How to Remove Rust From Garden Tools

The proper tools make any job easier. Gardening is no exception. When you have the proper tools at your disposal, gardening tasks become easier and the overall results of your work improve. Taking care of those tools requires regular maintenance and protection from the effects of the weather. Hand tools like hoes, rakes and cultivators often rust when exposed to moisture for a prolonged period. It is common to discover rusty tools in the spring, particularly if they have been left outside or were not cleaned properly before storing. Fortunately, removing rust from garden tools is relatively easy.

Things You'll Need

  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • Wire brush
  • Drill with wire attachment
  • 1 quart motor oil
  • 2 cups kerosene
  • Soft cloth
  • Spray bottle (optional)


    • 1

      Remove a coat of light rust by hand sanding with 80-grit sandpaper. Scrub until all visible signs of rust are removed. Be sure to get into cracks or crevices and around the edges. Garden forks or hand-tiller claws may pose difficulty. Fold a piece of sand paper with the rough side exposed and slide it between the tines. Grasp the edges and pull the sandpaper back and forth against the edge of the metal to remove rust between tines.

    • 2

      Use a stiff wire brush to remove heavier coats of rust. Use a brisk motion covering all affected areas. Small brushes may be needed to remove rust from hidden or areas that are difficult to reach. Wipe the residue with a dry cloth and repeat as necessary to remove all signs of rust. Finish with a light sanding.

    • 3

      Get out the drill and wire-brush attachment for heavily rusted and pitted surfaces. Hand sanding or using a wire brush by hand cannot remove this heavy layer of rust. Work the entire surface until all signs of rust are removed and the surface is smooth. Finish with a wire brush or sandpaper if necessary.

    • 4

      Coat garden tools with a solution of motor oil and kerosene to stop rust from oxidizing and to prevent further damage to the tool. Mix 1 qt. of nondetergent motor oil with 2 cups of kerosene. Apply a thin coat of this solution to the entire surface of the tool. Work the oil into crevices and hard-to-reach areas by saturating the cloth and applying directly to the area. Use a spray bottle to apply oil, if preferred. Wipe away excess oil.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clean tools after use by washing away soil; dry thoroughly.
  • Always store oil and kerosene out of the reach of children in a clearly labeled container.
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