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A bamboo knife block is both utilitarian (safely housing your precious knives) as well as aesthetic, offering a unique Asian flair to your kitchen. Bamboo is also durable and sustainable, making it a great choice for knife blocks.
But have you ever wondered what is lurking down in the crevices of those knife slots? In fact, when was the last time you actually cleaned your bamboo knife block?
If you’re like most of us, its been a LONG time.
Knife blocks are notoriously one of the most neglected kitchen items. We wash our knives and put them away thinking that’s all there is to it.
Why You Need to Clean Your Bamboo Knife Block
Fact is, moisture and dark crevices can be a literal haven for bacteria and mold. In this guide we take you through the steps needed to safely and reliably clean a bamboo knife block, keeping in in top shape while eliminating harmful bacteria and pathogens lurking inside.
Damage to the Bamboo Knife Block
Even when properly treated and ‘seasoned’, bamboo (like any wood) isn’t impervious to damage that can be caused by moisture. Moisture can degrade and break down wood fibers and cause warping. Further, bacteria growing unchecked in moist environments can also produce byproducts that can break down wood on a microscopic level. Over time this damage can turn your fancy bamboo knife block into an ugly, smelly and unsanitary paperweight.
Given that the blades you store in your bamboo knife block are the same ones used for meal prep, the risk of cross-contamination of bacteria from your knife block to your food is a real possibility. The last thing you want is to spend all that time cleaning and maintaining your kitchen knives, only to have them become dirty and contaminated the second you put them into their storage slots.
Edge Retention and Knife Longevity
A clean knife block will result in prolonged edge retention, requiring less honing and sharpening of your blades, and as a result, increase the longevity of your kitchen knives.
How to Clean a Bamboo Knife Block
Although cleaning a bamboo knife block will be similar in many ways to cleaning any other knife block, bamboo can pose some unique challenges that we’ll address below.
Items you Will Need:
- Hot/warm water
- A scrub brush
- Pipe cleaners
- Antibacterial soap
Step 1: Remove Any Loose Debris
You know how your toaster tends to accumulate crumbs at the bottom? Similarly, your knife block can accumulate food particles and debris at the bottom of the slats. To get these out, simply flip it upside down and give it a good shake, plus a few hard slaps for good measure. This can dislodge anything stuck.
Step 2: Washing Down the Outside of Your Bamboo Knife Block
According to Marianne Gravely, a Sr. Technical Information Specialist at the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the best solution for cleaning your kitchenware is with either a diluted bleach solution or with hot soapy water. If using bleach, a ratio of 1 tbsp of regular strength bleach to 1 gallon of distilled water is best.
You have two options here. If you have a sink big enough, washing your block in the sink is a good bet. This allows you to dip the block below the surface and let the water seep down into the knife slats. If not, you can always pour the solution into each knife slot.
We like a two-pronged approach, using hot soapy water for scrubbing and cleaning, and once rinsed off, following up with the diluted bleach solution for sanitization.
Step 3: Roll Up Your Sleeves and Give it a Little Elbow Grease
Remember that brush we said you’d need? Time to get it out. Gently scrub the exterior of the block, rotating in small circular motions. When done, take those pipe cleaners and scrub out each individual knife slot as well.
Step 4: Rinse it Down
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Rinse the outside and inside of the block with warm water until all soap is removed.
Step 5: Sanitize
Now that your block is clean and all of the debris washed away, its time to give it a good round of sanitization. Some might consider this step overkill, but we feel like its appropriate considering your knives will be used for food prep.
Remember that bleach solution (1 tbsp to 1 gallon of water)? Mix that up and wipe down the outside of the block with it. If you have a spray bottle, spray the solution down into each knife slot, if not, soaking each slot is ok too.
You want to let this sit for between 3-5 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.
Step 6: Drying
This step is more important than you may realize. Prolonged exposure to moisture is bad for bamboo. Instead of letting your block air dry, pat and wipe it down gently with a clean towel. The inside slats you can air dry with a fan or blow dryer.
Whatever you do, do NOT return your knives to a damp knife block.
Step 7: Preservation
This step, which is optional but advised, involves ‘seasoning’ your bamboo in order to lay down an additional protective layer. This layer will help the wood to maintain it’s natural sheen while repelling water and moisture.
For this step, simply wipe down all exposed surfaces with a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil, often called ‘board cream’ for cutting boards. You can also use plain mineral oil in a pinch.
Easy Steps to Clean Your Bamboo Knife Block
That’s all there is to it. With a little routine maintenance and TLC, you can keep your bamboo knife block clean, shiny and sanitary, while prolonging its lifespan and that of the knives it houses.