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Keeping garden tools clean

Benton, KY(Zone 7a)

What is the best way to keep your metal tools clean and rust-free?

My Dad had a bucket of sand that he poured old motor oil in, and he'd stab his tools in it a few times after using.
Is there a better way to keep your tools nice and ready to use?

Do you wash your tools after use or just clean with a wire brush?

Fort Collins, CO(Zone 5a)

Hi Melody,

I hear of quite a few people that use the oil in the bucket of sand method and it does keep the tools from rusting, but my personal thinking is that the next time you use that tool, you are transferring that oil from the bucket right into the soil that you're planting in...probably not a good idea.

An alternative that has been used for for quite a long time is to use Linseed Oil. It is an oil obtained from the seed of the flax plant (Linum usitatissimum, Linaceae) and therefore much better than using motor oil. Linseed oil can be used on both the metal and wooden handles which keeps them from drying out and cracking. At Garden Tool Company, every tool we sell that does not already have a finish on the handle get a coat of linseed oil on the handle before it ships.

I have to admit that I'm not the best about cleaning my tools after each use, but any sign of drying handles or rust on the metal will prompt me to get out the linseed oil...especially before putting the tools up for the winter.

Benton, KY(Zone 7a)

I don't use the motor oil for the very reason you give. Dad was a product of the Depression and 'made do' with all sorts of interesting contraptions. The linseed oil is a good option, as it isn't toxic and readily available.

Currently, I use a wire brush for the biggest gunk, but am terribly neglectful most of the time.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I've also used mineral oil with sand because it's arguably edible (although who would want to???) and won't go rancid like vegetable oil.

I am really hard on my tools, especially my small spade. Our soil is so clay-ish I often have clods stuck to it. (Last night I dug around the pond bank to add some new plants, and getting THAT muck off took quite a bit of scrubbing, even though I brought it up and hosed it off immediately!) There's no way a sand/oil bucket will remove some of this stuff.

I am trying to get better at making sure I clean them off before I put them away (and making sure I do BOTH of those things on a regular basis, instead of leaving my tools lay somewhere out in the garden :-)

Fort Collins, CO(Zone 5a)

I find it tough to remind my self to clean my tools after each use. I just worked all day in the hot sun and I just want to jump in the shower and then relax....Tools? What tools?

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Quote from Blake_Schreck :
I find it tough to remind my self to clean my tools after each use. I just worked all day in the hot sun and I just want to jump in the shower and then relax....Tools? What tools?


Exactly!

The only way it gets done is sheer force of will. As I'm packing it in for the day, I make myself clean them off, put them away and then put the hose away.

And if I don't...well, everything will be right where I left it when I head out there tomorrow! *grin*

Fort Collins, CO(Zone 5a)

Terry - you're so right! You won't have to go looking for them...you know right where they are.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Well, unless a few days pass before I get out there again. By then the grass has grown, my memory has faded, and then the hunt is on.

Denville, NJ(Zone 6b)

that's why I keep spares!!!

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

LOL!

Chesterfield, United Kingdom

And I thought it was only my husband who didn't put tools away!

Talihina, OK

At one point in my life I did use the sand and bucket routine,now I use a putty knife for the tough cleaning jobs then wipe them down with an oily rag,,At one time I used the Linseed oil which I dearly love ..Then one day while finishing a piece of carpentry I layed the Linseed oil soaked rag aside and watched while it burst into flames in the hot sun.. Right until that point I believed that spotaneous cumbustion was just a mith started by careless janitors that were sneaking a smoke on the job ..more important is the care we give the handles of said tools I use any kind of oil on the handles except for the linseed oil I have a piece of PVC pipe with a cap glued on one end and filled with enough oil that the oil will cover all of said handle when it is lowered into the PVC,I removed it while holding a rag wrapped around the handle and forcing the excess oil to run back into the pipe..I have shovels that have 30+ years on the handles,Okay so I am a little bit anal about my tools LOL

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Welcome grits! (I think I know where Talihina is - I spent 15 years in NE Oklahoma) Your tools sound very well cared-for. Mine are well-loved and well-used. (And occasionally misused, I'm afraid.)

Talihina, OK

We are just southwest of Poteau and just about due west of Mena Ar. like I said I am anal about my tools but even so I have to keep several shovels are I just forget where I stopped in the work or got distracted by someting else like a pretty butterfly or a new bloom .LOL

Talihina, OK

Melody do you recall when we did the thing about if you could only have 3 tools ??? Anyway someone mentioned a stainless steel spade Now I think that is someting I would like sure would like to give one of them babbies a test drive

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

grits74571-I couldn't get that pvc pipe idea out of my head after reading your post, so today I assembled one for my tools. A little late for some of my current handles, but I figure if I get in the habit NOW, then some day my 'new' tools WILL have 30+ years on them! Thanks for the great idea!
I also did the sand-in-the-bucket thing, but I haven't found a good answer for my clippers. Does anybody have any advice on proper sharpening/cleaning for them? They are getting a real workout this year, because I have declared war on the wild mustard, and go out every day and cut the flowers and stems off the top, and once a week I spray a gallon of vinegar on the leaves. I figure if I don't give up, one of these years I'll have them whipped!

Talihina, OK

Dweller you didn't say what type of clipper is it a one hand pruner or maybe a two handed hedge clipper or a electric trimmer or maybe even a large lopper Just asking cause I have and use all of these and they all take a diferent care but the best one size fits all care for any tool is W-D 40 and as I said earlier I am a tad bit anal where my tools are concerned..

Talihina, OK

PS should mention that when a handle get a bit rough I don't sand it but rather scrape it with just about any thing with an edge BTW the best scraper I ever had was an old coffee cup that was broken but I still had the part with the handle wish I still had it

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

They are just a hand pruners. W-D 40 I got, so I'm all set there. I was actually concerned with sharpening them, though.
Why is it better to not sand?

Talihina, OK

I don't know that it is any better but if you sand a handle that is oiled the sandpaper clogs very quickly and i am a child of the depression so scraping was how I was taught and it is to me still the best ,lots quicker to by the way as far as sharpening the tool without seeing it anything I add is pure guesswork...

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

Well, I destroyed them, sharpening both sides, instead of just the one:>( I ruined the edge that made contact with the flat part of the tool. Live and learn!
That makes sense about the sand paper. Waste not want not!

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