Ten Tips for Looking After Your Garden Tools

When I was clearing out my greenhouse recently before I renovated it, I found an old spade, trowel and hand fork. All were in a very sorry state, and I did feel a bit shame faced. I had been given new ones as a present, but that was no excuse to abandon the old ones; they were still O.K underneath the grime.

So I decided that I would do my best to change my slovenly ways and look after my tools better, old and new. These tips are a reminder to myself and to any readers of The Big Granite who feel they could give their implements some TLC. Of course I admit that I only knew about some of these tips before I researched the topic. I am grateful to more experienced gardeners who display their knowledge on the web. Thank you – I learned a lot.


Clean your tools every time you use them.

1 Hose soil off spades, rakes, forks and so on. Even stainless steel can rust slowly, depending on its grade. You may need to scrub with a stiff brush if heavy soil has dried on. Fertilisers will soon corrode your tools if not washed off. Dry with a rough cloth.

2 Wipe off any sap from knives, pruning shears and axes. Dipping in a solvent such as kerosene will help.

3 A rusty tool can be revived by using sandpaper or a stiff wire brush. On heavy rust, gardeners with DIY skills can use a drill with a wire brush attachment. Protect your eyes.

4 Clean grass from mowers and strimmers.

5 Use clean water to remove all chemicals from sprayers so that metal parts do not corrode.


6 Wiping metal tools with an oily rag will keep them rust free. Remember though that used motor oil is highly polluting. Use linseed oil on any wooden handles that are dry and cracking.

7 Spades and forks can be cleaned and oiled by plunging into a box or bucket of oil-soaked sand.


8 Sharpening dented or damaged edges yourself with an axe file is perfectly possible once you have put in some practice. You can also use a round axe stone for general sharpening, or an oiled honing stone. Using a mill file is not the best idea – the handle can come off too easily, leaving a sharp tang. This can be potentially dangerous lying around the garden. Alternatively, you can find any number of gadgets for blade sharpening in websites such as Amazon. Remember to read the user reviews.

9 Don’t be tempted to use a bench grinder. The high temperatures produced can degrade the cutting edge permanently.

10 For difficult sharpening jobs you are not confident about, it’s always best to get the professionals to do it for you.

So that’s ten tips, but there is one more thing I must mention.

Keep Your Tools Safe.

You will find excellent information about tool storage on The Big Granite. Don’t lose your beautifully maintained tools to any light fingered opportunists!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *