Tool Clean Up & Care

At the end of the gardening season, it’s so easy to just walk away from your garden and “deal with it” in the spring. And when it comes to tools, as long as they are back in the shed, well, you’ve done great and can find them again when you need them. However, even your gardening tools need a little TLC to keep them fresh (and disease free) for next year. So over the winter, spending some time caring for your tools will help them last longer and keep your garden healthier for the next season.


Pruning Tools- photo Joseph OBrien, USDA Forest Service,

The first thing to do is give all tools a good sanitizing to remove any bacteria or fungi that might be lingering on them. Start by using water to washing off any chinks of debris such as soil or resin. Then make up the Safe & Easy Sanitizing Solution (recipe below) to use to clean your tools. For tools like pruners, shovels, hoes and rakes, tip them into a bucket of the solution for about 10 seconds and then allow them to air dry.

Once tools are dry it’s time to sharpen them! Keeping blades on pruners, soil knives and hoes sharp will also make your work a lot easier and safer come spring. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, there are lots of manual and electric grinders or rasps available to sharpen your blades. However, if you are unsure of what to do, many of the neighborhood hardware stores offer a tool sharpening service for just a few dollars.

Finally, if you have tomato cages or wire trellises you use from year to year, they also need to be cleaned. For tomatoes in particular, many of the fungal blights can overwinter on cages so cleaning them will really cut down on your diseases. To start with, remove all dead plant materials and strings from the cages. Then spray them down to remove any chunks of soil or resin. Finally, use a clean rag to wipe down the cages or trellises with the Safe & Easy Sanitizing Solution and allow them to air dry before storing them for the winter.

Spending just a few moments cleaning, sanitizing and sharpening tools now will get you ready for the next season with fewer diseases and tools that work the way you want them to. Keep it clean!

Safe & Easy Tool Cleaning/Sanitizing Solution


  • 10 Cups of room temperature water
  • 1 Cup of Bleach OR 6% Cleaning Vinegar

Fill a bucket or container with a lid with water. Pour in bleach, stir with plastic spoon until mixed. Store at room temperature.

Solution can be stored for 2 weeks indoors.

Submitted by Bethany Pratt, Agent for Horticulture, Jefferson Co. Cooperative Extension