sharpening pruners with a file

How to Maintain Pruners For Cleaner, Better Cuts

Got dirty, blunt pruners that cause damage to your plants and is hard to use? Learn how to properly maintain pruners so that they work as they should.

Are they rusty and dirty? Is cutting anything hard to do and leaves behind a ragged cut?

Ragged, dirty cuts can cause disease in your plants and could kill them.

And a high quality pruner can be an expensive tool. So allowing it to rust away is literally losing you money.

With just a little bit of time and three steps, you can maintain your pruners so they will give you many years of service. And save your plants at the same time.

Cleaning pruners

Rust, dirt or sap on the blades will make using the pruners difficult as they will be more difficult to open and close. They will not cut well, which will not only be frustrating to you but also damage your plants.

Dirty blades can also help spread disease between your plants, which you want to avoid.

Here is what my pruners looked like before cleaning them. Looks like they missed being cleaned a few times in a row!

Dirty pruners open

First step is to rinse them off with water to remove any loose material such as soil.

Use a sanding sponge, steel wool, regular and stainless steel brushes to get rid of rust and debris that is stuck on the pruners.

cleaning tools

It helps to frequently rinse the pruners off and check your progress.

No need to get them pristine. Focus mainly on the blades. However also clean the spring and the hinge area as that will help them open and close easily. You should end up with pruners that look like this:

Clean pruner

Sharpening pruners

Now it is time to sharpen the blades.

No need for special sharpening stones or liquids. You can actually sharpen blades with a metal file, a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a block of wood or taped to a flat surface or a sanding block/sponge, which is what I prefer..

Sharpening tools

When filing or sanding the blades, keep the existing angle on the blades. If the blades are not too bad you will find you only need to take a minute or two to sharpen.

Sharpen both sides of the main blade and the side of the bypass blade that the main blade slides against. Once they are shiny all along the length you will be done.

maintain pruners

Alternatively stroke the pruner blades along the sandpaper, again at the same angle as the blade.

Sharpening pruners sanding block

Sometimes a metal burr will form on the blade. Simply pass the edge of the blade over the edge of a block of wood to remove the burr.

removing burr on wood

Rinse the blades again to remove any sanding or filing residue and dry them.

Now test the pruners out on a thin branch. You will be surprised at how the blades now cleanly slice through the branch without any tearing.

This is what you want as pruning cuts that are cleanly made lessen the chance of disease entering the branch.

Sometimes pruner blades are simply past their prime and need to be replaced. If the blades are bent or nicked severely, you may be able to buy replacement blades from the pruner manufacturer.

Or you may need to buy new pruners!

Lubricating pruners

Finally you will want to lubricate the blades, hinge and spring. Not only does this make the pruners easier to use, it will also inhibit rust and make it easier to clean dirt off.

I use something called Fluid Film (manufacturer’s link), that is a lanolin-based corrosion preventive and lubricant. The main reason I use it, especially in the garden, is that there are no solvents and it is non-toxic and non-hazardous.

It supposedly is available everywhere in the world. If you have problems buying it at your local hardware, home center or automotive center, then you can check on the manufacturer’s website for their international dealers.

You might also find other products that are environmental friendly and don’t have any toxic chemicals. Especially important if you are using the pruners to cut veggie or fruit off the plant during harvest time.

Once you have your spray, spray a light coat on the blades, hinges and spring.

Open and close the pruners at least a dozen times or so to move the lubricant around. You should feel the pruners loosen up and become easier to open and close.

lubricate pruners

Wipe off any excess lubricant with a cloth or paper towel.

And you are done. You should now have pruners that are almost like new, easy to open and close, and sharp enough to cut through the hardest branches.

Remember though not to overdo it and use loppers for cutting thick branches.

From now on every time you use the pruners, clean them with some water and a brush. Don’t be lazy and just put them in your garden shed dirty, even though that is tempting especially after a long day pruning.

And definitely don’t lose them in the garden. I once lost a pair of pruners in our compost bin and unearthed them months later – they were quite rusty and never cleaned up well enough to work well, so we had to toss them.

Remember to re-lubricate when they need it and once a year follow the three steps above again to restore your pruners to the best they can be.

You can follow the steps above for your loppers and hedge shears as well.

Also if you missed it, check out my more general article Garden Tool Maintenance: How To Take Care Of Your Investment

Now go out to your garden shed at the next opportunity and follow these steps to maintain your pruners.

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