In the following article, you can read about how to clean and maintain your gardening equipment. Learning to do so can save thousands of dollars in the future. It is better to care for what you have, rather than having to constantly replace your tools.
Cleaning and maintaining gardening equipment almost always follows the same outline: the disassembly of the tool, cleaning the bulk of the accumulated grime, dissolving resin residue, reassembly, and oil coating.
Of course, the process can vary depending on the tool itself. A chainsaw is considerably more complex than a pair of hedge trimmers, and it has many more moving parts. I’ve done my best to take you through all the steps for a range of tools, and while some parts are more complex, it’s not hard if you take care and do it regularly.
Before I get down and dirty (and then clean!) with the intricacies, here is a list of what I’ll cover in this article:
- How To Clean And Maintain Your Secateurs
- How To Clean And Maintain Your Hedge Trimmer
- How To Clean And Maintain Your Pole Saw
- How To Clean And Maintain Your Pruning Shears
- How To Clean and Maintain Your Ratchet Shears
- How To Clean And Maintain Your Hedge Shears
- How To Clean And Maintain Your Topiary Scissors
- How To Clean and Maintain Your Chainsaw
That’s right. We’ve covered all your garden cutting tools in one post, so if you’re ready to get stuck in, let’s go!
How To Clean and Maintain Your Secateurs (Anvil and Bypass)
Unlike other gardening tools that have a single variant, secateurs come in 2 versions: bypass and anvil. Before we look at the process of cleaning them, it would be best to understand the difference between the two variants:
Anvil Secateurs perform a motion similar to a meat cleaver. You have a blade with a sharp edge that comes down to meet a flat surface, cutting anything that stands in between. It is a blunt, forceful cut that hammers the material. The cut is broader and more powerful.
They can be very effective but can damage more fragile stems and plants. Still, that damage can be minimized by keeping the blade as sharp as possible.
Instead of the hacking motion of anvil secateurs, bypass models use a more precise action. They are like any other type of scissor, relying on two blades coming from the opposite direction.
As they bypass each other, they can perform gentler cuts. It makes intuitive sense that two blades can be more precise. For most people, this is the preferred model as it allows them to cut without damaging the stem.
Cleaning And Maintaining Your Secateurs
Secateurs are mainly used to trim away the dead parts of your plants. Those dead parts are dead for a reason. Most likely they are covered with fungus, viruses, and bacteria.
As you make your rounds around the garden, you run the risk of spreading the infection even to healthy plants.
Here are the steps that need to be taken to clean your Secateurs:
- If present, remove the larger chunks of dirt and plant debris from the blade. This can be achieved by rubbing it with a simple hard-bristle brush or rag.
- In a bucket or large bowl, mix water and detergent.
- Place the tool in the water, letting it soak for a few minutes.
- After soaking, take the Secateurs out and wipe them down. Be sure to catch all moisture, as it can lead to rust build-up.
- Using a brass brush and some ammonia mixed with water, scrub the blades to remove the most persistent traces of plant resin.
- This is a very particular need for this tool, but be sure to disinfect the blades after they are cleaned and rinsed. As previously mentioned, you want to avoid spreading infections from one diseased plant to a healthy one. Simply soak a rag in rubbing alcohol and run it across the length of the cutting edge. Be very careful not to cut yourself, as this is a very sharp tool. Wear leather gloves if needed.
You owe it to yourself to get in the habit of cleaning your secateurs after every use. It is the best way to keep the tools in good shape, and if you take my advice on which secateurs to choose, you’ll be pruning with confidence for many years!
How To Clean And Maintain Your Hedge Trimmer
The process for cleaning and maintaining your hedge trimmer is as follows:
- Clean The Hedge Trimmer Cutting Blades
- Clean The Hedge Trimmer Air Filter
- Sharpen The Hedge Trimmer Blades
- Lubricate The Hedge Trimmer Blades Regularly
- Tighten Any Fittings And Loose Screws
- Keep The Hedge Trimmer Clean From The Outside
- Store The Hedge Trimmer The Right Way
Clean The Hedge Trimmer Cutting Blades
Only those who have previously owned a hedge trimmer can understand how dirty they can get. Even after a single session of use, an amalgam of wood dust, sap, leaves, and sticky resin can build up in the blades.
