How To Clean Garden Tools – What To Use and How To Do.

How To Clean Garden Tools - What To Use And How To Do

In this post I will be writing about how to clean garden tools. It is important, as with anything you spend your hard-earned money on, that you keep your tools clean and well looked after and you’ll find that not only will they last you for a much longer amount of time, but they’ll also do a much better job.

It’s not a difficult thing to do, believe me. And when you get into the habit of cleaning your tools it becomes like second nature to you, and you’ll no doubt find you’ll be cleaning your tools every time they need it without giving it a second thought.

Just think for a minute……………. When you buy yourself new clothes, you wear them and they get dirty so you wash them and dry them and they’re clean to wear again. When you don’t wash them, then not only will they not look good but, they will start to deteriorate due to the dirt on them.

The same applies to your gardening tools. The dirt left on them will make them deteriorate much quicker than if they’re cleaned and looked after properly. Soil left on tools is the biggest cause of rusting.

Something that takes a minimal amount of time to do makes a massive difference!


Cleaning With Water

It is always a good idea to clean your tools with water after using them. Forks, spades, edging shears. Anything that gets soil or grass on will benefit from a good clean with water.

Most often the soil is easily washed off, either with a spray from the hosepipe or just tipping water over them and rubbing the soil off. If however the soil is very clay-like and sticky or the soil is quite caked and dried on then you may need to give the tools a brush as well as water.

A stiff brush is the best to quickly clean off tools (used with water) and I keep one in the back of my van at all times.

I also keep 2 or 3 old towels in the van too as its good practice to dry off your tools after you’ve cleaned them. If not then they may start to rust.

Oiling your metal tools

It’s also a good idea to wipe a bit of oil onto your metal tools as well, as this will help to not only prevent rust, but also it helps to stop dirt sticking to the metal.

Just use a bit of general purpose oil on a cloth and rub onto the metal parts of the tools. E.g. The fork tines, spade/shovel head or the blades of secateurs, shears etc. Once rubbed in then wipe away any excess and let it soak in properly.

Depending on how the tools are looking, you may want to wipe on a second coat after the first has soaked in.

I use 3-in-one oil which you can see in my list of accessories on my: The 10 Best Lawn Edging Shears post, By CLICKING HERE.

Alternatively you can use Boiled Linseed oil. This can be used for the metal and wooden parts of tools.

Wipe on the oil and leave for 10 minutes or so, then wipe off any excess. Once it has soaked in then you can decide whether to apply another layer or not.

As Boiled Linseed Oil has a small amount of solvent in (to stop it hardening in the can) it’s best to leave the tools for up to 24 hours to let it evaporate, thus not letting it contaminate the soil.

By no means do you need to oil your tools like this after every use, just keep an eye on how they look and then make the decision if they need doing or not.

I always like to hang my tools. Especially after cleaning, drying and oiling as it not only lets them breathe easy but stops any sharp edges (fork tines, spade edge) getting damaged or from just being in the way.

I have hooks up in the back of my van for hanging tools and also I use nails in my shed to hang the tools from the beams along the top of the wall. This keeps them from harms way and protects them from moisture which could always be a problem if they’re just left laying on the floor or leaning against the wall with the ends on the floor.

Using Oil On Moving Parts

Any hand tools with moving parts like Secateurs, Edging Shears, Hedge Shears etc. could do with a couple of drops of oil on the moving part or pivot point after they’ve been cleaned.

Just a couple of drops of 3-in-one oil will be fine. Once applied just work the moving part so it gets in everywhere. After 10 minutes or so you can wipe off any excess with an old cloth. Keep the cloth handy somewhere so you can just re-use it each time.

When cleaning any cutting tools keep an eye on the blades for sap. Sap may not clean off easily with water so may need a bit of paint thinner on a cloth to clean it off before using water and then oil to finish up.


Tools With Wooden Handles

If you have tools with wooden handles then these need to rubbed with oil at least once or twice a year, or more depending on how often you use them.

I use boiled linseed oil to rub onto the handles of my wooden tools. When you’ve sanded the wood first then you’ll probably want to apply another coat of oil the following day.

Tools with wooden handles should never be left outside as all the elements will damage the wood. You may think that only the rain will affect the wood, but the sun can cause just as much damage by drying and cracking the wood handle.

Even leaving your wooden handled tools in the shed laying on the floor or leaning against the wall isn’t suitable for them, as moisture will still be able to get into the wood. I always hang mine so they’re not resting on any flat surfaces to take in moisture.

If the handles on your tools are particularly rough or risen then you may wish to sand them down first. Any kind of sandpaper should do. Just rub the handle down with the sandpaper until it feels smooth. Next just put a bit of oil onto a cloth and rub the handle all over, let it soak in for 10-15 minutes then wipe off any excess. Check the following day to see if the handle could do with another coating of oil.

The oil forms a protective barrier to stop the elements (rain, sun) from damaging the handle. If you look after your wooden handled tools this way then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t last a lifetime.


Getting Rid Of Rust

One thing that will finish off your lovely gardening tools quickly is rust.

Rust comes about when tools are:

  • Left with soil or garden waste on.
  • Left outside to the elements.
  • Left inside but laying on the floor or poorly leaning against walls.
  • Not dried off properly before being put away

Depending on how badly rusted the tools are will decide on how best to clean them.

If there is just a thin layer of rust then it can usually be removed with a sheet of sandpaper 80-120 grit sandpaper should be sufficient.

If the rust is slightly thicker than using a wire brush is usually effective. Sometimes the rust will be pretty thick and has made the tool surface uneven. This you may find on tools that have been sitting in the shed for years or maybe tools you see for sale in second hand shops or car boot sales. Although you could clean these up by toiling away for hours with a wire brush, it will be a very time-consuming job.

