Prevention is always better than a cure and preventing rust from occurring is always better than having it removed. If your sword is made from carbon steel (if it's not stainless steel) you will need to maintain a LIGHT coat of non organic oil (mineral oil) on the blade at all times.
The oil should be reapplied regularly. How long depends on factors such as how humid its storage environment is (every 3 or so months should do). Before reapplying, the old coat of oil should be removed with a white piece of cloth. Try to wipe in a single direction. Once you have completed applying the coat of oil, do not touch the blade with your fingers or you risk rust developing on the blade.
There are oil made specifically for this purpose called choji oil. Sword manufacturers such as Hanwei also make an oil designed for this purpose. Traditional maintenance kits, besides containing choji oil, contain other items such as tools that allow the dis-assembly of a katana. Whether you use these specialty oils or normal mineral oil is up to you.
Updated 9 April 2009
BASIC KATANA MAINTENANCE
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9 April 2009
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