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How to Clean Your Garden Tools

In the video series below, home horticulture expert Randy Forst steps us through why we need to clean our garden tools, what to use, and the process for making sure your garden tools don't carry pathogens with them into the next growing season.

Why is it important to clean your garden tools?

Cleaning your garden tools helps to avoid spreading pathogens from tool to soil and vice versa. Also, cleaning your tools regularly helps prolong their life.

How often should you clean them?

Ideally you should clean garden tools every time you use them. For avid gardeners who garden daily, that may not be practical, so cleaning them at least once per year is recommended. Fall and winter are good times to schedule a garden tool cleaning since you won't be using them daily.

What products do you need?

  • Liquid detergent
  • Sponge or washcloth
  • Bucket to hold soapy water
  • Sandpaper (to sand off rust)
  • Bucket to hold diluted bleach water solution (1 cup bleach + 9 cups water)
  • Paper towels or towel to dry off equipment
  • Mineral oil or WD-40
  • Linseed oil (to treat wooden handles)

Steps to cleaning garden tools

  1. Brush off dirt and debris
  2. Dip tools in soapy water solution and scrub thoroughly.
  3. Dry each tool completely after washing.
  4. Dip the clean, dry tool into the bleach water solution.
  5. Dry the tool again very thoroughly. (If you skip this step you run the risk of more rust accumulating on your tools.)
  6. Put mineral oil on a cloth or paper towel. Rub the blade completely.
  7. Dry the tool again slightly. A slight oil sheen left on the tool is fine.
  8. If your tool has a wooden handle, treat it with linseed oil to prevent drying and cracking.

Learn more about fall garden sanitation.

Learn how to sharpen your garden tools from Mississippi State University Extension.

Need more help? Contact your county agent.