How to Clean Your Garden Tools

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Preview: Learning how to clean your garden tools in an important part of maintaining a healthy garden. Clean tools also make your work easier.

By the end of each garden season, garden tools usually show some signs of wear and tear. Most are dirty and pruners are usually dull and sticky. You may think you need to purchase new ones. But with proper maintenance, your garden tools can last for years and years. This should be done each year as part of your fall garden cleanup or winter garden preparation. Let’s get those tools in proper shape so when spring rolls around, you’ll be ready to jump into the garden and plant.

How to clean your garden tools

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How to Clean Trowels, Shovels, and Rakes

To clean garden tools like trowels, shovels and rakes, you first need to remove any garden dirt. Wash the tools with warm water and dish soap. Sharpen shovels and trowels if necessary by using a rasp . Try to sharpen along the same angle that the tool was previously sharpened.

Always store your tools in a dry area like a shed or a garage after every use. Hand tools can be stored in a bucket of sand that has been saturated with oil, while larger tools such as rakes and hoes can be hung from a board on a wall of the storage area. This will keep them cleaned and conditioned after every use.

How to Clean Pruners and Lopping Shears

Pruners and lopping shears can get dull very quickly. Tree sap and dirt can combine on your pruners to make them stiff. This build up doesn’t allow the pruners to cut cleanly which can stress your hands since they have to work harder. Dull, dirty pruners are also bad for your plants as they can invite disease if they don’t cut cleanly. Furthermore, the excess build up can harbor diseases and fungus that can be transferred from one plant to another as you trim.

how to clean pruners

To clean pruners and lopping shears

First, remove all the dirt by scraping off what you can and washing with dish soap. Then with a wire brush or piece of steel wool, scrub to remove any sticky sap and remaining debris as well as any rust. To sanitize the tools, wipe them down with a 10% bleach solution or isopropyl alcohol. Dry the tools thoroughly to prevent rust.

Sharpen pruners and lopping shears by using a diamond file to renew the edge.

Oil the tools to keep them from rusting, using the oil of your choice. Placing a drop of WD-40 or 3-in-one oil on the pivot point will keep the pruners moving smoothly.

How to Maintain Wooden Handles

For tools with wooden handles, the handles need to be cleaned of any dirt and debris. Allow them to dry thoroughly and wipe with boiled linseed oil.

A Note About Cleaning Garden Tools

I’ve seen many places use motor oil to wipe down their tools and keep them from rusting. I don’t really want to introduce motor oil in my garden, so I prefer to use another type of cooking oil such as olive oil.

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How to Store Your Garden Tools

After each use, tools such as trowels can be stored in a bucket of sand mixed with some oil. The sand scrubs off the excess dirt and the oil lubricates the blades and keeps them from rusting. This mixture should always be stored in a shed or garage so that no water is introduced into the mixture.

Other tools such as hoes, rakes, and shovels should be hung in a dry location away from the elements. Hang the tools by the handle, not the tool end. If a tool should fall on you, you will only get hit with the handle, not the business end of a hoe or shovel.

While they can be stored without hanging, keeping the tools off the ground keeps them from getting nicks from the floor or bumping against other tools. They will stay sharper longer and are less likely to fall.

Knowing how to clean your garden tools can save lots of money in the long run. By maintaining your tools regularly, they should give you years of service so you don’t have to purchase new ones.  (However, if you need a new pair of lopping shears or pruners, I highly recommend these shears and these pruners.)

How to clean and maintain your garden tools
How to clean and maintain your garden tools.

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