I'm looking for information on sanitizing carbon steel blades. I have 2 high quality knives that my girlfriend wants me to spray with Clorox cleaner as I wont put them in the dishwasher, but my manual says that I shouldn't use corrosive agents like bleach and citrus. Is there anything comparable I can use to sanitize these knives after cutting meat that won't compromise the knives? The manual says soap and water but that doesn't really sanitize anything.

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    Why do you think you should sanitize / why do you feel simple washing wouldn't suffice? – Stephie Mar 8 '16 at 13:21
  • I personally think its fine to just wash/dry w/ soap and hot water, trying to meet my GF in the middle on this – bostonNETDev Mar 8 '16 at 13:26
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    Do you use an antibacterial soap? – Catija Mar 8 '16 at 17:46
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    You could also consider asking another question: "do I need to sanitize knives?" There are food safety regulations for everything, so surely there are ones for things like knives, and if those ever-paranoid regulations don't mandate sanitizing, that might convince your girlfriend? – Cascabel Mar 8 '16 at 18:10
  • Why do you need to sanitise the knives? Are they dirty? Pitted? Or are they just discoloured cause they are carbon steel knives. Many high end japanese knives are carbon steel, they do discolour. Many a sushi chef will get out a chunk of daikon radish and use either baking soda or bon ami and scrub the knife till it is nice and polished. But they are constantly wiping and cleaning their knives to prevent the tarnishing in the first place. – JG sd Mar 9 '16 at 3:22

Hot water provides perfectly acceptable sanitizing without corrosive chemicals I'd not want in my food anyway...

Immerse in hot water that is 77C (171F) for 30 seconds. Reference here.

  • Bars and beer brewers use sanitizers that work in cold water but then it's another thing you have to buy and have around the kitchen. – ArchonOSX Mar 11 '16 at 10:11
  • @ArchonOSX And most of them aren't safe for carbon steel, either. They're fine on the Brewer's stainless steel and glass and plastic items but they're not recommended for carbon steel. I looked them up when I first saw this question and they don't look like a good fit. – Catija Mar 29 '16 at 16:01
  • Just to be clear, it should be pointed out that in the referenced article, a hot water rinse on its own isn't sufficient. Might be obvious, but you still do soap + water wash at ≥110F, then rinse at ≥110F, then immerse for 30 seconds at ≥171F. (Page 4 of reference link) @GazelTP – Jason C Aug 13 '16 at 23:03
  • Just to be clear, if you dunk a dirty (whatever) in (whatever sanitizer) you'll just be sanitizing the top layer of dirt - you always have to clean the item before sanitizing it if you expect sanitizing (by any method) to be effective. – Ecnerwal Aug 15 '16 at 3:04

The manufacturer knows best what can and cannot damage the knife. If the manual says "no corrosive agents", then using any such agent is a risk, no matter what some person on the internet told you.

So, if you have to sanitize your knives, you can either

  1. Use whatever you like using for sanitizing and hope it does not damage them, or
  2. Buy different knives from another material.

There is no magical way for us to know when an aggressive cleaner will leave some specific knife undamaged.

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    I'm talking carbon steel specifically - any general advice around that would be helpful. – bostonNETDev Mar 8 '16 at 13:36

Professional-style "quat" sanitizers used following instructions might be your best bet for a non-corrosive, food safe, "official" disinfectant. Failing that, high proof edible alcohol (~80%) would likely deal decisively with most things that could remain on a clean, albeit tarnished, blade.

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