Winter weather can be damaging to your hand and power garden tools, even if you're not using them. Winter usually brings rainy -- as well as snowy -- weather, and moisture tends to condense in cold weather and collect on tool blades and inside gas tanks. To ensure your clippers, saws and shovels are rust-free, and your power tools start up when you need them in the spring, you should prepare your tools properly before storing them.
Clean metal blades. Any rust or other residue you leave on your pruning, digging and weeding tools will only get worse during the winter, so give them a good cleaning. If you can, disassemble your clippers or trimmers by removing the central nut with a wrench, then remove dirt and rust with water and a wire brush. Dry the blades with a rag, and then wipe them down with an alcohol-soaked rag to dissolve resins and disinfect them.
If your clippers are severely rusted, soak them for several hours in strong black tea to help dissolve the rust before you clean them.
Sharpen the blades. Use a coarse file to remove chips or dents on the ends of shovels and hoes, and then use a sharpening stone to hone them. Follow the same procedure with your pruning tools, although you probably won't need the coarse file. Hold the stone on the bevel of the edge of a cutting tool, and draw the stone along the blade away from you.
Wear protective gloves when sharpening blades -- even shovel blades. They may not look sharp, but they can easily cut you.
Oil the blades. Wipe all blades, including those on pruning tools, shovels and hoes, with a rag soaked with motor oil or mineral oil. This will keep the tools rust-free throughout the winter. Lubricate joints of cutting tools with spray lubricant or penetrating oil.
Protect wooden handles. Wipe resins and grime from wooden handles with alcohol. Then give the handles a protective coat of double-boiled linseed oil. If a handle is heavily used, sand off splinters and dried wood with 120-grit sandpaper before oiling.
Service metal blades. The metal blades on your lawnmower, tiller or hedge cutter need the same care as those on your hand tools. Be sure to disable the engine by removing the spark plug or the battery before you remove the blades -- if possible -- and clean, sharpen and oil them.
Disconnect the batteries. If your lawnmower is battery-powered, remove the battery and store it in a dry place. If you have a riding mower, disconnect the battery cables -- starting with the negative one -- and clean the battery terminals with a wire brush and battery terminal cleaner.
Add fuel stabilizer. Use fuel stabilizer if you store your gasoline-powered trimmer, chain saw or lawnmower with fuel in the tank. To properly protect the engine, add stabilizer to a full tank and run the engine for a few minutes to circulate the stabilizer through the carburetor. Turn off the engine, and top off the fuel.
If you don't want to use fuel stabilizer, run the engine until it runs out of fuel, and store the tool with an empty tank.
Store your power tools in a dry place. A heated space is best, but at a minimum, the roof shouldn't leak and the door should close securely.