Is Surgical Steel Good for Knives?

Is Surgical Steel Good for Knives

If you lurk around the knife forums for long and you will read people asking if surgical steel is good for knives. First we need to understand what is surgical steel.

Surgical steel is actually an informal term referring to several grades of stainless steel. Most commonly it refers to 420 and 440 stainless steels. It also can refer to 316 stainless for marine grade stainless steel.

Manufacturers take advantage of this and use the term as a marketing term on any corrosion resistant stainless blade material. This usually means cheaper lower quality steels are used.

Case and other pocket knife manufacturers use this in their advertising. Some of them do this so they can switch the stainless steel used depending on what they have left over on hand or what is cheaper at the time.

How to clean surgical steel

Surgical steel is simple to clean. You can do this with something as simple as a rag and hot water. You can also use rubbing alcohol or alcohol prep pads for convenience.

If using in a salt water type situation, coat the blade in a household lubricant like 3 in 1 oil. This will help keep the blade from corroding.

How to sharpen surgical steel

Surgical steel can be sharpened like any other knife. Just know that with lower end knife blades it won’t hold an edge as well and may need to be sharpened more often. Stainless steel can also be harder to sharpen than it’s carbon counterparts.


Surgical steel is a term that is abused in knife marketing. Most of the time it will refer to cheaper softer stainless steel materials like 420.

High end knives with higher quality stainless steel will list that steel number along with the term “surgical steel”. If they don’t list the actual steel number you can bet it’s a cheap grade steel.

Surgical steel is good for marine knives and decorative knives because of its high anti corrosion properties. But if you are looking for an EDC knife that you are going to abuse daily, look for a better grade of steel.