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How to Clean a Katana

So, you’ve bought or you’re thinking about buying a katana, but perhaps you’re not sure how you should be cleaning it? This guide is here to show you how to care for your Katana correctly, ensuring you don’t end up with unsightly rust all over your beautiful blade.

Things You’ll Need to Clean a Katana

Before we jump into the cleaning process, there are a couple of bits an pieces you’ll need to get started. Some of these you’ll probably have laying around the house already, while others you probably don’t, and others yet you can probably do without or use an alternative.

Choji Oil: this is an oil that is specifically made for use with Japanese swords and prevents rusting by creating a physical barrier to keep moisture and oxygen out. If you can’t get your hands on Choji oil, you can use mineral oil as a substitute.

An Oil Cloth: this is a soft cloth that is used to apply a new layer of oil to the blade of the sword.

Wiping Paper: this a very soft tissue paper which is used to clean residual dust and oil from a katana’s blade. Alternatively, very soft unscented paper towels can be used as a replacement.

Wiping Cloth: you can use the same type of material as used for the oilcloth, it just can’t be the same cloth. You don’t want to be adding oil to be the blade when you’re supposed to be removing it. 

Uchiko Ball: this is a silk ball filled with high quality finely ground stone. It’s used to assist in the cleaning process by binding with the oil.

If you can’t locate these items individually or from your local stores, it’s easy enough to buy the full kit for a small amount of money. The one I use and recommend can be bought here.

How to Clean a Katana

Taking 5 minutes before you start the cleaning process can make things much easier and more efficient. Start by laying out everything you might need so you have them readily available when you need them. Once you start the cleaning process you don’t want to put the Katana down until you’re finished so as to avoid contaminants such as hair, dust, crumbs or anything else.

  1. First, apply a small amount of Choji oil or mineral oil to your oilcloth.
  2. Carefully draw the Katana out of saya, keeping the blade facing upwards and the point away from your body.
  3. Once you’ve successfully removed the Katana from the saya, gently tap the mouth of the Saya against a hard surface such as a table in order to loosen and remove any dirt or debris. Foreign bodies within the Saya can cause scratches and corrosion of the sword's blade.
  4. Set the Saya to the side and pick up the Katana again.
  5. Using the clean wiping cloth, remove the previous coating of oil from the surface of the blade. Wipe blade in one direction, starting from the bottom and working your way up to the tip, ensuring your fingers stay well clear of the edge. Repeat this a few times to remove as much oil as possible. If the blade features a bo-hi, make sure special attention is paid to ensure all old is removed from it as well.
  6. Take the uchiko ball and tape a small amount of powder onto the blade. Begin at the collar of the Katana and tap all the way along to the tip to ensure an even coating of powder, repeat this process for each side of the sword.
  7. Use the wiping paper to remove the powder and remaining oil from the blade using the same technique employed used for the wiping cloth.
  8. Use the oilcloth to apply a thin and even layer of oil to the blade, again using the same motion used in the previous steps. You will only need to apply the oil once and try to avoid contaminating any other parts of the blade with oil.
  9. Taking the oilcloth use the same method in the previous steps by approaching the blade from the back of the sword and apply the oil to the blade. Do this only once and try to avoid getting the oil on any part aside from the blade.
  10. Carefully insert the Katana back into the saya. 

Check out the video below for an easy to follow in an instructional video of the whole process.

Final Thoughts

Buying all the pieces you need individually may cost you more than buying a cleaning kit. For a small expense, you can potentially save the cost of your sword, the last thing you want is for your blade to become rusty or to become stuck to the inside of the saya. Investing a few minutes every couple of weeks will ensure you get a lifetime of use out your blade. If you do need a new sword, check out our collection here.

It perhaps goes without saying, but extreme caution should be taken when cleaning a Katana, they are sharp and where originally designed to cause physical harm, so bear that in mind at all times.

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