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Essential Guide on How to Clean Your Multi-Tool
Published: Mar 01, 2021
Once your multi-tool gets dirty, it's time to clean and maintain it for it to serve you for years to come.
To clean your multi-tool, it should be thoroughly washed, wiped, dried, and lubricated. Regularly checking any damage on it, cleaning it, storing it in a dry place, and actively protecting it from rust will maintain your tool in a good condition.
To help you clean and maintain the beauty and effectiveness of your multi-tool, we have written a detailed guide below. We've also included rust or corrosion prevention, removal tips, and great ideas on how to sharpen your straight or serrated blades in order to restore their sharpness.
7 steps to clean your multi-tool
To clean your tool, you should first wipe it to extract large debris. Next, spray a solvent like WD-40 or Ballistol, and wipe it again with a soft cloth. Then, remove all the dirt up to hard sections, rub extra solvent, and remember not to disassemble your tool since it will void its warranty. Lastly, lubricate your tool with light oil to work smoothly.
Here are the basic steps to follow for cleaning your multi-tool.
Step 1: Wipe your multi-tool down
Damp a towel in warm water and wipe down your multi-tool. One of the simplest ways and first steps to clean off your tool is to remove debris and keep it in good condition.
Step 2: Spray a solvent
Spray a solvent, like WD-40 or Ballistol, into the corners and slits, which are parts that need deep cleaning. This helps extract any moisture that can be trapped in joints.
Step 3: Rub a soft cloth
Polish the tool with a smooth cloth on non-metallic abrasives, such as a Scotch-Brite pad or a soft bristle brush.
Step 4: Extract all the dirt and junk up to hard parts
Remove all the dirt and gunk using a soft brush or soft bristle toothbrush, and a Q-tip to get into the hard-to-clean parts. Make sure to clean all the corners and crevices.
Note: Be cautious when cleaning sharp devices such as knives or saws as these tools can easily cut you.
Step 5: Remove the excess solvent
Wipe off the excess solvent with a paper towel, and completely dry it.
Step 6: Don't disassemble the tool
In most cases, dismantling your multi-tool will void its warranty. Rather, ask for help from a tool company. Some good multi-tool manufacturers will ask you to send them your tool so they can professionally clean and sharpen it.
Step 7: Lubricate the tool with a light oil
Oil the tool with a Teflon/PTFE-based light oil or Remington wipes. This will help the tool to perform smoothly.
How to maintain your multi-tool
To maintain your multi-tool, make sure to clean it after every job, always wash it thoroughly and dry it, regularly check for any damage, oil and polish it, use active anti-rust, and store it properly.
Below is the complete multi-tool maintenance checklist, so grasp the required steps to keep your tools operating at a high level.
- Clean it after every job
Keep your multi-tool clean to prevent numerous bad situations. Try to use it without getting sand in between the tools because when sand or dirt gets caught in between the pivot, you'll notice that it doesn't run as smoothly as it used to.
- Wash it thoroughly
Wash your multi-tool using warm, soapy water. As long as your tool is made of high-quality materials, you don't have to worry about getting it wet. However, when washing your tool, never use abrasive pads or any sharp.
- Let it dry
Every time you're done cleaning your multi-tool, open it up as completely as possible and let it dry because leaving even a tiny amount of moisture on the tool can cause several components to start corroding.
- Regularly check for damage
Regularly check your tool for any damages. Damaged multi-tools should only be used after they have been fixed.
- Oil your multi-tool
There are lots of different lubricants that you can apply to oil your multi-tool. Just remember, if you plan to use your multi-tool for any kind of food preparation, to never use toxic lubricants.
- Actively protect it against rust
It's very significant to grease your tool once in a while to avert rust and keep the parts moving. You can use maintenance oils, such as Ballistol, but when greasing the moving parts, you can use the Nano Oil 10W.
- Always polish your tool
To maintain its shininess, give it a bit of polish with some stainless-steel polishing compound. Your kitchen polish can do as well. It's also to put back the edges and blades' ineffectiveness.
- Proper storage
Practically, you must store your tools in a place with a consistent temperature and minimal exposure to the elements, because improper storage can cause corrosion and other damages to the tool.
Good storage areas include shelving units, toolboxes, and storage containers. A work table also works great as a storage room.
