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6 Reasons Leather Sheaths Rust Knives, How To Fix & Prevent

Leather sheaths are often used to protect knives and other cutting tools. Leather sheaths have been around for centuries, but if you’ve ever seen a knife with rust on it, you may be wondering: do the leather sheaths rust the knives?

Do leather sheaths rust knives? Leather sheaths will always hold moisture against knives whether it’s made of a high carbon steel or a stainless steel blade and can eventually lead to corrosion and rust if not treated properly. This will happen faster if the leather sheaths are made from leather chemically tanned or dyed like chrome-tanned leather.

To learn more about this topic, keep reading this article.

1. Exposure To Water

Leather sheaths are made from animal skin, which is a porous material. This makes the leather more vulnerable when it comes into contact with moisture and/or becoming wet.

Once exposed to water, the natural oils that keep leather flexible can be washed away by leaching out or evaporating out of the outer layer of the leather’s pores.

Leaving behind dry materials like salt crystals and dirt that eventually gets on your knife. With time this foreign residue reacts with the knife and the blade will eventually become rusted!

The nature of this type of rust will typically be spotty or dry flaking rust. The way to avoid this type of rust is to keep your sheaths dry at all times. More on this later in this article.

2. Improper Storage Or Poor Storage Conditions

Another common reason why leather sheaths rust knives is improper or poor storage. When you leave your knife blade in the same leather sheath for an extended period of time, conditions that promote rust begin to form.

For example, leather is able to draw moisture from the atmosphere over a time period before you know it the inner part of the sheath has become moist which can lead to the knife rusting.

Also, ensure the place where you keep your loaded knife sheath is dry and cool.

Another way knife sheaths can also cause rust on your leather through poor storage is when and a rusty knife has been previously stored in the same sheath.

This means that the sheath’s inner lining could be coated with rust and this will be transferred onto your knife blade if you put it in the same leather sheaths.

3. Not Cleaning Your Knife Blades Before Keeping It In The Sheath

We are all guilty of this one. We take out the knife to clean it and then put it back in without wiping off any of the grime that may have accumulated on its blade after chopping raw meat or other ingredients.

This is when we know for certain a sheath will rust knives sooner or later because there has been residual moisture trapped between the blades which can come from excess food particles, especially if you do not wipe your blade before placing it back into the leather sheaths.

It needs to be noted that every time an unprotected steel edge comes in contact with water, even briefly, rust begins to form so this really should never happen at all unless you want your beautiful knives turning ugly over time. This leads to my next point!

4. Unprotected Blade

Another way leather sheaths can rust your knives is if they have an unprotected blade. This may seem like a no-brainer but most people including myself are fond of not protecting our knife blades.

Knife blades have to be protected from time to time by oiling or waxing to avoid rust or oxidation. This will help to prevent any conditions either from the environment or the leather sheath that can cause rust on the knife.

This is because the moisture that gets trapped between the blades can come from excess food particles, especially if you do not wipe your blade before placing it back into the leather sheaths.

It needs to be noted that every time an unprotected steel edge comes in contact with water, even briefly, rust begins to form, and in most cases, the genesis of the whole rust process is often not visible to the eyes.

5. Leather Tanning Agents

Leather is sourced from the skins of animals and has to go through a treatment process that turns it into the leather material we all cherish and love.

However, the tanning agents used to treat leather may contain certain chemicals that can cause the leather to rust knives.

Such chemicals may include chromium salts or copper sulfate. In some instances, these treatments are not fully washed off before it is sold on to consumers.

This means you could be purchasing a product that contains substances harmful to your blades and will lead them to corrode over time.

6. Type Of Leather

With all things being equal, not every type of leather will cause your leather sheath to breed rust on your blade the same way.

Some types of leather materials will do a good job of reducing the chances of causing rust on your knife.

A good example of such leather material is vegetable-tanned leather. Vegetable-treated leather is not only durable but also has a natural ability to resist water and moisture.

This is because vegetable-tanned leather contains tannin, a natural anti-microbial. This also makes vegetable tanned leather is more resistant to mold and different types of decay.

The downside with tanned leather is that it can be more expensive than other forms of packaging your blade may require for storage purposes.

If you are using vegetable-tanned sheaths or cases for long periods of time, then they will not only resist corrosion from rust but also the degrading effects caused by humidity in the air and moisture exposure over time.

Your knives should stay sharp much longer when stored within such materials which have been treated well in advance against water damage problems like this one.

Another example is, if you have a high-quality suede material, then it may not cause rusting as much as smooth or rough leathers might do so.

Similarly, some types of natural skins such as kangaroo and alligator can be quite protective against corrosion in comparison with others like cowhide which is still used today but isn’t very reliable when it comes to resisting moisture and general wear and tear.

On the other hand, leather that is chrome-tanned will generally be a lot more likely to cause rust on your knives.

It is also worth noting that some leather sheaths or cases are treated with oils such as linseed oil, which can cause a blade’s edge to degrade quickly if it comes into contact with the material for extended periods of time.

How To Prevent Leather Sheaths From Rusting Knives

There are two basic ways to prevent this from happening. The first method is to prevent the leather sheath from rusting the knife by treating the leather material itself.

And there is another way which ingcluds treating the knife itself to avoid the leather sheath from rusting it.

Here’s a Video On How To Prevent Leather Sheaths From Rusting Knives

9 Tips On How To Avoid Leather Sheaths From Rusting Knives

The good news for those who are committed to using leather sheaths is that there is a way of preventing this problem. All it takes is following some of these simple tips, as in most cases, the genesis of the whole rust process will be prevented or limited as much as possible. 

  • As long as the knife is dry and stored in a cool, dark place it should be safe from this type of damage.
  • However, if the sheath does get wet–it’s best to wipe off any excess water with old newspapers or cloths before drying out naturally away from heat sources like an open oven or fireplace! 
  • If you want to protect your knives from getting rust spots due to exposure, make sure they’re completely dry before storing them back in their sheath.
  • The best way to prevent your knives from being affected by rust conditions is to ensure that they are stored separately and not left in a damp, humid atmosphere for an extended period of time.
  • If you don’t use your knives often, dry them out before putting them away as well. This can minimize any chances of corrosion developing on either side of the blades while also ensuring that their handles stay intact too. 
  • You might have ensured your knife sheath is as far away from water and moisture as possible but another way this happens is when someone accidentally spills water on top of their sheath without noticing and it creates moisture inside which then will eventually find its way onto your blade as well.
  • If you must store your leather sheaths for an extended period of time then make sure they are wrapped or contained so as to stop any foreign substances from getting on them.
  • Lining the with a rust free material can help to prevent the sheath from rusting the knife.
  • You never want to use or buy leather sheaths that have been chemically treated. For example, chrome-tanned leather.
  • You can also go the opposite route by applying a very thin coat of food-grade mineral oil on the blade

Conclusion

To conclude, your leather sheaths will rust knives if they are not cared for properly. You should avoid using chemically treated leather sheaths, make sure to keep your blades dry and clean (especially after washing them), wrap the sheath in a protective material when storing it and reapply food-grade mineral oil periodically.

Some people even go as far as lining their knife’s blade with wax paper so that any moisture can’t affect it from inside.

Macwilliam K. Appianing

Hi! I’m Macwilliam, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leatherwork enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day!

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