If left uncleaned, this residue can quickly and easily build up and jam the blades. In addition, it can swiftly dull the teeth and can cause rust to build-up. If the damage is already done, you might want to consider re-sharpening them in order to restore them to their original condition.
Sharpening can be particularly challenging, so let’s focus first on prevention rather than damage mitigation.
In order to clean your Hedge Trimmer blades, you will need a few household items such as:
- Two washrags
- A brush with tough bristles
- Slightly heated or tepid water
- A large bowl
After acquiring these items, go through the following steps:
- Mix the water with the soapy detergent, and then soak the washcloth in the mixture. Point the trimmer towards the ground, making sure that you don’t get the motor wet. After, be sure to run the cloth along the length of the blade.
- After washing the length, take the brush and gently clean the teeth. This is the area where most of the residue will accumulate. If necessary, use the cloth again to remove the debris dislodged by the brush.
- Repeat the process on the other side of the hedge trimming tool.
- Finally, wipe everything down with the wet cloth, and then the remaining dry cloth.
Clean The Hedge Trimmer Air Filter
This action depends on the specific model of the hedge trimmer that you own. For most models on the market, the filter will be made from either paper or felt.
This has little influence over the process itself, but it should be mentioned that paper filters can be cheaper and easier to replace.
Overall, this is a very simple stage, and it requires only a few easy steps:
- The choke should be set to its cold start position. If it is already in that position, move on to the next step.
- Get a screwdriver and remove the screw/screws from the filter cover.
- After removing the cover, gently brush away the wood and dust residue that coats and surrounds the filter
- Depending on how dirty the filter is, you can either tap it on a hard surface in order to shake the dirt off or simply replace it entirely. Be careful not to attempt to wash it. In most cases, if you add moisture to the accumulated dirt, it will form a sticky goo that will make the filter unusable.
- Place the filter back in its location, carefully fix the cover over the filter, and retighten the screws using your screwdriver.
Sharpen The Hedge Trimmer Blades
After each use of your hedge trimmer, the hedge’s branches will damage and dull the blades. Even though that damage is not very much, it does accumulate over multiple uses. If you want your cuts to be precise, you have to make sure to regularly sharpen the blades.
- Safety first. Be sure to purchase some thick leather gardening gloves as you handle the equipment. Even dull blades can leave a nasty cut.
- Place the tool on a steady and regular surface, preferably a workbench or table.
- Disable the spark plug by removing the spark plug wire. It will look like a round object with a sizeable wire at one of its ends. This makes sure that you don’t have accidental movements of the saw blades while you’re handling them.
- Try to align the upper and lower teeth of the trimmer by pressing them together.
- Choose a tooth, and place your mill file against its tip, matching the file’s angle with that of the blade itself. A tooth has three edges that need attention: two on its side, and a cutting edge towards the top.
- While following the angle of the blade, chose a tooth’s edge and push your file downwards.
- After reaching the edge, lift off the file and repeat the movement from the top. You will know that you are making progress if the blade starts to shine.
- Repeat this process for each side of each tooth on the top blade, then flip the trimmer and repeat the process for the bottom portion.
- After filing, just wipe off any excess using a slightly damp cloth
- Add a little lubrication
- Be sure to get another wire for the spark plug.
Lubricate The Hedge Trimmer Blades Regularly
As previously mentioned, you should use lubricant oil on a regular basis. Cleaning and lubrication should go hand in hand.
If the trimmer is dirty most of the time, adding oil will only form viscous gunk that can clog the blades. And it is not possible to neglect to add the oil because it reduces drag and makes the blade cut smoother.
In addition, it isolates the metal from moisture, preventing rust accumulation. In order to lubricate:
- Place the hedge trimmer on a table
- Apply the oil on each tooth, along the length of the top blade.
