How to clean garden tools correctly – A step by step guide

Last updated on February 10th, 2022

Our site is reader supported, this means we may earn a small commission from Amazon and other affiliates when you buy through links on our site.

Gardening brings a lot of joy and satisfaction. It is a superb hobby that helps you relax and grow the plants that you love. Whether you have a flower garden or you just love growing your own fruit and vegetables, it is a fact that gardening is one of the best things you can do!

What’s the most important part of gardening? The tools. Surely, you have everything you need to tend to your plants. Now, here is the catch, you must take care of these tools if you want gardening to remain fun.

Why must you clean your garden tools regularly?

Unclean tools and blunt tools not just spoil the show but also make you prone to a number of injuries such as blisters. Moreover, clean tools last longer and will remain in good shape, even after years of use. This means that spending some time cleaning them will help you save a lot of money in the long run.

Cleaning also prevents rust, which is the biggest reason that tools become tough to use. Something as amazing as gardening shouldn’t feel like hard work just because you weren’t able to spare time to clean the garden tools!

How to clean garden tools

Cleaning your garden tools after every use is the best thing you can do. Yes, it feels like the most boring task ever and you would much rather just stick them back in the shed and worry about them later. We get it. But, as we said before, throwing away rusty shovels after a few uses is not a great idea at all.

Things that you will need:

  1. Detergent, rags, towels, garden hose and sprayer.
  2. Steel wool and a scrubbing brush.
  3. Sandpaper that works for metal as well as wood. We recommend choosing 80 to 120 grit.
  4. Eye protection equipment, gloves and masks are a must.

Here’s what you should do with the tools that are not in the best shape but still have life in them:

1. If there’s loose compost and soil on your tools, rinse them with the garden hose first and let them dry.

2. Now, scrub your garden tools. This exercise will rid them of the mud collected over time. Scrub the handles as well to get rid of everything that has accumulated.

3. Wipe them down with the towel and keep them aside for a day. This will dry them up completely without the risk of moisture being contained.

4. Now, use the steel wool to get rid of the rust. This is, obviously, for metal tools. If you can get a rotary wire, use it to make the process easier. Don’t be too aggressive with the rust here because it may damage your tools. Try not to grind too much.

5. Time to use the medium-grit sandpaper! This will help you remove all the splinters that would otherwise give you blisters during usage.

6. Once you are done with the sandpaper, just wipe it down to remove any sanding dust that may have remained.

How to maintain your garden tools

A vital part of cleaning and ensuring that your garden tools last longer is sharpening them. A metal file will help you with this. Again, don’t get too aggressive with this. Go slow and use the metal file only to smoothen nicks, etc. If you have an axe or chisel set you may need a sharpening stone along with some oil.

The finishing touches – with oil

You, of course, need lubricating oil for this. Also, make sure you have a clean rag. Using the rag, you should apply the lubricating oil to the handle as well as the metal. Rub the rag so that the oil gets soaked in nicely. After a single coat, let it dry and apply oil for a second time.

Oil is the better option compared to varnish because oil is easier to use and clean. If you prefer varnish, though, you can go for it but we would personally recommend oil every time.

There you go! Don’t your garden tools look new and improved? They will be much easier to use, and gardening will be all the more fun now. When you follow this process regularly, you will have to work less to get rid of the mud and it will help prevent rust. Once they are looking pristine again and it is time to store them away we would advise that you hang up your garden tools rather than standing or leaning them against the wall.

Before we wrap up. 

We would also like to give you a simple tip about maintenance.

While cleaning regularly is a good thing to do, maintenance also plays an important role in ensuring that your garden tools are in tip-top condition. Every now and then, just apply a little oil so that the tools keep their sheen and sharpness, this also helps protect the wooden handles. This will also reduce the frequency of cleaning because they will stay in great condition for a longer period of time.

Do you have any more tips or suggestions to give your fellow gardeners? Reply in comments and we will be very happy to incorporate them into our article.

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

Write A Comment