The best kitchen knives from Consumer Reports’ tests have a few things in common, including a sturdy forged blade, a heavy bolster and heel to protect your hand during cutting, and a well-balanced handle.

One more feature common among high-performance knives: most will last more or less forever, if you care for them properly. The operative word is “if,” and it’s an expensive one, too, when you consider the cost of a top-rated knife set. The Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Professional "S" 7-piece set, for example, will run you $315, while the 7-piece Wusthof Classic Ikon #8347 sells for around $380.

Both knife sets offer lifetime warranties, as do other winners on our recommended list. The warranties could be voided, however, by improper use. You should refer to your warranty for specifics, but here are three key steps our experts say will help extend the life of any knife set, even less expensive models that appear lower in our kitchen knives Ratings

Step 1: Store Safely

You should never keep kitchen knives in a cabinet drawer, mixed in with other utensils. For starters, you’re liable to cut yourself on the sharp blade any time you reach into the drawer (youngsters in the home could be particularly susceptible to injury). This form of loose storage is also bad for the knives, since the jostling can lead to nicked blades.

A dedicated storage device is the best place to keep kitchen knives. Most knife sets come with a countertop wooden block that does the job. If you have other random knives, a wall-mounted magnetic rack is an option, though be mindful of the exposed blades. An in-drawer block, designed to fit inside a cabinet drawers and hold a variety of knives, is another option that combines safety and convenience.

Step 2: Hone Regularly

All fine-edged blades develop microscopic burrs over time. Honing realigns the blade edge, ensuring maximum sharpness. This is different from knife sharpening, in which a water stone or other tool is used to remove actual material and create a new razor-sharp edge.

You might need to have your knives professionally sharpened once or twice a year, depending how often, and how hard, you use them. But don’t be afraid to hone your knives every time you pull them out, using a honing steel—a steel rod with ridges that bring the blade into alignment.

Start by gripping the honing steel in your non-dominant hand and planting its tip into a cutting board. With your other hand, place the heel of the knife at the top of the steel at a slight angle (around 20 degrees). Lightly draw the knife along the steel, maintaining the same angle as you go.

Repeat the same process on the opposite side of the steel, again using light even strokes. Remember, all you’re trying to do is smooth out any imperfections in the metal, so a lot of pressure isn’t needed. A handful of strokes on each side should leave you with a finely honed edge. 

Step 3: Wash by Hand

Though some manufacturers say their knives can be put in the dishwasher, there are often caveats. Zwilling, for example, says that knives made of special formula steel are dishwasher-safe, but then adds that “washing knives in a dishwasher can therefore shorten their lifespan and cutting edge retention.”

That’s why our advice is to play it safe with all kitchen knives and wash them by hand. For best results, use lukewarm water, a mild detergent, and a non-scratch cloth or sponge. Hand dry with a towel before storing since wet knives can corrode, plus they’ll create mold in wooden storage blocks.     

Leaving knives in a wet sink can also accelerate corrosion. If you don’t think your household can stick to that rule, check our Ratings for a knife set that is less prone to corrosion.