Protection from rust
Rust can destroy your tools' effectiveness and cause them to break entirely. So, instead of abandoning rusty tools, you can save money by learning how to properly remove rust.
To protect your tool from rust, place it in clean and dry storage, use a rust inhibitor such as WD-40 and a dehumidifier, and keep it away from moisture. Also, paint and seal exposed metal parts to keep your tools working longer.
Avoid rust buildup with these five tips.
- Keep it in a clean and dry storage
Ensure that the area you store your multi-tool in is dry and clean. Make sure that there's no dust in your toolbox or storage area since dust can attract moisture. Also, wipe off any tool before storing it.
- Rust inhibitor
Oils, such as WD-40, can perform as rust inhibitors. After drying off the tool, spray it with an allowable lubricant.
A dehumidifier can help you better control your storage area's climate and minimize the humidity. Investing in a dehumidifier can help you keep your metal tools in top shape for years.
- Keeping moisture out of the toolbox
Toolboxes can be a breeding ground for excess moisture to build up. To avoid moisture, you can put silica gel packs in your toolbox.
- Paint or seal exposed metal parts
Newer tools are often provided with a protective layer of chrome or powder-coated paint, yet older tools usually aren't. Without paint or sealant on your tools, the metal part is more vulnerable to the negative effects of the elements. So, apply paint or rubber sealants on your older tools to save them from rust.
Lubrication and corrosion prevention
Corrosion happens in the absence of proper maintenance. To prevent tools from getting corroded, they should be cleaned, dried, and relubricated periodically. Control humidity, avoid getting them wet, and apply a proactive coating, especially if they've been exposed to saltwater or marine environments.
- Control humidity
If your multi-tool is vulnerable to rust, add a moisture-absorbing gel pack to your toolbox or drawer. These silica gel desiccants absorb excess moisture and reduce the humidity level in enclosed areas.
You can also try a Vapor-Corrosion Inhibitor (VCI). These are water-based, non-polluting, molecular coatings that shield metals in enclosed areas for a year or more at a time. The VCI fills the encompassed space and electronically bonds to metal surfaces, sealing out moisture and saving your tool from corrosion and rust.
- Avoid getting your tools wet
Try not to get your tool wet. Multi-tool owners who set up their tools outside struggle with this.
- Apply a protective coating
You can buy wax at your local hardware or at an automotive store. Look for and pick an automotive paste wax. Wax your tool regularly to keep the rust off. Oily sprays are not recommended as they tend to stain the wood. Plus, the oily residue leaves with your hands when using the tool.
4 ways for rust/corrosion removal
There are a few different methods for proper rust removal, and we listed the four best ways —sand or scrape away the rust, use baking soda, vinegar and salt, and oxalic acid.
Learn the different steps for each of these effective rust removal methods.
- Sand or scrape away the rust
Some rust can be extracted from a tool by rubbing it away with the right abrasive material. But when rust hasn't been checked, scrubbing it might not be enough. However, for light-to-moderate rust issues, trying to rub the rust away is the best first step.
To remove the rust correctly, you'll need the right materials. For the first cleaning, ensure to have dish detergent. For scrubbing, you can select steel wool, scouring pads, or sandpaper. For harder jobs, try an electric drill, wire wheel brushes that suit the drill, and some kerosene.
Removing rust from the tool through sanding or scraping is a quick two- or three-step process.
- Extract any grease or dirt with dish soap
Before you begin to clean the rust off, it's great to clean the rusted tools. Cleaning them ensures there's no dirt or grease on them when you start to scrub. After cleaning them, rinse with water and dry them thoroughly.
- Rub the rust
Get your abrasive material and start scrubbing the rusty surface. Start the procedure with the coarsest abrasive you have, as the coarseness will help remove pockmarks and built-up rust. Once you've taken most of the rust off the surface, switch to a finer abrasive so you can smooth out any grooves left by the initial coarse abrasive.
- Carry in a drill-powered wire wheel
If you're having trouble removing rust using the two steps above, you can frequently use a drill-powered wire wheel. To coat your corroded tool with a cutting lubricant, use some kerosene and wait for a few minutes after application. After coating, use a wire wheel attached to a drill to buff the surface and get rid of the rust. Once you're done polishing it, use fine-grain sandpaper to free any residue.