- Replace or clean the blade guard and remove the extra oil stains with a rough oil rag.
Tighten Any Fittings And Loose Screws
For any tool, you should check the tightness of the screws from time to time. Just get a screwdriver and go one-by-one.
Keep The Hedge Trimmer Clean From The Outside
As it is with many things in life, prevention is key. You can spare yourself a lot of time wasted on cleaning the interior components, by simply keeping the outside clean. It takes only a few minutes to clean and re-apply oil after a cutting session.
Store The Hedge Trimmer The Right Way
Even the cleanest tool can be damaged by being exposed to the elements. After you are done trimming and cleaning, be sure to store your Hedge Trimmer is a dry place that is away from any source of moisture. Leaving it on the ground can cause it to rust, or placing it on pavement can accelerate the dulling of its teeth.
I’ve got more posts about hedge trimmers, if you want them, including my personal recommendation for the best hedge trimmer, and my view on whether cordless hedge trimmers are any good!
How To Clean And Maintain Your Pole Saw
If you need to keep a lot of high hedges in good shape, a pole saw remains an indispensable gardening tool. Much like other pieces of equipment, failure to maintain can result in the saw becoming unusable, bent, dull, or distorted. Thankfully cleaning and maintenance can be achieved by following a few simple steps:
Removing Dirt And Contaminants
At first, take care to remove the most obvious contaminants such as wood chips, pieces of mashed leaves, or other types of debris. To facilitate this action, be sure to purchase a wire brush and get a household cloth.
Simply clean along the pole saw’s length using the brush and cloth as needed. Excess oil is removed using a de-greaser, otherwise, you will just smear the dirt and move it long the tool.
Basically, you can choose between two cleaners: a citrus cleaner or an oil cleanser. It is advisable to use the citrus cleaner because it is more common around any household.
In addition, the oil cleaner does well against oil but doesn’t do much for other types of dirt. The citrus cleaner can handle pretty much anything, in addition to removing oil stains.
Soak In Degreaser
If the previous step was completed successfully, most of the dirt from the pole saw blade was removed.
- Now, get a container that can hold a large amount of tepid, room-temperature water. Get some degreasing solution, mix it with the water. The packaging should specify the water/degreaser ration, if not go by eye.
- Then, gently put the blade inside the container and leave it to soak for 5-10 minutes. After the soaking is complete, get a rough cloth and move it along the blade’s length multiple times.
- Rinse any excess degreaser and water off the blade, and then leave it exposed to the Sun to dry out. Before proceeding, make sure there’s not a drop of moisture left.
- Following we have the most challenging stage: unscrewing the blades. This step can be model dependent, but thankfully each purchase should come with a manual. Follow the manual with care.
Sharpen The Blade
- Due to repeated use, the blade can get easily dulled. It is very important to re-sharpen the blades on a regular basis. Simply orient the blade with its edge facing towards the sky, and then use a sharpening file rod. The rod must be placed between two blade teeth and dragged between them. When the metal starts to get a new sheen, you know that the process was successful.
- Repeat the movements for the other side of the blade as well.
Wipe Down And Add Oil
You will make a bit of a mess after re-sharpening your pole saw. Even though you just finished cleaning it, it is advisable to give it a final wipe-down and add some lubricating oil.
How To Clean And Maintain Your Pruning Shears
Unlike other pieces of gardening equipment, pruning shears are remarkably simple. They lack the complex issues of tools with many moving parts, but they still require cleaning and maintenance from time to time.
Resin from the plants, in addition to wood and leaves, can form a sticky film across the blades.
Pruning shears can be very easy to neglect, and it is common to just leave them lying around after the job is done. Regardless of their condition, they should be maintained just like every other gardening tool.
Here are the steps that need to be taken to clean your gardening shears:
- Remove any large pieces of dirt, wood, stems, leaves, and so on. This is not a difficult process and can be accomplished using a simple household rag.
- After the bulk of the debris has been removed, you will still be left with the sticky layer of goo that coats each blade. Take a razor blade and scrape it off gently.
