Clean and store your tools properly by wiping away dust and grime, greasing with machine oil, and making sure each tool is completely dry before storing them in their individual plastic cases or a storage solution of your own. The way you clean and store your tools is important to maintain them for long-term use.

What is tool maintenance?

Tool maintenance is the act of preserving the quality of your tools by cleaning and storing them properly. Tool maintenance includes cleaning, treating, and storing in such a way that keeps your tools protected from moisture and dust, while still being easily accessible. Proper tool maintenance will vary between hand tools, garden tools, and power tools, so it’s not a bad idea to keep a cheat sheet nearby until you’ve got the hang of it. Although tool maintenance does require a bit of your time, it can extend the lifespan of your tools and save you loads of money in the future.

How do I maintain tools?

As previously mentioned, tool maintenance will depend on the type of tool you’re caring for, but there is one rule that applies across the board: proper storage is essential for keeping your tools in great condition.

Your tools should be neatly stored in a clean, dry place. It’s important that you keep your cords separate and neatly coiled to prevent tangling and damage to the electrical workings of the tool—which can result in injury. If you can’t help but store your tools in a humid area, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier to help keep the place dry.

Maintain the functionality of your tools by regularly sharpening your blades, lubricating moving components with machine oil, and replacing any chipped or broken parts. To prevent rust, dry your tools thoroughly before returning them to their cases and make sure to store them in a dry place.

Remember before you begin, make sure your power tools are unplugged so you don’t sustain any injuries in the process.

Clear the dust

Almost all power tools accumulate quite a bit of dust, clogging up motors and dulling blades. You can use a damp rag to remove dust from the outside of your tools, but you’ll need a vacuum to remove dirt and dust from the crevices.

Sharpen your blades

Some blades may have chips, indicating they need to be replaced, but most will just need some minor tuning.

Get rid of rust

This is a relatively simple task if you have a bit of de-greaser and steel wool on hand.

Grease them down

Keeping your tools lubricated is crucial for their long-term survival, so make sure you have some machine oil to use on the moving or spinning parts.

Wipe down the exterior

This is something you should do every time you bust out your tools, but a deep clean certainly merits an extra wipe-down. Using a damp cloth, gently scrub the exterior of your tools, being careful to dry them thoroughly after you’re done. Never, ever totally submerge power tools – it can damage the motor and electrical wiring.

Check the power cord

After you’ve cleaned and dried your tools, wipe down the power cords with a dry rag. Check for any frays or cuts that could be dangerous during your next project. If you find one, don’t wait to replace it – that’s a good way to get seriously injured.

After your power tools are squeaky clean, plug them and turn them on. Check out how the part are moving. Does it look like you excavated all the dust? Are the removable parts moving smoothly? Does it look like any components are too chipped or worn to continue use?

While cleaning your power tools will help extend their lives significantly, maintenance might be even more important. Here’s what you can do to help extend their lives even longer:

Keep them dry

Moisture is a major culprit when it comes to power tool degeneration, so how you store them is incredibly important. To keep them safe and dry, make sure you’re storing them in wall cabinets with doors that completely close. Whatever you do, don’t keep any of your tools on the the floor – that’s where most moisture lies.

Stash them in their cases

Power tools are purchased in plastic cases for a reason – they help keep them from collecting dust and rust, and they make sure they don’t get damaged by other items in your garage.

Coil your cords

Cords shoved into cases and cabinets haphazardly are inclined to tear, twist and fray. To avoid having to buy replacement cords (and sustain a serious injury), make sure you neatly coil them up each and every time you’re done with a project.

Cleaning tools after every use

Perhaps the most impactful aspect of tool maintenance is cleaning each tool thoroughly after each use, whether it’s a complex power tool or a simple tool you use for gardening and landscaping. Before you start cleaning, confirm that the tool is unplugged and/or turned off to avoid an unfortunate accident and injury.

For garden tools and hand tools, remove sap, resin, and other gunk before storing. If a moist rag won’t do the trick for removing sticky substances, use a bit of ammonia or even kerosene.

For cleaning power tools, dampen a rag with a combination of shellac and turpentine and use it to wipe away oils, sawdust, etc. Also, lubricate any moving parts to ensure they don’t rust shut.

Once you’ve effectively wiped away the grime, be sure to use a clean, dry cloth to thoroughly remove any remaining moisture. Don’t forget to check all the nooks and crannies for any remaining water or treatments and if you need to, use a cotton swab to dry those places that are difficult to reach. You can also add an extra layer of protection in the form of a wax coating.

What home remedy removes rust from tools?

A simple and effective home remedy for removing rust from your tools requires steel wool (or a quality scouring pad), salt, and lemon juice. Dip the steel wool or scouring pad in the acidic and abrasive mixture and scrub away the rust. You’ll be amazed at how well this works.

If you’re dealing with a particularly stubborn patch of rust, or large amounts of it, apply the mixture to the affected area and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing. The extra time will allow the acidity in the lemon to eat away at the rust before scrubbing with the rough granules of salt.

Tool Storage Ideas

How you choose to store your tools can preserve the lifespan and performance of each tool. Use these quick tips to store all of your tools properly.

  • It’s crucial that you store all of your tools in a dry place, regardless of what they’re used for.
  • Store your high-quality power tools in the plastic cases that they came in when you first purchased them. This will keep away rust and dust.
  • Keep your hand tools organized by dividing them into like categories and storing them in clean storage solutions, such as drawers, storage bins, cabinets, etc.
  • Hang your garden tools on custom wall hooks to keep them off the ground and out of the way. This will keep your garden tools clean and can prevent rust and risk of injury.
  • Above all, take great care with tools that have sharp blades and make sure never to leave them lying around. If you have little ones, take extra precautions to keep your tools locked up and secured.

If you’re looking for the best way to organize and store all of your tools in one space, check out Flow Wall’s large and diverse selection of cabinets, shelves, and other garage tool storage ideas and solutions. With easily-installed garage wall panels that let you design your own garage storage system, we make it easy for you to store every last tool in a way that protects it and makes it easily accessible.

Plan the perfect storage solution for your tools today with our free online garage storage planner.