A can opener is among those kitchen tools we hardly pay attention to when cleaning. We are all guilty of opening a can of food with a can opener and throwing it straight back in the drawer. Sometimes we just run it over water when food particles have dried on it and put it back in storage, making it a breeding ground for bacteria and germs in the kitchen.
Throw in your can opener in a bowl of white vinegar and let soak it for a few minutes, then scrub off with an old toothbrush, rinse and then dry it with a cloth. When it dries, lubricate it with some mineral oil. The white vinegar will loosen the dirt and also disinfect it.
Newer models of can openers have a smooth blade that is less likely to be contaminated but, they also need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Electric can openers will need a bit more work to clean, but it is still possible to remove all the gunk out. We will give you tips on how to clean and sanitize a can opener and ensure its longevity.
Why cleaning your can opener is necessary
While you may think it is insignificant to clean your can opener often, it has nooks and crannies filled with gunk, bacteria, and rust. Usually, when opening cans, the juices from the can contents flow into the wheels. If left unwashed, it will build up and grow bacteria, mold, and rust.
But why do you need to clean your can opener often:
- Cleaning it often reduces the build-up of germs and rust.
- Cleaning your can opener increases its longevity. The rust accumulating in the gears can prevent it from running smoothly and therefore wear it out too quickly.
- A dirty can opener is a potential health risk. The bacteria can contaminate the food in the cans while opening through the blade or your hands.
- It can also cross-contaminate other utensils in the storage, such as spoons and knives, and eventually ingest these bacteria.
Signs that its time to clean your can opener
It would be best if you washed your manual can opener after every use to prevent any build-up of dirt. As for an electric can opener, you can wipe it down if the opening was not messy, but you may still have to open it up for cleaning after every use.
Other than cleaning it after use, here are some of the signs for a thorough clean:
- When you notice dry food contents stuck on the blade, it most likely seeped into the gears.
- Clean your can opener if it takes a lot more effort to turn the lever than usual or jams completely. It means that dirt and dust are clogging the moving parts.
- When the handles jam and are not entirely constricting.
How to Clean a Can Opener
You can easily clean your can opener using products you already have in your kitchen or affordable on Amazon. Here is how to clean a manual and electric can opener:
Things You’ll Need
- White vinegar
- Wax paper
- Old toothbrush
- Liquid dish soap
- Food grade hydrogen peroxide
- Food grade mineral oil
- Tall, narrow container like a mason jar
- Microfibre cloth or paper towel
Cleaning a manual can opener
Cleaning a manual can opener can be simpler. Here is how you should clean up your can opener.
Using white vinegar and dish soap
- Place your can opener, gears down into a mason jar, then add white vinegar until it covers the metallic moving parts.
- Let it soak for about 20 minutes to an hour. If your can opener is in a bad state, you can leave it soaking overnight or for a couple of hours. You will observe some bubbles coming out of the gears and some dirt flaking off the can opener.
- Take out the can opener and dip an old toothbrush and scrub the can opener’s moving parts and gears. Do this several times, making sure you are thorough. Depending on the type of can opener you have, you may have to go in between the handle to get to the moving parts.
- Pour some dish soap on the toothbrush and scrub the can opener again.
- If the bristles are too soft, try picking the grooves with a toothpick, then scrub again.
- Once it’s clean, rinse it over an open tap. Make sure all the soap washes away from the can opener.
- Dry it with a microfibre cloth to prevent rust. If the cloth can’t get to some corners, try blowing away the moisture or use a hairdryer on the cold setting.
- Before putting it back in storage, pour a few drops of food-grade mineral oil for lubrication and prevent rusting.
Using wax paper
- Take a piece of wax paper and fold it several times.
- Clamp the wax paper’s edge in between the can opener blades and turn your can opener as if opening a can. The grime will show on the wax paper after several turns. The wax paper will dislodge any food particle stuck on the can opener while also lubricating it.
- Spray all parts of the can opener with food-grade hydrogen peroxide to disinfect it.
- Wipe down the can opener with a paper towel.
- When dry, pour a few drops of food-grade mineral oil in the gears and moving parts.
NOTE: Do not use any vegetable oil such as olive oil to lubricate your can opener. The oil will become stale and also smell bad. Bacteria and mold will grow therefore posing a health risk on contact with food.
Cleaning an electric can opener
Electric can openers have fewer rust issues since most models have fewer metal components and come in materials resistant to corrosion. However, it would be best to clean them thoroughly to remove any food that gets onto the gears and blades. Consult with your user manual on how to detach the blade and gears properly.
- Unplug your electric can opener from its power source.
- Wipe it down with a damp microfibre cloth after every use to reduce the build-up of dirt on the surface. You can apply a small amount of dish soap to the damp cloth to remove oils from the food.
- Periodically, you have to clean the blade and gears.
- Disassemble the lever, blade, and wheel to give better access to the blade and other moving parts. Most electric models have removable parts to make cleaning easier. If your can opener is not detachable, you can still scrub the gears with a toothbrush and white vinegar but don’t drench the whole tool in the vinegar.
- Soak the blade and gears in a bowl filled with white vinegar for 30-60 minutes.
- Scrub them with a toothbrush or a cloth to remove any remaining dirt and rust.
- Rinse the blade and gears under running water, dry them with a paper towel.
- Once it’s dry, put the parts back together, plug it in and test if the moving parts work correctly.
How to store/use the can opener for max hygiene and ensure it doesn’t get filthy fast
You might be storing and using the wrong way and making it get dirty fast. After cleaning the can opener, make sure it dries off completely and lubricate it with some mineral oil before storage. You have to store your can opener in a drawer away from contact with food products and water.
Proper use of the can opener when opening a can will reduce food from spilling all over the can opener. Open the can opener’s handles and align the blade with the edge of the can.
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Press the handles to clamp down the can opener until it penetrates through the can. Turn the lever on the side clockwise to rotate the can power around the edge of the can. Then carefully lifts the lid, watching out for the serrated edge.
How to Remove Rust from a Can Opener
The best way to keep off the rust from a manual or electric can opener is getting one made of stainless steel or certain types of chrome because stainless steel is resistant to corrosion. It can still develop rust and also tarnish over time if not properly maintained.
Whether it is stainless steel or not, you can get the rust off a can opener using Magica Rust Remover. Spray some of the product on the affected parts of the can opener. Let it sit for about 10 minutes for the rust to loosen and dissolve.
Then, you wash off any traces of rust remaining on the can opener with warm water. Dry the can opener carefully, lubricate with food-grade mineral oil, and put it back to storage.
Rust can also develop further inside the can opener where you can’t easily see, so you may need to check the gears for signs of corrosion periodically.
Is it OK to use a rusty can opener?
The worst way rust can harm a can opener is by wearing down its components and making it inefficient to use. You can use a can opener with minimal rust; however, the rust can flake off and fall into the food in the can when opening.
This amount may be very minimal, but ingestion of large amounts of rust can be toxic. It can cause stomach pains and other complications.
Another risk is a metal chip cutting the inside of your mouth or exposing you to the tetanus virus.
Can you wash a can opener in the dishwasher?
Avoid putting your can opener in the dishwasher unless instructed explicitly in the user manual that it is dishwasher safe. Several brands have dishwasher safe can openers, such as OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener.
Also, the dishwasher detergent can make the can opener’s blade dull, similar to your knives. Therefore, a hand-wash method will guarantee the longevity of your can opener.
Do get yourself a stainless steel can opener with fewer moving tasks that will be easier to clean. From this guide, cleaning both types of can openers is easy to do after every use. Also, remember to dry it completely and lubricate it before storing it.