With cold weather closing in and fall yard tasks complete, it’s about time to hang up the garden tools for the season—but not before you winterize them.
Doing thorough maintenance now will save you time in the spring when you’re antsy to get outside. Plus, taking good care of your tools will help them last longer and save you money by limiting wear and tear. If you’ve kept your tools clean throughout the season, you may not have to do much to prep them for storage, but here are the most important steps to take.
How to winterize your garden tools
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First, make sure your hand tools—rakes, shovels, pruning shears, trowels, etc.—are clean and dry. Rinse off any dirt with hot water, and wipe blades clean of sap and debris. If there’s stubborn mud, scrub it away with a stiff-bristled brush. Use sandpaper or steel wool to remove rust spots.
Next, sharpen any digging or cutting tools that have dulled. You’ll need some basic equipment, including protective gear, so if you don’t have these items on hand, consider taking your tools to your hardware store or garden center for sharpening instead.
For tools with wood handles, use sandpaper to smooth any rough spots that may cause splinters (if there are major cracks, consider replacing the handle altogether). Wipe handles down with linseed oil.
Finally, lubricate metal parts, such as screws and bolts, with mineral oil, and give pruning tools a wipe-down with a diluted household disinfectant.
If anything is broken and in need of repair or replacement, now is the time. Do not store tools that will not be ready to use come spring. This includes patching leaky hoses and replacing washers and nozzles.
If you have lawn equipment, such as a mower or trimmer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and storing. You will likely want to drain the fuel from gas-powered machines (or add a fuel stabilizer), disconnect power sources, and give all of the parts a thorough clean.
How to store garden tools
Store your winterized tools in a shed, garage, or another location that’s protected from moisture as well as out of reach of kids and pets. Ideally, your tools won’t be exposed to any elements, including damp or cold conditions.
If you have the wall space, consider a tool rack, heavy-duty hooks, or a floor stand for hanging and organizing your tools. Always make sure tools are secure and won’t fall over on anyone. Small hand tools can also be stored in a bucket with a mix of sand and oil to prevent rusting.
After draining and drying hoses, coil them to prevent kinks and hang them to store. Do the same for electrical cords (consider wrapping them in plastic first if there’s any risk of moisture).
Finally, cover clean lawn equipment and store it in a protected place away from appliances with pilot lights, including water heaters and furnaces. All lawn chemicals should also be stored securely, away from any extreme temperatures.