Picture the first day of spring. It’s finally warm enough to work on your yard but when you open the door to your shed and you see it: Dirt. Rust. Grass clippings. You forgot to clean them before winter hit!
Don’t worry, because we can help you get your spring yard care tools back into tip-top shape so you can enjoy a long summer of green.
How to Clean Your Yard Tools
Sticky sap, rust, and harmful residue can all do a number on your tools—and in turn, your lawn and garden. Here’s how to get the tools cleaned up for efficient spring yard care.
Soak the affected metal in vinegar for about 20-30 minutes and scrub the rust off with a soft brush. If it’s still not coming off you can buy chemical rust removal products, and then use a spray-on rust guard to avoid rusting in the future. Just be sure to follow manufacturer instructions, as these chemicals can be harsh.
Sap and Plant Goo
Sticky stuff will come off pretty easily with some turpentine or kerosene. For a gentler option, try an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
For any tools or flowerpots that might have fertilizer or diseased plant residue, create a 10% bleach solution and soak them up to 30 minutes, then rinse well with water. This will also help get off any tough stains.
Finally, for tools that need some extra polishing, fill a 5-gallon bucket or pot with builders sand and pour a quart of linseed oil over it. Plunge the tool in a few times to get it oiled up. Leaving them in the sand is also a great way to store your tools long-term.
You might see some websites suggest this setup using motor oil, but remember that the oil on your tools will end up in your soil. Stick with linseed, which is much more environmentally friendly and is also great to keep wooden handles from splitting in dry weather.
How to Sharpen Your Garden Tools
Are your shears not working as well as they used to? You can take your tools to a professional for sharpening, or you can do a decent job yourself with just a few additions to your lawn care arsenal. Using a 10” flat mill file, follow the angle of the blade’s bevel and grind toward the sharp edge, always in the same direction. For items that need a finer edge, such as smaller clippers, follow up with a whetstone to polish it off.
How to Clean Your Garden Sprayer
The sprayer you use for pesticides and weed killer should get a refresh before you fill it with anything else. To clean it, first identify the last chemical you used and check the container it came in to see if it has any special cleaning instructions. If you’re not sure what the chemical was, a general cleaning technique many people use is an ammonia soak. Here’s how to do it:
- Rinse out remaining residue with water and pump the water through the nozzle at least 10 times. Make sure you’re far from other people and your plants!
- Create a solution with 3 gallons of water and 1 cup of ammonia. Fill the reservoir and spray the ammonia through the nozzle a few times.
- Remove the nozzle and submerge it completely in the solution. Let the two pieces soak for 18-24 hours.
- Run the solution through the sprayer.
- Complete a final rinse-and-spray with water. Your sprayer is now ready for action.
Make sure that you dispose of all old or unknown chemicals safely. Pouring them down the drain is illegal as it can contaminate the water! Instead, contact your local household hazardous waste disposal center and they’ll give you instructions on proper disposal.
How to Tune Up the Lawn Mower
Like your car, a lawn mower requires regular upkeep to run at optimum performance. Here’s how to do a tune-up at home:
- Change the gasoline. Gasoline that’s been sitting all winter is a common cause for lawn mowers that won’t start.
- Clean the undercarriage. Make sure to disconnect the spark plug first, and work the gunk off with a wire brush or putty knife
- Check the air filter. Foam filters can be cleaned, and paper filters can be replaced for a low cost. Do this each year to keep the strain off the motor.
- Change the oil. If you see any debris inside, or if the oil is looking dark, it’s time for a change. Check your owner’s manual for directions.
- Replace the spark plug. The spark plug not only helps your lawn mower start quickly, it keeps it running efficiently all season. It takes just a few minutes once you have the parts on hand, and you can get step-by-step instructions here.
- Sharpen the blade. You can try this on your own using that same file for your garden tools, but it can be tricky. A mower repair shop will usually do this for free with a full tune-up, or else for a small fee.
- Lubricate the wheel bearings. All those moving parts will do their job so much nicer with a bit of oil. Make sure to wipe off the excess so it doesn’t trap dirt.
We find it’s easiest to do the heavy cleaning in the fall and leave the light touch-ups for your spring yard care prep routine. Keep this information on hand for when autumn rolls around! After all, if you take care of your yard care tools, they’ll take care of you.