Cleaning Garden Tools – Garden tools are meant to last a long time but with proper care and maintenance, those tools can practically last decades! Some gardeners I know still use garden tools handed down by their parents. For many gardeners, the growing season (at least outdoors) is ending and it is time to put the garden to rest for the winter and put away the tools until next spring.
Here are some tips for cleaning, disinfecting and storing your garden tools for the winter.
Preparing Your Garden Tools for Storage
Before putting away your tools, give them a thorough cleaning first. Start by scrubbing off any dirt from the blades and handles. Dry the tools with a towel and then leave them overnight to completely dry.
Remove any rust on the metal parts using a steel wool or a wire brush. Try to remove the rust with as little grinding and scraping of the steel as possible in order to keep the tools from becoming thinner. The thinner the tools are, the weaker they become.
Smoothen the wooden handles using sandpaper (medium grit) to get rid of splinters and to revive the finish. Sandpaper can also be used to lightly polish the metal part of the tool. When you’re done, wipe down the tools thoroughly to remove any sanding dust.
Sharpen your tools using a metal file. Again, don’t grind too much on the metal and just remove nicks and burrs. Aim for a nice, clean edge. On cutting tools like pruners, follow up with a sharpening stone lubricated with oil. This will give it a finer edge.
Oil your garden tools to prevent them from absorbing moisture while in storage. Use a clean rag to apply oil to the wooden handle and the metal part of the tool. Make use of vegetable oil and avoid using petroleum based oil. Linseed oil is a good choice and many gardeners use boiled linseed oil to coat the wooden part of their garden tools. For tools with fiberglass or composite handles, a thorough cleaning is all that is needed. But be sure that the metal blades are oiled.
Storing Your Garden Tools
To store your garden tools for the winter, follow these steps:
1. Get a bucket or a pot and fill it with coarse sand. Mix about half a cup of vegetable oil with the sand thoroughly. Don’t worry about vegetable oil going rancid. As long as you store your garden tools somewhere cool and dark, rancidity won’t be much of an issue especially during the cold season.
2. Plunge your garden tools – forks, shovels, trowels, hoes, metal dibblers, etc. – into the sandy mix. Place the bucket in a cool and dry place for the winter.
3. Come winter, simply remove the tools from the sandy oil and wipe the blades down with a piece of burlap or coarse cloth.
You can also use the sandy oil all year round to keep your tools clean and sharp. After using your garden tools, remove dirt and just stab them into the sandy oil and they will get a nice sharpening from the coarse sand and the oil will keep them lubricated.