Garden tools are prone to rusting as they are always open to weathering agents. Keeping them away from rusting will ensure their longevity and proper functioning. Rusting will never hover around your gardening tools if you learn certain things and practice them as needed.
Here’s a list of things you can do to keep your garden tools from rusting:
- Understand the rusting process.
- Keep the tools away from weathering agents.
- Clean the rust periodically.
- Store the tools properly after every use.
- Oil the tools.
- Remove the rust with a sand gun or sharpener.
- Follow the regular care tips weekly.
- Follow the seasonal care tips quarterly.
- Apply rust neutralizer.
- Apply water repellent coatings.
- Purchase the right product.
- Replace the tools after wear and tear.
As I describe each point in detail, you’ll understand how easy it is to keep your garden tools from rusting all their age. Read the full article for step-by-step guidance. You can skip some of the steps if you find them irrelevant to your situation.
1. Understand the Rusting Process
I am starting with explaining the rusting process because you can’t fight the symptoms until you understand the real cause of the rust.
Once you know the rusting process and its causes, keeping your garden tools away from rusting will not be very difficult for you.
Most gardening tools are made of iron. In rare cases, they can be made of other metals or materials. Depending on their material type, they go through the process of deterioration. As most tools are made of iron, we will understand the rusting process of iron to keep them away from it.
Iron is a hard metal that reacts with oxygen and water present in the environment. The reaction results in the corrosion of the outer layer, and the object turns brown. As the tools spend more time in water and air, the metal object keeps corroding and becomes brittle and fragile.
So, we understand that water and air are two enemies of objects made of iron. If you want to keep your tools away from rusting, you should keep the tools away from these weathering agents. We’ll discuss plenty of ways to protect tools against the natural deterioration process in the following steps.
2. Keep the Tools Away From Weathering Agents
One of the easiest ways to keep your garden tools from rusting is to keep them away from weathering agents. When you use garden tools, the soil sticks to them. The moisture present in the soil keeps corroding the tools, and they eventually become nonfunctional.
If you clean the tools right away after every use, the tools will get less contact with the moisture, preventing corrosion from taking place. However, keep in mind that even if you clean objects after every use but don’t dry them, they will still get rust buildup.
So the secret is to keep the object as dry and clean as possible. It will also be easier to see any signs of rust building up on clean tools, and you can remove it before it gets severe.
On the other hand, a mud-covered tool will make it difficult to find signs of rusting, preventing you from fixing the issue before it gets worse.
To clean your tools after use, you can wash them under tap water with a scrub. After removing mud, air dry them or wipe them with a cloth. This little habit of cleaning tools and keeping them dry as much as possible will be worth it as you can keep your tools functional for longer.
3. Clean the Rust Periodically
If your garden tools are already rusted, you should first clean them. Corroded objects respond to the weathering agents faster than the cleaned ones.
It’s best not to leave the rust on the tools for two reasons. First, rusted tools are not safe for you to use. Second, if you do not remove the rust, it will keep developing and make the tool brittle and non-functional.
You can clean the rust whenever you notice it on the surface of your tools. It is best to set a schedule to remove rusting periodically.
Ideally, you’d schedule the tool cleaning once or twice a month to avoid the build-up of rust, but it would help if you do it before entering into the next season (meaning every three months). However, If you apply a protective layer after cleaning, the tool will remain rust-free for longer.
There are many ways to remove rust from an iron object. However, sandpaper and acid wash are the two most used ways to clean them. Follow the steps to clean the rusting on an iron object with sandpaper:
- Clean the surface in running water with a scrub.
- Using sandpaper, rub the corroded area.
- Wash the tool after removing all the corrosion from the instruments.
- Air dry them or wipe with a cotton cloth.
- Apply a protective layer of water-repellant paints to avoid future rusting.
If you want to clean the rust with acid wash, follow the given procedure:
- Wash the corroded tool in tap water.
- Dilute sulfuric or hydrochloric acid to 10% concentration. (One-part acid and nine-part water)
- Soak the corroded tool in the solution for 10 minutes.
