How to Maintain and Care for Your Multi-Tool

A multi-tool is an indispensable tool, a jack-of-all-trades right there in your pocket, a problem-solver that you can count on in many different scenarios. However, for it to serve you optimally, it needs regular cleaning and maintenance. Just like any other tool, a multi-tool requires care and attention. This is especially important when it’s been subjected to rough conditions, such as exposure to dust, moisture, and other environmental elements.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the nitty-gritty of how to clean a multi-tool effectively. We’ll walk you through the steps of initial cleaning, regular cleaning, deep cleaning, rust removal, and finally, the lubrication and protection of your handy gadget. So, roll up your sleeves and get ready to give your multi-tool the love and care it deserves. Let’s restore your multi-tool to its former glory, ensuring it continues to be your reliable companion for many years to come.

Maintaining Your Multi-Tool

Step 1 – Preliminary Cleaning

Before you embark on the cleaning journey, ensure your multi-tool is dry. This precaution is to avoid embedding the existing grime deeper into the tool’s pivots and corners. The initial cleaning phase revolves around visible dirt removal. A combination of compressed air, toothbrush, Q-tip, or toothpick will do a splendid job in scraping off this dirt.

Once that’s done, the multi-tools handles should be wiped with a microfiber cloth. Apply the same cloth to each individual tool. For the movable parts, hold the cloth against the pivot and open/close each tool. The intention here isn’t to achieve an immaculate state but to eliminate visible dirt. However, if you encounter rust that can’t be wiped off, consider methods on how to remove rust.

Step 2 – Regular Cleaning

Your multi-tool is constantly in the line of fire against salts, acids, and harsh liquids like tree sap, fruit juice, or shop chemicals. These elements can cause significant damage over time. Therefore, it’s advisable to quickly clean and re-protect the tool whenever it encounters such substances.

Start by submerging your multi-tool in warm soapy water, and using a faucet to flush the pivot to remove any grit. Next, use a toothbrush to scrub each tool, pivot joints, handle slots, and even the tool’s straps if it has any. These straps often come into contact with various elements during use and thus should not be overlooked during the cleaning process. Rinse the tool with clean warm water, then dry it with a towel. To ensure thorough drying, use compressed air or leave the tool to air dry with the tools and straps splayed as much as possible. Regular cleaning should leave your multi-tool, including the straps, free from stickiness or grittiness. Inspect it thoroughly and test each tool’s movement, as well as the straps’ flexibility, to ensure cleanliness.

Step 3 – Deep Cleaning / Degreasing

Sometimes, your multi-tool might require more than just a regular clean, especially if the action feels gummy or there are issues that the soapy water couldn’t resolve. This is when you need to resort to deep cleaning or degreasing.

Firstly, ensure you’re in a well-ventilated area and follow safety precautions. Using denatured alcohol, remove all the grease and lubrication from the pivot joints. This strong solvent should also help in eliminating sticky residue, stains, and discolorations from your multi-tool. In extreme cases, you may consider soaking the tool overnight in denatured alcohol but do check its compatibility with the tool materials.

After the degreasing process, let your tool air dry. You may use compressed air or a fan to hasten the process but steer clear of any heat source that could ignite the fumes. This thorough cleaning process ensures your multi-tool is restored to its prime state, enhancing its longevity and performance.

Eliminating Rust from Your Multi-Tool: A Step-by-Step Guide

Ensure your multi-tool is clean and dry before embarking on these rust removal procedures. Starting with a clean tool will help avoid reactions to the cleaning chemicals. These methods are arranged progressively from the gentlest to the most aggressive. Begin with the first method and proceed to the next if necessary.

Method 1 – White Vinegar

A household staple, white vinegar is a cost-effective, non-toxic cleaner that is capable of removing most surface corrosion and discoloration from stainless steel, returning it to its bare metal state. It’s also a great rust remover for kitchen knives, flatware, and cookware.

  • Fill a shallow container with enough white vinegar to cover the affected areas.
  • Let it soak for 5-30 minutes before scrubbing the rusted location. Repeat if necessary.
  • Rinse and dry.
  • You can also increase the solution’s acidity by adding salt (1 tablespoon of salt per cup of vinegar) for faster rust removal. Use this enhancement cautiously.

Method 2 – Baking Soda

If the vinegar soak and scrub method doesn’t work, try using a baking soda paste. Baking soda is a gentle abrasive that won’t scratch stainless steel, but be sure to scrub with the grain to avoid swirl marks.

  • Prepare a thick paste using 1 part water and 2-3 parts baking soda and apply it to the rusted area.
  • Let it sit for 2-3 minutes before starting to scrub.
  • Rinse and dry.

Method 3 – Vinegar and Baking Soda Combined

If the rust is situated inside the pivot joint of your multi-tool where it’s hard to reach for scrubbing, combining vinegar and baking soda can be the solution.

  • Dip the pivot joint in vinegar and work the joint open/close.
  • Stir 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Remove the multi-tool from the vinegar and immerse it in the water/baking soda solution.
  • Work the pivot open/close.

Why it works: The vinegar (acid) is neutralized by the baking soda (base), releasing carbon dioxide gas. This causes a fizzing action that helps remove the rust from the pivot joint. Once the fizzing stops, the solution is essentially just water.

Method 4 – Commercial Rust Removers

If the rust is severe and the previous methods have not been successful, consider using commercial rust removers such as Evapo-Rust Rust Remover. It’s non-toxic, relatively inexpensive, and works quicker than other options. Evapo-Rust is particularly recommended for difficult rust problems and is effective even on heavily rusted items. It’s a reliable solution to keep your multi-tool rust-free and functioning optimally.

Mastering Multi-Tool Maintenance: Lubrication Tips and Tricks

Cleaning your multi-tool is only half the equation for optimal maintenance. The cleaning process can strip away the protective layer that safeguards against rust and corrosion. Therefore, it’s crucial to always reapply your chosen lubricant or protectant after each cleaning session, similar to how you’d maintain the efficiency of a camping cooler by regularly cleaning and ensuring it’s appropriately sealed. By treating these essential items with care – your multi-tool, hydration bladder, and camping cooler – you’ll always be prepared for any task or adventure.

To lubricate your multi-tool effectively, follow these steps:

  • Begin by applying a bead of lubricant across the entire width at the top of the joint.
  • Next, open and close each tool 4-5 times. This action helps the lubricant to penetrate deep into the joint.
  • As you work through this process, keep the joint upright. This position allows gravity to aid in the flow of lubricant.
  • After working the lubricant in, use a cloth to wipe away any excess, then move on to the next joint.
  • Once all joints have been attended to, use the cloth to wipe all exposed metal on the multi-tool for a final touch.

When choosing lubricants and protectants, here are some top-notch options:

Top Lubricant Pick – Nano-Oil by StClaire: This is a powerhouse, outperforming other lubricants like WD-40 due to its nano-bearings formulation. These tiny particles remain on the surface and don’t evaporate, providing superior, long-lasting lubrication. The Light formulation (10 weight) is our go-to option for all multi-tools.

Best Protectant Choice – Tuf-Glide CDLP by Sentry Solutions: This dry lubricant creates a molecular bond with the steel surface, offering excellent protection from oxidation. After application, it’s best to let your multi-tool rest for 24 hours, allowing the mineral spirits to fully evaporate. The result is a truly dry surface that repels dust and dirt.

Both Nano-Oil and Tuf-Glide come with a needle tip for precision application, making them economical choices as a little goes a long way. Plus, their versatility means you’re likely to find many other applications for them around your home or workshop.

While there’s nothing wrong with using traditional options like Rem Oil, WD-40, or the classic 3-in-1 oil, remember to wipe off any excess after application.

For multi-tool users who also handle food, it’s essential to use a food-safe lubricant and protectant. Mineral oil is a great choice in this category. However, avoid using vegetable or olive oil as they contain organic compounds that can go rancid over time. An alternative recommendation is FrogLube, which has proven effective in our trials, making it a suitable option for food-related applications.


The longevity and efficiency of your multi-tool and hydration bladder heavily depend on regular maintenance. This involves routine cleaning to eliminate dirt, rust, and potential bacterial growth. You also need consistent reapplication of lubricants and protectants for your multi-tool to prevent corrosion, just like how regular hydration bladder cleaning ensures its optimal use. By adopting these practices, you can enhance the performance and lifespan of both your multi-tool and hydration bladder, ensuring they remain your reliable companions for any task. Using effective cleaning agents and quality products like Nano-Oil and Tuf-Glide for your multi-tool, and proper cleaning techniques for your hydration bladder, both will always be in peak condition, ready to serve you effectively whenever needed.

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