Full disclosure: I was the WORST when it came to caring for my gardening tools.

And it showed – my beautiful pruners and shears eventually turned stiff, rusty and virtually useless.

When I purchased a new set a number of years ago I made a promise to myself – and my tools – to take proper care. And it’s paid off.


As I’m getting ready to shut the gardens down for winter, here’s what I do with my gardening gear!


ThingsΒ you’ll need:


  • Plain steel wool
  • Gardening gloves (or latex gloves) to protect your hands
  • Mineral oil
  • Lubricant spray
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Alcohol swabs (not essential, but handy)
  • Soft rags
  • Sharpener
  • Clean sand
  • Containers for storage (I use an old loaf pan for smaller tools and a large pot for the longer ones)

Here’s what to do:

Wipe or brush off all the loose dirt (a toothbrush is handy for tight spots).

Use steel wool to remove any stubborn patches and/or rust.

Wipe down the blades with alcohol swabs or a rag dipped in alcohol – this cleans and disinfects.

Use the sharpener to sharpen all pruners, shears and scissors.

Spray pruners and shears with lubricant spray – use a cloth dipped in alcohol to remove any excess from handles.

Fill your containers with sand and pour some mineral oil in. Mix well; the consistency should be that of damp sand like you’d find at the beach.

Plunge your tools in and store for the winter!


While not the must fun or glamorous gardening task, it is satisfying to look at all of my clean, sharpened and oiled tools – safely stored away for winter. And it feels even better come spring, when I pull them out of storage, knowing that they’re ready to go.

Have a great weekend!


  1. w smith on October 19, 2017 at 11:45 am

    How about using sawdust or wood pellets or something not abrasive to the sharpened edges of the shears. I can’t imagine anything worse for edged tools than sand.

    • sherisilver on October 19, 2017 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks for writing! I’ve used a mixture of sand moistened with oil for years (which has also been recommended to me by many nurseries and landscapers) – my tools come out each spring clean, sharpened and ready to go! If you try one of these other options and it works please let me know – I’ll be glad to add the tip to the post! πŸ™‚

  2. Nancy on November 12, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Can you use vegatable oil instead of mineral oil?

    • sherisilver on November 12, 2017 at 5:21 pm

      Yes – my landscaping partner uses extra virgin olive oil!! πŸ™‚

    • Sara on November 23, 2019 at 9:57 pm

      What kind of a sharpener

      • sherisilver on November 24, 2019 at 12:09 pm

        Looks like I had an obsolete link – if you click the link for “sharpener” now it will take you to what I use for my pruners!

  3. Cliff&Ann on January 20, 2018 at 1:09 am

    I found your info re caring for garden tools great, I’m a great believer in linseed oil my old grandfather used it on all of his woodworking tools.

    • sherisilver on January 20, 2018 at 9:48 am

      Thank you! And yes to linseed oil – a staple! πŸ™‚

      • Malcolm on February 22, 2018 at 2:34 am

        Don’t you have to clean them again in spring to remove the sand, if small grains of sand are left on pruners, etc it will blunt the cutting edges. I simply clean and oil my tools, using linseed oil on wooden handles and hang them in the shed over winter. They stay rust free and ready to use.

        • sherisilver on February 22, 2018 at 7:08 am

          You do – I’ve never NOT done the sand but might try your suggestion next season; thank you! πŸ™‚

          • Malcolm on February 22, 2018 at 9:03 am

            You’re very welcome, keep up the good work!

  4. Sherri Lumia on August 13, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    I love my gardening and my tools are my prize helpers. With carpal tunnel I take really good care of them. I am thankful for your post.

    • sherisilver on August 13, 2018 at 8:37 pm

      I’m so glad – I feel just the same about my tools! πŸ™‚

  5. Wanda Rodgers on November 21, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    I clean and oil my tools and store in a used coffee can with the oil rag. It might be a good idea to use the bucket to store and oil shovels and other large tools. The sand won’t affect those tools. We heavily oil the snips and pruners over winter then wipe down before use in the spring. Also, the use of sprays might not be good for organic gardening so use olive oil or something organic for the sake of the soil and food produced.

    • sherisilver on November 21, 2019 at 8:10 pm

      Great suggestions; thanks so much for sharing! πŸ™‚

  6. Jackie on April 19, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    Your responses are so open, patient and gracious.

    • sherisilver on April 19, 2020 at 7:15 pm

      Thank you so much – that really means a lot to me! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  7. Joyce on August 10, 2020 at 10:17 am

    I just want to thank you for sharing this article on keeping your garden tools over the winter months. I’m going to start this come this fall and get some of the items you use. Thanks again.

    • sherisilver on August 10, 2020 at 7:09 pm

      Thank you so much! I feel like the hardest part is getting started – once you have everything you need it’s so easy! πŸ™‚

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