- Heat the solution with the tool for 2 minutes.
- Wash the tool under tap water using a hard brush or metal scrub.
The acid wash technique can not be used for big tools, and small instruments are difficult to rub with sandpaper. Thus, it’s best to acid wash small tools and clean the big tools with sandpaper. Moreover, acid treatment is advised when the object is very rusted.
4. Store the Tools Properly After Every Use
Another good habit of keeping your garden tools from rusting is to store them properly after every use. It’s crucial to hold the metal tools in a dry place to keep them away from weathering agents. Moreover, it would help if you do not leave them on the ground in the open.
The fluctuating temperature of day and night also harms metal objects. Thus it’s best to keep the tools in a covered area like a garage, a toolbox, or a storeroom to keep them away from temperature fluctuations.
Not all gardening tools are used regularly. So, you can keep the frequently used tools in the garden in an airtight trunk and the rest of the tools in the storeroom or garage. As you clean and dry the tools regularly and store them properly, you can keep all your garden tools from rusting.
Regular use of a tool also keeps it from rusting. So, if you store less used tools in the garage, don’t forget to check them now and then to ensure that rusting is not occurring on them.
Some people also like to hang tools on walls or stands. This way, tools are organized and easy to find. However, be sure that they are safe from direct heat and moisture sources like rain and snow.
5. Oil the Tools
Oil is an excellent natural repellant of water, and it also protects against moisture present in the air. If you apply oil to the tools, it will help prevent the rusting process by keeping the water from sticking to your tools.
You can use any oil available at home. I would advise you to use a cheaper one as we only need to repel the water. Depending on the oil you choose to use, it will wear off of the tools after a few days. You can reapply anytime later.
Proper care of tools will involve cleaning, drying, and oiling after every use. If you face difficulty handling the tools due to oiling, leave the handle portion dry or wipe away the oil with a cloth to keep the tool from slipping off your hands when in use.
You can also make the oil-sand mixture to rest your tools and save them from rusting. Follow the given steps to make an oil-sand mixture:
- Place fine sand in a tub.
- Mix any oil in the sand until it becomes damp.
- Keep the tub in a shaded area.
- Thrust your clean and dry tools in the sand after every use. Bury just the metal portion and leave the handle above the sand.
- Let them sit in the oil-sand mixture for a night.
- Take them out for use or store them in a dry place.
6. Remove the Rust With a Sand Gun and Sharpener
There are a few more techniques to remove rust from your garden tools or any other corroded iron material. We have talked about the use of sandpaper. The sand gun and sharpener do the same job of removing the rust. Feel free to use whatever method comes in handy for you.
A sand gun is exactly as its name implies. It’s a machine that throws fine sand at a very high speed on the rusted object, resulting in the removal of corrosion and the exposure of the hard metal surface.
The sand gun does not need to be in contact with the surface to remove the rust from unreachable corners. This technique is more useful for massive objects.
On the other hand, the sharpening tool or the sharpener does the same thing as the sandpaper. However, it can sharpen the tools along with the rust removal. It is helpful if you have a habit of sharpening your tools.
In addition, if your gardening tools have become uneven due to corrosion, a sharpener may help you get back its functionality.
7. Follow ‘The Regular Care Tips’ Weekly
When I say that you need to regularly care for your garden tools to keep them from rusting, it doesn’t mean you need to follow all care tips every day.
Instead, if you care for the tools regularly, you can skip some of the complex care tips mentioned on the list. Your tools will not require special treatment if they are healthy.
Here, I’m giving you a weekly cheat sheet to keep your garden tools rust-free:
- Wash the tools in water with a scrub to remove soil from their surface. Avoid using hard scrubs if the tools have a protective coat or paint.
- Keep the tools dry while in storage. Don’t store near a water or moisture source.
- Bury the metal parts of small and medium-sized tools like a trowel, pruners, shears, fork, etc., in an oil-sand mixture after using, cleaning, and drying them out.
- Look for signs of rust buildup closely. If it occurs, don’t wait for it to get severe. Remove the rust right away with sandpaper.
