How to Care for Your Most Important Yard Tools
Take care of your tools, and they’ll take care of you. That’s solid advice if you consider that well-maintained tools may make outdoor tasks easier (just try slicing through tough sod with a dull shovel). By properly maintaining your yard tools, you may be able to use them for years. Follow these basic tips for caring for your yard tools and making the most of your lawn and garden essentials.
A push or “walk-behind” lawn mower needs some upkeep to help it perform its best. It’s a good idea to give your mower a once over before starting it for the first time each spring, says BobVila.com. Tighten nuts or bolts that may have loosened, and check belts, filters, guards and spark plugs to see if anything needs to be repaired or replaced. The DIY Network recommends checking that the tires, wheels and axles are moving smoothly and that the starter cord (if your mower has one) is not frayed. You’ll also want to check the oil before each use of the mower and change it if needed.
BobVila.com also says to examine the blade for corrosion and to see if it needs to be sharpened by a professional. A sharp blade will cut more cleanly and may improve fuel efficiency on gas-powered mowers. Also, wash your mower off after each use. Remove grass clippings from the top of the mower, says the DIY Network. To clean the undercarriage, BobVila.com recommends turning the mower on its side and using a hose to rinse the grass off.
Check the owner’s manual for maintenance and cleaning instructions for your specific mower. If you’re not comfortable handling these tasks yourself, contact a professional for help.
String trimmers are great for trimming grass in spots where the mower can’t go. Electric trimmers typically just need periodic checks to make sure handles and bolts are secure, according to Consumer Reports, while gas models may require a little more upkeep. In the spring, replace the cutting line and, on gas-powered trimmers, put in a new spark plug. Consumer Reports also recommends replacing the debris shield if it is cracked.
After use, clean off grass and other debris, says This Old House. Check the fuel before putting away a gas-powered trimmer, and then store it upright. For electric trimmers, put the battery on the charger or unplug and coil the cord neatly, depending on your model, says This Old House.
Cutting and Digging Tools
You can go a long way toward maintaining cutting and digging tools just by keeping them clean. Hose down shovels, spades and other tools after each use, and soak them if the dirt is really caked on, says the DIY Network. Pruners and other cutting tools can be cleaned with a dry rag. To help prevent rust, wipe the metal on your yard tools with lubricating oil. This will also help to clean sap off of cutting tools.
It’s also a good idea to occasionally apply lubricating oil on to any joints on the tools, as this will help them continue to open and close smoothly, according to the DIY Network. To help preserve the springs, store pruning tools with the handles open.
If you notice splinters or small cracks in a wood handle over time, sand it evenly until it is smooth, says HGTV. Then apply boiled linseed oil each year to help keep the wood in good condition. Let the oil absorb and wipe away any residue before using the tool again.
You can sharpen dull edges on tools with a straight file, grinder or sharpening stone, says the DIY Network. HGTV recommends pushing the blade away from your body as you file — do not pull it backwards towards you. Always take proper safety precautions when working with sharp tools and blades. If you’re uncomfortable sharpening the tools yourself, contact a professional sharpening service for help.
Keeping kinks out of hoses can feel like a summertime sport. A tangled hose doesn’t just make it trickier to water your plants, says The Nest — those kinks may wear out the hose. According to This Old House, kinks tend to show up in lesser-quality hoses or when a hose has been left in the sun too long. To help prevent kinks, the DIY Network recommends coiling it after each use — you can use a hose reel or just wrap it neatly by hand. Do not store the hose on the ground, however, as The Nest says this can lead to fungus and, eventually, a rotting hose.
Properly maintained tools can be essential to having a nice-looking yard and garden. Tending to them carefully may keep them working well and a part of your yard care routine for years to come.
Originally published on August 1, 2014.