How to clean rusty garden tools

How many times when entering the shed or garage are rusty garden tools discovered? After a while without using them, it is very common for corrosion to affect their metal parts. We give you some tips for cleaning and care.

Last update: June 09, 2021

Outdoor shovels, rakes, and scissors are often used every so often. After the task is finished, are usually kept in a shed, exposed to dirt and moisture, main cause of oxidation. To counteract that, there are techniques that tell you how to clean rusty garden tools.

This type of utensil maintains direct contact with the earth, sap and other components that plants have. If they are not effectively sanitized, they will most likely wear out sooner than expected. In addition, if the drying is not correct and the space is humid, the metal parts of it will be corroded.

Still, it is possible to avoid these processes. There are many ways, some homemade and others more advanced, but all contribute to your protection. How to properly maintain them? Here are some recommendations for cleaning.

How to clean rusty garden tools?

If the instruments already contain layers of oxidation, it does not mean that they should be discarded. There are several methods to restore your health. Depending on the case, the following techniques can be used to renew the tool. Of course, you must wear the appropriate clothing – such as rubber gloves, masks and old clothes – especially in situations where it is required to manipulate chemical elements.

Storing garden tools in damp spaces accelerates their oxidation. Therefore, it is important to find the right place, with good ventilation.

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Being a chemical product, coming from the distilled resin of some trees, It is important to use the white spirit in open and airy environments. Ingestion, and even prolonged breathing, can cause poisoning.

Due to its corrosive properties, it is often applied as a paint remover. In the same sense, soaking the tool with a cloth impregnated with this product can help in cases of slight oxidation. If you want to give it a try, be sure to take the necessary precautions before handling.


Exposing metals to any oil can be helpful, but the most recommended is boiled linseed oil. The application of this product on the tool, added to a few hours of rest, will make it suitable for a gentle cleaning with aluminum foil. After this, you will notice the difference.

Black tea or cola

Both black tea and cola drinks can be helpful in cleaning rusty garden tools, especially for light stains. Simply soak them for a couple of hours and then proceed to cleaning.

Salt and lemon juice

Another method for mild oxidation consists of dipping the instrument in a mixture of salt and lemon with water. Later, it should be gently rubbed with steel wool and rinsed. Baking soda is also effective in these situations.


Vinegar, made from acetic acid, has many benefits. However, its handling must be controlled, as it can sometimes cause unwanted skin reactions.

Prepare a mixture of vinegar with water in equal proportions, and leave the tool to soak overnight, It is one of the most used methods for sanitizing garden utensils. Then, the rust must be removed with a brush or virulana.


In situations of coarse oxidation, a recommended technique is to pass the grinder on the blades and metal parts, using a wire disc to avoid damaging it.

Citrus solution

For the most serious cases, citric acid can be used, diluted in a proportion of 3% with water. Certain precautions must be taken, such as avoiding inhalation, contact with the skin and, above all, with the eyes. Subsequently, the tool is moistened and left to rest. To finish, just clean it with plenty of water.

Substances such as turpentine, citric acid, and vinegar can help remove oxidation. Still, the general recommendation is to keep the tool clean.

See also: How to use citric acid in home cleaning?

Tips to prevent garden tools from rusting

To prevent garden tools from being damaged by rust, proper maintenance is possible. Here are some recommendations.

  • Sharpen them. Once used, and before they are stored, it is important to review the blades with whetstones or a flat file. In this way, they will be ready for the next use.
  • Blackboard chalks. Contact with this element absorbs the moisture that causes the tools to rust.
  • Wash them with water and detergent. Correct cleaning after each use is very important to extend the useful life of the instruments.
  • Spray them with WD-40. An element that is used for countless lubrication situations, but that must be used with care, since its ingestion, inhalation or exposure to the eyes are harmful to health. In the case of garden tools, spraying them with the aerosol and then wiping them will prevent them from rusting.
  • Make sure there are no residues. Many garden tools are in permanent contact with plants that can leave sticky residue. It is essential to check them well and remove these remains, since then they lead to fungi and other pathogens.
  • Saved. Once used and sanitized, storing tools is also an important step. The best thing is that they are hung or, at least, avoid that they are stacked and in contact with each other.
  • Rest in rice or sand. These elements are known to absorb moisture. This is why many gardeners store their tools in buckets with rice or sand to prevent rust from occurring.

Lastly, probably the most effective advice is constant utilization. If you work frequently with the tools, the simple contact and movement of their metal parts will avoid the generation of rust. In the same way, removing the soil with a simple brush, as well as storing them in dry and airy places are the best recommendations.

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