Whether you’re using a pole saw or hedge shears, cleaning and sterilizing your tools are necessary parts of springtime pruning. Buildup of plant matter can gum up the cutting mechanism, reducing the tool’s effectiveness, and wet dirt, tree sap, and other sources of moisture can rust the blades.

In addition to improving the lifespan of your tools, cleaning helps prevent diseases from being transferred to healthy plants. Soap and water may be enough to scrub gunk off the blades, but to kill pathogens, your tools also need to be disinfected

When to Clean Your Pruning Tools

Clean your pruning tools after every use to prevent residue from building up and make the maintenance more manageable. If you’re trimming a plant that is diseased, your tools should be sterilized before moving to the next plant or a healthy limb on the same plant. However, because mold and disease aren’t always obvious, cleaning your tools anytime you switch to a different plant is the best way to prevent spreading infection.

How to Clean Your Pruning Tools

Wash your tools with warm soapy water. If there is soil or sap on the blades, you can soak them to soften the buildup, then scrub it off with a stiff brush. For rust, the blades should be soaked in a half-vinegar-half-water solution, then scrubbed with steel wool.

Some garden stores sell disinfectant wipes specifically for cleaning pruning tools, but you likely have a disinfectant around your house that works as well:

Bleach should be mixed—one part bleach to nine parts water—and tools should be soaked for half an hour; however, bleach will eventually corrode the metal blades.

Some household cleaners like Lysol or Pine Sol can also be used to sterilize pruning tools by diluting them with water. Keep in mind the effect these cleaners have on destroying plant pathogens has not been extensively researched.

70-100% isopropyl alcohol is the top choice most gardeners trust to destroy diseases. It doesn’t need to be mixed with any water, either—just wipe, dip, or spray your tools.

After cleaning and disinfecting, make sure your tools are dry before storing them somewhere that’s free of moisture.

Too busy to handle pruning this spring? Rest easy—the pros at Land Concepts are ready to help.