Show Your Multi-Tool Some Love: Maintenance Tips for Your Multi-Purpose Friend

Relationships take work. You’ve heard all the metaphors – love is a two-way street; it takes two to tango; love begets love. The point is that you can’t just expect that special someone to cherish and nurture you without showing them some love, as well.

That rule is as true for your favorite stainless steel multi-tool as it is for your fiancé. Without regular attention, a multi-tool will begin to malfunction, just as a human in a rocky relationship might start “acting out.” Fortunately, both tools and human relationships can be improved with a little time and tender care.

Spoil your multi-tool rotten by providing it with proper lubrication, regular cleaning and consistent sharpening, as described below.

1. Prevent and Remove Rust.

Rust causes tetanus, a deadly disease. It also weakens metal and can even destroy a multi-tool if neglected long enough. Therefore, you want to make sure you prevent rust from appearing on all knife blades – especially those that could be used for culinary purposes.

In case you’re wondering, even a stainless steel multi-tool can develop rust. Yes, it’s true that stainless steel is resistant to rust, but it’s still not completely impervious. In general, the more chromium in a certain grade of stainless steel, the greater rust resistance the blade will enjoy.

To prevent rust from developing on the blades of your multi-tool, be sure to wipe it off with a soft, clean cloth after every use. Those who take their multi-tools into the wild for hunting or camping will need to be especially vigilant about removing all moisture as soon as the chance arises. Multi-tool owners often carry microfiber cloths for this purpose.

If rust has already appeared, you have many different options for removal. First, try, rubbing the rusty multi-tool down with oil. There are plenty of chemical products for rust removal and inhibition, such as Tuf-Glide, but you may want to avoid using such harsh solutions on knives that will come in contact with food. Olive oil has a good reputation for rust removal – just use a paper towel to apply the oil. If rubbing with the towel isn’t enough, you can use a piece of cardboard as a strop.

Two more natural rust removal approaches:

  • Use an old toothbrush to scrub baking soda onto the blade. The baking soda adheres to the rust particles and lifts them away. Follow up with some oil. Beware: This method will remove patinas as well as rust.
  • Rub the multi-tool’s blade with aluminum foil that has been dipped in water. This approach will not scratch the blade’s surface, as would steel wool.

2. Provide Regular Lubrication.

Every multi-tool needs good lubrication. Over time, dirt, lint and other gunk can get stuck in a multi-tool’s main joint, causing the tool to become “sticky” or even jammed in one position.

To keep your multi-tool opening and closing smoothly, use a soft cloth to apply a lube product. Again, a toothbrush or other small brush may come in handy. To reach the main joint, you may need to soak multi-tool pliers in the lubrication liquid. You can also take apart your multi-tool, but remember to diagram how everything went together so you don’t end up with a pile of useless metal. Finally, be sure to wipe away all excess lubrication when you’re done.

Just what kinds of lubrication are best for a multi-tool? Many experts recommend using a Teflon-based lubricant. Bicycle chain lube is popular among multi-tool enthusiasts, as is gun lube such as Rem oil, from Remington. Mineral oil is a good food-safe lubrication choice. Finally, a wax-based lube product will prevent dirt from getting into the multi-tool in the future; it also won’t “migrate” to other parts of the multi-tool like some liquid lubricants can.

3. Sharpen Blades as Necessary.

Finally, as your long-term love affair with your multi-tool develops, you may find its blades have become dull. To sharpen the straight-edge instruments in your stainless steel multi-tool, you can use a premade sharpening product, sharpening rods or whetstones. However, serrated edges require special sharpening techniques to preserve the curve of the serrations. If your multi-tool has serrated features, you’ll need a separate sharpening tool for specifically for serrations.

If you follow these maintenance tips, your multi-tool will reciprocate with years of trusty service.

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