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Preparing Your Tools for the Harsh Winter

Winter is a cold, harsh reminder that the earth secretly wants to kill all humans and ruin everything we hold dear, including our garden tools. If we want our equipment to survive the season, we need to winterize it. Here’s how you can prepare your hand tools, your motorized tools, and everything else, for the frigid future.

Hand Tools

This covers things like what you see in the header image: shovels, hoes, rakes, etc. Manual tools of all kinds, really. Start by cleaning them. Remove and dust and dirt with a wet towel or spray them off. Then dry them with an old towel.

Then remove the rust from them. Rust, the result of moisture on metal, will degrade your tools faster than anything else. Using sandpaper (or a stiff brush for worse rust situations) to remove the rust. Wear a face mask and glasses if you can help it, rust particles are horrible for the human body. You can also apply oil to tools to slow the rusting process. It’s common to use motor oil, rubbed on with a rag, but there are specialty oils you can use that cost more, but work better at preventing rust.

Some tools may need to be sharpened. Things like shovels and hoes need a sharp edge to do their job effectively. Clamp down the tool in question, and run a mill file against the edge outward. Continue to file the tool IN ONE DIRECTION until desired sharpness is attained.

Finally, store them in a dry location.

Motor Tools

Things with a motor, like lawn mowers and weed whackers, will require a bit more effort. Drain any oil stored in them before storing away for the winter. If you want, you can save the oil for Spring. You’ll also want to drain the gasoline tank and replace the fuel filter. Though the filter can be saved for until Spring comes.

Check for worn parts. This includes wobbly connections, missing bolts, and so on. Replace them as needed. Check connection zones, like the spark plugs, for build up and clean as needed.


There are some special cases worth mentioning. They’re not quite worth paragraphs be deserve to be mentioned.

  • Drain any water out of garden hoses
  • Wash gloves and other protective garments
  • Barrels and Wheelbarrows should be checked and cleaned of rust
  • Check for flat tires on whatever wheeled contraptions you own
  • Check on your stored tools every so often
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