I think we all get a little giddy using a brand new knife with a great edge. The way it slices through the food with little to no effort. So how do we keep that knife acting like new for your entire life? To really understand this, we need to understand what breaks down a knife. In particular, there are three interactions in which a knife's structure is degraded:
The elements: Water, Acids, and Detergents all react with steel and slowly break it down. The longer the steel is in contact with any of those things, the more damage that can be done. Keeping a knife clean and dry will keep your knife around for years to come.
Heat: Extreme heat can ruin the hardness of a blade. But even just changes in temperature can slowly wear on a knife. Different materials expand and contract when exposed to different temperatures. This can easily rip handles away from tangs, and cause the knife to fall apart. Add liquid, and this is amplified even more.
Use: Let's face it, just using a knife will degrade it. How you use a knife has a big impact on how fast it degrades. If you're gentle while using it, you'll find the edge lasting longer. Rather than banging it around like playing a drum set. Regardless, if you know how to sharpen a knife, you can restore the edge once it's gone.
Now that we understand what hurts your knife, let's talk about what we can do to preserve it.
Dishwasher a no-no: Keeping a clean knife is paramount to making your knife last, though the dishwasher hits all the points in what hurts your knife. It exposes the knife to water, detergent, heat, and with a strong enough spray, hard use. Instead, it's much easier to use warm water, a sponge with mild dish soap, and just gently rubbing the knife, washing off anything that could be stuck to it. Just keep your hand away from the edge, and dry immediately when done.
Types of sharpening: Sharpening is the act of removing steel to create a new edge on your knife. There is an abundance of ways to do this, but the best, most versatile way, is to sharpen by hand on whetstones. Machines can also sharpen, but tend to remove a lot of steel at once, limiting the lifespan of your knife. You can also use a hone to lengthen time between sharpening. Not sure on how to get this done, take a class, and learn even more!
Different materials: Knowing how your knife was made, and what materials went in to produce it will give you a greater insight in to any special steps needed to care for your knife. Make sure to ask questions when buying your knife, as some manufacturers will give you extra tips on how to keep your knife working like new. When in doubt, ask a professional. We're here to help!