{Garden} How To Clean Rusty Garden Tools – The Easy Way!


I admit it, I sometimes often leave my garden tools outside. I’m not proud of it. I know I should clean them and put them away. When I’m out working in the yard, I usually keep going until I’m nearly ready to drop from exhaustion. Why? I’m not really sure. I guess I just get so caught up in what I’m doing that I lose track of time. And since the work of a garden is never really done, I can always think of just one more quick thing to do before I go inside. I am making a promise to myself though to break this bad habit (just to be clear, I mean the leaving my tools out habit, not the working long hours in the garden habit). I decided that starting out with clean tools would be good incentive to take better care of them. So, after some trial and error, I have come up with a super easy way to clean even the rustiest, most neglected of implements. You can see from the “before” photo that my tools were in pretty bad shape, so if this worked on them, it will probably work on anything!


  • Large Bucket
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Rags
  • Steel Wool (optional)
  • Wire Brush (optional)
  • Linseed Oilor Mineral Oil
  • Penetrating Oil such as Liquid Wrench

How To:

  1. In the bucket, combine plain old white vinegar and water in approximately a 1:1 ratio.
  2. Place tools in the bucket, opening them up if applicable so that the cleaning solution makes contact with as much of the tools’ surfaces as possible. Let soak for 15 to 30 minutes.
  3. Remove one tool at a time and wipe firmly with the rag, re-wetting it with some of the cleaning solution if necessary. Rinse. For tools that don’t have much dirt and rust on them, this is all you will need to do to clean them – skip ahead to step 6. If quite a bit of rust still remains though, continue on to the next step.
  4. Put back into the bucket for a second 15 minute soak.
  5. Remove tools and scrub at remaining rust with steel wool and/or a wire brush. The wire brush is also useful for getting in around hinges and other tight areas.
  6. Rinse. Thoroughly wipe dry with a clean rag.
  7. Wipe down all metal parts of tools with linseed or mineral oil.
  8. Finish off by adding a dab of penetrating oil to hinges and moving parts.
  9. And voila ~ your tools are all clean and shiny (mostly anyway) and ready to use!
How to Clean Garden Tools

Soaking in Vinegar Water

Scrubbing with a Wire Brush

Scrubbing with a Wire Brush

* In order to prevent rust in the future, clean, dry, and apply linseed or mineral oil to tools every time you use them. If you’re not quite that diligent (I know I’m not), fill a bucket with a mixture of clean sand (can be bought in bags labeled “sandbox” or “play sand” at home improvement stores) and mineral oil. When you’re finished with your tools, bury the business end of each in the sand bucket. They can be stored that way until the next time you need to use them.

If the blades of any of your tools need sharpening, here is a good tutorial from Weekend Gardener: Pruning Shears – Sharpen and Clean.

Hope this helps & happy gardening!


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