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How to Clean Garden Tools

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Winter may seem like the doldrums if you’re a gardener who doesn’t have a 12-month growing season, but there are still plenty of garden chores to be done! Learn how to clean your garden tools so they’re ready to go for the spring!

garden tools with soil on a spade

Spring really isn’t too far away, and getting garden tools cleaned and the garden prepped for the spring will set you up for success come growing season. Find out how to clean and maintain your garden tools. 

Why you should clean garden tools

A bit of honesty here…Cleaning garden tools has never been high on my list of priorities. As long as the garden was growing well, I never worried much about my tools. Until recently.

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My trusty garden spade started showing signs of rust, and I knew that my poor maintenance habits were to blame. I occasionally leave tools out in the garden or along the garden fence without a care in the world. This resulted in rust on several tools and my favorite pair of pruners now having chewed up handles thanks to our newest pup, Olive. 

Rust covered tools aren’t great for gardening, and pruners that are dull and hard to squeeze can cause hand pain, as well as poor cuts that damage plants. So, how should I maintain my garden tools for optimal performance and longevity?

How to Clean Garden Tools

I imagined cleaning my dirty and rusty garden tools was going to be a weary task, but really, I’ve discovered that maintaining tools isn’t difficult or time consuming. By keeping a few items handy, I can quickly keep my tools in good working order and hopefully make them last longer. Here’s what you’ll need for cleaning garden tools:

Should you use linseed oil on Garden Tools?

Linseed oil on garden tools provides a barrier that can help protect the tools from moisture damage. This is an optional step if you’d like to provide additional protection for your garden tools.

Please read the side of the bottle for information on how to store rags used to apply linseed oil. They do need to be properly stored. In some cases there have been combustion issues with carelessly stored rags saturated with linseed oil.

I generally put my linseed cloths on the clothesline to dry out and then store them accordingly.

how to clean garden tools

Cleaning and Maintaining Garden Tools

  1. To remove excess dirt and debris from your garden tools, use a stiff bristled brush. Or if the dirt on your tools is fairly wet, you could even spray them off with a high pressured hose setting. If you’re just cleaning off your tools for the day, you can simply complete this step as quick daily maintenance. Be sure if you are hosing off for the day to dry off your tools with a dry cloth. cleaning garden tools with a wire brush
  2. To go beyond daily cleaning, gently wash your tools in a bucket of warm soapy water. Rinse well and pat dry with a cloth.
  3. Once tools are completely dry, apply Linseed oil if needed. linseed oil being used on tools in the garden
  4. Hang tools. This gives them even more opportunity to dry and keeps them from being stored on top of dirty tools. It’s also nice when things have a place, right? (See my guide for shed organization that has the system we use to hang tools.)
  5. Store them in a dry place. As convenient as it is to have tools ready in the garden, unless you have a dry tool storage option in your garden, bring tools inside. This can be a shed or garage, but you certainly don’t want to leave them out in the elements.

How Often Should You Clean Garden Tools?

This is a great question, and if you watch my video below, you’ll see I haven’t always been a great caretaker of garden tools. But if you’re in the height of garden season, and you’re using tools on a daily basis, then try to brush or spray the dirt of every few days or so.

Give your tools a better cleaning every few weeks. I promise it will extend the life of your tools, unless you let your dog chew them up. Ha!

Low Maintenance Tools for the Garden

I can raise my hand for this as well. If you simply want lower maintenance tools, then do consider buying stainless steel garden tools. These should be resistant to rust and can hold up well for even the most non-motivated garden tool cleaners.

stainless steel garden tool set

I actually purchased a stainless garden spade myself and am loving the low maintenance. I hope to slowly add more stainless to my garden tool arsenal. Here’s a 3-piece hand tool set from Burpee that has beautiful wooden handles:

Need extra help? I’ve created a short video of how to clean your garden tools, so if you’d like to “see” me talk you through it, then take a peek. Have a great week and happy gardening!!

Garden Organization

Keep your garden tools, seeds, and other helps easily organized with these guides. No more rusty tools, and seeds not properly stored. Get all the tips and helps you need!

I'd love to hear from you


Monday 7th of September 2020

Nice guideline for cleaning gardening tools. I am also a lazy gardener, clean my tools very often. But we should do it regularly. You can include gardening gloves cleaning procedure with this article.


Friday 11th of September 2020



Thursday 6th of February 2020

As I am a lazy gardener, I prefer to use stainless garden tools! They even help me save some bucks from my pocket!


Friday 7th of February 2020

Haha, I completely agree. I try to use stainless when I can!

George Vance

Monday 11th of February 2019

Hi Courtney, Yes I agree with you. Brush is the best option to all the dirt off. I also use water in some cases but didn't try oil yet. I must try. Thanks Rodney for your idea too.


Monday 11th of February 2019

Hi George! Yes, I'll also use water if needed. Thanks for stopping by!


Tuesday 24th of April 2018

Nice article it is!! I use some oil and a smooth cloth to clean my tools. By using this method they become smooth. Is this a good method to clean gardening tools?


Thursday 26th of April 2018

Hi Rodney. Yes, keeping your tools oiled with a clean cloth is a great idea. But be sure to clean them with a brush to get all of the dirt off or a spray of water. Thanks for stopping by!

I'd love to hear from you

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