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Getting Sand Out Of A Pocket Knife In 4 Simple Steps

The last thing you want in your pocket knife is sand. It is a killer! We look at how to get sand out of your pocket knife.

Sand in a pocket knife is a major issue. It can’t always be avoided, but if it happens, you need to know how to clean your knife for effective operation. Getting sand out of a pocket knife is easy if you know how. Keeping your pocket knife clean at all times ensures it is ready for service.

Your pocket knife will pick up dust, sand, or other debris from your pockets, not to mention the pick-up it will get whenever you use it. The mechanism on your knife is made to fine tolerances and requires cleaning. The combination of sand, grime, and lubricant makes a nice grinding paste that will mess it all up. We explain how to prevent sand and how to clean your pocket knife.

If you are looking for a range of quality pocket knives that we recommend, the Swiss Army range of pocket knives is a good place to start. You can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).

What’s The Issue With Sand In Your Pocket Knife?

How To Get Sand Out Of Your Pocket Knife
What’s The Issue With Sand In Your Pocket Knife?

What have cell phones got to do with pocket knives? Nothing actually! Except that more people probably carry a cellular phone in their pockets than they do pocket knives.

I always carry my cell phone in my trouser pocket. A while ago, I was battling to get the charger cable to function; it would not go fully into the charger hole in the phone. I then found a tip on the internet that said you need to clean out the plug hole in the phone.

The column advised one not to use a toothpick to dig in there. Of course, I used a toothpick! It worked for me. I was shocked, though, at the amount of gunk that came out, even though I thought that my phone was “protected” in my pocket. It all worked fine after that little maintenance service!

So, your pocket knife sits in the same “protected” environment and is exposed to the same grime and dirt invasion. It sounds like a good idea then to do some maintenance work on your pocket knife!

Your pocket knife will pick up dust, sand, or other debris from your pockets, not to mention the pick-up it will get whenever you use it. The mechanism on your knife is made to fine tolerances and requires cleaning. The combination of sand, grime, and lubricant makes a nice grinding paste that will mess it all up.

It takes only a small amount of fine sand or grit to combine with the lubricant to form a nice paste that will surely grind away at the moving parts of your pocket knife. A good knife will have particularly fine tolerances, which makes it even more important that it be kept clean.

It should never get to the stage where you open your knife, and you can hear and even feel that grinding action of sand or grit stuck in the mechanism.

There is no harm in cleaning it out regularly before it gets to that stage. In the following article, you will find several simple tips on how to look after these trusty tools.

TIP: Find out my TOP 3 picks of pocket knives if you are interested in buying a pocket knife (Amazon link):

How To Get Sand Out Of Your Pocket Knife

How To Get Sand Out Of Your Pocket Knife
How To Get Sand Out Of Your Pocket Knife

Fouling your knife with sand, grit, dust, etc, is a pretty easy task. Your stroll on a dry, dusty road, or a day spent lying or walking on the beach, especially with a bit of wind about, creates the perfect dusty environment to get the job done.

Now if you carry a multi-tool type knife, you are going to need to do some pretty regular cleaning. The Multi-tool has so many nooks and crannies to hide the grime that it will make your eyes water.

There are several ways to clean out the accumulated grime, sand, and grit from your pocket knife, so here are a few ideas that we will expand on later:

  • The absolute best way is, of course, the most expensive way. Start by buying a very good quality pocket knife that can be stripped down.
  • Compressed air is a great solution, though it may not carry away all the oil and grime, but surely most of it.
  • Washing the knife in warm soapy water is also a good option. Great care must be taken here to properly dry and then lubricate the knife. You don’t want rust eating away at your nice clean, shiny metal parts.
  • Solvents are perfect for dissolving oils that have turned, or will turn, into grinding paste after mixing with the sand and grit collected on your knifes journey.

Step 1 – Buy A Top-Quality Knife

How To Get Sand Out Of Your Pocket Knife
Buy A Top-Quality Knife

Spending top dollar on your Pocket knife can be a once-in-a-lifetime expense unless you lose it or it is stolen. Pocket knives, such as those made by professional knife smiths, are always on show at knife exhibitions. These knives are made with very tight tolerances and fine finishes.

