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How to Sterilize Pruning Shears

Pruning shears are used to make cuts on twigs and branches that are up to 1/2 inch in diameter. There are two types of shears--those that are like scissors and those that make anvil cuts. When pruning shears cut into tree bark, they hit very sensitive tissue. That wound can become infected easily because some trees don't regrow tissue. Sterilizing pruning shears is essential because the tools can easily spread disease among branches or plants, causing widespread problems in your garden.

Rubbing Alcohol

Buy rubbing alcohol from a drugstore or big box store. It has the necessary characteristics to disinfect pruning shears.

Pour 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol into a bowl or shallow dish. It must be enough to cover the pruning shears.

Open up the pruners as wide as they will go. Dip them in the rubbing alcohol for one to two minutes.

Pull the shears out of the solution and rinse them with water. Dry with a towel, making sure to remove any remaining sap or wood particles.

Bleach Solution

Buy bottled bleach. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the harsh chemical.

Create a 10 percent bleach solution by diluting bottled bleach with water. Pour one part bleach and nine parts water into a bowl large enough to fit the shears.

Open the pruning shears or take them apart, if they come apart easily. Soak the shears in the bleach solution for one to two minutes.

Remove the shears, taking care not to drip bleach on your clothing or other fabric, because it will take the color out of it.

Rinse the shears under tepid water until there is no bleach remaining. Clean the blades with soap and water because bleach corrodes metal.

Apply penetrating oil spray or machine oil, purchased at a hardware store. This will further protect the metal from corrosion. Follow the instructions on the label.


Buy hand sanitizer gel from a grocery store or big box store. It's usually in a pump form, with clear gel inside.

Squirt a dot of the gel onto a cloth rag. Open the pruning shears as wide as they go or take them apart if possible.

Spread the hand sanitizer onto the cutting surface of the pruning tool. Cover every part of the blades. Keep the gel in place for 20 seconds.

Use a clean cloth to wipe off the gel. At the same time, take off wood particles or sap that remain from the most recent tree pruning.

Dampen the cloth rag and wipe it along the blades. Make sure there is no hand sanitizer gel remaining. Dry thoroughly with clean, dry cloth.


Sterilize pruning shears before and after pruning a diseased plant.

Clean shears after each use to ensure they are sterilized for the next time.


Be careful when handling sharp pruning shears.

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