How Often Do You Clean Your Can Opener, and How?
January 13, 2021 8:51 AM   Subscribe

I use my can opener mainly to open tins of tuna. This means the cutting wheel gets fish juice on it - and if it were any other kitchen implement I would always clean it thoroughly after use - but it's fiddly and hard to properly clean and if I soak it the cogs rust, so I haven't yet worked out the best approach. How often do folks clean their can opener, and how?
posted by my log does not judge to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
36 years old, never cleaned one once. (also, anecdata only but in my experience the worse one looks, the better it works)

You do use your can opener properly, right?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:56 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]

I have the hand-held Oxo Good Grips one and it gets rinsed each use, put in the drying rack kind of propped open to dry. Hope that helps!
posted by warriorqueen at 8:58 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]

I always give the metal cutting parts a brief dishsoap scrub with the scrub brush; and rinse and dry propped open.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:06 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I have a Good Grips as well. After I open something messy (like maybe tomato paste) I fold a piece of paper towel to make a long strip. I wet one long edge of the strip. I put it in the can opener and crank it around until the whole wheel has made contact. Then I do the same again with the dry edge of the strip.
posted by bcwinters at 9:06 AM on January 13 [7 favorites]

I rinse it every once in a while. Maybe every few weeks. I use it a few times a week, but mostly for tomato products and beans. If it was fish or chicken I might be better about rinsing it.

Also I hate the “proper” way to use it.
posted by sillysally at 9:06 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]

Whenever I open something messy I just throw it in the dishwasher. I may be shortening its lifespan but it's easy and works for me.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:14 AM on January 13 [11 favorites]

Never occurred to me to clean the can opener 🤔
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:16 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]

Mine's electric, I suppose if I were using a hand held I'd probably put it through the dishwasher with the silverware occasionally.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:17 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

"Rinse and let air-dry most of the time" seems to be the protocol here.
posted by mhoye at 9:18 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]

I use a side-cut can opener and it rarely gets particularly dirty whatsoever, because it cuts into the very top of the side of the can to make an easily liftable lid, rather than cutting down into the contents of the can. This kind of can opener is a game changer.
posted by limeonaire at 9:18 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]

Rinse it with water until clean when it gets stuff on it, put in in the dishwasher to dry (but I use my dishwasher as my drying rack 90% of the time so.... just air-dry it). Otherwise just throw it back in the drawer.
posted by jabes at 9:23 AM on January 13

Rinsing doesn't seem to do much so I occasionally roll up a bit of kitchen towel and run it through the mechanism to collect the crud.

r.e. opening methods: Having the sharp disk and the dull edge of the can is important so you can put the disk inside the can and crush the can slightly so it can't be freed. This makes it a much safer thing to throw away.
posted by Lanark at 9:27 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]

I only wash it after opening tuna or other canned fish. Soapy sponge, wash the can opener thoroughly, then air dry in winter (dries super fast) or dry with a towel in the summer.
posted by cooker girl at 9:28 AM on January 13

I keep old toothbrushes for just these sort of situations. Once they've retired from active tooth-cleaning duty they migrate to the kitchen, laundry room, toolbox, etc. One lives by the sink and gets deployed for things like can openers, the tight angles inside a Microplane, the handle mounts on pots and pans -- many things that require more precision than a sponge or dish brush.
posted by myotahapea at 9:40 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]

Seconding side seal-cutting can-opener. It doesn't require cleaning AND it leaves the lid intact so it can be used to re-cover any unused contents of the can. (Some side-cutters just chop the can below the seal; avoid these at all costs.)

Back in my banging-cans-open-with-a-rock days, I would never wash the rock.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:43 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]

I had never cleaned mine until recently. I edit cookbooks and saw a tip to run a slightly damp paper towel through the can opener, then a dry paper towel. I couldn't believe how much gunk came off—and it left a lovely scalloped-edge design!
posted by wisekaren at 9:47 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]

Thirding the side seal-release can opener - I have the kind that just releases the seal and doesn't actually cut, so no sharp edges.

seanmpuckett I believe opened cans should never be used to store the contents.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:57 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]

We have the side cut Starfrit Securimax Auto Can Opener. The instructions say to wash with warm soapy water but we just run it through the dishwasher every once a while.
posted by Mitheral at 10:08 AM on January 13

I have an old wall-mounted hand-crank can opener. I scrub it with hot water and scrub brush if it looks too disgusting.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:16 AM on January 13

I throw it in the dishwasher if I feel it needs it, which is pretty often. I’ve been doing this for decades with the same opener and it’s fine.
posted by HotToddy at 10:20 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]

I haven't had accumulated gunk on my can opener since I got a better can opener.

The Kuhn Rikon can opener is a vastly superior can opener design, period.

I wipe it off with a just-dried-my-hands-damp towel maybe once a month, and that's for accumulated kitchen cruft on the whole device. The mechanism just stays completely clear of the food and nothing collects on it.
posted by phunniemee at 10:24 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]

For non greasy, non congealed stuff I just rinse it and let air dry. That includes tuna in brine. If it is covered in greasy or caked on stuff I hand wash it with soapy water and my dish brush. Mine is a side can opener as well. Had it for years.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:24 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

Swing-Away or go home. I occasionally clean the blade with a toothbrush occasionally throw it in the dishwasher, usually rinse it. If I saw rust, I'd add a drop of vegetable oil.
posted by theora55 at 10:29 AM on January 13

Seconding the side can openers; I love mine and it never comes into contact with the food, and I don't have to worry about sharp edges on the can as a bonus.
posted by Aleyn at 10:32 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

Quick rinse after every use.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:47 AM on January 13

I only clean mine when something noticeably gross is on it. I have not yet caught any canopener-borne pathogens ... that I know of! I have, of course, become mildly sick several times during my life, and some of those I never found out the source, so maybe better can opener hygiene would have avoided some of those.
posted by aubilenon at 11:34 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I use the paper towel trick - it seems to get the grunge out much more easily than a toothbrush. Fold a towel several times lengthwise so you get a long strip that is several layers thick and not too wide. Grip it in the can opener and turn the dial so the paper feeds through the gears.
posted by metahawk at 12:01 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I have the hand-held Oxo Good Grips one and it gets rinsed each use, put in the drying rack kind of propped open to dry. Hope that helps!

This is my exact plan with my exact can opener.
posted by jessamyn at 12:56 PM on January 13

Never since I bought one of these.

I've had it for several years now and I'll never go back to the old kind.
posted by nebosite at 1:31 PM on January 13

It goes in the dishwasher after every use.
posted by bahama mama at 1:54 PM on January 13

A can opener which cuts through the seal but doesn't actually enter the contents, you say? I had no idea: what a time to be alive - thank you!
posted by my log does not judge at 3:24 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I have the oxo one that doesn't touch the food, I throw it in some hot soapy water in the sink when I think about it & washing something else, then stick it in the drainer.
posted by wwax at 3:48 PM on January 13

just back to say thank you to mldnj for posting this, had a delicious tuna melt for lunch on account of the thread.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 5:32 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

I used to clean my KitchenAid can opener's blade area with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol after each use. Then, about once a month, I would scrub it with a toothbrush to get at all the disgusting stuff that the light cleaning missed. It was the same can opener mentioned in this blogpost and it met the same fate as that one.

Now I have the OXO Good Grips Manual Smooth Edge Can Opener with Stainless Steel Cutting Wheel. This can opener has changed my life. Opening cans has never been easier. The cutting edge never touches the food, so it doesn't need to be cleaned. I may wipe it with some alcohol sometime, if I ever see a need.

Here's how it works.
posted by Avalow at 8:18 PM on January 13

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