Victorinox knives are manufactured from high-quality steel and components and are pretty robust. However, even tempered stainless steel will show some signs of corrosion and dust and much can easily get into the hinges
So you do need to clean, oil and sharpen your blades and tools periodically to prevent them from becoming dull.
What NOT To Do
Now before we start there are things that you should not do as they can damage or reduce the life expectancy of your knife.
Dishwasher or Bleach
Do NOT put your Swiss Army Knife in the Dishwasher!
This is surprisingly common, however, the detergents used can cause your knife to cease up. It is also not great for the casing.
Bleach is also not great as it is too harsh and will cause scratches to the blade and hinges which may make them more prone to jamming up
This may surprise you, but WED-40 is not great for your knife’s workings either.
WD-40 is designed for heavy-duty chains, car components etc, so it is too thick to really penetrate well.
Later on in this article we go into the types of oil we recommend.
Sandpaper and Rust Remover
After my earlier comments about bleach causing scratches, you will not be shocked to hear that sandpaper is not recommended either!
Rust remover is also not designed for smaller tools like Swiss army knives. So we would also advise avoiding this too.
Before You Start
First, if your model has any USB components, remove them before cleaning as they will not survive being submerged!
Next, if your knife has electronic components, remove the battery as the electronics in Swiss army knives are generally not waterproof.
If and moisture gets into the housing, remove the batteries and let it dry completely. Because the contacts have a protective lacquer coating, the electronics will not be damaged.
Clean Off Any Surface Grime and Gunk
Firstly take out all your removable components like toothpick, pens, and needles. Give these all a quick rinse under the hot tap.
Next use the knife’s toothpick (or a cocktail stick if you have lost yours…I know I do!) to scrape off the worst of the furry mess that always accumulates around the joins and hinges.
This does not have to be perfect, just clear away the stuff that comes off easily.
Then wash it under the hot tap to wash away any dust or loose bits of dirt.
Cleaning Your Knife
Often you will only need to use some warm water with a drop or two of washing up liquid if needed.
Submerge your knife in the water and then open and close the blades several times until they move easily again.
If you used any soap or detergent, run it under the hot tap to get any residue off.
Once this is done, dry them off with a rag and let them sit in a warm, dry place until all the water has evaporated. You are then ready to sharpen your knife and apply the oil.
Heavy Duty Cleaning
If you find your knife is still stiff and mucky, you may need to resort to a solvent.
I recommend isopropyl alcohol, or rubbing alcohol, as it is cheap, effective, and safe to use on skin. At a push, you can also use acetone or ethanol too.
Rubbing alcohol is also useful for getting oil and grease off of your hands, which will be useful when you oil the knife later.
WARNING: Isopropyl alcohol is flammable and volatile. Work well away from any flame or ignition source (including your mobile phone!) and keep everything well-ventilated.
Find an old glass or ceramic dish that you do not mind having alcohol in and fill it to a depth that will submerge your knife.
Place your knife in the solution and leave it for about an hour. For really tough muck, you can leave it for longer, but this stuff will rust your knife if you leave it too long. I give it a maximum time of 6 hours.
Sharpening Your Knife
If you need to sharpen any of the blades or tools on your knife, now is the time to do it, before you oil it.
We have written a separate article on sharpening your knife which you can find here.
You can use a sharpening stone or a knife sharpener – Victorinox does their own model, which might be a good choice, although any good knife sharpener or stone will work.
Oiling Your Knife
After drying and sharpening your knife, it is time to oil everything to make sure it all works smoothly and protect it from rust.
Victorinox do their own brand of oil which, as you would expect it is pretty good, but sometimes unavailable. We have found Hoppe’s oil to be a really good substitute and generally a bit cheaper too.
Oiling a knife is messy so before you start, make sure you put down newspaper and have a few rags handy.
Start with the blades all shut and squirt several small drops of oil where each tool connects to the knife body.
Next, place a small drop of oil between the blades and the tool casing or spring as well as other friction points.
Now open each tool and blade put oil on the inside of the knife where each connects to the body.
Now open and close each individual tool and blade repeatedly, this will drive oil into the hinge.
If any feels stiff, graunchy or hard to open after a dozen or so openings, add more oil to that hinge. Keep opening and closing it to get the oil right into the hinge.
If it still persists, you may need to go back to cleaning it again and use the rubbing alcohol if you did not before.
Do not worry about getting oil over the knife, you cannot damage it with too much oil.
Once you have finished, leave the knife to sit for half an hour at least before cleaning it with a rag.
You can use the rubbing alcohol to clean your hands, but do not get any onto your knife now.
Cleaning and servicing your Swiss Army Knife is not that hard and it will keep your blade working in tip-top condition when you need it.
It will also preserve the life of the blades and tools.
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.