Ask Unclutterer: Getting rid of knives

Reader Sarah submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

The consolidation of knives between my boyfriend and I has some undesirables. I would like to get rid of them but am not sure how. Also, what is the best way to transport? Thanks so much.

You have a few options when getting rid of knives. (And, since you said the knives were “undesirables,” I’m assuming you mean they are not in good enough condition to be used safely by anyone.)

First, check your local phone book or Google to see if there is a professional knife sharpener or repairer in your area. These people will often take old knives because they can re-purpose them in their work or repair and sell them. They might also have additional ideas for you.

If you have some time, a second option is to learn what type of blade you have and sell its metal for scrap. Most kitchen knife blades are made of iron, steel, or a mixture of metals and carbon. (Some newer knives are made of titanium, but I doubt you’re interested in getting rid of any of those.) A scrap metal shop might take your knives regardless of the specific type of metal its blade includes. You’re not likely to get much money for the blade, but you can be assured that if a scrap metal shop buys it that it will be recycled in some way.

Finally, if you live in an area without these services, my knife skills class instructor recommended that you wrap it in butcher paper, then bubble wrap, and tape it up in an appropriately sized cardboard box. After you’ve made a package of the knife, simply toss it into the trash. The package will keep the knife from inadvertently injuring someone during transportation to the dump. If you need to carry knives to a knife sharpener or scrap metal shop, you can use a similar treatment.

Thank you, Sarah, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Also, be sure to check out the comments to learn of other ways our readers have disposed of knives in the past.

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29 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Getting rid of knives”

  1. posted by syfr on

    Donate them to Goodwill or AmVets – someone else can use them!

  2. posted by Caroline on

    What quality are the knives? If they are a good quality, or still very serviceable, soup kitchens and homeless shelters are constantly having to replace knives that are used so much they can’t be sharpened any more. You can donate items such as this to those types of places, and feel good that they are being repurposed. Call first, of course.

    Other places to donate are women’s shelters, and suprisingly enough, animal shelters, who likely need sharp knives to prepare food for their charges who need special diets.

  3. posted by Dorothy on

    I am de-accessioning a ton of stuff as I move into my new house. I got rid of a number of knives by donating them for a church rummage sale.

    I wrapped them carefully in old towels which I taped shut with masking tape. I wrote a warning on the tape with a Sharpie — something like — “Caution, kitchen knives!”

  4. posted by Charity on

    Nice post. But you left out a HUGE option for Sarah. Like syfr said, donate them to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or another non-profit re-sale store. This is a much better step than letting the knives clutter up a landfill as waste when they could be reused.

  5. posted by Erin Doland on

    @syfr, @Caroline, and @Charity — Goodwill and other charities are not dumping grounds for unusable things. If the knives, as Sarah explains, are undesirable, then they most certainly should NOT be donated. Disposing of unsafe things costs charities time and money. Please, do not donate things you wouldn’t feel safe using yourself to a charity.

  6. posted by KateNonymous on

    How undesirable are they? If they’re usable, but you don’t need them because you have enough and prefer others, you could sell them on craigslist or eBay.

  7. posted by WilliamB on

    Sarah’s options depend on whether the knives are
    1. Usable but they don’t want them
    2. Unusable but salvagable.
    3. Unusable and unsalvagable.

    1: Donate or sell.

    2: Donate or sell as is, or put in some work and donate or sell a usable product. The most likely possibility is that the knives are rusty or dull. Many kitchenware stores – such as Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma – offer this service. Bass Pro Shops will sharpen for free. You might be able to get a provider to do it for free or discounted if you tell them you’re donating the knives.

    3. Recycle or throw out. Some jurisdictions have scrap metal drives.

    In any event, wrap the knives well and label them. All the ideas are good ones: old rags, towels, bubble wrap, cardboard.

  8. posted by Fern on

    About charity shops being ‘dumping grounds for unusable things’: sometimes, they are. Knives aren’t really the sort of thing I’m talking about, but at the charity shop where I volunteer, we recycle anything fabric/textile that isn’t good enough to sell and get money from it. If you have clothes or bed linen or whatever that’s stained or not good enough to use, it’s still okay to donate it; if it can be used, it will, and if it can’t, we really don’t mind disposing of it.

  9. posted by Sarah on

    Just to clarify, the knives are in good condition. I just don’t want them.

  10. posted by Pat on

    When I need to transport my kitchen knives, I just put them into a paper towel roll with one end stapled shut.

  11. posted by Melanie on

    Butcher paper, bubble wrap and then a cardboard box? Really.

    Reminds me of the anal retentive chef character from SNL who spent more time showing how to dispose of the garbage produced from cooking than how to cook.

  12. posted by syfr on

    Erin, I took undesireable to mean unwanted, not unusable, thus my advice.

  13. posted by Dawn F on

    I would think a soup kitchen or homeless shelter (with a kitchen) would love to have the knives if they are in good condition.

  14. posted by Erik on

    Are the knifes high grade and in good condition and you don’t have infinite amounts of money?
    Sell them.

    If you don’t need the money donate them to a friend.

