Top 5 Tricks To Keep Garden Tools Like New

By Teo Spengler | February 23, 2019
Image by artisteer
by Teo Spengler
February 23, 2019

You have to work out regularly to keep your body healthy as you age. Similarly, it takes some effort to keep your garden tools working well as they get older. Most of us admit to having tossed dirty shovels in the garage, or uncleaned clippers in the tool chest. But you know it’s not good for the tools. To keep tools looking new and performing well, regular cleaning and maintenance is a must. Read on for some tricks you can use to accomplish this.

1. Clean those tools – We may as well break it to you right away: to keep your tools happy and healthy, you’ll need to clean them off every time you use them. A proper cleaning doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time, but it is really important in maintaining tools in good condition. When moist soil gets on tools, the moisture can rust steel surfaces and dull metal blades. And fungi, pest eggs and weed seeds can also cling to these tools and get spread around the garden with each use.

Use a hose to clean garden tools that come in contact with soil. If necessary, scrub them with a hard-bristle brush.Tools that don’t touch soil, like pruning shears and knives, can be wiped down with water and a little paint thinner. Dry each tool with a rag after cleaning.

2. Keep tools oiled – Steel garden tools rust when they are exposed to oxygen, even if you clean and dry them properly. Many gardeners use motor oil as a low-cost rust preventer thinned out with kerosene. Some people also use WD-40. You can also use linseed oil or sunflower oil. Before storing the tools away, brush the steel surfaces with the oil to prevent them from oxidizing.

3. Removing rust – If your tools have already rusted, you’ll need to do a little more. First, try getting the rust off with 80-grit sandpaper. If that won’t work, clean off the rust with a stiff wire brush. If the rut has pitted a steel surface, you’ll need to use an electric drill with a wire-brush attachment.

4. Storing tools – Everybody is guilty of leaving tools outdoors at least once in a while, but you probably know that doesn’t do the tool any favors. Gardening tools and moisture do not make happy bedfellows,and rust and rot can result. To keep your tools strong and efficient, bring them inside whenever you are done for the day. The ideal garden tool storage involves hanging them up so that no part of a tool touches the ground at all.

5. Handling handles – The tips so far have involved keeping the steel part of the tools clean and rust-free. But you have to handle the handles too. Every season, take a look at the wooden handles on gardening tools. Sand out any splintering areas and wipe on tung oil or boiled linseed oil with a clean rag. Remove excess oil before putting the tools in storage.

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  • Jessie Holloway
    Comment added July 6, 2022Reply

    Thanks so much for the tips on what kind of material needs what kind of maintenance. I've recently taken up gardening and want to make sure my tools last me as long as they can. I want to start the tool care early, so I'll have to look into some products and places where I can get services done on my tools when needed.

  • Daniel
    Comment added February 24, 2019Reply

    A good tip for the wooden handles when storing the tools for any longer term ie after use for the season "but" storing for the longer term such as winter, is to really give the wood work a good soaking with the likes of linseed oil and then stand the tools upside down so the oil will drain into the wooden shafts (such as spades)
    this way the oil will get well into the inner wood.

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