knives are created equal. Depending on the blade and handle construction, knives will require different cleaners and methods to care for them without causing damage. Below are the best ways to clean knives with steel blades. For additional information on cleaning stainless steel, read our article on caring for stainless steel cookware.

When to Clean  What to Use  Do Not Use 
Pulling out of storage  Hot water and sponge/wet cloth 

Abrasive cleaners 

After use on foods  Hot water, mild soap, and a non-abrasive sponge 

Dishwasher, abrasive cleaners, or abrasive sponges 

Knife maintenance tipWash your professional cutlery by hand. Other items in the dishwasher can ding or chip the blades, and dishwasher detergent can dull them.

Drying Cutlery

Drying commercial cutlery is critical to prevent the rust and bacteria growth. To dry your knife the correct way, hold it by the handle and point the blade away from you. Take a soft cloth and fold it around the blade, using medium pressure to swipe the cloth from the base of the blade (bolster) to the tip. Consider these other tips for drying your knives safely:

  • Use a clean microfiber cloth, since microfiber is ultra-absorbent and will dry a blade in one or two swipes.  
  • Dry the handle of your knife before you dry the blade. A dry handle will give you a better, safer grip.
  • Similarly, ensure your hands are completely dry to avoid slips and injury.

How to Store Knives

Along with cleaning and drying, it’s crucial to store your knives properly. Carefully storing your cutlery is equally important for increasing the longevity of their use and keeping them free from damage. Access to your knives should reflect the flow of your commercial kitchen. If your kitchen is in a correctional facility, you need store knives differently than if you work in a restaurant, for example. Luckily, there are storage solutions available for every type of professional kitchen. Below are recommended places to keep your knives when not in use.

Storage Type Benefits Not Recommended If

Carrying Case 

  • Portable 
  • Convenient for line prep/cooking 
  • Easy for front-of-house carving
  • Only accessing knives at a back-of-house food prep station 
  • Accessing multiple knives per food prep task 


  • Good for residential storage 
  • Keeps knives in a secure spot away from debris
  • Using large/specialty knives 
  • Limited counter space 


  • Keeps knives secure 
  • Some models lock for extra security or include UV sanitation features
  • Needing quick access to several knives at once 
  • Low on wall space


  • Access several knives quickly 
  • Economical option 
  • Small storage footprint 
  • Needing locked storage 

Now that you know how to store knives correctly, it’s time to discover where not to keep your cutlery. Here are just a few places to avoid when it comes to knife storage.


As with a commercial dishwasher, a drawer isn’t an ideal location to put a knife. Storing a knife in the utensil drawer along other knives or silverware can cause damage to the blade. In addition to that, a loose knife hiding in a drawer can pose a safety risk to anyone who goes to haphazardly retrieve it.


It’s a bad habit to leave dirty knives in the sink to soak as they await washing. Soaking a knife in water and soap can speed up the breakdown of the metal, and it can also cause rust or weaknesses in the blade. You should also avoid leaving a knife in the sink because other dishes can ding or chip the blade.


You may be tempted to store knives in extra food storage containers in your kitchen. However, it’s not recommended since loose knives are at a higher risk of getting dinged or injuring kitchen staff who reach into the container.

knives laying on table

Professional Knife Sharpening Tips

It’s common advice to keep your knives sharp in order to maintain the blade and extend their lifespan. You might wonder why this is so important in a professional kitchen, and how to ensure your blades are kept sharp.  

Why Keep Knives Sharp?

There are several reasons to keep the cutlery sharp in your professional kitchen. Listed below are the purposes of maintaining a sharp edge on your knives: 

  • Prevent injury from using a dull blade 
  • Get consistent cuts in produce and meat
  • Increase productivity during food prep by cutting more easily
  • Reduce product waste resulting from bad cuts
  • Extend the life of the blade 

Sharpening vs. Honing a Knife

Simply put: you hone sharp blades, and you sharpen dull blades. Honing is the process of running a sharp blade along honing steel to create a finer edge. Sharpening a blade is often done by professionals and involves grinding down the blade and eliminating the burr that is produced in the process. Professional knife sharpening results in cutlery that performs like new. 

How Often Do I Sharpen a Knife?

If you operate in a professional kitchen, you should hone your knife after every use to maintain a sharp edge. Similarly, it’s recommended that you sharpen your knife every four to six months using a sharpening stone. 

Knife maintenance tip: If you’re struggling to cleanly cut a tomato, you need to sharpen your knife. It should cut straight through the tomato without squishing it.

How to Sharpen and Hone Your Knife

Using honing steel is a quick way to maintain a sharp edge on a knife. Every professional kitchen needs to have both honing steel and a whetstone to maintain a sharp blade. This video on how to sharpen dull knives demonstrates step-by-step how to hone and sharpen your knives!

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