- Don’t sand the polished wooden handles with sandpaper. Just clean them and apply some oil.
- Don’t leave the tools in the garden soil. If you forget one in the ground, treat it as soon as you notice.
- Don’t leave the tools out in the open. Keep them away from places with heavy temperature fluctuations and high humidity.
- Keep using the tools. They don’t get rusted if they are used regularly.
8. Follow ‘The Seasonal Care Tips’ Quarterly
It would help if you practiced some care tips before the new season strikes. The seasonal care includes deep cleaning the tools and coating them with water repellents.
If the tools still have the previously applied coatings, you can skip the seasonal maintenance. Instead, do it half-yearly or whenever tools require it.
Here’s how you should prepare and care for your garden tools seasonally:
- Before the spring, you don’t need much preparation with your tools. Spring is a relatively dry season, depending on your region. Hence it is less threatening to your gardening tools. However, spring is the busiest season gardening-wise. So, you should follow all the regular care tips during this season.
- In summer, pay attention to the humidity in your area. The ground soil may be dry. There are fewer ground activities throughout the season, so tools are not used frequently. Because of this, it would be best to store tools in a dark, dry place to prevent their polish from cracking due to sunlight and catching moisture from the humid air.
- Monsoon is the biggest enemy of garden tools. Before entering the season, you should paint your tools with water repellents. The climate has high humidity that can result in rusting in your garden tools. Thus, it is best to keep your tools dry and store them in a space with low humidity. You should take extra precautions not to forget the tools in the garden.
- Winters are less destructive to iron tools. However, if you leave the tools in the garden under heavy snow, forget about ever getting them back. Chances are they would be too damaged by the time the snow clears. The gardening activities are at their lowest during snowy winters. So, your tools must rest in a safe place.
9. Apply Rust Neutralizer
There are products available in the market that remove the rust chemically from tools to help you prepare your tools for painting.
You can try rust neutralizers
Rust neutralizers chemically convert the rust into a neutral black surface. Although you can skip applying them and directly paint the tools, I advise you to use a neutralizer on the tools to make the paint more effective.
10. Apply Water Repellent Coatings
We have already talked about water repellent coatings in seasonal care tips. Here, I’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide on applying water repellents to your garden tools.
When you first purchase the tools from the market, they generally come polished. However, after using the tools for a long time, their polish is removed. It’s best to polish them again when the metal becomes visible on instruments and is open to rusting. Do it mindfully before the monsoon season strikes.
For best results, follow the given instructions to paint your garden tools:
- Clean and dry the tools.
- Apply the rust neutralizer to the tools to remove rust.
- Prepare the paint as instructed by the paint manufacturer.
- Apply the color on tool surfaces.
- Use the tools after air-drying them thoroughly.
- Repaint tools after washing off the first application, preferably before monsoon.
Learn more about how to keep garden tools clean, sharp, and rust free in my article here: How To Keep Garden Tools Clean, Sharp, and Rust Free (9 Helpful Tips)
11. Purchase the Right Product
To keep your garden tools from rusting, you should wisely choose the garden tools. If you purchase good-quality tools, there are very few chances of rusting. You can buy stainless steel tools as they don’t rust.
12. Replace the Tools After Wear and Tear
Regardless of how meticulous your routine care is, your garden tools will eventually show signs of wear and tear with age. It’s best to replace your old garden tools timely and not waste energy and maintenance costs on old tools.
If you see wear and tear marks on the tools, replace them for your safety. Moreover, old tools are hard to keep away from rusting.
Some indications that can alert you to replace your old garden tools include:
- Your garden tools have holes or crest and troughs on the surface.
- The metal has become flaky and crispy.
- The rust frequently occurs even after employing proper care and maintenance.
- Handles are broken, sharp edges have become dull, and tools have become non-functional.
Garden tools live and work among their enemies like water and oxygen. It’s common for them to get rusted if not taken care of properly. Hence, a good care routine is crucial to keep them from rusting.
Regular cleaning, keeping them dry, and applying a protective layer of moisture-resistant coating when needed can help keep your tools working for longer.