Taking Care of Your Katana
Great, you took the first step to learning a bladed martial art but aren’t sure how to clean a katana. This page will show you how so that you can extend the life of the katana and prevent rusting.
What You’ll Need
Before you can learn how to clean a katana you’ll need to acquire a few materials that you most likely don’t have laying around the house.
- Choji Oil – an oil that is used to prevent rusting on the blade. If you can’t find this you can use mineral oil as an alternative.
- An Oil Cloth – this is just a flannel cloth that is soft and will be used to apply the choji oil.
- Wiping Paper (Nuguigami) – this is a special tissue that is very soft and made for cleaning oil and dust off the katana. If you don’t have this try a very soft (unscented) paper towel.
- Wiping Cloth – this can be the same flannel material used for the oil cloth but cannot be the same piece of cloth since you don’t want to be rubbing oil residue back onto the sword out of sequence.
- Uchiko Ball – this is a ball with a handle on it that contains ground stone powder.
If you’re having trouble finding these at a local store I’d suggest buying the cleaning kit that has everything you need so you don’t need to worry about substituting too many materials out.
How to Clean a Katana
- Lay out all of your materials so that you can grab them with one hand. Once you start cleaning the katana I suggest you don’t put it down until you are finished since it could pick up dust, hair, etc. in between steps.
- Apply the Choji oil to the oiling cloth.
- Carefully remove the katana from the saya with the blade facing up and the point tilted upward slightly.
- Once the blade is removed, take the saya and gently tap the koiguchi (mouth) of the saya against the table so that any debris inside is released and falls out. Debris left inside can be abrasive and cause corrosion to the blade.
- Use the wiping cloth to remove previous Choji oil from the blade. With the blade still facing up, wipe the blade from the bottom (the mune) so that your fingers aren’t touching the edge and go from the collar of the blade to the tip in one direction. Do this once or twice. If the blade has a bo-hi make sure oil is removed from there as well.
- Use the uchiko ball to tap the powder out onto the blade. Start at the collar of the blade and tap every couple inches and work your way to the tip of the katana. Do this to both sides.
- Take the Nuguigami and clean off the powder in the same fashion you used to remove the previous Choji oil.
- Taking the oil cloth 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.
- The katana is now ready to be placed back into the saya!
Additionally SwordsNArmory has produced a great video on how to clean a katana which you can see below. I’d suggest checking their site out whenever you get a chance too.
Buying a cleaning kit should only run you ~$20 or so yet can save you the cost of your sword by helping prevent rust. Knowing how to clean a katana is essential in ensuring that your expensive piece of art does not rust or stick to the saya effecting the removal of it. Take care of your katanas and they should last you many years.
Take extreme caution when cleaning your katana as it is very sharp. I recommend having your sensei show you first hand how to clean the blade.