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Lubricating a Pocket Knife in Three Steps: Can You Use WD-40?

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Lubricating your pocket knife can add years to its lifetime. That’s why, today, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of WD-40 as well as other (more suited?) lubricants and how good or bad they are for your precious knives.

The best lubricant for pocket knives is Tuf-Glide – an excellent moisture repellent that repels dust and leaves you with a well-lubed pocket knife. WD-40 is NOT a good lubricant for your pocket knife. It’s great at loosening things up and repelling water but not great at repelling dust/pocket lint.

We’ll explain in just three easy steps how to lubricate your pocket knife. From cleaning to applying the lube to your knife’s moving parts. We’ll also explore what impact WD-40 has on your knife and whether you can use WD-40 on your Swiss Army knife.

If you are interested in buying the best lubricant for your pocket knife, you can find the TUF-Glide Pen Lubricant Applicator by clicking here (Amazon link).

How to Lubricate a Pocket Knife?
How to Lubricate a Pocket Knife?

How to Lubricate a Pocket Knife?

Lubricating your pocket knife is quite simple. Follow these three steps, and you’ll have your knife lubed and ready to go in no time. If you plan on cutting food with your knife, make sure to use a lubricant that’s food-friendly so you can avoid complications (even death).

Step 1: Cleaning a Pocket Knife

Cleaning your pocket knife before lubrication is key. You should, however, clean your pocket knife regularly – even when not planning on lubricating it.

Look closely for any pocket lint or dust build-up on your knife. If you spot any dirt, use something like a toothpick, small, flat screwdriver, or any other tiny probe that will fit into the slot of your knife.

Scrape off the dust or dirt wherever it’s accumulated. Removing all the gunk will prevent dirt and other debris from entering the folding mechanism (pivot) of your knife once you apply the lubricant.

You can use warm soapy water with a brush – an old toothbrush would be perfect for this kind of job. Make sure to get into all the small grooves and moving parts of your knife; don’t be afraid to get right into the pivot component and dig any and all sediment out.

Giving your knife a 30-minute soak in warm water should do the trick – you could even try solvent if you have some lying around (never soak for longer than 30 minutes in solvent though).

If you do decide to soak your knife in water, make sure it’s not too hot or boiling. This can destroy your handle, especially if it’s made from wood, mother-of-pearl, abalone, or synthetics.

Leaving your pocket knife to soak for too long in water at or near boiling point won’t only damage the handle, but you’ll lose that sleek look that made you buy the pocket knife in the first place.

Having done one or all of these methods, you should test your knife’s functions.

Open and close your knife repeatedly to ensure that your pocket knife’s pivot point is free of grime and that it opens and closes smoothly.

Now that your knife is opening and closing like it did when you bought it, it’s time to properly dry your knife. Make sure that there’s absolutely no water or moisture left in the moving parts of your pocket knife – this could cause rust.

TIP: Cleaning a pocket knife can be tricky because pocket knives often consist of a large number of parts. Find out what the parts of pocket knife are in the article below:
What Are Parts of Pocket Knife Called? ALL Parts Explained

Step 2: Choose a Lubricant for Your Pocket Knife Wisely

Lubricating A Pocket Knife In Three Steps
Choose a Lubricant for Your Pocket Knife Wisely

Knowing which lube to use goes a long way. A wet and oily lube will attract unwanted dirt and grime as well as pocket lint, whereas a dry lubricant won’t pick up as much sediment.

Dry lubricants are mainly teflon-based and come either in a spray-on application or as a grease tube. It’s dry on the surface, leaving you with a protective lubricating film. Take note that Teflon is toxic to humans and should be avoided when using your knife for food prep.

Among all the great lubricants available on the market, Tuf-Glide (Amazon link) is one of our favorites as it allows for easy maintenance in the field or at home.

Tuf-Glide is an excellent product, available in pre-saturated cloths or bottles for pinpoint application. There are a few other dry lubricants, such as Chris Reeve Fluorinated Grease and Miltec, should Tuf-Glide not be available to you.

You can use any of them, as long as you keep in mind that very few of these are safe to use with a food-prep knife. But we recommend using Tug-Glide lubricant (Amazon link) if possible.

Step 3: Lubricate Your Pocket Knife

A pocket knife consists of moving parts, and like any other system, it needs to be lubricated. Especially your pivot point and locking mechanism.

Therefore you must know where to apply the oil and how much lubricant is needed. When applying the lubricant, remember that “a little goes a long way.”

With mid-lock or lockback knives, you’ll want to apply the lubricant at the tang of the blade where it meets the lock bar.

Open your knife and apply a drop or two of oil to your knife’s pivot point. Now open and close your knife repeatedly to get the lubricant into the pivot and locking mechanisms.

The objective is to get just enough oil to spread throughout the pivot area and locking surfaces without the lubricant seeping out onto your blade and handle.

Excess lube, especially wet, oily lubricants, will attract dust and other materials, such as pocket lint, and you will end up needing to clean your knife more than you would otherwise have to.

Here’s a video that shows you how to lubricate your pocket knife.