- Baking soda
For smaller parts of rust, you can use baking soda to soften it up. For this method, all you need is towels for cleaning and drying, baking soda, water, and a brush for scrubbing. To remove rust with baking soda, observe these steps:
- Clean tools: Clean the rusted tool and degrease it before you try to take away the rust. After cleaning it with a towel, you must dry the tool.
- Blend a paste: Stir baking soda and water in a tiny dish until they reach the evenness of a paste.
- Smear the paste: Take the paste and spread it onto the rusted area. Leave the paste on the rusted area for two hours.
- Brush the paste: After a couple of hours, scrub it with your brush. Keep scrubbing until the rust comes off.
- Wash off tools: Once the rust has been extracted, rinse the paste off the tool and dry it.
- Clean tools: Clean the rusted tool and degrease it before you try to take away the rust. After cleaning it with a towel, you must dry the tool.
- Vinegar and salt
If your tools have a lot of rust, you can use vinegar and salt to help eliminate it. The mixture of salt and vinegar will help soften up rust, making it easier for you to scrub the rust off of the surface.
To do this properly, you should have a towel for cleaning and another one for drying. Next, you must have a bin large enough for the tool to fit inside, and plenty of white vinegar to fill the bin. Lastly, you need steel wool or a metal brush.
These are the steps for rust removal using vinegar and salt.
- Clean the tools: Make sure your tools are clean before you remove the rust as extra dirt, grease, or grime can harm rust removal. Once cleaned, dry off the tools.
- Prepare the bin: Put your rusted tool in a large enough bin. Then, pour vinegar into the bin until the tool is fully immersed. For every liter of vinegar, pour 1/4 cup of salt evenly over the vinegar's surface.
- Wait: It takes some time for the mixture to begin removing the rust. Generally, the rust is ready to be scrubbed off somewhere between one to three days after putting the tool in the vinegar. Observe the rust on the tool every so often to see if it's softened.
- Scrub the surface: After the rust softens, scrub the surface using steel wool or a metal brush. If the rust has softened enough, it must be simple to scrub it off.
- Rinse off and wash tools: Once the rust has been extracted from the tool, you should wash it off and rinse it to remove anything kicked up from the scrubbing process. Lastly, dry off the tool so it doesn't rust again.
- Oxalic acid
If the methods listed above don't work, you can try using oxalic acid. As a commercial rust remover, oxalic acid is intended to soften rust that is tough to remove. For this procedure, you need towels to clean and dry the tool, rubber gloves, goggles, water, and oxalic acid.
These are the steps to complete the rust removal process:
- Clean off rusted tools: Before you try to eliminate the rust, confirm the tool's surface is entirely clean and degreased. Dry it off after cleaning it.
- Put on safety equipment: Before you handle the acid, put on rubber gloves and goggles to protect yourself.
- Prepare a container: Get a container big enough for your tools to fit inside it. Decant enough water to fully plunge the tool. For every gallon of water you pour, add three tablespoons of oxalic acid. Mix the water slowly so the acid doesn't splash out and land on exposed skin or other matters around you.
- Let the tools soak: Put the rusted tools into the container. Normally, you need to wait 20 minutes for the rust to come off the tool. You must also check to see what the product's directions say.
- Rinse away rust and acid: After you've let the tool immerse, you can simply rinse the rust off of it. Keep in mind to also rinse off all the acid. Lastly, dry the tool off.
Sharpening the blade
Multi-tool blades may be straight-edged, serrated, or both. Sharpening methods vary depending on the type of blade.
Note: Serrated edges should not be sharpened in the same manner as straight edges.
- Straight-edged blades
Plain-edge blades can be sharpened using standard equipment, including whetstones, rods, and various kits.
- Serrated blades
Make sure to use a sharpening system specifically designed to accommodate serrated edges in order to maintain the curvature of the serrations. Only sharpen serrated blades on the edged side. Sharpening the plain (back) side of the blade will cause the serrations to wear away, thus reducing the blade's effectiveness.
Now, you know everything you should know about cleaning and maintaining your multi-tool. We hope you already know how to remove rust and stains when they appear on your tool and have mastered how to keep your multi-tool in good condition. Remember to take care of it the same way it takes care of your tasks when you use it.
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