Garden tool sanitation, maintenance and end-of-season storage

Proper garden tool sanitation, maintenance, and end-of-season storage keep tools in top condition for several years’ use.


Now that the growing season is over, you might think plant pathogens and garden pests are gone for good. Not so fast…

Bacteria, viruses, and fungi that cause plant diseases survive in residue on garden tools and equipment. Eggs, larvae, and burrowing bugs lie latent in soil overwinter to infect future crops.

Proper garden tool sanitation, maintenance, and end-of-season storage keep tools in top condition for several years’ use.

5 Steps care for garden tools and equipment

Step 1. Gather tools and equipment:

  • Pruning shears
  • Hoes
  • Shovels
  • Hand diggers
  • Forks
  • Empty plant containers
  • Knives
  • Plastic sheet mulch; roll out plastic on a concrete or gravel surface for easy cleaning.
  • Remove nozzles from hoses

Step 2. Clean tools and equipment with soap and water: Use a wire brush to dislodge dirt, debris, and plant material. Rinse well.


  • Remove sap buildup with turpentine.
  • Blast away algae, mildew, and mold with a powerful sprayer.
  • Remove rust by coating tools in rust dissolver, then scrub with steel wool.

Step 3. Disinfect tools to kill pathogens: There are many commercial disinfectants available at your local hardware store. Follow directions on the box or bottle.

To make your own tool disinfectant

  • In a large tub, combine 1 part bleach: 9 parts water. Soak tools for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with water to prevent corrosion. When tools are dry, coat metal with protective oil to prevent rust (see step 5).

Do not reuse bleach to soak a second set of tools. Mix a fresh batch of bleach solution for optimal effectiveness.

  • Alcohol, ethanol or isopropyl, can be used to disinfect tools. Dip tools in alcohol or use alcohol wipes. No rinse required.

Step 4. Sharpen blades and shovels with a flat file.

Step 5. Coat wood and metal with protective oil:

  • Linseed oil is a natural oil extracted from flax seeds. It preserves and prolongs the life of wood.
  • WD-40 is a penetrating oil that lubricates tools for smooth operation. It is sold in a handy spray for easy application. Coat surfaces, cutting edges, and bare metal parts.


Store tools in a clean and dry shed, barn or garage.

A DIY PVC tool organizer stores shovels, rakes, and hoes. Pegboards or hooks keep hand tools within clear sight for easy-access. Roll up hoses and hang off the ground to prevent kinks and cracks.


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