Whether you’re a casual gardener or a professional carpenter, sharp tools are part of the game. We all know the basic rules — always be aware of your fingers, cut away from yourself and whatever you do, don’t use your lap as a cutting board — but how can you safely clean these sharp implements when they get dirty or dull? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you clean your sharp tools safely and efficiently.
What Tools Tend to Get Dirty?
Any of your tools can get dirty, greasy, grimy and gross if you don’t clean them on a regular basis. The ones that are the worst offenders can include:
- Automotive Tools: There’s nothing worse than getting car grease on everything you touch. Punches, screwdrivers, blades and other sharp tools can become dangerous if they’re too greasy for you to grip correctly.
- Garden Tools: You’re bound to get a little dirty digging around in the garden, and there are plenty of sharp tools — from machetes and scythes to shovels and rakes — that will require a good cleaning after a day spent gardening or landscaping.
- Woodworking Tools: These tools are inherently sharp and require regular cleaning to keep them working correctly. If you’re working with fresh wood, especially pine or other coniferous trees, your saws and other tools can get gunked up with sap before you know it.
Cleaning Sharp Automotive Tools
When you’re working under the hood, you’re going to get greasy — there’s no way around that. Even if you wear gloves to keep your hands clean, you’re going to be transferring oil and grease from your car to your tools.
Keep a good can of carburetor cleaner handy, even if the car you’re working on doesn’t have a carb. That stuff cuts through grease and grime like nobody’s business — it also works to help remove the ultra-sticky material car manufacturers use to keep the moisture barrier in place behind your door panel.
Of course, keep a good bottle of Fast Orange or other pumice soap handy to clean any skin that gets greasy.
Cleaning Sharp Gardening Tools
Most gardening tools, especially the sharp ones, are made of unfinished metal, so it’s important to keep them both clean and dry to prevent corrosion. For larger tools, or those designed to work with soil and other materials, cleaning them off often doesn’t take more effort than rinsing them off with your garden hose.
You can clean off sticky materials like sap and plant materials with a solvent like rubbing alcohol or bleach — but make sure you rinse and dry the tools carefully once you’re done. Coat instruments you are going to store for the fall or winter season with a thin layer of oil before you put them away. This protects them from corrosion while they’re not in use.
Take the time to sharpen your tools, as well. Sharp instruments work more efficiently and don’t require as much effort, so there’s less chance of injury while you’re using them.
Cleaning Sharp Woodworking Tools
Woodworking tools are inherently sharp, simply because of the density of the material they are designed to manipulate. Cleaning these tools requires extra care to ensure you’re not injured.
Start by using compressed air to blow sawdust and wood particles away from the components. Not only does this help by making your area a little cleaner, but it also prevents the dust from hiding any sharp edges that could harm you during the cleaning process.
For saws with removable blades, take the time to remove them before you start cleaning the main body of the saw. You will need to clean the blades separately anyway, but this makes the whole process a little safer. The blades themselves you can clean with a mixture of Simple Green or other citrus-based cleaner and water. Let the blades soak for a few minutes, then scrub them off with a toothbrush before you rinse and reinstall them.
You can clean the body of the equipment with a damp cloth in most cases. Use a little bit of Simple Green or your favorite cleanser on a towel for particularly sticky or difficult-to-remove grime.
Once all the parts are clean, reassemble your saw, and you’re good to go, ready for another round of woodworking.
The Importance of Cleaning Sharp Tools
You need to clean sharp tools just as much as their dull counterparts — the only difference is that you need to be more careful in your handling of these tools to keep you safe, both during use and cleaning.
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington