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7 things that will ruin your kitchen knives

Knives need love just like the rest of us. Avoid these common mistakes that'll do major harm to your beautiful blades.

aura-knife
David Watsky/CNET

While most home cooks I know are willing to drop major coin on Dutch ovens, frying pans and gadgets galore, most don't think all that much about their kitchen knives. A chef's knife is probably the piece of cooking gear you'll use most over the course of your culinary career and so you deserve a good one. Here we've outlined our favorite chef's knives for 2021 in a few categories and price levels to help you upgrade the blade that matters most. 

But just as important as choosing quality kitchen cutlery is keeping your chef, santoku or slicing knife sharp and in good shape (literally). Do that, and a good blade will last you years, even decades, depending on the overall build and blade quality. Knives are precise instruments with carefully sharpened edges and meticulously balanced form. There are several easy ways to ruin a knife and you may be doing any number of these things without knowing. 

The first guard against knife abuse is learning what those common hazards are so you can keep those blades beautiful for years to come. Here are seven simple ways you might be ruining your kitchen knives.

Read more: Scientists create a wooden knife three times sharper than a steel blade

Cutting on any surface other than soft wood or plastic

There are boards and blocks made from all sorts of materials but many of them are not knife-friendly. Stone or marble boards and glass surfaces should be reserved for serving food, not preparing it (at least not with a knife) since they will dull your blade faster than almost anything else.

knife-on-marble

Even one slice on a glass or marble surface can do irreparable damage to your chef's knife.

David Watsky/CNET

Bamboo and plastic are technically the softest (and cheapest!) materials you'll find cutting boards made from, and thus will be the gentlest on your blades. Most wooden cutting boards, however, should have enough give to not damage your blade. 

Storing your knives free in a drawer 

This is probably the biggest mistake folks make with their kitchen knives. I've seen it more times than I can count and it hurts me every time. Letting your knives clink around in a drawer with other knives and metal tools will dull or chip them over time. I get that you might not want to keep a clumsy block on the counter, but there are some pretty sleek options these days like this and this. You can also buy an in-drawer wooden knife racks or sheath your knives with plastic cases. The coolest option may be to store the knives on one of these magnetic knife racks ($24 on Wayfair) and show off your shiny blades to dinner guests.

knife-in-drawar

Not only will this setup ruin your knife, but you're bound to hurt yourself eventually.

David Watsky/CNET

Letting knives sit in the sink or putting them in the dishwasher

For many reasons, your knives should never go in the dishwasher. It'll likely damage the handles, and the blades should never be exposed to water for that long. Speaking of which, never let a knife sit wet in the sink or anywhere else for that matter. That means no soaking, ever, and when you've finished washing it by hand, dry it immediately or the metal will become susceptible to rust and corrosion.

knife-in-sink

I don't care how hungry you are, get that knife out of the sink and dry it off before you sit down to eat.

David Watsky/CNET

Using a metal scrubber or rough sponge

It shouldn't come as a surprise that using metal or another rough material to clean your knife blade could lead to big problems. Instead, use hot water and a soft sponge or cloth. Your knives should never be so dirty that those aren't enough to get them clean. 

Cutting nonfood items or using your knife as a general tool

Good knives may seem like a multipurpose tool but they should only be used for food prep. Try not to cut any nonfood items like plastic, cardboard or other packaging. And don't even think about employing your knife as a screwdriver or lever to pry open something that's stuck.

Oversharpening. It's bad news

There comes a point at which a knife blade can't be sharpened anymore, and if you continue to pound it on a steel or whetstone, you'll only be shaving off the blade itself and shortening the knife's life span. 

Here's a guide to sharpening your kitchen knives.

sharpening

Sharpening is good. Oversharpening is bad. 

David Watsky/CNET

Scraping your knife sideways on the board

Knives were really only made to cut in two directions, back and forth and not side to side, so try not to use your good knives in a scraping manner. It may be instinct to move and gather all that chopped food on the board with the blade of the knife but it will damage the edge over time. If you can't break the habit completely, at least try and do it gently and without much downward force. 

knife-across

Using your knife as a scraper is a hard habit to break but your knife will thank you.

David Watsky/CNET

More ways to level up your culinary skills