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How To Winterize Garden Tools

Now is the perfect time to winterize garden tools. The garden will be resting for a few months but tools still need TLC.

Once the cooler weather sets in, and thoughts of the upcoming holidays come to mind, that last thing we want to think about is gardening.

But trust me, your garden tools will love you if you think ahead and do some things to prepare them for the long, cold months to come.  

Winterize Garden Tools. 14 tips to prepare your garden tools for the winter.

Winterizing Garden Tools in the Fall Means Happy Tools in the Spring!

Preparing the tools for winter storage is not a difficult as you might think.  Just follow these 14 handy tips to winterize garden tools and they will love you for it in the spring!  (Some of the links below are affiliate links.)

1. Cleaning.

The most important thing to do, if  you do nothing else, is to remove all of the dirt, soil and caked on mud that accumulates on the tools.  To do this just use a wire brush, and then rinse and dry thoroughly.

Really dirty tools may need to be soaked in a mixture of equal parts warm water and vinegar first. Once dry, store them inside so they will stay this way.

Cleaning them and making sure they are dry will insure that they won’t rust.winterize garden tools. Remove dirt from shovel and spades

2. Rust.

Rust happens over time when tools are exposed to moisture.  If you do find some rust, remove it first with some fine sand paper.

If it really heavy, a wire brush will be needed first.  Once the rust is gone, oil them.  You can use a special winterizing oil or rub over the tool with a mixture of 2 parts motor oil and 1 part kerosene.

You can also rub the wooden parts of tools with a bit of paste wax at the same time, to keep them from splintering.

3. Pruning shears

Anyone who uses them knows how useless they become if they are allowed to get dull. To sharpen pruning shears, you will need an oil stone or a high carbon steel honing tool.

Open the shears and place them in a vise and run the stone or honing tool over them in one direction until they are sharp.

4. Garden Gloves. 

One might not think of these as garden tools, but I go through them in droves, so anything I can do to save a pair work for me.  Hose off lightweight garden gloves outside and run them through the washer and dryer.

Heavy garden gloves can have the dirt cleaned off before storage with a rough towel.Clean garden gloves before storing for the winter

5. Shovels and Spades

These tools also become dull with use. Sharpen the edges with a file or sharpening stone.  Just hold the file or stone at an angle over the beveled edge and push in one direction away from the blade.

Turn them over and lightly file the back of the blade on the edge to remove the “burr” that will occur with sharpening.

6. Dried on Sap

Pruning trees can mean that your shears will accumulate the sap from the trees.  Remove this with turpentine.  An emery board also helps to remove debris from the tight places on pruners.

7. Hand Tools

Clean first, and then store hand trowels and other small tools in a bucket of sand soaked in oil to further deter rust which would otherwise form over the winter.Winterize garden tools. Clean rust from hand tools

8. Motorized tools

Lawn mowers and weed trimmers need some special TLC for the winter. Drain the oil before you store them.

Oil becomes thick and sludgy when it is stored in the cold and tools won’t run well next spring if you neglect this step.

You can drain the oil under the motor and place a pie plate under it to catch the oil.  Replace worn part, and fuel filters. Clean spark plugs and replace if needed.

Sharpen your lawn mower blade and oil it.Winterize garden tool. Drain oil from lawnmowers

9. Gasoline

Avoid storing gasoline over the winter. Old gasoline does not ignite easily, and will make the machines using it work harder.

Funnel out the gasoline and use it in your car. 

10. Hoses

Drain hoses and if you find any small holes or have leaky attachments, repair them.  Store hoses loosely so they won’t kink.Winterize garden tools. Repair fixing on hoses

11. Sprayers

All sprayer parts should be thoroughly washed and then rinsed and dried. Most pesticides recommend that you do a triple rinse of sprayers used for them.

Apply oil to moving parts. Finally, hang the sprayer upside down when not in use so that it can drain and dry thoroughly.

12. Pots and Soil

Pack up the pots and bags of potting soil and store in your shed.  Clean the pots first with a hose and allow to dry.

13. Wheelbarrows

Remove rust from wheelbarrows with a file or sand paper.  Oil the handles with a wax paste to keep from splintering and check the nuts and screws and tighten them.

Repair any flat tires. If your wheelbarrow has seen better days, don’t throw it out. Recycle it into a wheelbarrow planter.

Winterize garden tools. Clean wheelbarrows.

14. Storage

Once you have done all these step, it is important to make sure that the garden tools are stored in a clean, dry place for the winter.

Tool caddies, or tall metal containers (like galvanized tubs) are great places to store tools with tall handles.

Hooks on the inside walls of your shed will hold smaller tools. Small tools can also be stored in drawers, but make sure they are very dry if you do this so they won’t rust over the winter.

Taking these steps to winterize garden tools can take a few hours if you only have a small number of garden tools, or a few days if you have a larger farm style property.  But the rewards of doing so are so many.

You will have the satisfaction of seeing them all neatly stored for the winter, as well as the knowledge that, next spring, all of your tools will be in good shape and ready to go.  After all…next spring, you will want to be planting, not messing with rusted tools. (or even worse, replacing them!)

Are there any other steps you take to winterize garden tools?  Please share your thought in the comments below.

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Joe Robert

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

Of course, we should take care of our gardening tools in winter. Because rust is more common in winter. You wrote a great article. How long have you been gardening? I love gardening & my favourite gardening tool is a machete.


Sunday 17th of May 2020

Use the gloves and boot in garden work work. Some people work in the garden without safety tools. This is not right. Thank you for the post.

Brandon Sims

Wednesday 17th of May 2017

Rusting is something which effects my precious tools too. First thing buy tools from a good brand that will ensure their quality and they would last long, Some tools come with lifetime warranty. They are expensive but worth it. SO Before buying check your options.


Wednesday 17th of May 2017

I agree Brandon. So many people buy based on price but the saying that you get what you pay for is really true. Carol

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