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How to Clean and Sharpen Your Garden Shears

Someone trimming a tomato plant with a pair of garden shares.

A good pair of shears is a must-have for gardeners. Like any other tool, though, they get dirty and dull over time. Here’s how you can keep your garden shears clean and sharp for as long as possible.

If your garden shears are filthy, not only will it be harder for them to do their job, but the residue can also harm your plants. However, with a few common cleaning products and tips, your favorite shears will help you keep your garden looking gorgeous for years to come.

How Often Should You Clean Your Garden Shears?

Generally, there are two types of cleaning you should do on your garden shears: seasonal and use-based. Both are important to keep your shears working effectively and your plants healthy.

Because your shears get dirty every time you use them, it’s best to give them a quick cleaning after each use. Because they cut all sorts of plants, shears can quickly become coated with pollen, sap, and other substances.

Not only will this gunky buildup reduce the effectiveness of your shears, but it’ll also allow diseased bits of one plant to transfer to another. Cleaning and sanitizing your shears after each use will reduce this risk.

Additionally, try to set aside some time every season (or every 3-6 months, depending on your garden) to deep clean and sharpen your shears. This will remove any remaining buildup not only from the blades, but also from within the little nooks and crannies in the tool.

How to Clean Your Garden Shears

A bottle of Swan 70% isopropyl alcohol on a shelf next to jars of cotton balls.
Colleen Michaels/Shutterstock.com

Cleaning your shears after regular use is pretty simple. Usually, just wiping them down with a cotton pad soaked in rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide will do the trick. Just be sure to dry them completely to prevent rust from forming.

If you’ve been using your shears on plants with a lot of sap, you might need something stronger to get the gunk off the blades. If that’s the case, try the following approach:

  1. Dip a rag in mineral spirits and wipe down the blades on your garden shears until all the sap is removed.
  2. Wash your shears in warm, soapy water, and then rinse them thoroughly.
  3. Dry them completely to prevent rust from forming.

Gamblin Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits

Cuts through sticky buildup without damaging your shears.

When it’s time to do your seasonal cleaning, that process takes a bit longer, but it’s still pretty straightforward—follow these steps:

  1. Unscrew the central screw that holds the two pieces of your garden shears together.
  2. Wash each part in warm, soapy water, and then rinse with clean water.
  3. Wipe each piece down with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
  4. Wipe dry, and then also allow the pieces to air-dry completely.
  5. Sharpen the blades, if needed (see the next section).
  6. Rub the pieces with mineral or linseed oil.
  7. Reassemble your shears.

Winsor & Newton Refined Linseed Oil

Helps preserve the blades on your garden shears.

How to Sharpen Your Garden Shears

Two blades being sharpened against stones

You should sharpen your garden shears a few times a year, or more often if you use them a lot. Generally, you’ll know it’s time to sharpen them because they’ll stop cutting as effectively, even after they’ve been cleaned.

To sharpen garden shears, you’ll need a double-sided sharpening file. One side serves as a sharpening stone, while the other hones, polishes, and smooths out the blade.

SHARPAL Dual-Grit Sharpening File Tool

The key to keeping your shears in tip-top shape.

If you already have a sharpening file, a sharpening stone with a finer grit, like this CWINDY whetstone, will finish the process for you.

CWINDY Sharpening Stone Kit Dual Sided

Will polish and smooth a freshly-sharpened blade.

After you have your tools, just follow these steps:

  1. Push the file along the sharp, beveled edge of your shear’s blades. Only push in one direction, never back-and-forth.
  2. When the blades are sufficiently sharpened, gently smooth the edges with the sharpening stone.
  3. Lubricate the blades with a bit of linseed oil.

Keeping your garden shears clean and sharp is key to making them last as long as possible. If you follow these easy maintenance tips, those blades will always be sharp and ready to help you keep your garden looking gorgeous for years to come.

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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