Never rinsing my tools again!

Winter is coming, my garden is entirely in the shade now and I’m heading to Europe for 7 weeks on the first of June. It’s time to put everything away for winter.

This includes my gardening tools, and I’d like to share the process I’m going through with each of them. During the summer months, I just rinse them off after each use and store them in a dry spot under our terrace. But after discovering rust now that I’m about to put them inside for winter, I’ve decided to change method for next year! Read on…

After trawling the vast internet today and trying different things out, here’s what seems to me like the easiest way to maintain my gardening tools – hope it will speak to you too!

So, when I’m not going to use them for a while, I:

  1. Go through them all, scrape and brush off dirt and rinse them clean with water. Put them to dry. (one evening, takes about 20 min)

  2. Get out my bastard file, steel wool, sandpaper, a whetstone and oil. I use old sunflower or safflower oil which works well for me, many websites recommend WD-40 but I find that way too toxic.

  3. Start with the wooden handles, sand them and oil them. If the oil is too thick, dilute with a tiny bit of acetone/nail polish remover 🙂 (this is the next evening when the tools are dry and takes about 10min for each handle)

  4. Then, choose a tool and:

    • Check for rust, and remove the rust with the steel wool or sandpaper.

    • Check the edge and sharpen it following the instructions on this page

    • Oil it well and hang it up

  5. Repeat for all your tools!

I tend to do a few a day and as I only have one of each tool it takes me a week max, with maybe 30 min each day – which is what I’d normally spend outside gardening.

It is such a satisfactory feeling to have all your tools clean and protected! In spring, they’ll be ready to work for you, and you’re more likely to keep them clean and sharp if that’s the way you find them.

Still wondering why I won’t rinse off my tools anymore? Well, another tip I rediscovered and that I remember seeing in action at several farms, is the sand-oil bucket. It is simply a bucket filled half way up with sand, where you pour your burnt or otherwise used oil. Then you stick your smaller hand tools in there after each use. No need to wash them anymore, as the sand scrapes the last of the dirt off, and the oil protects against rust. Fantastic! And I’ll now use an oily rag to wipe the big ones clean when I’ve scraped off the dirt. Seems so much easier and fits my lazy gardening style!

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