Knives are an essential part of the kitchen and of everyday life. However, knives need regular sharpening and maintenance to get the most out of the blade. That’s where knife oil comes in. The best knife oils clean, prevent rust, condition, and help sharpen a knife’s edge, and while some oils perform all four functions, others may only prevent rust, clean, or hone the blade. Knife oils come in different types and, depending on the knife, one knife oil may work better than another.
- BEST OVERALL: KUROBARA HAMONO TSUBAKI Pure Tsubaki Camellia Oil
- BEST FOR FOLDING KNIVES: Knife Pivot Lube Knife Oil
- BEST HIGH VISCOSITY: Knife Pivot Lube Combo Pack (Original & Heavy)
- BEST FOR RUST PREVENTION: Yoshihiro 100% Pure Tsubaki Knife Maintenance Oil
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Knife Oil
Different types of knives may require a certain type of knife oil. Oils come in various viscosities and base ingredients, from food-grade oils for kitchen knives to lubricating oils for folding or EDC (everyday carry) knives.
Synthetic vs. Natural
In many industries, natural products are heralded as healthier and superior to synthetic varieties. That’s not necessarily true when it comes to knife oils. Olive oil, vegetable oil, and canola oil are examples of natural oils that, in theory, can be used on knives. Unfortunately, these oils can pose a few problems.
While natural oils can clean blades and they offer some rust and corrosion protection, however, their greasy consistency attracts dust and dirt, which can gum up the knife and actually make it harder to keep clean. Additionally, these oils can go rancid and develop an unpleasant odor.
Camellia oil is an exception in the natural oil category. This oil comes from the camellia flower. This lubricant/cleanser got its start as a knife oil in Japanese kitchens, but it can be used on knives of different types.
Synthetic knife oils often have a petroleum base and include camellia or mineral oil as supplemental ingredients. Synthetic oils come in food grade and non-food grade varieties. When sharpening kitchen knives, always use food-grade knife oils. These oils are safe for human consumption, though they aren’t the kind of fats used for cooking. Although you wouldn’t use them to dress a salad, their ingredients are not harmful if ingested after touching surfaces that will also come into contact with food.
Synthetic, non-food grade knife oils are not consumable. They are meant to hone and lubricate folding and utility knives—the types of knives that are generally not used for cooking.
Blade and Handle Materials
Some materials used to make knives and their handles require special attention. For example, carbon steel creates a beautiful knife that holds an impressively sharp edge. However, it does not contain elements that prevent rust and corrosion.
Carbon steel easily rusts if left in wet conditions for even a short time. After each use, knives made of this material require an oil that cleans, prevents rust, and conditions the steel. Knife oils enhance the natural patina that carbon steel knives develop over time.
Stainless steel isn’t nearly as delicate as carbon steel because of additional elements in the blade. Water exposure will not typically result in a rusty blade, although low-quality stainless steel might rust. However, stainless steel blades still need periodic oiling to protect and sharpen the blade. That can be done with an all-purpose type of oil or separate honing and protecting oils. A conditioning oil doesn’t hurt once in a while either, but it’s not essential to the knife’s continued use as it is with carbon steel.
Some manufacturers of knives make an accompanying knife oil. While you don’t have to use the manufacturer’s oil, these knife oils are often formulated to complement the blade’s materials, and are worth considering.
Some knife oils also condition butcher blocks, cutting boards, and other wooden surfaces. They’re an excellent choice for knives with wooden handles, as the oil conditions the entire knife, from blade tip to handle end.
For many people, rust prevention is the number one reason to use knife oil, especially if they use premium knives. Some knife oils are specifically designed for rust prevention. These oils create a thin protective coating that repels water.
Carbon steel knives require a protective coat of oil after each use. Stainless steel models don’t require as much care but still benefit from regular oiling to prevent rust.
Knife oils have four general purposes—cleaning, conditioning, rust prevention, and honing. The most versatile knife oils may do all four. Various types of mineral oils, for example, offer this kind of versatility. A general-purpose knife oil saves money and offers uses well beyond maintaining knives.
Other types of knife oils are more specialized. Honing oils are one example, and conditioning oils are another. Honing oils help lubricate and sharpen knife blades, while conditioning oils maintain the steel. Honing oils are typically used on wet stones and other sharpening tools as well as the knife’s blade. Conditioning oils may condition wooden handles as well as blades.
Our Top Picks
The following top picks for knife oils include different types designed for various purposes. These oils work well for their designated purpose such as blade protection, for excellent honing maintenance, or achieving impressive cleaning results.
From KUROBARA HAMONO TSUBAKI, this oil is designed specifically for Japanese cooking knives. However, it works well on different types of knives as well. It’s considered a “wet” oil, meaning it’s non-greasy and doesn’t attract dust. It also offers lubrication and rust protection. It can condition wood, making it a good option for knives with wooden handles. This oil is also useful as a lubricant on machines, like sewing machines, and other sharp tools and weapons like swords.
This is a synthetic oil designed for joints, locks, and bearings. However, it’s a great protective oil for blades, too. The oil lubricates moving parts and repels dirt and dust, preventing small particles from clogging the joint or the lock over time. This type of oil penetrates difficult metals and ceramics, making it a good choice for knives of various compositions.
Knife Pivot Lube’s oil does more than lubricate. It creates a protective barrier against rust and corrosion while giving the knife the lubrication it needs to resist normal wear and tear. It’s not food grade, so make sure to only use it on non-kitchen knives.
The heavy oil included in this combo pack works well on dented balls and tracks, because it is created to stay in place. After applying the oil to the knife’s hinge and locking mechanism, the heavy oil re-fluidizes the detent ball in the locking mechanism each time the knife locks in place. It’s like re-lubing the joint and lock each time the knife gets used for longer-lasting lubrication. And it only takes a drop or two to get that lasting lubrication.
Yoshihiro’s knife oil offers excellent lubrication, cleaning, and protection. It does an excellent job of preventing rust and corrosion by creating a protective barrier, making it a good option for carbon steel knives. At the same time, it’s an effective cleaning agent and conditioner for the steel, helping to develop and maintain a knife’s natural patina. The nozzle design offers simple, precise application, so it’s less messy than some knife oils.
FAQs About Knife Oils
It’s natural to have a few questions if you’ve never used knife oil before. Remember that it will take some practice to learn the best way to apply and use the oil. You may also find some oils that work better on your knives than others.
Q. What is food-grade knife oil?
Food-grade knife oil is made of ingredients that are safe for human and animal consumption. They often work on knife blades, cutting boards, and other surfaces that will eventually come into contact with food. However, they’re not meant for direct application to food. Do not confuse these oils with cooking oils.
Q. How should I use a knife lubricant?
Knife lubricants keep moving parts in working order. It may only take a drop or two or a small spray near the joint of a folding knife to apply the lubricant. Work the oil in by moving the joint back and forth several times. Rub excess oil into the blade using a microfiber cloth.
Q. What kind of oil is best for a pocket knife?
Pocket knives typically require a conditioning/lubricating oil to maintain the joint. Some may also require periodic oiling to protect the blade from rust. A honing oil can also be helpful when sharpening. Luckily, some knife oils can do all three, like all-purpose mineral oil.
Q. What oil should I use on wooden knife handles?
Use a knife oil that conditions cutting boards and other wood surfaces as well as knife blades.
Q. How often should I oil my knives?
That depends on the type of knife and how often it gets used. Carbon steel knives require oiling after each use. A frequently used pocket knife may require weekly lubrication. Stainless steel kitchen knives may do well with a weekly or a bi-weekly oiling schedule.