A close up of Martin Fish of Pots & Trowels holding a Darlac bamboo weeding fork hand tool

It’s that time of year where it’s cold, wet, and, depending on where you live, you might also have snow too.  This means there’s not a whole lot that can be done in the garden, but there is still plenty to do in the tool shed.

Cleaning your garden tools ready for the season ahead is simple, and quite therapeutic too!  It’s a worthwhile task that will extend the life of your garden tools and make them much easier to use.

So, head out to the tool shed as it’s time to get everything out for an inspection and give your tools a good clean ready for use later on in the year.  You’ll be keeping yourself warm while prepping your garden equipment for next season, and those tools that work so hard for you year-round will be getting some much needed TLC.

Our friends at Pots & Trowels have lots of hints and tips for keeping your garden tools and lawnmowers in tip-top shape over winter.  Read on to find out more and watch the video below where Martin Fish of Pots & Trowels breaks it all down step-by-step.

What do I need to clean and renovate my garden tools?

Luckily, most of the things you’ll need to give your garden tools some loving attention are items you’ll likely already have knocking about in the shed, so gather together the following to make a start:

  • Some fine sandpaper
  • A wire brush
  • Engine oil
  • Linseed oil
  • A couple of old rags or cloth for the oils
  • A file or sharpener

Cleaning stainless steel garden tools

One of the benefits of using stainless steel garden tools is that the metal doesn’t rust. So often all you need to do with these tools is give any stainless steel blades a good wipe down with a cloth and some engine oil to remove any dirt. The oil will leave a light film on the blade that’ll help protect your tools and keep all the moving parts in good condition.

Cleaning steel garden tools

If you own any steel garden tools, then you’ll likely already be aware that they can be susceptible to rust. To clean them up, give your steel blades a good scrub with a wire brush to help remove any dried soil or flaky rust from the surface. If you’ve got any particularly stubborn bits of soil or rust on there, then give them a rub with some sandpaper as well to loosen them and remove them from the blade.

After you have removed all the dust and debris, give the blades a couple of squirts of oil and rub them down with an oily rag. Not only will this keep your steel garden tools nice and clean, but it’ll help prevent the formation of any more rust over the winter period, especially if they’re usually kept in a damp environment like a drafty garden shed. This will make your tools easier to use come springtime, as there’ll be no resistance from the rust and dirt to slow you down.

Cleaning the handles on garden tools

It’s important to look after the handles of your tools too as it keeps them comfortable to use. First, check them over and use fine sandpaper on your wooden handle tools to get rid of any sharp edges or chips that could cause splinters. Giving them a light sanding all over, especially around the parts where they get the most wear, will keep the tool feeling comfortable in your hands when it’s in use. Using sandpaper is also great for getting rid of any stubborn dried-on soil on there too. Once you’ve finished, blow off the dust or use a duster to clear off any debris.

Now it’s time for the linseed oil! Grab an old rag or cloth and apply a light coating of linseed oil all over the woodwork. A little goes a long way so don’t be tempted to use too much, otherwise you could end up with a sticky mess. The oil will soon absorb into the wood and leave your tools looking so much fresher than before. If you don’t have any linseed oil then other wood oils, like danish oil for example, will also do the job, but linseed oil absorbs into the wood nicely and really helps to preserve it.

It’s important to show your hand tools some love as well as bigger digging tools like garden forks and spades. A coating of oil will help to seal them and stop the wooden handles rotting, will stop them drying out and will protect them as you get to work in the damp soil conditions during the rest of the year too. The handles of your bamboo hand tools, as well as traditional wooden handles, will also benefit from a coating of linseed oil, leaving them nicely reconditioned and clean.

Sharpening garden tools

If you’ve got any garden tools that would benefit from a little sharpening, like a hoe or your favourite pair of secateurs, then now’s a great time to take care of this job too. Use a file or sharpener after sanding and brushing your steel to file a sharper edge on any of your tools that might have gotten a little blunt over time. Watch Martin’s video for his technique in sharpening, and making sure that you are sharpening the correct edge of your blade. It’s a simple job that makes such a difference you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it before.

Finish the job with a fine film of oil. Then when it’s finally time to bring your tools out again, you’ll have a lovely, sharp tool to work with, making your time in the garden easier and more efficient.

Cleaning lawnmowers

Performing some mower maintenance now will save you some hassle once it’s time to bring it out of storage. Give your lawnmower a wash down if you can, clean off the wheels and get rid of all the loose grass cuttings as they can cause any metal parts to rust.

If you have a petrol mower, don’t leave any petrol in the tank over winter as it will go stale and will make it more difficult to start up in spring.  You should drain the petrol out or, if there’s not much fuel in the tank, start the mower up and let it run for a while until it runs dry.

In theory, if there’s no petrol in the tank then your mower will not start, but if you’re going to do some cleaning underneath your mower then remove the spark plug too to prevent accidentally starting the engine whilst you are working on it.

If you need to tip the petrol mower on its side to clean underneath, then be sure to always tip the oil tank side towards the ground. One side of the mower houses the oil (identifiable by the oil dipstick) and the other houses the petrol (identifiable by the petrol cap), so tip the mower so that the side with the oil is at the lower point and the petrol side is tipped up towards the sky. If you tip it with the oil side tipped up in the air, the oil will travel down through the engine and into the carburettor, which can cause complications and make your mower difficult to start again in the spring.

Once the underneath is cleaned up, give it a spray with some oil and it’s ready to store in readiness for the grass cutting season in the spring.

And there you have it! With your garden tools prepped for next season, come spring you’ll be gliding through the garden with no trouble.

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