There’s nothing worse than needing a particular garden tool only to find that it has been rendered unusable due to rust. But, before you rush out and buy another one, why not restore it? Read on to learn how to clean your rusty garden tools, leaving them as good as new.
If you’ve accidentally left anything from pruning shears to loppers and saws in the garden and forgotten about them, don’t fret! Simply place your rusty tools in a vinegar-water mixture and leave overnight. The vinegar dissolves the rust and then all you have to do is scrub the excess off with a stiff metal brush.
When the rust is gone, wash the tool in soapy water, rinse well and dry. Then, using an old cloth or towel, rub oil into any metal parts as this can help to prevent rust from coming back.
Not only a cool refreshment, but a cleaning tool, although it’s a bit scary that this works so well. Fill a plastic container large enough to hold the garden tool with enough cola to completely cover it and leave for a few hours, depending on how much rust there is. The acid in the drink will loosen rust before you start scrubbing, making your job a lot easier. If the item is too big to easily place in a container of cola, soak a cloth in the beverage instead and try to rub the rust off.
Sprinkle some salt onto the rust then add lemon juice and leave it to work its magic for two to three hours. The lemon juice dissolves the rust, while the salt acts as a gentle abrasive. After soaking, use a scrubbing brush (the rind of the lemon works great too!) in circular motions to remove any loose rust. If any areas are being stubborn, give it another round of lemon juice and salt – just be sure to first rinse and dry well.
Have an extra potato lying around? As strange as it sounds, potatoes can help get rid of rust. It turns out that potatoes contain significant amounts of oxalic acid, a compound used to remove rust. Simply cut the potato in half, cover the smooth surface with dishwashing liquid or salt, and rub against your tools. Scrub until the rust is gone, then rinse and dry the item thoroughly.
If your garden tool only has a few small spots of rust, apply a thick layer of tomato sauce and let sit overnight. The acid from the sauce eats away the rust, so the next day you should only need to rinse the residue away.
The best way to deal with rust is to prevent it in the first place. When you’re finished in the garden, place your tools in a bucket of sand with some vegetable oil to keep them free of rust. Alternatively, hang your tools up rather than letting them rest on the floor.
This article was originally published 7 Dec 2019, information updated on 1 May 2023