Skip to main content

Master Gardener Q&A – Readying Your Garden Tools

It’s spring! The University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners are here to help you with your gardening questions! Lots of us will be home this spring, and what better way to be outside, stay healthy and enjoy the results of your work then to get outside and work on your garden. If you have a gardening questions, please email us at and we’ll answer them here in this article. Be sure to put “Gardening Question” in the subject line. Today, we will discuss how to get your gardening tools ready for the season.

You’ve cleaned up your garden, started your seeds, and planted your cool season vegetables. All seems ready, but don’t forget to get your gardening tools in shape for the season! Garden tools go through much wear and tear, and often come out of winter hiding looking less than great, which could lead to improper function and act as objects that could harbor plant disease.

The first thing you will want to do is thoroughly clean all of your tools. Any residual soil or plant debris on tools can harbor pathogens that will transfer to other plants. Start by using a hard brush and a stream of water to remove soil and other debris. Now you are ready to disinfect your tools. You can use a bleach solution using one part bleach to nine parts water. Please note that bleach can be very corrosive to metal, so it is best not to use it on tools that require a sharp edge such as pruners. Alternately, a second option is to use a hydrogen peroxide solution or rubbing alcohol to disinfect your tools. All options will kill any remaining fungi, bacteria and viruses. Rinse all with clean water and allow to dry before storing.

Next, you will want to check for splinter areas or cracks in any wooden handled tools. You will need to repair or replace any that have considerable wear and tear.

Third, any tools with an edge should be sharpened. A sharp tool is a safer tool, as you need to use less force to get the proper results. Sharpen tools that have a v-shaped blade or only a one sided blade like scissors safely with gloves on, and always sharpen away from your body. Dull blades can be revived using a whetstone or a file. If sharpening blades is not your thing, many garden centers offer tool sharpening as a service.

Lastly, you will want to oil any moving parts on the tools to keep them working properly and efficiently. Be sure to check on your tools as the season continues and touch up, clean and/or repair blades and handles as needed. Don’t forget to clean your garden tools each time you use them, preferably between each use on individual plants, in an effort to keep from spreading plant diseases. You may also want to rub tools down with an oily rag with each use to keep rusting and drying of wooden parts at bay.

Do you have some additional questions for us? Remember you can email us at, or call our University of Illinois County Extension Unit Office at 815.224.0889. Please note that due to the COVID-19 epidemic, offices are closed until further notice.

Happy Gardening!

The Mission of University of Illinois Extension is to provide practical education you can trust to help people, businesses and communities solve problems, develop skills and build a better future. University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. Visit our website at