by Jade 

September 9, 2017

How To Clean A Sharpening Stone

Having trouble sharpening your knife because of that old sharpening stone? Don’t throw it away just yet! There are effective ways to bring back its old form.

Sharpening stones or whetstones are essential in keeping your knives sharp for cutting and slicing meat, vegetables, fruits, fish, etc. A dull blade is a BIG no-no in a kitchen because it tends to slip; it might cut you instead of the food (yikes!).  

I have experienced handling dull sharpening stones many times, but instead of throwing it away, I have come up with ways on how to clean a sharpening stone in 5 simple steps.


Types Of Sharpening Stone

There are two types of sharpening stone: the diamond stone and natural stone.

The diamond stone has a metal base and micro-sized diamonds on the exterior of the stone. On the other hand, the natural stone has different grits and coarse that work efficiently for sharpening knives and basically any blade.

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    For more knowledge about the different types of sharpening stone, here is a video guide in choosing and using a sharpening stone.

Common Materials Used In Cleaning A Sharpening Stone 

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    Dry Towel
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    Honing oil:
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    Use water-based honing oil for diamond sharpening stones.
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    You may use water-based as well or petroleum-based honing oils for natural sharpening stones.
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    Steel wool or toothbrush
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    Rag or towel
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    Warm soapy water for those who are using water-based honing oil

Alternatives For Honing Oil

Although using a honing oil is the best way for cleaning your sharpening stone, there will be some circumstances wherein you’ll ran out of them or they’re simply too expensive for your budget.

On that note, here are some great alternatives you can use for cleaning your sharpening stone.

1. WD-40

This is a kerosene-based solution ideal for removing grime and dirt in any surface. However, use this with caution because it leaves a foul odor on any sharpening stone.

How To Clean A Sharpening Stone

It also creates a dry skin texture that blocks the pores of the stone. If you’re going to opt for this alternative, use pump bottles instead of spray cans because it has no fluorocarbons.

2. Water

If you don’t want to use oil in cleaning your sharpening stone, you may use water. However, the surface of the stone may develop water stains as time goes by.

How To Clean A Sharpening Stone

It’s also worth noting that sharpening stones that were initially cleaned with oil cannot be cleaned by water because the water will just slip off the surface during the cleaning process.  

3. Mineral Oils

Mineral oils can be a good alternative for honing oil because it’s light and removes swarf immediately.

How To Clean A Sharpening Stone


If the oil is too thick, dilute it with mineral spirits to loosen it up. As a matter of fact, I find mineral oils to be the best among all the alternatives because it works very well on abrasive. I also love the fact that it doesn't leave any stinky smell.

4. Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)

The ATF fluid is generally used in cars, and appears red or green in color. This fluid is best used to clean diamond sharpening stones.

How To Clean A Sharpening Stone

Although ATF fluids are way cheaper compared to a honing oils, they’re generally unsafe because it contains a dye that will stain any light-colored material. It smells bad too.

5. Brake Cleaners

Do you have a old sharpening stone? This alternative is perfect for it! Just soak the sharpening stone in a brake cleaner and in a few minutes, voila! It looks good as new already.

However, too much exposure with this solution is bad for your health.

A Step-by-Step Guide On Cleaning Your Sharpening Stone

If you happen to find glossy materials present in your sharpening stone, it only means that you should get it cleaned because those are debris that have accumulated over time.

Here is a video below that demonstrates how to clean a sharpening stone:

For a more detailed procedure, refer to the steps below.

Step 1: Put A Towel Under The Sharpening Stone

A towel under a sharpening stone will catch all the residue particles as you clean it. But first of all, make sure your sharpening stone really needs clean up because too much cleaning may ruin the smoothness of the sharpening stone.

Step 2: What Solution Will You Use?

If you have a honing oil stacked away at home, it’s your best bet. As we all know, honing oil specifically cleans any sharpening stone. It acts as a lubricant for stones as it minimizes friction.

Moreover, it also helps keep the metallic residue from immersing into the sharpener.

If you lack honing oil, you may use mineral oil (best alternative in my opinion). You may also any of the alternatives we’ve talked about earlier.

Step 3: Scrubadubdub

Now, that you have chosen a cleaning solution to use, you can start cleaning your stone.

1st, get a reasonable amount of oil (about 20 ml).

Next, rub the stone circularly or in horizontal motions with an old toothbrush. But if your sharpening stone is very dirty, you may use a steel wool for thorough scrubbing.

After minute or two, you’ll notice some metal sediments rising on the surface. When this occurs, wipe it with a rag or towel.

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    Note: Make a warm and soapy water if you’re using a water-based honing oil to clean your stone. And just apply the same procedure above.

Step 4: Rinse the Sharpening Stone

Actually, if you’re done wiping off the excess oil and dirt, you're good to go. However, you need to rinse it again to ensure that there are no remaining remnants of oil.

You don’t want remnants of metal staining your knife and eventually contaminating your food, do you?

Step 5: Wipe It Dry

After rinsing the sharpening stone of oil and metal stains, it’s time to wipe it dry. Use a clean dry rag or towel to pat it dry. Now, go and show off your knife skills!

5 Things To Avoid When Sharpening Your Knife

1. Distractions

Sharpening your knife requires more than just your vision. You also need to pay close attention to your hand movement, knife, and sharpening stone. If not, you may harm yourself or others.

2. Moving to finer stones early on

Your blade won’t get any sharper if you use finer sharpening stones right away. Your edge should be sharp enough to cut a piece of paper after using even the coarsest stone.

3. Use a few strokes only

For a better and more durable edge, use at most 10 strokes per side of the blade.

4. Understand your edge

To properly sharpen a specific knife edge, you need to know what type of edge you’re sharpening and how to sharpen the edge. 

5. Using too much force

This is the number one issue when I see first-timers sharpening their knives. My advice: just use the weight of your hand to carefully stroke the knife.

Here is a video on how to properly sharpen a knife using a whetstone:


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    If you’re using a petroleum-based oil on you sharpening stone, stick with it because if you switch to water or any cleaning solutions, it won’t effectively clean the stone as it did with petroleum oil.
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    I clean my sharpening stone every other day to eliminate the accumulation of debris.
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    If you’ve decided to use a water-based honing oil, clean it with warm soapy water.
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    If you’re going to use petroleum-based honing oil, clean your sharpening stone with a generous amount of oil.

Final Thoughts

You really need to learn how to clean your sharpening stone by yourself because it’s more expensive to let experts do the job. Also, it’s a great skill to acquire and it brings out the “handyman” in you.

The bottom line is, we all need to care for our sharpening stones as much as we care for our knives.

Do you have any additional tips to clean your sharpening stone? Do you have any suggestions besides the ones given here? Leave suggestions and comments in the comments section below. Don’t forget to share this post. Take care!

About the author 


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