How to Clean a Multi Tool – Step by Step Guide

How to Clean a Multi-Tool

A multi-tool is an essential tool to have in any survival situation. So, it is important to maintain it and keep it in the best shape. An important part of maintaining your multi-tool is keeping it clean.

If you’re not sure about the steps involved in cleaning your multi-tool, then you have come to the right place.

In this post, I will be outlining the best methods for keeping your multi-tool in the best condition. I will teach you how to know when your multi-tool needs to be cleaned, why it’s important to maintain it, and what you’ll need. Additionally, I will provide you with a step by step guide as to how to clean and maintain it.

But how do you know when you should clean or maintain your tool?

When Should you Clean your Multi-Tool

Apart from the obvious signs of wear and tear such as visible lint build-up, rust, and gunk. It’s important to clean your multi-tool after every use. I use the knife on my tool a lot and I just give the blade a quick wipe with a damp shop towel. I also make sure to dry it with a paper towel whenever it gets wet.

In addition to cleaning your multi-tool after each use, it’s important to perform regular maintenance and give it a deep cleaning to get into those hard to reach areas. I personally give my Leatherman Surge a deep cleaning once a month.

However, depending on how often you use your multi- tool and what you use it for, you may need to perform more regular cleanings.

Why Is it Important to Clean and Maintain Your Multi-Tool

Keeping your multi-tool clean ensures that you get the best out of it. Your multi-tool consists of several moving parts. When sticky substances, sand, dust particles, and other debris get in between these moving parts it prevents them from moving as freely as they should. Thus preventing the tools from operating at their best.

Apart from the fact that you want to keep all the components functioning as they should. You also want to prevent it from getting rusty. But wait, aren’t all multi-tools made from stainless steel?

Although they are made from stainless steel that doesn’t mean that they can’t rust. Stainless steel can stand up to rust, as it is corrosion resistant but it is not rust proof. This is because it contains carbon. Carbon is good and bad. Carbon helps to keep your tools sharp but also gives it the potential to rust.

So, you see it’s not just about keeping your multi-tool looking good. Keeping it clean ensures that it functions the way it should and helps to prevent corrosion and rust.

Recommended Reading: Top 10 Best Survival Saw Reviews [with videos]

What You Will Need for Cleaning Your Multi-Tool

  • Paper Towels
  • Cotton Swabs (Q tips)
  • Shop Towel
  • Warm Water
  • Lubricating Oil (3-in-1)
  • Scotchbrite Pad
  • Solvent (WD-40 or Ballistol)
  • Soft Brush or Soft-Bristle Toothbrush

How To Clean Your Multi-Tool – Step By Step Process

Cleaning a multi-tool is not as easy as it may seem. Many people think that all you have to do is just throw it in a dishwasher and that’s the end of it. But, there is much more to it than that.

If you want to get the maximum life out of your tool, there are certain steps you need to take. In fact, the major manufacturers of multi-tools all have specific directions for how the tools should be maintained.

Below I will outline the general steps for keeping your multi-tool clean as well as provide the manufacturer recommendations for maintaining the Leatherman, Gerber, SOG, and Victorinox tools.

General Cleaning of Tool – Step By Step

Step 1: Damp the shop towel in warm water, and then wipe down the exterior of the tool.

Step 2: Spray a solvent such as WD-40 or Ballistol into the corners and crevices. Places that need deep cleaning. This helps to remove any moisture that may be trapped in the joints.

Step 3: Buff the tool with a polishing cloth or non-metallic abrasive such as a Scotchbrite Pad.

Step 4: Use a soft brush or soft bristle toothbrush and a q tip to get into the hard to reach places and remove all the dirt and gunk. Make sure to clean all the nooks and crannies.

Important Tip: Be cautious when cleaning sharp instruments such as a knife or saw. As these tools can easily cut you.

Step 5: Wipe off the excess solvent with a paper towel and properly dry it.

Step 6: Lubricate the tool with a Teflon/PTFE based light oil or Remington Wipes. This will help it to function smoothly.

How to Clean a Leatherman 

Depending on the level of wear and tear on your multi-tool, Leatherman recommends the following cleaning methods.

  • Cleaning should be done with a low viscosity oil (Liquid Wrench, CRC 3-36) this helps to remove any moisture in the tool.
  • Any stained surfaces should be buffed with a non-metallic abrasive.
  • For any areas of the tool susceptible to wear and tear, such as pivoting areas. Apply a PTFE based lubricant
  • If there has been an accumulation of sticky substances or debris, you may clean the multi-tool in a mild solution of water and liquid detergent
  • For the removal of tar and substances of similar consistency, use mineral spirits such as turpentine. Avoid using brake cleaners or acetone as this may damage the plastic components.
  • Your Leatherman should be cleaned, dried, and lubricated from time to time to prevent corrosion and rust. Especially if it has been exposed to marine environments and saltwater. If exposed to these conditions, rinse in water, dry, and apply a light coat of oil.

