How to Clean Pruning Tools


You have invested money and time into your pruning tools, trees, bushes and plants. The last thing you want is for the tools to rust or much of the garden to become diseased because the tools were not disinfected. And while keeping the tools cleaned is important, it isn't necessary to sterilize or disinfect them after each use. No sterilization method is 100 percent effective, meaning it is possible to transmit disease through clean pruning tools, but the risk can be reduced.

Step 1

Wipe down pruning tools with a cotton cloth after each use to remove any sap or gum that adheres to the blades after pruning. Dampen the cloth with water, if necessary.

Step 2

Dampen the cloth with paint thinner to remove stubborn sap and gum stains, and to remove the pitch excreted from conifers, such as pine trees.

Step 3

Sterilize tools after pruning diseased limbs and also in the fall before putting them away for the winter. Dampen a thick a cotton cloth with rubbing alcohol (70 to 99 percent concentrated), pure mouthwash or all-purpose cleaners that are up to 90 percent diluted. Wipe down the blades of the pruning tools.

Step 4

Dry the tools with a cotton cloth before storing them. Leave them open for about five minutes to air dry, especially near where the two blades meet.

Things You'll Need

  • Thick cotton cloth
  • Paint thinner
  • Rubbing alcohol, mouthwash or all-purpose cleaner


  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Pruning Basics and Tools
  • Fine Gardening: Clean, Sharp Tools Work Better
  • Iowa State University Extension: Fall Cleaning Includes Garden Tools
Keywords: clean pruning tools, clean garden tools, sterilize pruning tools

About this Author

Melissa Lewis has been a professional writer since 2005. Her work has appeared in various online publications. A former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist, Lewis is also a script writer, with a movie script, "Homecoming," she co-wrote currently in production. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.