Keep Your Tools Clean

Most tools have metal parts, making them subject to oxidation that weakens them. Wooden parts, too, can suffer an early demise if the coating is worn off by neglect. Keeping lawn and garden tools including gloves clean maximizes their lifetime and usefulness.

For neoprene gloves, the solution is simple. Just leave them on and rinse under a hose or faucet. Soap and water will do a fine job and not harm the glove. Cotton gloves, too, don't object to a little detergent. Tossing them into the washing machine might be overkill, but rinsing with water and a little liquid detergent works fine.

Leather gloves will need a little extra care, but the reward is a pair that will remain softer, tougher and last for years. Saddle soap or commercial leather cleaner is best. Working outside, they may get wet but try to minimize it. Leather, once it's off the cow, pig or deer and onto your hands will harden and eventually crack if excessively wet.

Keeping tools clean is equally important. Dirt and moisture encourage oxidation. Most tools are made of an alloy that contains iron that rusts. Keeping them clean and dry is the first step to preventing that.

Go the extra mile and don't stop at just wiping off the outer portion of the blades or tines. Get down into the vertex, the crevices and other parts. Washing with soap and water is fine, provided you dry them well. Don't allow them to just air dry, since that starts the rusting process. Even when the surface is dry, once rust begins, oxidation can penetrate under the surface, weakening the tool.

Rub down any oxidation that's formed with steel wool and then remove any residue with a soft, dry cloth. Apply light sewing machine oil or paste wax to shears, hedge clippers and other tools.

The area around where a handle meets a retaining sleeve is important. Any tiny opening will admit moisture, potentially rusting the interior of the sleeve and rotting a wooden handle. A small amount of paste wax applied after cleaning will seal that off from air and moisture. Be sure to let the tool dry well, first, though. You don't want to lock in any moisture that seeped in during cleaning.

Modern cleansers, such as Fantastic, Simple Green and the like are okay in a pinch but they tend to leave residues that are difficult to remove. Over time the compounds in these commercial chemicals can harm wood and metal. They're designed primarily for use on tile, plastic, fiberglass and other modern kitchen and bath materials. Also, since tools tend to be cleaned outside, they're often not very kind to patio brick or grass.

A chemical specifically designed for cleaning tools is preferable. -the Ultimate Garden Center


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