Garden tools will last longer if we take good care of them, but it can be a real bother to do so. A simple trick will make it much easier for you to keep your shovels, hoes, trowels, etc. clean and protected.
There is no simple way to avoid washing the mud and caked clay off your tools. It takes only a minute with a garden hose to get the mess off your tools.
Oil and Sand
No, the subject is not the Middle East, but oil and sand can make your cleanup easier! Simply fill a bucket 2/3 full of clean sand and add a little oil (Figure 1). Used engine oil drained from your car is fine; it doesn’t have to be new, clean oil. A few quarts is enough. The point is to have a little oil in the sand, not a little sand in the oil. If you can see liquid oil on top of the sand, you have way too much oil.
Now, simply plunge the washed tool into the bucket a few times. Any remaining dirt will be sanded off, and the tool will be oiled. If you haven’t overdone the quantity of oil, the tool will have a film of oil, but not enough to drip and make a mess. The tool is now ready to hang up and store. It will be clean and rust-free when you next need it.
Remember the key here is not to overdo the oil! Like the old hair tonic commercial, "a little dab will do you."
This oil and sand treatment is not recommended for knives, pruning shears, etc., because the sand will dull the cutting edge.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture