by Matt Gibson
Properly caring for your garden shears can make a big difference in the life and usefulness of your tools. That’s good news for the majority of us gardeners who have a pair or two of abandoned garden shears that have been collecting dust and losing their edge ever since the last time we pulled them out of the tool drawer. Most garden shears are pretty beat up and dirty, tossed into the back of a tool shed, or into a tool satchel that’s overstuffed with other tools that could use a bit of attention (at the least) or a full on replacement or refurbishment.
How To Properly Clean Your Garden Shears
Garden shears need to be kept clean first and foremost. Long handled pruning shears, long bladed hedge shears, and handheld grass cutters alike, all need to be cleaned, sharpened and attended to in order to keep their functionality intact and to avoid having to replace them over and over (which is probably what will have to happen if you don’t give them the proper care and attention that they require.
Avoiding And Removing Dirt and Rust
Most gardening equipment, but especially shovels, shears, trowels, and other handheld tools that are made primarily of metal, are subject to rusting. Be sure to thoroughly dry your metal gardening tools after cleaning to avoid rusting.
Sharpening Your Garden Shears
No matter what type of shears you have, if you put them to use regularly, the blades will begin to wear down. On the bright side, all you need is a sturdy clamp and a mill file to give dull shears back their sharpness. If you see that the blade of the shears in question is nicked or bent, you will most likely want to replace the shears and only use the damaged pair on smaller branch removal.
Sprucing Up Your Garden Tools
This final tip is the most comprehensive way to keep your sharp metal garden tools in tip-top shape. First, gather up all the different types of shears that you own. This includes long-handled pruning shears, edging shears, hedge shears, and any other shears that you use in the garden. You will also need: a bucket of water, a small wire brush (toothbrush size), a sharpening file, some bleach, a bevel for holding your sharpening file in place, and some oil, preferably WD-40.
Step One – Cleaning Your Tools
First, put some water in your bucket. Then, grab your shears and sharp tools and your wire brush and start scrubbing. You do not need any soap or any abrasive, just water and elbow grease will do the trick. Stop scrubbing when all of the metal surfaces are clean.
Step Two – Sharpening Your Tools
Place the sharpening file on the bevel (if you have one) so that it is level and flush. Using short, firm strokes, push the file away from you while making sure that the file is still flush with the bevel. Work your way up from the base of the shear to the tip. If you haven’t sharpened your shears in a while and they have become quite dull, the sharpening process could take some time. Be patient and make sure that the shears are fully sharpened. Carefully, using your finger, check to see how sharp the blades of your pruners and shears are after sharpening. Take special care not to cut your finger while testing the sharpness of your tools. Once sharpened, the bevel should be the same width as it was when you started. Once you are satisfied with the level of sharpness, use the file to smooth over the other side of the blade to ensure that there are no filings hanging over the edge.
Step Three – Disinfect
Fill your bucket again, this time with 10 parts water to one part bleach to create your own mild disinfectant. Wash the cleaned and sharpened shears in the bleach water solution and allow them to dry. Disinfect your pruning shears after each use. Doing so will prevent the spread of plant diseases.
Step Four – Coat With Oil or WD-40
Apply a liberal amount of oil (preferably WD-40) to the freshly cleaned, sharpened, and sanitized tools. Use a rag, a paper towel or a dry washcloth to wipe off any excess oils, leaving only a thin coat of oil on the tools. Treating your tools with oil will help keep your shears opening and closing smoothly without getting stuck. This step should also prevent future rust buildup
Step Five – Wrapping Up
The entire sprucing up of the tools should only take about 10 minutes from start to finish. Fighting with dull or dirty shears when you are trying to complete a gardening job is a frustrating experience to say the least. If you have never treated your shears and sharp gardening tools to a sprucing before, you will be amazed at how much easier they will be to handle after being cleaned, sharpened, and oiled. Gardening is tough work, but trying to complete gardening tasks with dull equipment makes a tough job nearly impossible. Fortunately, the process of cleaning, sharpening and maintaining your garden tools is so quick and easy, that there should never be a situation where these steps should be skipped.
Simple Daily Cleaning
You don’t have to follow the five step procedure listed above every single time that you use your shears for anything. A much simpler, less involved cleaning will suffice after light uses. To conduct a simple cleaning and disinfecting, after using your pruners or shears, wipe down the blades with a cotton pad soaked in hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. Use vegetable oil or olive oil if you don’t have WD-40.
Your shears are most likely not going to become filthy after one job, unless you are hacking away at something covered in sap or some other sticky liquid. A simple daily cleaning should be all that it takes to keep your shears sharp, oiled, and ready to be put to work, whatever the task may be.
Want to learn more about caring for garden shears?
Better Homes & Garden covers How to Care for Garden Tools
Family Handy Man covers How to Sharpen Garden Tools
Garden Therapy covers Care for Pruners
GrowVeg covers How to Care For and Sharpen Gardening Tools
Weekend Gardener covers Revitalize Your Pruning Shears