I like to use my battery powered drill with a wire brush attachment as this cleans up the tool nicely and in a fraction of the time it would take using a wire brush by hand.

Make sure if using a drill with the wire brush attachment that you wear the correct PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Gloves and goggles are a must as not only will you have specks of rust flying up, but you also get tiny strands from the wire brush attachment coming out, and the last thing you want is one of those in your eye.

If you have tools that are quite badly rusted and you don’t have the means of cleaning yourself then you can always find a garden machinery shop around that will be able to clean/sharpen for you, at a price of course.


Power Tools

With electric power tools then make sure all wires are in good condition.

Petrol powered tools will need to be checked at the spark plug cover and also make sure the actual spark plug isn’t too dirty otherwise you could have trouble getting it started.

Chainsaws have chain oil you put in to keep the chain lubricated all the time while using, this is needed to stop overheating because of the speed the chain rotates. You should always still brush off the chainsaw after use and when it’s cooled down a bit.

With hedge trimmers I always spray on some lubricant before using. After I have finished using it then I will brush off the blades and then spray again with lubricant before wiping dry and putting away.

Lawn mowers should be checked underneath around the blades and rollers and the grass catcher and cleaned out. If the grass is damp at all when cutting then grass will inevitably build up underneath and will cause problems if left.

If the mower is petrol operated then just lean back to check underneath. Don’t tip onto it’s side as this could damage the engine. You can scrape away any build up or even get the hose or just some water and a brush to clean it up.

At the end of the season when the mower won’t be in use again till spring make sure you run the petrol down as it deteriorates over time if left. Check the air filter for any grass and give any cables a look over to check they’re OK. Also disconnect the spark plug lead. Any moving parts that look like they could do with a little oil then put some on and work it in. In spring connect up the spark plug lead and if possible change the oil and put new petrol in.

Check the blades are still sharp and not blunt or chipped anywhere. If they need sharpening and you can’t do it yourself then you will always be able to find a professional to do it. Sometimes they will come to you to do, or will come and pick up the mower and drop it back afterwards. Just make sure they’re a reputable person or firm and not just somebody who’s knocked on your door offering you a blade sharpening service.

To Finish

I hope this post will help you keep your much loved garden tools in great shape so you’re able to enjoy their benefits for a long time to come.

It really isn’t as daunting as it may seem to keep your tools clean and in good working order, and it’s better that then having to go out and buy new ones every time you want to do some gardening because you neglected your old ones so badly.

Look after them like you would look after anything else you own, your clothes, cutlery, T.V’s etc..

Please read some of my other posts on different gardening tools and the ones I recommend.

If you leave your e-mail address I will keep you updated on any new tools that are released and also on any special offers about for any of the tools I recommend.

If you have any questions then please leave a comment below or you can e-mail me at:

Happy Gardening!






12 Replies to “How To Clean Garden Tools – What To Use and How To Do.

  1. Thanks for a very thorough discussion on cleaning tools. I must admit that I have not given this much thought in the part. I tend to just put the tools away in the shed without checking for dirt build up, rust and so forth. I found the tip to use boiled linseed oil to rub onto the handles of the wooden tools very helpful. Also pointing out that though it’s known that rain will affect the wood, the sun can cause just as much damage by drying and cracking the wood handle.
    Thanks for sharing this great and well detailed post.

  2. Thank you for the gardening tool cleaning article. I usually only spray with water and have never given much thought to the wooden handles. I was wondering about the linseed oil… Does it just soak in or does it create a finish, like a varathane? I think I will try this because my rake handle is dry and starting to crack!

    1. Hi Jill,
      You’re very welcome.
      The linseed oil will soak in and protect the wooden handle, but it will also create the nice shiny finish too, so not only will the handle be protected, but it will also look nice and healthy too.
      Thanks for reading and commenting on my post.
      Best wishes,

  3. Wow this post came across my page at the most apropos time since we are looking at the beginning of spring here in the northeast, and I am started to garden. So for me, that means lots of muddy trowels and garden tools, which I usually leave in the garage, covered in dirt, until next time. I see how that’s not a good idea, and will start by rinsing them off, and rubbing with linseed oil. I also love your idea of hanging them up, rather then letting them get destroyed under a pile of stuff on the shelf in my garage. Thanks so much for the great suggestions!

    1. Hi Amy,
      Thanks for your lovely comment. I’m glad this post was of use to you. It always pays to look after your tools.
      Enjoy your spring gardening.
      Best wishes,

  4. I am totally inspired by your work and got some great ideas. It really gives me information that I am looking for. Thanks and keep sharing 🙂

    1. Hi Melvin,
      Thanks for you great comment.
      I’m glad you have taken some good ideas from my post/s as that’s what i’m aiming for when writing them.
      I will definitely keep sharing and I hope you will keep coming back to read more.
      Best wishes,

  5. I love gardening & I had purchase some tools to repair my garden. But usually I clean them with water only, but I like your “using oil on moving parts” trick for cleaning equipment rather than water.Thank you so much..

    1. Hi Jimmy,
      Thanks for reading and commenting on my post, “How to clean garden tools”
      I’m glad you found it helpful.
      Using oil on the moving parts of tools will stop them getting hard to move or seizing up. It also stops them rusting.
      Claen and dry with water first it is always a good idea and then use a little oil and move the parts as normal to help work it in and your tools will last a lot longer.
      Thanks and best wishes to you.

  6. Wow. This is a great article. It has a lot of useful information for cleaning garden tools. I like it. I learned a lot from it. It will help me. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Jimmy,
      Thank you for reading my post and for your nice comment.
      I’m glad you learned a lot from it. It’s always good to keep your tools clean, that way they will last you a long time if not a lifetime and it’s really not that hard or time consuming to do either.
      Thanks and best wishes,

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