Garden shears are one of the most important tools in gardening and should be treated with adequate care. However, their movable parts are often neglected, making them prone to rust. Proper cleaning after every use and occasional lubrication is often all it takes to keep your garden shears in top shape for several years.
To properly lubricate your garden shears, you must first detach the blades by removing the center nut. Clean the blades, remove the rust, and sharpen the blades. Afterward, wipe them with oil or lubricant and reattach the blades. Store your garden shears properly to protect them from the elements.
High-quality garden shears can be pretty pricey, so it’s best to keep yours in good shape to avoid buying a new pair every pruning season. The rest of the article will explain an easy-to-follow guide on lubricating your garden shears. Read on!
1. Remove the Pivot Nut To Separate the Blades
Garden shears need lubrication for two reasons: to protect the metal parts from rust and to keep the moving parts working smoothly. So if possible, it’s best to detach the blades from each other for thorough cleaning and lubrication.
Many garden shears have a bolt and nut to keep the blades together. Using a small wrench, twist the pivot or center nut to loosen it and pull out the bolt from the other side to separate the blades.
Some garden shears may be a little tricky to dismantle because of their design. If your product comes with a user manual, you can check how to properly dismantle your shears. Otherwise, you can forgo this step and just pay more attention to the cleaning processes discussed below.
2. Clean the Blades of the Garden Shears
The blades of your garden shears are likely lined with plant sap after use. It’s best to remove the plant debris and wash the blades immediately after use. Otherwise, the moisture will make the metal parts susceptible to rust when left uncleaned. They may also be contaminated with soil and plant pathogens.
You can spray the plant debris with water from your garden hose and scrub it off using dish soap and a rough sponge. Rinse the blades carefully.
If you cannot detach the blades, you can soak them in soapy water for thirty seconds. Scrub the blades carefully with a toothbrush, aiming for the space between the blades as much as possible, and rinse thoroughly with clean water.
You can also wipe or spray the blades with rubbing alcohol for an extra layer of protection from contaminants. Use a clean, dry cloth to dry the blades completely.
3. Remove the Rust From the Blades
If your garden shears had endured years of neglect, they’d likely have some rust, especially close to the center bolt and nut. It’s mainly because this part is the most challenging to clean and is often taken for granted.
That’s why it’s necessary to detach the blades. If you’ve successfully done so, you can remove the rust from each blade using sandpaper. In severe cases, you can soak your garden shears in a vinegar solution consisting of equal parts water and vinegar.
You can also use the same solution if you cannot separate the blades. Soak the garden shears in the solution for at least an hour. It can take longer if the rust is severe.
Note that your blades might not come out as shiny metallic silver as they were the first time you used them. Carbon steel is likely to appear tarnished with grey or black spots where the rust used to be. It’s because of the corrosive properties of vinegar. In contrast, garden shear blades made from stainless steel have better resistance to corrosion.
That’s why it’s best to dilute the vinegar in water and limit the soaking time to a maximum of three hours. Nonetheless, it won’t make your blades brittle. Remove the remaining rust by scrubbing it with sandpaper or steel wire.
Alternatively, you can clean your garden shears and remove the rust using sand and oil. You can check out my other article about how to do it: How to Use Sand to Clean Garden Tools
4. Sharpen the Blades if Necessary
Before lubricating your garden shears, it’s always essential to clean them and remove the rust. And if your blades have become dull due to many years of use, there’s no better time to sharpen them. It’s also more convenient if you’ve separated the blades.
You can use a metal file to sharpen them. Use a bastard file for thicker blades or a fine or smooth-cut file for thinner ones. Always follow the bevel on the edge for the best results and to avoid damaging them.
You can also check out the AMTECH Diamond Sharpening File (available on Amazon.com). It has curved and flat sides, ideal for garden shears and other tools. It also has a comfortable handle and a reasonable size (10 inches or 25 cm) for small garden tools.
5. Wipe the Blades With Oil or Lubricant
The popular sand and oil method is easy to clean and lubricate your garden shears. However, the sand might be too abrasive for the blades of your garden shears and cause them to chip. Additionally, some sand particles might also get stuck between the blades.
There are several items you can find at home that will make an excellent DIY lubricant for your garden shears.
Vegetable cooking oil is one of the most economical and readily available lubricants you can use on your garden tools. However, one downside of this material is that it can get rancid. Therefore, it’s ideal to use only a small amount to coat the blades of your garden shears.
While some gardeners would recommend using a vegetable spray, I suggest applying the vegetable oil on your garden shears using a clean piece of cloth. It can ensure your blades are adequately coated without excessive oil.
Another widely available product you can use for your garden tools is a WD-40 lubricant. It helps protect your garden shears from moisture, preventing rust buildup. If you want to learn more about how to use it, you can read my other article: Can You Safely Use WD-40 On Your Garden Tools?
Many organic gardeners will advise you to avoid using motor oil as much as possible. To be on the safe side, it’s best to follow their advice.
However, based on my experience, motor oil doesn’t present many risks when used in moderate amounts. This is especially true if you use a piece of cloth to apply a very thin layer on your garden shears.
A better alternative to motor oil is a food-grade lubricant, which is safe for use on machines that handle meat or other edible products. Food-grade mineral oils don’t go rancid, unlike regular vegetable cooking oil. They also work well with garden shears that have moving parts.
6. Reattach the Bolt and Nut
After thoroughly coating the blades with your choice of lubricant, you can reattach them. Tighten the bolt and nut properly to secure the blades. Try opening and closing your garden shears to check if the blades are sliding smoothly against each other. If you feel some resistance, you can try applying some oil to the bolt.
7. Store the Garden Shears Properly
Proper lubrication can protect your garden shears from moisture and rust. However, it’s still necessary to store your garden tools properly to protect them from the elements. For instance, even a well-lubricated garden tool can become susceptible to rust when left out under the burning sun or heavy rain.
You can place your garden shears in your shed or garage, where they won’t be exposed to harsh environmental conditions.
If you would like to explore your options for keeping your garden tools from rusting, check out my article: How to Keep Your Garden Tools from Rusting
Garden shears need occasional lubrication to keep the moving parts working smoothly and to protect the blades from rust. However, you must clean the tools carefully and remove the rust before applying a lubricant for optimum protection.
You don’t have to lubricate your garden shears immediately after use. Doing it once a month should be enough. However, you must clean the tools right after use to avoid contaminating your other plants in case there are pathogens on the blade.