QUESTION: How do you clean and care for garden tools? This year I bought some nicer tools to garden with, so I don’t want to ruin them. – Alicia F
ANSWER: Though tool care may seem like a tall task after a hard day of work, whether that work was done in the office, or out in the yard, but taking care of your garden tools will help your tools last a lot longer, which will save you money on replacements in the long run. Not only will regular tool care increase the lifespan of your tools, but it will also increase their effectiveness in the short term. Sharp, clean, sterile tools will get the job done right, whereas dull, rusty, worn-out gear makes you want to skip the garden tasks altogether, just let your plants die off and allow weeds to win the war you’ve been winning for years now.
Don’t let the chore of tool care scare you away from the gardening hobby you’ve grown to love. Cleaning, sanding, oiling, and sharpening your tools is really not an extremely hard or time-consuming task at all. In fact, if you know what you’re doing, properly caring for your garden gear can be a fun and rewarding job that you can knock out in just a couple of hours.
First you want to gather all of your tools together in the same location. Then, prepare a bucket of warm water and grab a stiff bristle brush. Use the brush to knock loose the dirt and soil that has built up on the surface of your tools. You should be able to get off a large majority of it with no problem. Once you have a good portion of the dirt removed with the brush, scrub off the rest with warm water and a bit of elbow grease. Then rinse them off, let them air dry naturally or dry them off with a towel or paper towels.
Once your tools are clean and dry, the next step is to sand down any wooden handles on any of your tools that may have them. Moisture is unavoidable in a garden. It gets on your tools when you water your plants, when you set your tools down in the soil which is still moist from a recent watering or downpour. Moisture could also affect the wood on your tools if they are left unprotected during a rainstorm, or if moisture builds up on them from the morning dew. Either way, moisture will raise the grain of the wood, making it appear rough to the touch.
Gardeners who live in an especially humid region will notice the, “grain rising,” effect take place on their wooden tools and handles more often, and experience it in a more dramatic way than gardeners in dry climate areas. Just about any sandpaper will work perfectly for sanding down wooden handles, but your best bet is to start out with an 80 grit sandpaper at first and then finish the job with a heavier 120 to 150 grit sandpaper. The heavier sandpaper will help to create a nice smooth handle surface, which will make them seem like you just bought then new.
After you have your tools cleaned up and your wooden parts smoothed out with sandpaper, you now need to focus on getting rid of any rust that has built up on your garden tools since the last time you cleaned and protected your garden investments.
The best tool for removing rust is a sturdy wire brush, which will knock of the majority of rust build up, especially in hard to reach places. Another good tool for rust removal, which you already have on hand, is the 80 grit sandpaper. The sandpaper and the wire brush should work wonders on any rust on you’re removing, but the sandpaper is the better of the two tools for the job. If you happen to have a small electric sander on hand, it will make the task move along a lot faster. If not, you will need to complete the job by hand.