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Hand shovel maintenance and care

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Caring for your hand tools will help to avoid injuries and unnecessary expenditures in the long run.

Look after your tools and the favour will be returned!

WD says "Remind yourself that a job is never complete until the tools are cleaned and put away!"

After every use

Clean your shovel

First remove any soil or debris from your shovel.  Use your garden hose over a drain to wash it down.

For stubborn, caked on mud, use a wire brush or coarse steel wool.

Allow to dry completely to prevent rusting.

If you have been using your shovel in a chemical fertiliser, clean it thoroughly especially if you have a metal shovel. If you have been using your shovel in a chemical fertiliser, clean it thoroughly especially if you have a metal shovel. Chemicals will corrode any metal parts.
Peg board panels make ideal garden tool storage

Store your tools properly

Store your shovel in a secure, dry environment and try not to leave it outside. If it’s possible, keep your shovels and other hand tools on a rack for easy access and safety.

However you decide to store your tools, don’t forget to use an anti-corrosion treatment on a regular basis.

For treating your shovel, please see Once a year – Preserve your hand shovel

Every six months

The wood should be smooth and free from nicks and splinters.

Check the shaft and handle grip of your shovel, especially if it’s wood

The wood should be smooth and free from nicks. If it is not, it could break easily if not regularly maintained.

If the shaft is loose or cracked, it will need replacing. See our section: How to replace wooden handles

 
Sand the wood along the grain Sand to a smooth finish to remove any splinters or chips in the wood. Use a medium to coarse grade piece of sandpaper if the imperfections are large.

Sand along the grain in one direction only, then dust off any sawdust. Finish with a fine grade sandpaper for the final touch.


Now, apply a finishing oil such as linseed oil to nourish the wood. Please see Preserve your hand shovel below.

 
Tighten any loose joins and replace rusty rivets.

Check the rivets or screws in the socket of the blade

Tighten any loose joins and replace rusty rivets.

See our section: Replacing wooden handles

Coat the rusty sections in a penetrating or lubricating oil and scrub off with the brush using firm, downward strokes.

For a rusty blade, use a wire brush (or fine steel wool)

Coat the rusty sections in a penetrating or lubricating oil and scrub off with the brush using firm, downward strokes.

You may wish to use gloves. Remove the rusty residue with a cloth then wash with warm water and allow to dry.

  WD says "• For those rusty areas that refuse to budge, rub a film of naval jelly rust treatment and scrub off with your brush.
Tap the metal gently where the bend has curved outwards so that it flattens out and 'pops' into shape.

If the blade is bent…

If the blade is bent, it should be hammered straight on a flat surface with a soft, rubber mallet.

Aluminium has a tendency to buckle under large strains.

Tap the metal gently where the bend has curved outwards so that it flattens out and ‘pops’ into shape.

Once a year (e.g at the end of the gardening season)

Preserve your hand shovel

Before storing your tools for an extended period, treat the blade and any wooden handles to prevent rusting and/or splintering when the shovel is put to use again.

Apply a coating of lubricating oil with a soft cloth.

The blade

Make sure the blade is clean and dry.

File away any nicks in the edge of the blade with a hand file or rasp. Then apply a coating of lubricating oil with a soft cloth. You can also use a penetrating oil or spray with WD40.

Allow the blade to dry fully before you store the shovel.

Use a soft cloth and apply oil to the wood

The wooden shaft

Sand the wood with a fine grade sandpaper to smooth out any splinters and rough areas. Brush off the sawdust.

Dip a soft cloth in a finishing oil such as linseed oil and then apply a coat to the shaft.  Leave to absorb for 15 minutes before wiping off any excess.

Make sure you do this as any residue will not fully cure (or ‘dry’) and will feel sticky.

Allow time to dry Leave for 24 hours to dry before applying a second coat.

These are just guidelines and you should check with the manufacturers’ instructions before use.