TIP: A pocket knife clip is an important part of a pocket knife. Do you know how to fix a bent pocket knife clip? Check out a simple guide in the article below:
DIY: Fixing a Bent Pocket Knife Clip in THREE EASY STEPS

Can You Use WD-40 on a Pocket Knife?

Lubricating A Pocket Knife In Three Steps
Can You Use WD-40 On A Pocket Knife?

There’s a lot of talk on the internet regarding the use of WD-40 on your pocket knife. And it’s justified – WD-40 is a great product. That said, is it really good for your pocket knife? Can you even use it for lubricating a knife?

You can use WD-40 on your pocket knife – but for cleaning purposes only. You can even leave it on your knife for a minute or two before wiping it off thoroughly. It’s an amazing product for removing gunk and other dirty materials in your pocket knife.

The truth is that it’s not a good lubricant for your knife. Its intended purpose is loosening things up, yes. But it won’t give you that protective film you’re after in a knife lubricant.

In fact, it’ll attract all sorts of grime and dirt to your trusty knife, making it due for a cleaning much sooner than you’d like.

Is WD-40 Bad for Pocket Knives?

WD-40 isn’t bad for your knife. It won’t cause damage or rust, per se. It’s simply not an ideal lubricant for knives. It works just fine as a lubricant, but it lacks the protective film other lubricants offer and can be a magnet for dust and pocket lint. It’s good for cleaning knives though.

Can You Use WD-40 on a Swiss Army Knife?

WD-40 should not be used on Swiss army knives or multi-tools. There are many moving parts and WD-40’s tendency to attract dirt and grime can quickly gum up your tool. That means your tools will become unusable over time without a thorough cleaning. Opt for a specialist knife lubricant instead.

BTW: If you want to know more about Japanese and other knives and their sharpening, check out the books listed above. These books are recommended by professional sharpeners and knife makers (Amazon links):

Additional Tips and Recommendations

Maintaining your pocket knife is not just about regular cleaning and lubrication; it’s also about being mindful of its usage and handling. Here are some additional tips and recommendations to ensure that your pocket knife remains in optimal condition.

Exploring Alternative Lubricants

If the recommended lubricants are not available, consider using household alternatives like mineral oil, which is food-safe and can be used on knives used for food preparation. However, be cautious and research thoroughly before using any alternative lubricants to avoid damaging the knife or compromising its functionality.

  • Vegetable Oils: While accessible, they can become rancid over time and attract dirt, so they are not recommended for long-term use.
  • Silicone Lubricant: It can be a suitable alternative due to its protective and water-resistant properties, but ensure it is food-safe if the knife is used for food-related tasks.

Addressing Common Lubrication Issues

Over-application of lubricant can attract dirt and grime, leading to poor performance. If you’ve applied too much lubricant, simply wipe off the excess with a clean, dry cloth. Regularly check the knife for any accumulation of dirt in the lubricated areas and clean as necessary.

  • Periodic Cleaning: Even with optimal lubrication, periodic cleaning is essential to remove accumulated dirt and grime from the moving parts.
  • Balanced Lubrication: Strive for a balance; too little lubricant can lead to friction and wear, while too much can attract dirt and contaminants.

Storing Your Pocket Knife Properly

Proper storage is crucial to maintain the condition of your pocket knife. Store your knife in a dry, cool place and avoid humid or damp environments to prevent rusting. If the knife comes with a sheath, ensure it is clean and dry before storing the knife.

  • Desiccant Packs: Consider placing desiccant packs in the storage area to absorb any moisture.
  • Regular Inspection: Regularly inspect stored knives for any signs of rust or corrosion and address them promptly.

Mindful Usage and Handling:

Use your pocket knife responsibly and for its intended purposes only. Avoid using it as a pry bar or screwdriver, as improper usage can lead to damage. Handle the knife with care to prevent accidents and ensure its longevity.

  • Avoiding Improper Tasks: Refrain from using the knife for tasks it is not designed for, such as cutting hard materials or prying open objects.
  • Safety First: Always prioritize safety; use the knife carefully and ensure it is properly closed or sheathed when not in use.

By exploring alternative lubricants, addressing lubrication issues, storing your pocket knife properly, and using it mindfully, you can significantly enhance the maintenance of your pocket knife. These additional tips and recommendations, coupled with regular cleaning and lubrication, will ensure that your pocket knife serves you well for years to come.


By now, you know that when it comes to lubricating your knife, WD-40 is not the best product to use. There are many knife lubricants on the market, and opting for those would be your best bet.

When it comes to lubricating a food-prep knife, you need to be even more selective.

If you only use your knife for field activities or as a daily carry without it ever touching food, Tuf-Glide or any other dry and knife-specific lubricant will do just fine. Make sure to follow the steps in this article, and you’ll have a clean and easy-to-use knife all the time.

Maintain your knife regularly, 4-12 times a year, and use that opportunity to check for other problems such as a bent pocket clip, corroded blade, damaged components, or loose screws. Keeping your knife in top condition is safer and will extend it’s life.

TIP: Pocket knives are often used when you are in nature. But how do you sharpen a pocket knife in nature without a knife sharpener? Check our guide on how to sharpen a knife with a rock in the article below:
Complete Guide: How To Sharpen A Knife With A Rock