The really good ones are put together with screws and can easily be stripped down to their individual components. Often, the maker provides the correct tools for this task along with the knife. This makes it a pleasure to clean.

Strip it down (don’t lose the little screws!) and clean the individual components using soap, air, and/or a solvent. It is just as easy to re-oil, and when you put it back together, it is spotless.

Take care with the handle material. You do not want to leave wood lying in the water. More often than not, the handles are impervious to water, but best check first.

TIP: Lubricating a pocket knife is an important part of regular maintenance. Read our pro tips on how to keep your pocket knife well-oiled!
Lubricating a Pocket Knife in Three Steps: Can You Use WD-40?

Step 2 – Use Compressed Air

Some folks are fortunate enough to have an air compressor in their garage or workshop. If you do not have one, you may very well have a friend who does.

You could also pick up a can of compressed air from a local hardware store, electronics supplier, or art shop. Artists often use these cans to drive their airbrushes, just as computer techs use them to blow dust out of electronics. Quick and convenient it is.

Using Compressed air to blast out the accumulation of dirt from your folding pocket knife mechanism is probably the easiest way to get a good quick clean. Simply blast the air into all the joints and apertures with the knife folded and again with it open.

Do this a couple of times each way. Make sure you get right into the folding and locking mechanism, and in no time, you are done. Of course, do not forget to add a little drop of fine oil to re-lubricate the mechanism.

 A quick wipe on the blade and exposed metals will help to prevent rust. Gun oils, 3 in 1, or sewing machine oils are thin oils that are perfect for the job.

Step 3 – Warm Water And Soap

This is probably the easiest and most convenient way to drive out those grubby sandy bits in your knife. Warm or even hot water is fine. Add a little dish soap or whatever your favorite detergent is.

Then simply rinse the knife in the solution by swirling it around. A toothbrush or stiff paintbrush will be ideal for getting into the little crevices and gaps and will help a lot to dislodge the gunk.

A quick blast of high pressure from the tap can finish off the job and will remove soap suds. Bear in mind that some soaps do have salt in them to aid the cleaning action.

You definitely want this stuff out of your cleaned knife; remember that those iron bugs (rust) take no prisoners.

Give the knife a good shake to get rid of water and let it dry in the sun a little, or blast it dry with compressed air, or even use a hair dryer. Re-oil it, and you are rockin’ and rolling.

TIP: Have you ever wondered what the parts of a pocket knife are called? Read out post on the topic to find out all the information you need to know!
What Are Parts of Pocket Knife Called? ALL Parts Explained

Step 4 – Use A Solvent

Thinners, paraffin, rubbing alcohol, petrol, etc., are perfect for removing difficult-to-get-at sticky substances mixed in with oil.

Put the solvent in a suitable container and clean it as if you were using the water solution in 2 above. I would then rinse it off in soapy water, blast it out with clean water, then make sure it is dried properly.

It is vital, when using solvents that you observe safety precautions and be very, very sure that you are not going to damage the handle material, which might be made from wood, bone, or polymers.

Can You Soak A Pocket Knife In Rubbing Alcohol?

Soaking your knife in rubbing alcohol will not damage the metal parts and will certainly help clean out grime. The question here should be, will it damage the handle material of my pocket knife?

There is a long list of possible handle materials (known as scales in the trade) that will not be affected by rubbing alcohol. Coated or varnished wood, and certain polymers, would be a no-no.

Can You Clean A Pocket Knife With Water?

Plain water will remove very little or no oily accumulation of matter from your knifes mechanism. Warm or hot water with a detergent is perfect for cleaning a knife. You do need to ensure that the soap is rinsed out afterward with clean water. The knife must be dried properly, and then a light re-oiling is required.


The main concern in cleaning out your pocket knife will be ensuring you do not damage the handle material (scales). A little investigative work on your part will point you in the right direction.

After cleaning, preventing rust by lightly oiling the metal and moving parts is always a good idea.

TIP: A bent pocket knife clip can be the source of much frustration and result in the loss of your knife. Read out the post on how to fix a bent pocket knife clip below!
DIY: Fixing a Bent Pocket Knife Clip in THREE EASY STEPS