Cleaning and Maintaining Your Swiss Army Knife

How to Clean and Maintain a Swiss Army Knife

5 min read

Cleaning and Maintaining Your Swiss Army Knife

Over time, your Swiss Army Knife, likely your favorite everyday carry, will accumulate dirt, lint and other debris as it moves through the world in your pocket and helps you tackle a variety of challenges.

In a few easy steps, you can clean out your Swiss Army Knife to get the tools back to deploying smoothly and help them function better.

Step 1: Remove all tools that are not built into the knife itself, as well as the battery (if applicable).

These tools can include the toothpick, tweezers, ballpoint pen, mini screwdriver, etc. All of these should be cleaned individually in warm, soapy water while they are out of the knife's case. Be sure to dry them completely before re-inserting them.

It is also critical to remove the battery to keep it dry during the cleaning process.

Step 2: If your Swiss Army Knife does not have any electronic components, submerge the entire knife in a container of warm water or under warm running water to remove dirt and grime.*

While the knife is under water, swirl it gently. Also, carefully open and close each of the implements. While each implement is open, carefully use a sponge or a very gentle scouring pad to scrub away any stubborn dirt or smudges. 

Open and close each implement under water several times to clean.

If you need a little extra help beyond the hot water, you may use a mild dishwashing liquid. Just keep in mind that less is more, and that the soap can make the tools slippery and hard to clean safely.

You can use your knife's toothpick to pry stubborn gunk and dust from the knife's nooks and crannies. The Swiss Army Knife toothpick is the ideal tool for this task because it won't harm the metal implements, and it won't splinter like a traditional toothpick may.

Once you have removed all of the dirt, be sure to rinse the knife thoroughly to ensure there is no soap residue left behind, and then dry your knife.

Swish your Swiss Army Knife under warm water to clean.

If there are any stubborn marks on the tools when your Swiss Army Knife comes out of the bath, you may use a sparse amount of solvent applied directly to the affected area. (A q-tip with some rubbing alcohol is a good choice here.) Be careful, however, to keep any solvents very localized to the smudge and only on metal parts, as many solvents can damage the Swiss Army Knife's cellidor (plastic) handles. 



1. NEVER put your Swiss Army Knife in the dishwasher. The high heat and abrasive cleaners can damage the knife, dull blades, and compromise handles.

2. Do NOT use a harsh abrasive such as steel wool, a brill-o pad, or sandpaper as these can scratch the metal of the tools. Rust remover can also cause damage.

*If your knife does have electronic components, do not submerge your knife. Instead, pull out each implement and clean it while the knife rests on a towel or other soft surface, keeping the internal components dry.

If you DO get electronic components wet by accident, don't panic. Simply remove the batteries and let everything dry thoroughly before use. There is a protective lacquer coating on the contacts for Victorinox electronics components, so they should be OK after they are completely dry.

Step 3: Thoroughly dry your Swiss Army Knife with all implements open.

Once you have carefully toweled your clean Swiss Army Knife dry (using a rag or towel that won't leave behind a lot of lint or debris), allow your knife to air dry with the implements open to ensure there's no water left behind in hard-to-reach areas.

Step 4: Polish and clean your Swiss Army Knife handles.

If you have a Swiss Army Knife with standard plastic handles, they will likely dull or scratch over time, developing their own patina. One way to bring back a little shine and remove marks is applying a small amount of Flitz polish with a microfiber cloth or soft rag. 

(Please note, we do not sell Flitz here, but have found it a valuable tool in restoring knife handles. It should be available at your local hardware store or online.)

Step 5: Lubricate your Swiss Army Knife with knife oil to keep tools protected and moving smoothly.

It is important to note that cleaning out your knife will also likely wash out any remaining knife oil. After a lot of use, it is also possible your knife will need a bit of an oil refresh even if you haven't washed it. 

Lubricate your Swiss Army Knife with knife oil.

The knife oil will get things moving smoothly, and also help protect your Swiss Army Knife from rust.

Even with a steady hand, oiling a knife is a messy proposition. Be sure to lay down paper towels, newspaper, etc. to protect your table or counter, and have rags handy to clean up any excess oil and drips.

To oil your Swiss Army Knife, with all implements closed, first add a single drop of oil to the hinges where each tool is connected to the frame. Next, open the implements and add a drop to each moving part.

Move each part back and forth (eg. open and close each tool) a few times to evenly distribute the oil and get it down into each hinge. If you get resistance even after a drop of oil, add a little more. If that still doesn't smooth things out, it may be necessary to clean the joint a little more thoroughly.

When oiling your knife, don't forget about the scissors, if you have them!

Once you've applied the oil and everything is moving smoothly, let it rest for a bit (half hour to an hour), and then wipe it with a soft rag to remove any excess oil.

Which oil should I use to lubricate my Swiss Army Knife?

Victorinox Multi-tool Oil

In selecting the right oil for your Swiss Army Knife, there are several things to consider. Ideally, it will be highly viscous, neutral in smell, age-resistant (will not seize up over time), food-safe and have good corrosion protection qualities. 

Victorinox itself does make Swiss Army Knife Oil designed specifically for the task at hand. There are also other good oils available on the market. Just ensure the oil meets the criteria above.


NEVER use WD-40 to lubricate a Swiss Army Knife, as it is too thick and could cause implements to seize.

Step 6: Replace any missing or worn-out accessories.

Small accessories such as toothpicks, tweezers and scissor springs can wear out or disappear over time. Swiss Knife Shop sells a full line of replacement parts to get your knife back to its original functionality. 

If you'd like to add extra functionality or personalize your knife, Victorinox now offers toothpicks and tweezers in new colors, mini-tools that slot into the corkscrew, lanyards and more.

Shop the full line of Swiss Army Knife Replacement Parts >

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Mini Tools


Step 7: Sharpen your Swiss Army Knife blades.

Bringing your blade back to factory-fresh sharpness is easy. Read our Blog Post on knife sharpening for all the details and how-to's.

Learn how to sharpen your Swiss Army Knife >

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