How to Clean Dirty Old X-Acto Knife Blades

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Steel X-Acto knife blades accumulate dirt and rust like any other knife blade. Over time, these materials can dull an X-Acto blade. Debris may also lodge in the chuck-style collet holding the blade. This makes it difficult to switch blades. Although you can quickly replace a dirty X-Acto blade with a new one, you can extend the life of an old blade by cleaning it with basic supplies.

Things You'll Need

  • Safety goggles
  • Lint-free microfiber cloths
  • Multi-purpose lubricant
  • Knife oil (optional)
  • Pliers
  • Bowl
  • Cotton swabs (optional)
  • Paper (optional)
  • Non-abrasive scrubbing pad

Hold your X-Acto cutting tool by the handle with the blade pointing away from you. Wipe the old knife blade with a lint-free microfiber cloth dampened with a lubricant, such as WD-40 or knife blade oil. Wipe the blade on both sides until you’ve rubbed all debris.

Remove your blade from the handle to clean it if the metal is coated with rust or hardened debris or if debris has slipped into the chuck-style collet or under the knurled collar that locks the collet. Twist the collar counterclockwise to loosen the collet and then carefully pull the blade away with your fingers or pliers. If you need to clean the collet and collar, grasp the head of the collet, turn it counterclockwise until it unscrews from the handle and pull it and the collar away.

Place the old blade, collet and collar in a bowl. Pour enough oil into the bowl to cover the pieces and then set the bowl aside. Wait a day for the oil to cut through the debris and then remove the pieces from the oil.

Grip the blade by its tang with your fingers or pliers. Wipe the rust or debris particles from the blade with an oiled cloth. If you have soaked the collet or collar in lubricant, wipe these pieces. If necessary, slide a piece of paper or the blade between the grooves on the collet or push a cotton swab through the collar to push debris from the pieces.

Dislodge any remaining tough debris or staining materials from the blade as needed with a non-abrasive scrubbing pad. Hold the blade by its tang with pliers. Scrub the blade surface with the edge of a non-abrasive scrubbing pad. When finished, rub the blade with an oiled cloth.

Return your restored X-Acto blade to the handle when finished. Slide the tang of the blade into the collet and turn the collar clockwise. If you removed the collet and collar, slide the collar onto the collet’s threaded screw, grip the head of the collet and then turn it clockwise into the handle before returning the blade.

Tips & Warnings

  • If a blade is stuck in the collet, apply oil to the collet and set your cutting tool aside for 24 hours. Put on safety goggles, loosen the collar and then grip the cutting tool handle in one hand and the blade in the jaws of your pliers. Rock the blade carefully back and forth within the collet until it pulls free.
  • Always use pliers to remove the blade from the cutting tool if it’s stuck to prevent slicing your fingers on the blade edge.
  • Use of harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaning tools can damage or dull your blades.

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