Yard tool maintenance tips

Sarah in Illinois is back today with another post. She has some very helpful tips for taking care of our yard tools–timely as we wrap up outdoors season and prepare to tuck our tools away for winter. (Yes, I did say the “w” word.)

One thing I am trying to do more of is take better care of things around my house so that they last longer. I know that should be an obvious habit, but we seem to live in such a disposable world that it often gets overlooked. Instead of just throwing away and buying new, we should be extending the life of items we already have.

Not long ago I noticed that my wheelbarrow looked terrible. It was getting such a thick coat of rust, and it wouldn’t be long before it rusted right through.

Rusty wheelbarrow

Flakes of rust in the bottom of the wheelbarrow

The first thing I did was to remove as much rust as I could. This could have been done by hand with a wire brush, but I had this handy attachment for my drill, so I tried it out. It worked like a charm!

Drill attachment for removing rust

After I had all of the loose rust removed, I sprayed it off with the hose and let it thoroughly dry in the sun. And I was correct; I already had two pin holes in the metal.

The next thing I did was to try to prevent any further rust.

I used a rust treatment that we sell at work, but I am sure is available at any home improvement store. I made one mistake though. I did not read all of the directions.

I knew from selling the product that when it reacted with the rust it was supposed to turn black. I waited an hour with it sitting in the sun, and it never turned black. I went on with the next step of painting with spray paint in a color close to the original. And it really does look great.

The mistake I found later was that the can clearly says to wait 24 hours to paint. During those 24 hours, it turns black.

In the long run, I don’t know that I will have any issue with not following the directions completely. Since it is just a wheelbarrow, I am not too worried, but in the future I will be better prepared.

I also put a coat of deck sealant on the handles. We had some sitting around, and it took me just minutes to do. It will help protect the handles from rot.

Green painted wheelbarrow

I also decided to do something similar to our garden tools. I started by spraying them off with the hose and using a nylon brush to remove any caked on dirt, and then let them dry. I used the same method as I did with the wheelbarrow to remove the rust.

Garden tools before cleaning and sharpening

Using a hoe in the garden is not my favorite chore but I have learned that having a sharp edge makes it so much easier. My dad is very skilled at putting a sharp edge on with a hand file, but when I need to do it myself I use our electric grinder and this grinding wheel.

Sharpening a hoe with a hand grinder

Just a couple of passes and it is sharp as a razor blade!

Sharp hoe

I didn’t see the need for rust treatment or paint for the tools, so I just finished by spraying a light coat of WD40. Any type of oil based spray would have worked. I have even heard of using motor oil. The goal is to coat the bare metal to keep it from moisture.

Oiling and sharpening garden tools

It took me just a couple hours one afternoon to finish the wheelbarrow and only about 30 minutes to prepare the tools. Hopefully in that short time I have considerably lengthened the life of my garden tools.

Thanks so much for the helpful tips, Sarah. The transformation of that wheelbarrow is amazing! And I love that it’s already dirty and in use. My fingers are crossed that the finish lasts for you.

How do you put your tools away for winter? Any tips for dealing with rust? Have you ever painted a wheelbarrow?

Linking up to Think and Make Thursday at the Heathered Nest.

4 thoughts on “Yard tool maintenance tips

  1. I am impressed as heck by that wheelbarrow. It looks brand new! I’m pretty terrible at taking care of our tools. What I’d like to know is how to recondition the wooden handles? They are so dry and shredded that they’re murder on the hands. Any ideas?

    • I know! Isn’t it amazing?

      My 2 cents is if the handles are too far gone, I’m not sure there’s much you can do to get them back. Sanding them a bit to get rid of the rough spots is about the best option. I’d start even coarser than Sarah suggests and work my way up to the finer grit.

      I do think you can buy the handles separately and reinstall them, although I’m not sure where and I’m not sure how involved that would be.

  2. Thanks Jan! The best part of the new finish on the wheelbarrow is that when I use it now, I can spray it off with the hose and it cleans up quickly!

    As for your wooden handles, I am by no means an expert, but I think I would try some sandpaper to smooth down the handles. I would probably start with about 180 grit and then finish with 320 or finer. This won’t make it completely smooth, but I think it would make it more comfortable for your hands. Then I would coat it with some polyurethane to prevent it from getting worse. And I try to always remember to wear garden gloves! 😉

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