A typical wooden knife block has slots for all of your kitchen knives—and some blocks also hold a honing rod, shears and your steak knives, too. But all those narrow, deep, dark slots can harbor dirt and dampness, and encourage bacterial growth. The block itself sits on the kitchen counter right beside your food prep, and it’s all too easy to put knives away before they’re fully dry and maybe not perfectly clean. It’s no wonder that the National Sanitation Foundation, or NSF, reported that knife blocks were among “the germiest kitchen items.”
So what’s the best way to clean your knife block? Not the dishwasher. Wood is organic material, so it will absorb water and swell. As it dries, the wood shrinks and is very likely to crack (that’s why cutting boards split, too). The typical cleaning cycle of a dishwasher will keep the wood damp for too long, while dishwasher detergents will damage or strip finish off the block. Plus, dishwasher jets can’t really reach to deep-clean the knife slots.
Here’s a better way. Using a skinny but firm bottle brush and hot, soapy water (use liquid dish soap such as our tested winners by Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day and Dawn), scrub each slot, then rinse under the tap. Also wash the exterior of the block with a sponge and hot, soapy water—top, bottom and sides—and rinse well. Remember: “hot and soapy” is the key to breaking up dirt and killing bacteria. The physical act of scrubbing and rinsing also help sweep away harmful germs.