    If the knifes are shitty or/and you can’t find anyone else who wants them, throw them in your closest metal recycling container. (Why is this not even written in the article, don’t you have recycling stations wherever you are from?)

  15. posted by henave on

    I live in GA and recycling here is the PITS! Nothing curbside- I haul as much as I can to the county facility, but the only metal you can take is tin cans! No hazardous waste disposal facility in the county. I envy those who could “throw them in your closest metal recycling station”. Finding the tin can recycling place for the county took some serious detective work. Be thankful if you have a good recycling program where you live.

  16. posted by Adam on

    Keep in mind that some brands of knives come with a lifetime warranty for the blade (but usually no the tip). My father-in-law took a Henckle knife to a repair shop and they shaved it down, and then later realized that all he had to do was to ask the manufacturer for a replacement!

  17. posted by Ruth Hansell on

    A little overkill on the packaging. If they’re going to the dump, wrap the blades in duct tape or strapping tape completely, toss in garbage.

    If they’re going to be donated, a knife sleeve made of cardboard, (a paper towel roll, as Pat suggested, or a flat one cut from cardboard and taped or stapled shut). Tape the knife sleeve to the handle so it doesn’t slip off. Over wrapping makes them harder to display at thrift stores or garage sales – wouldn’t you want to see the blade of a knife you were going to buy?

    I believe you can also offer them on FreeCycle. Cooking classes at local community colleges might like them, too.


  18. posted by renee e on

    My husband is a fabricator and luthier. He takes old knives and somehow (never watched or asked how) cuts off about 3/4 of the blade, leaving about a 2 inch blade that is straight across at the top. He then uses these as scrapers for all sorts of projects from carving to removing finishes.

  19. posted by Robert Wall @ Finding Frugality on

    I think that many of the previous posters are going overboard. These are knives, not toxic waste. Take an old cardboard box or a piece of tupperware that’s about the same length as the longest knife, and just stack them in the box with the blades all pointing the same direction. Put a lid on the container, or fold the box shut. Set that in the back seat of your car; put it in the trunk if you’re more on the paranoid side. Take it to your local thrift store, hand them the box, and let them figure out how they want to deal with them.

  20. posted by Mary on

    Remember that in some countries (like the UK) it’s illegal to carry knives without a “justifiable excuse”. Wrapping the knives up properly means you’re less likely to hassled by the police should you get stopped en route.

  21. posted by Louise on

    @Mary, thanks for that information. I never knew it was illegal to carry knives in the UK. A good reminder that folks here on Unclutterer are subject to widely varying laws and recycling options.

    @Erik, if you have mixed metal recycling in convenient bins available, count your lucky stars. We travel all over the US in our motorhome, and sometimes have to store our recyclables for weeks before we find a place to drop them off. Some states don’t even recycle #1 and #2 plastics yet, much less knives.

    The world is large and varied, and Uranus is not the center of the universe…

  22. posted by Louise on

    That last sentence was not aimed at @Mary or @Erik, simply a reminder to myself 😉

  23. posted by Tina on

    I recently needed to dispose of a couple of knife blades. I was concerned that an unknowing person would stab themselves if I simple threw them in the trash bags…no recycling here yet. I waited until I had a jar I was going to toss that the blades would fit into and closed them inside. I realize the jar could break but knives can go straight through cardboard and such also when a trash collector snatches up a bag to toss in the truck….I currently have some large pieces of glass from a broken pitcher to dispose of….I worry about the same thing happening. Any suggestions?

  24. posted by Ruth Hansell on

    Tina, cover the glass with duct tape or strapping tape, the kind with the strings in it. That will hold it together safely, and cover the edges. Use a couple layers on the broken edges for extra safety.


  25. posted by Becky on

    Another suggestion for throwing out sharp items is if you have empty gatorade (or similar thick plastic) bottles. My aunt uses them to store her insulin syringes until she can dispose of them properly.

  26. posted by Tina on

    Thank-you, Ruth! Excellent suggestion!

  27. posted by Gypsie on

    We sent our dull/cracked, etc. knives back to the manufacturer and they replaced them free! Even Farberware sent us replacements.

    At home, we keep our sharpest/best knives in individual sleeves of cardboard in the drawer. This protects us and the knives edges. We just sent the knives back in our homemade sleeves when we needed to.

  28. posted by Pamela on

    Do not throw them out in a landfill no matter how well packaged. 1. Like it or not, poor children scavenge there and could be injured playing with them if found. 2. Many old landfills are eventually turned into usable land for construction and digging operations could turn up the blades many years later, again, causing injury.

    Best bet is to call a good local knife dealer or sharpener to ask for local options.

  29. posted by disconnect on

    I’ve had good results donating decent knives to Goodwill. Take a piece of cardboard, fold it in half, and cut a little larger than the blade. Apply duct tape to the long edge and one short edge, and voila, instant reusable sheath. To donate a knife, add a piece of duct tape to the cardboard so that it prevents blade removal (tape the handle to the cardboard if necessary), and hand the knives to the attendant in a separate box (or at least open the box and show him/her that there are knives in there).

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