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I prefer a whetstone to a "steel" for knife sharpening. Over the years my whetstone has become loaded with steel particles from the knives. As it is basically 13 % chrome stainless steel it is not easy to dissolve. It is immune to nitric acid and hydrochloric is very slow , if at all . Any ideas for cleaning a whetstone ?

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    Steels are not for sharpening. They hone and should be used every time you use the knife. Whetstones actually sharpen of course and should NOT be used all the time or you will needlessly grind away your knives. – Sobachatina Nov 22 '17 at 19:04
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    Is it an oilstone or a waterstone? – rackandboneman Nov 23 '17 at 10:36
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My uncle used a dry stiff wire brush to remove crud, then dipped the brush into a pail of sudsy water and scrub it again. Then use a cloth with clean water (well wrung out), a dry up with a clean cloth, and a final dry wire brush on any remaining spots.

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I think the best way to clean a old whetstone with lots of buildup would be to rub it on a flattening plate, which also has the advantage of flattening your whetstone.

  • A concrete sidewalk will work for this purpose. – Wayfaring Stranger Nov 23 '17 at 22:46
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If this is an oilstone (which is considered old fashioned exactly because of these issues), an oft-mentioned ultima ratio remedy is boiling it in soapy water. YMMV, this could destroy the stone. If you know what exact type (eg arkansas) your oilstone is, research instructions specific to that stone type.

If it is a waterstone, abrading the stone - with a flattening plate, diamond stone, another waterstone until unaffected material is brought to the surface is the recommended method.

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While Bar Keepers Friend is a great cleaner with many uses, it is NOT great enough to clean an ultra-fine whetstone.

I use three grades of whetstone surfaces between two stones to do my sharpening jobs: Coarse, Fine, and Ultra-Fine. Coarse and Fine are on a single bastard stone, and Ultra-fine is a smaller dedicated stone.

The cleaning problem is presented by the ultra-fine whetstone; it remains clogged by particulates and discolored by impurities, the colors of which range from the expected shades of grey to suspicious sticky brown.

Boiling with detergents did not help. Lye (potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide) did. Two caveats: Do NOT allow it ANYWHERE near aluminum (it acts as does acid), and use VINEGAR (acetic acid) to neutralize it.

Lye works greatly on lots of things, especially when it comes to deposits involving extremes of heat and time, but it should be used with great care. The reasons why "excessive" bathing was generally regarded as unhealthy was understandable—considering people over a century ago were horribly ignorant regarding chemistry and physics. (nobody thought to bathe with vinegar after applying lye soap)

  • You have to find out (eg by googling images of oilstones and waterstones), since cleaning methods that work on a friable waterstone will not work well on an oilstone, whereas methods recommendable for oilstones will likely total a waterstone. – rackandboneman Mar 9 '18 at 11:31
  • I can appreciate the distinctions NOW between different types of stones. The trouble is that I didn't research such things BEFORE buying my stones. I have one bastard stone coarse on one side and fine on the other, and it's a dry stone composite, while the ultra-fine stone I have is an oil stone. It's the darned OIL stone that's giving me problems. I'm thinking of simply chucking it into the dustbin; more darned trouble than it's worth. Dry stones are a lot easier to clean. – William Kuns Mar 11 '18 at 18:47
  • Ultra-fine oilstones have their worth. So do coarse oilstones that have never been oiled - as stone flatteners for waterstones. – rackandboneman Mar 12 '18 at 9:33

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