Leatherman Care Tips

Tools exposed to salt water environments

A wide variety of stainless steels are available fulfilling different performance and protection requirements. Leatherman tools are made using two different 420 series stainless steels that are then tempered to five or six different specifications for the various tool groups involved. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to get temperate steel which will handle salt water without some care requirements. Our suggestions for proper care of Leatherman tools in salt water environments are as follows:

  • Before salt water exposure, ensure that all the pivot points and the whole tool has been saturated with engine oil. The purpose of engine oil is to fill the micro crevices that exist in all steel surfaces so that those cracks and depressions cannot be exposed to corrosives. The end result is a more forgiving working environment for the tool so that it is less hassle for you. This protection level will remain effective until the tool surface has been stripped of the protective oil coating by aggressive washing.
  • After the properly prepared tool has been exposed to salt water, rinsing the tool in fresh water and shaking it dry is usually enough to minimise corrosion. Occasionally wipe the tool down with an oily cloth. This will keep the tool in the preferred condition and avoid the need for remedial action.
  • Once stainless steel has been allowed to rust (normally light staining only) the damage can usually be repaired with steel wool and engine oil. The rust oxide is quite soft and will come off the hardened stainless finish quite quickly and the oil residue that is left behind will help prevent a future recurrence.
  • We do not recommend the use of spray-penetrating oils or products similar to “WD40”. They are excellent penetrants and cleaners but do not leave a protective oil film which is needed in highly corrosive environments.
  • Your pouch selection will also affect your tools performance. We would recommend the use of the nylon pouched as they can be rinsed free of salt water more practically than their leather counterparts. The nylon pouches are happy in the washing machine and come out clean and salt free.

As a point of interest, magnetic steels will usually take a temper but will stain/rust: Non-magnetic steels will not stain/rust or take a temper.

We hope this will help you avoid problems and help you keep your Leatherman tool in perfect condition for years to come.


Our tools bear the name of company president Tim Leatherman, who invented the original Pocket Survival Tool, now known as the PST.

The Leatherman Wave multi-tool is hands down our most popular model, made famous by its outside-accessible blades that can be deployed with just one hand. When we redesigned it in 2004, we gave the new Wave larger knives, stronger pliers, longer wire cutters, and all-locking blades. Perfect for any job, adventure, or everyday task, the Wave multi-tool is an international best-seller.

Every multi-tool and knife we ship out the door is crafted by one of the 700 Oregonians who call Leatherman a great place to work, and we stand behind our products with a no-questions-asked 25 year warranty.

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