Check out this video showing a method for cleaning tree sap from your Leatherman,

How to Clean a Gerber Multi-Tool

According to Gerber, your tool should be cleaned, dried, and re-oiled periodically to inhibit rust and corrosion; especially in a damp or marine environment.

If your tool comes in contact with any substance that you’re unsure about. You should always wash the blade off with fresh water, dry it off with a soft cloth, and apply a light coat of oil.

Also, if it is exposed to salt water, you should flush it with fresh water as soon as possible and coat it with oil. As salt water is very corrosive and can destroy any form of steel. 

Gerber gives the following recommendations for cleaning your multi-tool:

  • Clean after each use.
  • Rinse the tool in tap water, then thoroughly dry it and apply a light coat of oil on the pivot areas using 3-in-1 oil, machine oil, or gun oil.

How to Clean a SOG Multi-Tool

Here are SOG’s recommendations for cleaning their tools.

If rusting or oxidation is occurring, then use a soft chamois to clean and buff the area and apply a coat of oil to the surface. For trouble areas use an anti-oxidation product such as Sentry’s Marine Tuf-Cloth to prevent more oxidation from occurring. You may also try using a light steel wool pad (000 grit) to remove the rust. Then apply an anti-rusting agent.

Important Tip: Lack of proper maintenance is the main reason for rust and corrosion to occur. So to prevent this, it is best to keep your tool clean and well oiled.

  • Cleaning of your multi-tools should be done on regular basis, especially after they have been used.
  • Oil the pivot points with a light oil.
  • Cleaning of the blade and handle should be done after each use.
  • Avoid harsh detergents such as dish soap, chlorine products, or laundry detergent. A mild solution of soap and water should be sufficient for removing any dirt and debris.
  • Do not immerse your tool in water.
  • For the removal of debris from within the handle, use a toothpick to remove visible dirt. Or use a cotton swab for smaller amounts of dirt and debris. Additionally, a can of compressed air can be utilized to clear out lint or dirt. (Important Tip: Follow the recommended cautions of the compressed air canister manufacturer. As the product may contain an accelerant that can damage the finish of your tool.)
  • If exposed to water or very dirty, rinse the tool in fresh water or use a mild solution of diluted soap and water, then dry the tool with a soft cotton cloth.
  • Apply a coat of a water-displacing oil, such as 3-in-1 oil, and then wipe down and lubricate the pivot points and surface. This will prevent rusting and oxidation and remove dirt and debris. ( This is a very important step for persons that live in marine or humid climates)
  • Avoid storing your tool inside of a pouch for extended periods. This is because moisture stays in the fabric and leather sheaths and tanning may speed up rusting and oxidation.

How To Clean a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife

Victorinox recommends the following cleaning methods.

Place the multi-tool in warm water and open the blades repeatedly until they move freely. 

Dry the tool and then put small droplets of oil in between the tool shank, spring or blades, and any other friction points.

Important Tips:

  • Never use a dishwasher to clean your tool
  • When choosing a lubricant, ensure that the oil is food safe and provides satisfactory lubrication.

Here’s a video demonstrating the cleaning of a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife

Other Maintenance Tips

Rust/Corrosion Removal

There are several ways to remove rust from your multi-tools. Here are 3 ways that you can try.

Using Vinegar

  • Soak your multi-tool in Vinegar for approximately 3 hours.
  • Then soak it in a solution of 1 part baking soda and 2 parts water for around 5 minutes.
  • Now rinse and dry thoroughly with a paper towel.

Using a Rust Eraser

  • Wet the rust eraser with water
  • Gently rub the rust eraser back and forth until the rust has been removed
  • Then rinse and fully dry your multi-tool

Here’s a video demonstration showing another way how you can remove rust from multi-tools

Final Words

Cleaning and maintaining your multi-tool is important for you to get the most out of your tool. Dirt build-up and corrosion can occur in the absence of proper maintenance. Following the steps above and performing maintenance periodically will ensure that your multi-tool will perform at its best when you need it most.

Related Posts:

Surge vs Wave Leatherman Multi-tools: Which Is Better?

How to Use A Multi Tool Can Opener

Benjamin Hughes

Benjamin Hughes is a Vietnam Vet who has been camping, hunting, and fishing for most of his life. He enjoys testing out the newest tactical and survival gear and discussing survival in general.

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