How to Maintain Your Multi Tool

No one who purports to be ready for whatever life throws at them would be caught dead without a first class multi-tool in their pocket or hanging from their belt. The multi-tool has become de rigueur as far as everyday carry is concerned and for good reason. With a first class multi-tool at hand you’ll be able to do everything from clean big game to hang a chandelier. Multi-tools are not indestructible however, which means that from time to time you’ll still have to sit down and perform maintenance on them. Below, we’ll tell you how to do that.

Cleaning and Maintaining your Multi-tool

When the time comes to perform maintenance on your multi-tool make sure you give the process the time it needs and that you don’t try and cut corners. That said here are the basic steps for cleaning and maintaining your multi-tool.

Keep in mind that we don’t advocate taking your multi-tool apart the way some websites do. That’s because disassembling your multi-tool will, in 99% of cases, invalidate the warranty.

That said, let’s begin.

Remove Incidental Debris – When you carry a multi-tool in your pocket it can pick up all types of lint and other debris. This debris can get lodged in the pivoting mechanisms, causing them to stick and make a grinding sound when you open and close the various attachments. Get a nice sharp toothpick and use it to remove any visible debris in any of the multi-tool’s cracks and crevices. It’s also a good idea to get a can of compressed air and use it to blow out these cracks and crevices to make sure you removed all the loose material.

Wash the Knife Thoroughly – Once you’ve removed any large, loose debris it’s time to wash your multi-tool using warm soapy water. As long as your multi-tool is made of high quality materials you should have no reason to fear getting it wet. When it comes to washing the multi-tool don’t use abrasive pads or anything too sharp. An old toothbrush with soft bristles is often a good choice to use to clean the tool. Make sure you open each attachment separately and wash the pivot mechanism. In some cases you may want to use a Q-tip to reach in and clean out certain spaces. Also be sure to use a mild dishwashing liquid. These are extremely effective at cutting through grease and grime. Very importantly, be careful when washing the extremely sharp parts of the multi-tool.

Allow it to Dry – Once you’ve cleaned every surface and crevice on your multi-tool open it up as completely as possible and let it air dry. Give it as much time as it needs because leaving even a small amount of moisture on the tool can cause various components to start corroding. A good idea is to use the compressed air you bought earlier to blow out the various nooks and crannies so that you can be sure everything is 100% bone dry.

Oil Your Multi-Tool – Once you are confident every part of your multi-tool is completely dry it’s time to think about oiling it. These tools have a ton of moving parts that need to be kept well lubricated in order to work properly when they’re called upon, so don’t skip this step for any reason. There are any number of different lubricants you can use to oil your multi-tool. Keep in mind though, that if you plan to use your multi-tool for any type of food prep you’ll want to skip the WD-40 and other types of toxic lubricants altogether. That said, here is a short list of the most effective lubricants for your multi-tool:

  • Mineral Oil – Good in just about every case, including for knives that will be used for food prep.
  • 3-in-1 Oil – Old school quality that works well on tools not used for food prep.
  • WD-40 – A great all-purpose lubricant but since ingesting it can be hazardous to your health don’t use it on any tool you plan to use for food prep.
  • Dry Lubricants – These would include polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon), graphite, calcium fluoride and boron nitride. These should not be used on tools that will be used for food prep, such as the foldable knife.

Application of the Lubricant – A key thing to remember when it comes to lubricating your multi-tool is that a little bit goes a long way. If you overload your tool with lubricant it will attract dust and debris and have a detrimental, rather than beneficial, effect. In most cases just a tiny drop will suffice.

  • Make sure you apply the lubricant directly into the pivot mechanism and not merely close to it.
  • If this is too difficult to do using the lubricant’s own delivery method go grab another one of those sharp toothpicks, moisten it with lubricant and deliver it into the pivot.
  • Once you’ve applied the lubricant open and close the mechanism several times to ensure it’s worked in thoroughly. Then move on to the next attachment.
  • Try to avoid getting oil on the handle.

How often you oil or otherwise lubricate your multi-tool will depend on how hard you drive your tool. Certainly you should lubricate it every time you clean it but you can also apply a drop or two in between cleanings to keep everything running smooth. If you live near the coast where the salt content in the air is high you’ll need to lubricate your multi-tool on a regular basis to avoid corrosion setting in. Also, always make sure you clean and lubricate your multi-tool before storing it away for any length of time.

The Bottom Line

Today’s multi-tools are amazing devices that provide you with a multitude of everyday and emergency capabilities. Yet in spite of how effectively they’re designed they’ll still need to be properly maintained if they’re to provide optimal performance over the long haul. Follow the above tips to keep your tool in peak working order and it will always be there when you need it.