How to Care For and Sharpen Gardening Tools

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Maintaining shears and secateurs

Where would we be without our trusty gardening tools? But to get the best from them we need to show them a little tender loving care. Treat them well and there’s no reason they shouldn’t last for many years. Keep reading to find out how to keep your tools as good as new...

How to Clean Digging and Cultivation Tools

Any tools coming into contact with the ground should always be cleaned off before storing. Mud can usually be blasted off with a jet of water, but if dirt has hardened you may need to soak metal parts first before wiping clean with an old rag.

Digging tools and other ground-contact tools such as hoes benefit from an occasional coating of oil, which helps to protect the blades or tines from moisture and rusting. Start by passing a wire brush over the tool to remove any ingrained dirt, build-up of sap, and any rust spots. Work both the front and back of the blade then wipe clean with a rag. Finally, apply your oil using a clean cloth. You can use any vegetable-based oil for the job; just avoid petroleum-based oils, which could taint your soil.

Sharpening Digging Tools and Garden Hoes

Tools with a clean, sharp edge will cut into the soil with much less effort. To sharpen spades, trowels and so on, pass a metal file over the edges of the blade. Keep the angle shallow and work your way along both the front and the back of the blade. If you have one, use a vice to clamp the tool still while you work. Finish by sealing the blade edges with oil.

Don’t forget to look after wooden handles. These can be cleaned then smoothed off with sandpaper or a sanding sponge, before polishing with a natural, protective oil such as teak oil.


Caring for Pruning Tools

Well cared for pruning tools will give a cleaner cut, which reduces the risk of introducing plant diseases and makes pruning physically less effort. Start by making sure your pruning tools are clean. Remove any ingrained dirt or sap, using a wire brush or wire wool if necessary. Wash them in soapy water then dry them.

Pruners, loppers and shears are all sharpened in much the same way. Hold the tool firmly in position then pass the sharpener over the edge of the blade. Use a file, whetstone or sharpening stone appropriate to the size of the blade. Only sharpen the cutting blade itself, working the stone in the same direction as the bevel. Smaller blades may need to be worked in a circular motion. It should take between two to five passes of the file or stone to complete the sharpening.


Now tighten up any loose bolts on moving parts. This is also a good time to order any replacement parts that are needed – for example new blades, springs or handles for a hard-working pair of pruners.

Finish by spraying with a tool lubricant. Don’t forget to apply lubricant throughout the year, particularly after heavy periods of pruning.

Look after your tools and they’ll serve you well. What are your tips for caring for your tools? Drop us a comment below and tell us.

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Show Comments


"Maybe this guy should take a course on how to use a file"
Hans maas on Sunday 24 January 2016
"Most last me 6-8 years anyway. After which I just buy new ones. Can you imagine the time, money and effort into cleaning, sharpening etc. It is incredible effort. Imagine the time taken to go around shopping for these additional products, plus you need storage space to keep them lying around. Plus you need extra time to sit and do all this on every item and then the spraying oil part....does not appeal to me at all........the liberal spraying may cause environmental damage and health issues with cancer causing petrochemical oil droplets all around does not appeal to me. "
SDS on Sunday 23 April 2017
"Hi SDS. I guess it depends on time and resources. Certainly passing a metal file over the edges doesn't take too long. We always recommend using non-petroleum based oils for your garden tools - specifically to avoid environmental damage and contaminating your soil."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 24 April 2017
"Ok. Thanks."
SDS on Monday 24 April 2017
"Ben this was Wonderful and so easy to understand. I watched a few videos before this one and they were so long winded. I’m a women and not great with my coordination. Watched you once and now feel confident how to sharpen my own tools. Thank you so so much for a wonderful helpful video. You make it look so easy. Can’t thank you enough. It’s too easy in this “throwaway” society to think it’s to much trouble to sharpen them. After all it’s part of the gardening experience. "
Kathleen Doyle on Friday 26 October 2018
"Hi Kathleen. Thank you very much indeed for the encouraging words. So pleased you've now got the confidence to sharpen your tools - it will save a lot of money in the long run."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 29 October 2018
"Thank you Ben I found this very helpful ??"
Scoops on Tuesday 22 October 2019
"Glad you found it useful Scoops, thanks for letting me know."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 28 October 2019
"Hi, Benedict Vanheems! I like your way of presentation and serving people in a manner. hope you will add some safety tips for the audience and good work will continue from your side. Regards JAMES V. JORDAN "
JAMES V. JORDAN on Tuesday 24 December 2019
"Many thanks indeed James, that's very kind of you to say. Hope you continue to enjoy our articles and videos."
Ben Vanheems on Friday 27 December 2019
"yeah, not using the file correctly at all..."
FRD on Thursday 5 March 2020
"Any oil recommdation. Liquid wrench, WD40 etc? Is is best to have all three sharpening devices: file, whetstone, Stone (?) Best way remove rust is with one of the three devices? In appreciation Ellen from Charlotte"
Ellen Milano on Friday 24 July 2020
"I use WD40 for tools like secateurs/pruners, but natural oils for anything that will come into contact with the ground. You can use any of the three sharpening devices you suggest. I tend to just use a sharpening stone - they are relatively affordable and give a very fine, sharp edge."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 3 August 2020
"Thankyou! I live in a damp place. Entirely too much money spent replacing tools over the years. Cheap tools become damaged much too easily and the great ones need a longer life ."
Barbara Thomas on Saturday 19 September 2020
"Hi Barbara. I've learnt over the years that the more expensive tools do indeed provide the best value for money in the long run!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 21 September 2020

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