- Rinse the blades, wipe them, and wait for the pruning shears to dry.
- Add some protective oil that will protect them from rust and lubricate their motion.
How To Clean And Maintain Your Ratchet Shears
Few gardening tools will ever see as much wear and tear as your ratchet shears. Not only are they used for their intended purpose, but many people attempt to cut branches that are too thick. They give you more power at your elbow, but even they have their limits.
These shears must be kept clean to maintain their optimal cutting ability. Although there are many types/models of ratchet shears, the basic cleaning principle remains the same:
- Disassemble the shears by unscrewing the bolt holding the blades together. If there are multiple bolts or screws, remove all of them. Don’t worry about the handle spring, because it will detach easily after you separate the blades.
- For a pair of normal household garden shears, no special solution is needed. Simply mix water with detergent and scrub the blades with a stiff-bristle brush. In a pinch, an old toothbrush will do the job.
- After washing, take a rough cloth and wipe away any remaining moisture.
Sharpening The Edges
Thankfully, it is not difficult to sharpen the edges of ratchet shear blades. Unlike trying to sharpen saw blades that have many teeth, this is one, long, continuous blade. Take a sharpening stone or a file and run it across the edge.
Remember that most files are designed to sharpen only when you push them forwards. Making a backward motion will not do much.
The metal will get a distinct shiny glint as it sharpens. It is possible to test the sharpness with a piece of paper.
After sharpening, simply put everything back together and tighten the screws. If you feel any resistance while working, simply loosen the bolts a little.
Pick your favourite lubricant oil and add it to the ratchet shears after you put them back together. Look out for the moving parts of the tool and make sure that the lubricant is allowing them to run smoothly.
How To Clean And Maintain Your Hedge Shears
Another gardening must-have, manual hedge shears can be used to trim shrubs, trees, and hedges. The moving parts will often accumulate plant resin, wood fibers, and dust. This will make it harder to operate them, to the point when they become unusable.
In addition, maintenance and cleaning will also prevent a build-up of rust.
The steps that must be taken to clean manual hedge shears are easy to memorize and implement:
- Take a deep, large bowl and fill it with a mixture of lukewarm water and detergent.
- Soak the shears inside the water
- Remove them from the bowl and wipe them with a dry rag. Most of the time this will remove all the dirt. However, the old and dense build-up can persist.
- Get a hard brush and scrub the shears. The same result can be obtained with a razor blade. Either way, be careful not to leave deep scrapes on the metal because it can easily gather rust.
- Put on some eye protection, wear sleeves, and get some rubber gloves.
- Dip a cloth in a solvent solution or turpentine and drag the cloth across the length of the blade. If possible, do this outdoors because the chemicals are volatile. They tend to evaporate and fill the air with unhealthy fumes.
- Dip another cloth in rubbing alcohol and disinfect the shears.
- Wait for them to dry, and then apply protective oil or lubricant.
If you want some tips on which are the best hedge shears, I can help!
How To Clean and Maintain Your Topiary Scissors
Topiary scissor blades are constructed using carbon steel. This makes them highly vulnerable to staining and the buildup of rust. In addition, regular use can dull their edge, making them less effective. Like other scissors, the you owe it to yourself to regularly sharpen and clean them.
Cleaning your topiary scissors requires only a few, easy steps:
- Get a hard-bristle brush or a razor blade and scrape off the plant residue and resin.
- After completing the first step, use lukewarm water with a small amount of detergent. Rinse them off, being very careful not to leave any excess moisture.
- If some sap still coasts the blades, use a solvent in order to remove it. Depending on the solution, you might need to wear eye and hand protection.
Sharpening the edge of the blade is very straightforward. You only need patience and a sharpening stone or file. When it starts to shine, you’ve probably sharpened it enough.
In terms of general maintenance, the steel itself can be vulnerable to damage. These shears are made for gardening, not cutting plastic, metal wires, or other dense materials. Chipping can be a problem, especially when you accidentally hit a wood knot.
Also, take care to apply even pressure to avoid bending the handles or blades.
