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Any ideas on the best way to clean a file? Answered

I've been using one of my files a lot lately and the surface is covered in debris that won't easily shake loose. Any ideas on the best way to clean it?


I always use file card like Caerntedd says.File card is much better at getting into the teeth than a wire brush.

I don't usually use chalk to make my files non-stick, but splash the file with "white spirit" (turpentine substitute)

The proper action when filing reduces pick-up, so always lift on the backstroke - keeps your files sharper longer.


+! a file card is the proper solution. in most cases.

If the file is totally gummed up, you can use an Xacto to individually clean out the teeth. I've had to on several occasions. It can be a tedious process, but worth it. A rotary brush has the tendency to dull the teeth, so I would avoid any such solution.

+1 steveastrouk, +1 seandogue, never use power tools to clean your files,  and use the file correctly to maintain it's cutting ability.
If the file is no good anymore, get a new one and look after it. With proper care it will last forever. I still have functional files that I got when I started my apprenticeship in 1981. (or was it 1881?)

Old files are made of good steel that can be used to make other tools. Don't chuck em out!

Phosphoric acid is sold as a rust remover, this solution will clean most files and sharpen them also. It will leave a white powder where the filings were. \This can be brushed off with a file card.when using a file card , always push the teeh at the angle of the cuts (in a single cut file) and in a double cut file you must still brush in the direction of the uppermost cut in the crossing rows, being careful to not be too energetic so as to dull the under cut row.The phosphoric acid should not be rinsed off , since it will also prevent rust from forming.Get some soft "sidewalk chalk from wallmart and butter up your file before you start, it will prevent this from happening.For some reason the colored chalk seems to work better than the white for me.

After using the wire brush, if there's stuff still stuck between the teeth, a scriber works well for just a few bits.  If there are a lot of bits stuck, here's a suggestion I've not tried but it sounds good. (I think it's from Guy Lautard)

Flatten the open end of an empty rifle cartridge.  Rub it against the teeth in the same direction as the teeth run, making an impression of the teeth.  Now you have a saw-toothed end that can remove the stuck bits from about a quarter-inch or more of teeth at a time.  Much faster than a scriber.

Hope this helps.

A penny works the same way.  Don't use any hard metal like a scriber-you will dull the teeth of the file.

I was taught to use the short wire brush (file card) and if any stubborn bits were stuck in the teeth of the file, use a piece of scrap material that has a point on it and isn't too hard such as mild steel, and dig out the difficult bits.

Also to prevent the file clogging up when filing soft materials, rub the file on a block of chalk to fill the teeth. This stops some of the clogging and makes the stubborn bits easier to dig out. 

Yes, as others have written, a wire brush is the place to start.  I have an entire set as they are handy for a lot of things (besides cleaning out the teeth of files, they are great for shining up a hot soldering iron tip, etc.).  I prefer the type that have a brass like coating on them as they are a little less harmful to the file then straight steel one, but that only lasts for a few uses.

www.instructables.com/id/Electrolytic-Rust-Removal-aka-Magic/ if it's rusty or it has collected alot of metallic debris on it you could try electrically removing the debris. i would also go with the wire brush first but to make it easier use the one that's made for a dremel or fashion one yourself and let it do the work.

.  If Burf's wire brush doesn't get it clean enough, soaking in vinegar will usually do the job, plus it sharpens the file.


8 years ago

A wire brush. Nothing works better.