Many manufacturers understand the importance of garden tools and have produced numerous products to keep them in top shape. Gardening enthusiasts have also come up with several DIY procedures to care for their precious tools. However, many avid gardeners are worried about the hazards such DIY tips pose to plants and are constantly looking for safer alternatives.
You can safely use WD-40 on your garden tools. The company markets its products as safe and effective for frequently used garden tools. It’s made of biodegradable materials that don’t pose risks to edible or non-edible plants as long as you follow the instructions for the best and safest results.
This article will discuss why WD-40 is safe to use on garden tools. I’ll also explain the potential risks of the lubricant to the user and share some safety precautions to prevent such problems. Let’s get started!
What Makes WD-40 Safe for Your Tools
When cleaning and lubricating garden tools, it’s crucial to pay attention to how the cleaning and lubricating products affect the soil and the plants.
A good lubricant prevents soil from clinging onto your spade or shovel and makes it easier to remove the sap from the tools after routine pruning. However, tiny amounts of lubricants can stay in the soil or stick to the plant.
Considering these, I listed some reasons why WD-40 is safe for garden tools below:
WD-40 Ingredients Are Biodegradable
Most people feel worried about using products that say they contain petroleum-based ingredients. One of the reasons why many gardeners are concerned about using WD-40 cleaners and lubricants on their garden tools is the amount of petroleum in the mix.
However, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. According to the product data sheet, WD-40 is made with biodegradable materials that can readily break down. Moreover, the product doesn’t have any known adverse effect on aquatic life in case of leaching.
Applying a Small Amount on Tools Won’t Affect the Garden
Minimal amounts of WD-40 won’t cause significant changes in the quality of your soil that can affect your plants. If anything, the coating can prevent soil or plant matter (and the harmful microbes in them) from sticking to your tools, reducing the risk of spreading diseases.
Be sure to follow the product application guidelines carefully to avoid oversaturating your garden tools and increasing the risk of soil contamination.
The Risks of Using WD-40
While there’s no real harm to your garden when using WD-40 on your garden tools, the product does present some risks to you as the user. Therefore, it’s important to understand these risks so you can avoid them.
Here’s a list of things to watch out for when using WD-40 lubricants:
It Is a Fire Hazard
Like many aerosol sprays, WD-40 products are also flammable, so you must avoid using them when there’s an open flame or running engine nearby. While WD-40 products can be used to lubricate movable parts and blades of lawnmowers and hedge trimmers, ensure that the engine is off when applying them.
It’s also best to wait a few hours after application before using the tools and machines in your garden. Better yet, apply the product to your tools after using them in the garden and right before storage. That way, it’ll take several hours or days before you’ll need them again.
Aerosol Can Irritate the Eyes and Nose
WD-40 products are conveniently designed with thin smart straw nozzles to conveniently spray hard-to-reach areas. These nozzles also help limit the spread of the fume for efficiency and safety.
However, careless use of the product, resulting in inhalation or eye exposure to the fumes, can cause some life-threatening issues. The ingredients can irritate the eyes and nose and affect the central nervous system, leading to disorientation, difficulty breathing, and nausea.
Such risks can be avoided with proper product use and wearing appropriate protective gear.
Safety Precautions When Using WD-40 on Garden Tools
Like any product or chemical, it’s essential to take necessary precautions when using them regardless of whether you have prior experience:
Use the Product as Instructed
For tools with movable parts, point the long nozzle directly at the hinge or joint before spraying. Doing so will help limit the spread of the chemical into the air and direct the content to the intended area.
For shovels and spades, on the other hand, you can spray the product liberally but directly on the surface of the metal.
Allow your newly cleaned or lubricated tools to stand a full 24 hours before using them in your garden to ensure the aerosol has dissipated and reduce the amount of chemicals that can go into the soil.
Wear Protective Gear
Wearing a face mask and a pair of latex gloves should be enough to protect yourself when handling lubricants. For additional protection, you can also wear goggles to prevent the fumes from getting to your eyes. As mentioned, the product can irritate the sensitive membranes in the nose and eyes.
Use the Lubricant in a Well-Ventilated Space
When using chemicals for gardening, it’s always best to apply them outdoors, where there’s better ventilation. It allows the harmful ingredients to dissipate in the air more quickly and reduce the risk of inhalation.
Avoid using WD-40 lubricants under direct sunlight, especially on a pretty sunny day. You can clean and lubricate your garden tools under the roof of your open garden shed or garage (away from running engines).
Observe Proper Storage and Disposal
To prevent fire risks, store your WD-40 lubricants away from direct sunlight and open fire. The safest storage place is in a dark corner of your garden shed, beyond the reach of children and pets.
Check your community guidelines for managing waste that contains toxic and combustible chemicals.
How to Use WD-40 on Your Garden Tools
There are various WD-40 products that you can use to clean, lubricate, or protect your garden tools.
If you want a quick glimpse of the multiple products and how they’re used, you can watch the video below:
Alternatively, here’s a quick run-through of the proper way to use WD-40 products:
Clean the Tools
You should clean your garden tools right after use. Remove soil and plant debris with a scrub, liquid detergent, and running water. Rinse the tools thoroughly to remove the soapy ingredients from the detergent.
Remove Any Rust
The purpose of using WD-40 lubricants is to coat your tools to prevent rust buildup. However, it cannot do much to fix the damage caused by the existing rust. Depending on the severity, you may need to use different sandpaper grits or soak your tools in vinegar to eliminate the rust.
Sharpen Your Tools (Optional)
You should also sharpen the tools if necessary. It’s best to sharpen the tools before lubricating them to improve their performance and lengthen their life.
Apply WD-40 Lubricant to the Metal Parts
The lubricant protects your garden tools from rust and ensures that the joints, hinges, and other movable parts can move smoothly.
Protect Tools From the Elements
Keep the garden tools away from the rain or direct sunlight. Although WD-40 products can prevent rust buildup on your garden tools, they are not an absolute defense.
Leaving your tools exposed to heavy rain or intense sunlight for extended periods can cancel out the protection given by lubricants.
Alternatives to WD-40 Products
If you’re still hesitant to use WD-40 on your garden tools after all the information above, there’s no need to worry. There are other alternatives to such products that are also effective and guaranteed safe for you, your tools, and your plants.
Here are some of them:
Liquid detergent and dish soap are excellent cleaners, and some products even have antimicrobial properties. Just ensure to rinse them off completely.
For Lubricating or Protection
Vegetable oil can effectively lubricate your garden tools. However, one downside is that they can get rancid after some time.
For Cleaning and Lubricating
An appropriate mix of sand and oil can work both as an effective cleaner and lubricant for many heavy-duty garden tools like shovels and spades.
If you want to learn more about how to use sand for this purpose, you can read my other article here: How to Use Sand to Clean Garden Tools
WD-40 products are generally safe to use on your garden tools as they pose little to no risk to your plants or soil. However, they can be harmful to humans when handled incorrectly. Therefore, you must use them carefully and wear appropriate protection to prevent inhalation and skin contact.