When you invest in quality kitchen knives, you should take into consideration how you are going to store them. Keeping them in a drawer in the kitchen will dull them much more quickly than they should, and it can chip and damage the blades as well. Using a wooden knife block is a good way to store your knives and keep them from being damaged.
The problem with wooden blocks is that they can often trap germs and pieces of food within their tiny slots. They can be difficult to clean, but if you take proper care to clean your knives properly before storing them, it can prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria. It is still important to clean your storage block every once in a while. Here are some steps that will help make this difficult task easy and quick.
First, make sure you wash all your knives and let them dry properly before storing them. Trapping water in the knife slots can cause mold or warping. While the knives are drying, turn the knife block over and shake out as many crumbs as possible. Keep shaking until no more crumbs will come out. When shaking won't do the job, you can use a can of compressed air -like you would use to clean your computer keyboard-to blow some of the gunk out.
Fill a spray bottle with water and add a teaspoon of bleach. Spray into the slots, then rinse out with your kitchen sprayer. Let the block dry upside down on the counter. Make sure it's completely dry before you put the knives back in.
If you are concerned about your knife block splitting or cracking because of the moisture, you can use a mineral oil to restore and protect the finish. It shouldn't be too much of an issue. Preventing germ and food buildup by ensuring your knives are clean before storage will keep you from having to clean the block very often.
Even if you don't see any crumbs inside the slots of the storage block, remember that dust can build up over time. Prevention is all well and good, but you should at least clean the block once a year or so to get any regular dust out that may have settled inside the slots.
A caveat for those thinking about using steam to try and clean your block: the high heat and moisture can cause the glue to melt.