With a few cleaning items and some post-gardening diligence, it’s easy to take proper care of your garden tools so they last longer and work better. Be sure to clean your tools after each use and at the end of the gardening season. Remember, if you keep your rakes, hoes, and shears looking great they can pass the favor on to your garden.
Remove dirt. Use a stiff-bristled brush and water to clean your tools after each use. The brush will help remove any stubborn bits of dirt and soil from the metal parts of your tools. This is important because leftover wet soil will cause your tools to rust.
Dry your tools. After you’ve removed all dirt and debris, dry your garden tools with a rag, or let them air dry in the sun.
Look for rust. If your find any rust spots, cover the area with lubricating oil (such as WD-40) and scrub it with a wire brush. Wear your garden gloves to prevent rust from getting onto your skin, which can cause an irritation. Also be aware of floating rust particles that may drift into your eyes or work area. If this tactic doesn’t remove the rust, try using a paste of one part lemon juice and one part baking soda. Cover the rust spot with the paste and wait 10 minutes. The paste will dissolve the rust, allowing you to wipe it away with a cloth.
Check the handles. Look for any splinters, cracks or roughness. Smooth any problematic areas with medium-grit emery cloth (this is a flexible, sandpaper-like cloth that is available at most hardware stores). If your handles are extra rough, try rubbing against the grain first and then switching directions.
Sharpen dull blades. The more you use your tools, the duller they become. Sharpen blades on any tools used for cutting or digging! Use a metal file to sharpen the edges at a 45 degree angle. Make long, smooth strokes in one direction. Generally, 10 strokes are enough to remove minor nicks and expose a fresh edge.
Wipe down your tools with oil. This will prevent wood handles from absorbing water or cracking, and protect the metal parts from corrosion. Blot your lubricating oil onto a clean rag. Then, rub a light coat of oil onto the surfaces of your tools. Note: If your garden tools have fiberglass or plastic composite handles, the handles do not need to be treated with oil.
Keep your tools dry. To prevent corrosion, store your garden tools in a warm, dry place. If possible, avoid storing your tools on the ground, which tends to be damper than higher places. TIP: If you keep your garden tools in a toolbox, add a few pieces of charcoal to soak up any extra moisture.