Garden Tool Maintenance: Cleaning, Sharpening, and Storing

Who said spring cleans are only for spring? I’m doing some tasks around the garden and house as part of my autumn cleaning! The quieter months of autumn and winter provide the perfect opportunity to get on top of those garden jobs you always put off. One essential task for any dedicated gardener during this transitional period is garden tool maintenance!

Proper maintenance now ensures that your tools will be ready to shine come springtime. In this guide, I’ll take you through the step-by-step process of cleaning, sharpening, and storing your garden tools, ensuring they’re in optimal condition when you’re ready to return to the garden come spring. 

garden shed

Step 1: Cleaning Your Tools

Before you tuck your tools away for the colder months, it’s crucial to clean them to prevent rust and maintain their effectiveness thoroughly. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Gather Your Supplies: You’ll need a bucket of warm soapy water, a wire brush, a stiff bristle brush, rags, a scrubbing pad, and a hose.
  2. Remove Debris: Firstly, start by using a wire brush to scrape off any caked-on soil, plant matter, or rust. Be thorough and pay attention to notches and edges.
  3. Soak in Soapy Water: Fill your basin with warm water and add dish soap. Soak your tools for about 15-20 minutes to loosen dirt and grime.
  4. Scrub and Clean: Use a stiff bristle brush, rags, and a scrubbing pad to remove any remaining dirt. Pay extra attention to the handles and other parts that you might need to clean.
  5. Rinse Thoroughly: Rinse off the soap and dirt using a hose. Make sure all the soap residue is gone.

How to stop your garden tools from going rusty?

The key to preventing rust is minimising moisture exposure and creating protective barriers for metal surfaces. 

After each use, thoroughly clean your tools by removing dirt and debris using a wire brush or scrubbing pad, and then wash them with warm soapy water. Once cleaned, ensure the tools are completely dry before storing them. 

Regularly check your tools for any signs of rust, and if you spot any, promptly address it by cleaning the affected area, removing the rust with sandpaper or a wire brush, and then reapplying oil. 

By adopting these practices as part of your routine maintenance, you can ensure that your garden tools remain rust-free and in optimal condition for seasons.

Can you use WD-40 to clean garden tools?

Yes, you can use WD-40 effectively to clean garden tools. This versatile multi-purpose product is not only great for lubrication and rust prevention, but it also works very well when it comes to removing dirt, grime, and rust from your gardening equipment. 

To clean your garden tools with WD-40, spray a moderate amount onto the metal surfaces and allow it to penetrate for a few minutes. This also helps to loosen stubborn debris and rust, making it easier to scrub away with a wire brush, rag, or scrubbing pad. 

WD-40’s water-displacing properties play a role in breaking down the gunk, making it a helpful cleaning agent. 

garden tool

Step 2: Sharpening Your Tools

Sharp tools make gardening tasks so much easier and more efficient. Use the following steps to sharpen your tools:

  1. Gather Sharpening Tools: Firstly, you’ll need a mill file or sharpening stone, protective gloves, and safety glasses.
  2. Secure the Tool: Secure the tool in a vice or workbench to prevent slipping.
  3. Angle and Motion: Follow the original bevel angle of the blade. Use smooth, even strokes along the blade’s edge, moving from the base to the tip. Also, be consistent with the number of strokes on each side.
  4. Check Your Progress: Periodically check the sharpness by lightly running your thumb along the edge (be careful not to cut yourself). You should feel a slight burr along the blade’s edge.
  5. Honing the Edge: To remove the burr and polish the edge, flip the tool and lightly hone the back side.
  6. Oil the Blade: Following the sharpening process, add a delicate coat of oil to safeguard the blade against rust.
tool shed

Step 3: Storing Your Tools

Proper storage ensures your tools remain in good condition until spring. Follow these steps:

  1. Remove Wooden Handles: If your tools have wooden handles, remove them and store them separately to prevent potential damage from moisture.
  2. Hang or Store Garden Tools Vertically: Hang your tools on a pegboard or store them upright in a dry, well-ventilated area. This prevents moisture accumulation that could lead to rust.
  3. Use Silica Packets: Place silica gel packets in your tool storage area to help absorb excess moisture.
  4. Oil Metal Parts: Apply a thin layer of oil to metal parts to protect them from rust during storage.
  5. Cover Blade Edges: Consider using blade guards or wrapping the edges in cloth to prevent accidental cuts and maintain sharpness.
garden wheelbarrow with plants

Happy Autumn Cleaning!

Following these steps for your garden tool maintenance ensures their longevity and functionality come spring. 

Taking some time now will save you from frustration and disappointment when the gardening season resumes. 

Your well-maintained garden tools will thank you by making your gardening endeavours more enjoyable and successful.

If you would like to watch more videos and pick up some more garden tips, check out the Cottage Garden Playlist on YouTube, where you will find a new video every Sunday! Or click here for more garden posts.


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