Garden Tool Maintenance: A Garden Tool Checkup!

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Garden Tool Maintenance

When I perform garden tool maintenance for winter, I clean them off but I don’t think about them again until spring rolls around. Today I vow to take better care of them! Won’t you join me?

Garden Tool Maintenance: Care for Your Tools

Here are some ideas to keep your garden tools in great working order:

Cleaning Tools

1. Clean your tools well. Allowing your tools to remain dirty can invite rust and parasites.

2. Clean your tools after they have been used near chemicals, even natural pesticides and such.

3. Clean your tools if you have been near poison ivy. The oil can get on you or others if a tool is touched that has been in contact with poison ivy.

4. Got rust? Soak the tool in a bucket of cola overnight. The myth is true! Cola will remove rust. Just be sure to clean your tool off well to remove all of the sugar that remains.

5. To clean chains on chainsaws and other hard to reach places, use canned air like you use for computer keyboards. For larger ares, use an air compressor hose.

6. Hose off the under side of your lawnmower. I always forget this and end up with hard clumps of grass later that shoot out everywhere.

7. Use saddle soap on anything leather and use a leather conditioner on it after cleaning.

8. Don’t forget to clean your toolbox too!

Sharpen Tools

1. Sharpen garden shears by cutting through aluminum foil a few times.

2. Sharpen shovels with a fine toothed rasp. You may not think a shovel should be sharp, but you’ll thank me when you hit roots while digging!

3. Keep mower blades sharp. Dull blades have to work harder and fray the ends of the grass, making it more susceptible to disease and insect damage.

4. Take pruners and anything else that may be complicated to a professional sharpener. It’s worth the few dollars most places charge to be sure the job is done correctly. This is especially true with serrated edges on some garden shears and most saws.

Store Tools Wisely

1. Hang tools up. They will be up off the floor so you don’t trip on them and bang them up.

2. Store smaller tools on a pegboard for easy access.

3. Use silica gel packets when you store tools in cases. They will help keep moisture out. Don’t have any packets? Get some crystal kitty litter. It’s made from silica. Place some in an old bandanna and tie the ends together tightly so that none falls out. When it seems damp, take it out and spread it in the sun. The heat will “recharge” the silica so that you can use it again. Be careful not to breathe the dust.

4. At the end of the season, spray your tools with oil before storing. Don’t use cooking oil – it can turn rancid and get sticky. Use a lubricating oil (like this) – it will help keep moisture off tools.

5. Go a step further and fill a bucket with sand, then pour some mineral oil over the top. Store tools with the metal side in the sand. The sand will help keep the edges from getting nicked while the oil keeps moisture away.

6. Dry off wet tools before storing. Storing tools wet will almost always cause rust.

7. Put your tools away at the end of your day. It may seem obvious, but this will eliminate exposure to sudden storms, frost, hail, and even dew from being outside overnight.

8. Drain the gas from mowers and other gas powered tools at the end of the season. Over winter, gas will become gooey and it will be hard for the engine to work with it. It could also clog fuel filters.

Maintain Handles on Tools

1. Check your handles each season. Replace broken handles or use wedges to tighten them up. Wedges come in steel and wood and can be pounded into the wood at the head of an axe or any other tool built in a similar way.

2. If you get splinters from your handles, lightly sand them down.

3. Coat handles with rubberized coating to help you grip better and keep your hands free from splinters on wood handled tools. You can get rubberized coating at any hardware store or online here.

4. Protect your wooden handles with a light coating of tung oil, linseed oil, or Danish oil every spring and fall.

General Upkeep and Miscellaneous Tips

1. Check the action on shears, pruners or anything else that has joints. A little 3-in-One oil and you’re set.

2. Paint a ring of bright orange or yellow to help you locate tools that fall into the grass.

3. Change your fuel and oil filters every spring. This will help avoid having one clog in the middle of a project.

4. Spray your snow shovel with cooking oil before shoveling. Snow won’t stick to the oil. Towel it off when you’re done.

5. When buying tools, opt for the best you can afford. That $30 fiberglass handle shovel will last far longer than a $10 wooden handled one.

Do you have any tips for keeping garden tools in great shape? Tell us about it!


About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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