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Sharpen and clean pruning shears – Keep your garden tool ready for use with these tips & tricks

When it comes to maintenance and care of garden tools, it would be useful to learn how to sharpen secateurs. Thus, your garden tool will last for years and easily serve its purpose without dulling its blades. In fact, sharper tools allow cuts to heal better when pruning. In addition, dull garden shears could crush or tear plant tissue, increasing the likelihood of infection from pathogens. So to keep your hand pruners in tip-top shape despite the abuse, keep them clean, sharp and lubricated. Fortunately, this can be an easy task if you follow a few simple steps.

Before you sharpen your pruning shears

sharpening the blade of garden shears with a sharpening stone whetstone

At least once a year, at the end or beginning of the gardening season , you should clean and sharpen all your garden tools. You’ll probably need garden shears that get particularly heavy use more often. Accordingly, you’ll notice a big difference when you use your sharpened tools. So get in the habit of wiping your shears down with a cloth dampened with lubricating oil after each use. This will prevent rust and make regular sharpening much easier. Some pruning shears are structured in such a way that you need to take them apart to clean and sharpen the individual parts. Other one-piece tools can be sharpened as is. This can be a bit of a hassle, but it can still be done.

sharpen and clean worn garden shears with suitable accessories for gardening tools

So how should you sharpen your pruning shears to make sure you get the cutting job done right? A whetstone, for example, will provide consistent results, although some gardeners have tried using a hand grinder to sharpen pruning shears. This can be a bad idea, however, as whetstones are too coarse to give small blades a good, sharp edge. However, a multi-purpose diamond file works quite well. You should also keep in mind that such a garden tool has sharp cutting edges. So use appropriate caution when disassembling and cleaning the parts, handling the cutting edge, and reassembling the tool. It’s also still a good idea to wear leather work gloves, as you can very easily get a nasty cut.

What you need for cleaning and sharpening

accessories needed to clean and maintain garden tools such as pruning shears or other cutting tools

Personal protective equipment is just as important as the tools you need to get the job done. You don’t need to sharpen your shears every time you use them. This depends mostly on how often you use them. If you notice that your garden tool is not cutting as well, it may be time to sharpen it. On the other hand, regular cleaning is necessary to prevent the spread of disease. A good rule of thumb is to sharpen your shears at the beginning and end of the pruning season, and at least once during. To do this, you’ll need soapy water, a scrub brush, steel wool, an abrasive or sharpening stone, or flat file, medium to fine grit sandpaper, clean cloths, detergent and lubricant, rust remover (WD-40), wrenches, gloves and safety glasses.

How to sharpen and maintain pruning shears

use a sharpening stone or flat file and sharpen the garden shears


As mentioned above, a sharper blade makes cutting easier, but also makes your scissors last longer. In contrast, the accumulation of rust and dirt can make them harder to use and cause your tool to break more quickly over time. The cuts you make will also heal better if you use sharp shears, making your plants less susceptible to disease and infection. Before you start sharpening, you may need to disassemble the parts.

Disassemble the scissors into parts

sharpen disassembled garden shears and remove accumulated dirt and plant sap

After you’ve protected your hands and eyes, you can disassemble the shears (if possible). This will make it much easier to clean every inch and sharpen the blade. If possible, start disassembling the parts before sharpening your pruning shears. While some cheaper versions may be held together with a permanent rivet, most secateurs have a screw or bolt and a nut that tightens the two halves of the tool. The actual disassembly process varies by manufacturer. Remove the nut or bolt holding the two halves together and separate the two main parts. There may be several screws on the pruning shears, but you only need to worry about the one in the middle of the two blades.

put on protective gloves and sharpen both blades of garden shears with whetstone or file


Once the blades are separated, if your tool has a spring, it may slip. So it’s a good idea to work on a towel or plate to keep track of the parts. Examine each part of your tool carefully. You should purchase replacements for severely corroded or worn parts. For example, it’s common for the spring coil to rust or wear out, and it’s usually easy to buy replacements at your local garden center or online retailer. Small nicks in the cutting blade usually disappear during the sharpening process, but if the blade has large nicks or breaks, you will likely need to purchase a new blade.

Remove dirt from pruning shears by scrubbing them down.

clean garden tools in soapy water and use them for a longer period of time

Use soapy water and a small, stiff scrub brush or just an old toothbrush to remove dirt from all parts. Pay special attention to the corners where dirt can get caught. When the parts look clean, rinse them in water and then wipe them dry with a clean, dry cloth.

use sandpaper or steel wool on the blade of a pair of shears

Such loppers or hand pruners often become encrusted with plant sap and other gummy residue over time. Use steel wool or sandpaper to grind this gummy material off the parts. Focus especially on the cutting edge of the tool.

take an old scrubbing brush and remove stubborn dirt from garden shears

In any case, make sure your garden tool is clean of dirt and plant sap before proceeding with sharpening. A drop of cleaning solution or penetrating oil can sometimes help loosen this stuck residue.

spray garden tools such as garden shears with wd 40 or rust solvent and care for them

If the blade is rusty, use coarse steel wool to remove the rust. You can also spray this with WD-40, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then remove the stuff with a cloth. Again, use steel wool to remove the rust.

Sharpen the blades of pruning shears

simple method for sharpening the blades of garden shears with a sharpening stone

Sharpening is the most important step that intimidates some people, but even a less than perfect sharpening is better than none at all. First, take your file or sharpening stone and place it on the beveled side almost parallel to the blade. File in one direction around the curved edge of the blade, applying pressure to the outer edge. Lift and repeat this step. Do not go back and forth as this can ruin the whole thing. Continue to drag file or sharpening stone along the beveled edge of the blade. Apply even pressure from the base to the tip of the blade, making sure to file in one direction. The bevel will become shinier as it is sharpened.

use a wrench and reassemble a previously disassembled pair of garden shears

Do not over-sharpen the tool, as it is not necessary for the blade to be razor sharp to be effective. Bypass garden shears usually do not require sharpening of the lower, non-beveled blade unless it has nicks or furrows that need to be smoothed. If your edge needs to be sharpened heavily, a drop of lubricating oil on the grindstone can help maintain the desired sharpness without overheating the metal. Then use a fine piece of sandpaper to remove any burrs. Then you can reassemble the blades with if needed with the wrench. To determine if they are sharp enough, test the pruning shears on a piece of paper. If they make a clean cut, they’re good to go.

Here’s how to keep your garden tools sharp and clean longer

tips and tricks for maintenance and care of garden tools for hobby gardeners

After you’ve freshly cleaned and sharpened your shears, there are a few instructions you should follow to keep them that way longer. Proper care will help you get the most out of your pruning shears when cutting your crops.

  • Keep the shears clean and remove dirt and debris immediately after use.
  • Apply an all-purpose oil as a lubricant to the blades before putting the tool away.
  • Wipe off any excess oil with a clean rag. This will help prevent your pruning shears from rusting.
  • Store pruning shears in a cool, dry place, such as a garden shed.

So, taking care of your garden tools is also part of garden maintenance. As you have already experienced, you can sharpen your pruning shears and take proper care of them with little effort. However, if they are past their best-before date, you may need to replace them. Remember that new garden shears are not always sharpened and you may need to follow these steps to prepare them for cutting.