Taking proper care of your garden tools will make them last a long time. But if you are like me when you are done in the garden or working in the yard, all I want is a shower and a cold drink. Cleaning and oiling my garden tools is not what I am thinking about. But seriously you tools will last longer with a bit of care. So take the time to clean, sand, sharpen and oil your garden tools.





Step 1 – Clean

You will need

  • bucket of warm water
  • wire brush
  • bleach solution
  • your dirty tools

Start by brushing all of the dirt off of your tools with a wire brush. Once you have the mud and dirt off, scrub the remaining off with the warm water. If your tools were exposed to diseased plants or pest infected soil, give them a quick soak is a diluted solution of 2 cups household bleach mixed with 1 gallon of water. Then rise them well and let them air dry or wipe them off with an clean dry rag. ** Note. They can air dry while you shower and fix your drink.


Step 2 – Sand

You will need

  • wire brush (optional)
  • 80 grit sand paper
  • 120-150 grit sand paper
  • small electric sander (optional)
  • your dry tools

Once your garden tools are dry, Start by sanding any wood handles. Moisture, from the soil, dew or rain will raise the grain of the wood and make it feel rough. Start with you 80 grit sand paper and finish off with the 120-150 grit for a nice smooth handle.

It is also a good time to take care of any rust on your tools. You can use a wire brush for the majority of the rust and to get into those tight space, but 80 grit sand paper will do a better job of removing all of the rust. If you have a small electric sander this process will go a bit faster.

Step 3 – Sharpen

You will need

  • flat file
  • eye protection
  • heavy gloves
  • vise or clamp (Tailgate Sawhorse)

Now is a good time to sharpen any tools that need it. You can sharpen them with a wide range of tools, most gardeners find that a flat file with a handle is all they need.

Before you start please use eye protection and heavy gloves. This will prevent small shards of metal from getting in your eyes and hands. Gloves will also protect your hands from cuts from your newly sharpened tools.

Garden tool sharpening can be dangerous if you don’t have the tool secured properly. So secure it in a vise if you have one, clamp it to a table or Tailgate Sawhorse or have someone hold it for you (they will need eye protection also). Just make sure it is secure before you start sharpening. Every tool blade has some sort of edge bevel on it, so try to file it at the same angle that is already there. Too much angle will indeed make you tool very sharp, but because the leading edge is so thin, it will be subject to damage by small stones, so try and stick with he angle that is there.

Step 4 – Oil

You will need

  • boiled linseed oil
  • rag

Let me start by saying Do Not use and petroleum based oil on you garden tools. You will just end up transferring that oil into you garden soil. I like to use Boiled Linseed Oil. It is a natural product from the seeds of the flax plant (except for the solvent used to keep it from hardening in the can, that evaporates after application). It can be used on the metal and wood parts of your tools. Apply liberally all over your tool,  let it sit about 15 minutes and then wipe off the excess.

Rust on any of your tools is the result of oxygen and water reacting with the metal, so the purpose of oiling is to create a barrier between the metal and the oxygen/water. Oiling your wood handles keeps them from drying out and cracking.

Step 5 – Storage

Store your tools in a dry, well ventilated shed or garage. Smaller tools can be hung on a hook or stored plunged into a bucket of sand dampened with Boiled Linseed Oil (damp not wet). Larger tools hung or stored upside down so as not to dull their blades.

Now you are done. Go sit down, prop up your feet and enjoy that cold drink.

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