How To Clean And Maintain Your Chainsaw
Tools with many moving parts are useful, yet they require more maintenance, cleaning, and attention. Every time the blade bites into a wooden surface, debris can accumulate inside the chainsaw’s casing.
Dust-sized specs like sawdust can get stuck between every chain link, combining with moisture to form a gunk-like substance that clogs the entire tool. The added surface area of the dirt will cause more friction. This leads to problems like overheating.
Here are the steps that need to be taken to safely clean your chainsaw:
- Removing The Chain And The Bar
- Clean The Bar
- Clean The Chain
- Clean The Powerhead
- Re-Assemble Your Chainsaw
Removing The Chain And The Bar
- Easy access to each part is only possible if we take apart the chainsaw. First, place the saw on a wooden or metal table.
(Be sure to surround yourself with every tool that you will need, instead of having to run around searching for them.)
If it is a corded model, unplug the chord. If not, remove the battery. For gas-powered chainsaws, be sure to drain every ounce of the flammable fluid before starting.
- At the place where the powerhead connects to the bar, you should see two nuts. Remove the nuts, while making sure the brake is engaged.
Clean The Bar
- Set aside the chain.
- Clean off any grease using a degreasing solution.
- Use a putty knife to remove built-up dirt from the bar rails.
- Use a screwdriver to clear out the oiler hole. (Optional) Use an air compressor to blow away any troublesome materials, or a steam cleaner for the same effect. For saws that are not used very often, water and detergent should be enough to clean the bar.
- Mix detergent and water and soak the bar for a few minutes.
- Run your palm along the bar’s length. If you feel any irregularities in the metal, file them down.
Clean The Chain
The chain needs to be soaked a little longer than the bar. It will most likely be covered in a greasy mess of sawdust and oil.
- For this step, either mix water with cleaning ammonia or just get some turpentine. This will remove most for the grime.
- Use a hard-bristle wire brush and run it along the chain. If you are using ammonia, be weary of droplets that can get into your eyes.
- Pat down the chain with a rag, and leave it in the sun to dry
- Finally, soak the chain in lubricating oil, taking care to clean off the excess so it doesn’t drip.
Clean The Powerhead
- First, target the crankcase area. Use a soft-bristle brush and brush away any sawdust or dirt.
- For hard-to-reach areas, use a pick or screwdriver tip to push out the build-up. Take care not to leave deep scratches.
- Pay extra attention to the oiler port.
- The spark plug and air filter can be accessed after taking off the top cover. It is imperative that you clog the carburetor’s air intake with a rag. This prevents anything from falling into it.
- Either clean the filter or replace it.
- Brush or wipe away dirt from the motor’s cooling fins.
Re-Assemble Your Chainsaw
- Before you begin putting it back together, make sure every component is bone-dry.
- Put the chain back onto the bar and reattach the starter chord and engine cover. Check the chain’s direction.
- Put the bar back on its studs
- The nuts must be tightened after you connect the clutch-cover.
- Make sure that the chain doesn’t sag. Also, avoid excessive tightness that would prevent it from moving.
In case you were wondering if you can use a chainsaw to trim a hedge, I’ve got the answer!
How Often Should I Clean My Garden Tools?
To prevent your tools becoming gummed up and rusty, you should try and clean them after every use. A light cleaning when you finish your garden jobs will not take long and will greatly improve the longevity of the tools.
After a long session getting your borders in order, you might not feel like cleaning your hedge trimmers, but it is much easier to clean fresh sap and debris from tools, than when it has become sticky and gunky.
Plan to clean the tools as part of the job and make that your sign that you have completed the job; the next time you get the tools out, you will be glad that you did!
Should I Use WD-40 To Lubricate My Garden Tools?
WD-40 is designed to repel water, not to lubricate and therefore you should not use it in this manner. A good all purpose oil should be used where metal needs to pass metal smoothly, like the blades of your shears or powered saw.
You can use WD-40 to expel moisture from an area, such as when you are cleaning shear or secateurs blades, but be sure to use an oil or similar lubricant after, to guarantee smooth running.