Garden Tool Clean-up: Farewell to the Dirty Dozen

Like many tedious chores, cleaning garden tools is easy to put off.  Though it’s hard to get started, it’s ultimately satisfying when you’re done. The electrostatic charge in the air yesterday spurred me into action. With my head held high, I’m happy to report that the dirty dozen of gardening tools is now the tidy twelve.

garden tools in need of some TLC

The Dirty Dozen

Last month I put my tools to soak in a bucket of soapy Melaleuca cleaner, then got busy with other things. It’s one of those jobs that nags at you till you get it done, but I knew I needed a good block of time to act. Yesterday was the day.

Newspapers spread and gloves donned, I tackled years of rust, faded paint and grime. Using steel wool and elbow grease, I scoured away layers of garden history. If those tools could talk!  Some of them have been around for over twenty years.

I sanded the sharp end of the garden tools first, removing rust and sharpening edges. Moving on to the tools with wooden handles, I sanded those as well before finishing with a soft rub of wax and oil. Everything looks great. The newer tools have vinyl or rubber handles which stand up to the elements better than wood. The wooden handles remain sturdy, however, and relished the coat of wax and oil.

Clean Tools

The Tidy Twelve

Last up: the garden saw.  I saved the worst for last. The once-blue handle had completely chipped away.  The blade was stained and covered in rust. Was I worried?  No!  I had big plans for this little baby.

Thank you, Martha Stewart.

It took three coats, but our refurbished folding saw now sports a handle in Martha Stewart’s Pomegranate Red. Who says tools have to be boring?

Garden saw painted red

Glitter Garden Saw


Painted folding saw


Perseverance 1, procrastination 0.

What’s on your “nag” list?

Getting the Job Done


19 thoughts on “Garden Tool Clean-up: Farewell to the Dirty Dozen

  1. Well done! I remember a home gardener (a wonderful woman) who used to have all the garden tools washed and cleaned at the end of a work day and stand them in a big barrel of sand, which was inside the well organised garden shed. I don’t believe she had even one rusty tool!!

    But, maybe she did have a paid gardener or two ….


    • Wow! That’s impressive. I like the idea of a bucket of sand. Thanks for reminding me of that tip. I seem to remember reading that once upon a time, but never followed through. The abrasion from the sand keeps the tools sharp.


  2. My husband raked up all our pine needles and piled them up around our pine trees to give our dogs a cushy place to rest. For the first time ever he didn’t break the rake. Our garden tools don’t seem to last long enough to need cleaning lol.


    • How sweet that you create a cush pile for the dogs. I love that. Do the pine needles stay put or will they blow away in the wind?

      We’ve broken a few shovels over the years, but the hand held tools seem to last.


  3. Wow, you really got serious about your fall tool clean up. They absolutely look new. I can see why it took you five hours. Is that the same paint you used on your halloween cocktail glass? Very girlie saw, I love it! Great idea Alys, I’m going to paint all my old wooden tools too. I’m really kean on the Howard Products, I watched their demo video at your link. If it really works that well, it’s money well spent. One of our cats (I’m thinking Petals), must have jumped on and off our dining table quickly and left a deep scratch on the surface. I remember coming home and finding the table cover on the floor and immediately noticed the scratch with three distinct claw marks. Oh the antics that must have gone on that day. Naturally no one was looking guilty….it was the usual “hi mommy, aren’t we cute, where’s our treats?” :^/


    • Oh dear. Bummer about your table. Don’t you wish you could hook them up to a kitty-cam to watch the antics when you’re away? I often think that. Let me know if you try Howard’s on the table. You will love the smell. It sure made that part of the job nice to do. I looked forward to that step each time. Mmmmm.

      Hey, you’ve got to find the fun in those dirty chores.

      Yes, the paint was leftover from Halloween. It was great fun using it again. Mike got a laugh out of it too when he saw it.

      Good luck with your table.


      • I see that Home Depot US carry it so I’ll check our local store. Fingers crossed.

        I think a kitty cam would be a riot..can you imagine. These goofballs sleep most of the time, but when they’re not…I’d love to tag along, hehe 😛


  4. Oh Alys, I can’t wait to get together and meet everyone, family, kitties and YOU! I promise, we won’t tickle Mouse. That guy doesn’t know how good he has it….tummy rubs from the neighbors, LOL.


  5. Pingback: Tackling the Vine | Gardening Nirvana

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