Long-term knife storage: avoid corrosion with this trick

Most knife nerds know better than to use a leather sheath for long-term storage. Even if the leather is vegetable tanned and therefore doesn’t have corrosive chemicals in it, it still absorbs moisture and traps it next to the blade.

The picture above is the result of me forgetting my everyday carry (EDC) fixed blade in the console of my vehicle for a few weeks, stored in a leather sheath I’d made for concealed carry purposes. (The peg in this little sheath keeps it from falling down inside my pants, so it’s surprisingly comfortable to wear and easy to conceal.)

I came across this knife yesterday while I was digging in my car for something else. I realized that after running one last day’s worth of errands before lockdown, I had put the knife in the car and left it. I wasn’t surprised to see that the blade had gotten a bit corroded.

If you’re going to store your knife in a go-bag or a vehicle, then you’ll want to do two very easy things to prevent the mess you see above.

First, wipe the blade down with a silicone-impregnated cloth. Silicone is nontoxic, meaning you can safely cut food with a blade that has been coated with it. It’s commonly used in kitchens to prevent corrosion.

Hoppe's No. 9 Silicone Gun And Reel Cloth

Hoppe's No. 9 Silicone Gun And Reel Cloth

Don't be put off by the "gun and reel" in the name --- it's just silicone, of the type chefs and others use to wipe down knives and kitchen hardware. The standard used for generations, it prevents rust and corrosion.

Second, make an improvised sheath for it from cardboard and tape. This second step is a very easy, quick measure that knife nuts the world over do with their blades when they’re putting them away in storage. Many custom knives even ship inside pre-made commercial cardboard covers like this. The cardboard is sturdy, safe, and does not trap moisture next to the blade.

Every knife you stash in a go-bag or in any other prep kit should be wiped down and placed in a cardboard sheath like this, no exceptions. You took the time to do your homework and buy a quality field knife, so you can take the extra minute to cut the lip off an Amazon box and tape it around your blade.


    • Mar Tam

      I don’t need to worry about this with a kydex or other plastic sheath, correct?

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    • Watermelon Samurai

      Can I ask about the choice of cardboard for the sheath? For long-term food storage, it’s not good to keep metal cans in cardboard. The cardboard can absorb moisture & cause the cans to rust where they touch. Will a good polishing with the silicone cloth be adequate protection against rust if the cardboard absorbs moisture? Thanks!

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    • hikermor

      I purchased one of my prize possessions in 1972, a Buck Pathfinder 105 fixed blade.  It came in a leather sheath and has been stored there ever since.  In fact, the original leather sheath wore out and it is on its second sheath, also from Buck.

      Not a hint of rust or corrosion. It gets used, sharpened, and cleaned from time to time with no special measures.  It now lives in coastal California and is often in proximity to salt water.

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      • Jon StokesStaff hikermor

        If it’s a good stainless then sure, it may well do fine in a leather sheath. I personally still wouldn’t do it, though.

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    • tommyd46

      As far as a rust inhibitor is concerned, I use either food grade mineral oil or food grade silicone.  Particularly if you are going to use the knife on food.  Kydex is probably best to store in as it does not attract moisture like cardboard.

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    • Kathy S

      I am packing my son’s knives for possible hurricane evacuation.  I have the cloth and I’ve made cardboard sheaths for the fixed blade knives.  Do I need to do anything besides wiping the blades for folding knives? I was planning on layering the knives with bubble wrap in a box.  Should I wrap them in paper so they don’t touch the plastic or is that overkill?  I was also going to put some dessicant packs in the box. Thanks for all the help this blog has provided.

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      • Jon StokesStaff Kathy S

        I think wiping down the blades is enough, especially for folding knives. I wouldn’t worry about them touching plastic, and as for bubble wrap — just towels or cloth would work just as well.

        Dessicant packs are a great idea, and can’t possibly hurt. So if you have those on hand, go for it.

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