A dirty, blunt pruner will cause damage to your plants and hurt your hands during use. It is therefore important to know how to properly maintain pruners.
This post is a companion post to How to Prune Plants Easily and Effectively: Part 1 and the upcoming Part 2.
A high quality pruner can be an expensive tool to have in your garden shed. So it literally pays to keep your pruners in good shape and well maintained. Not only will it protect your investment, it will ultimately also protect your plants and your hands.
It is not difficult to keep your pruners maintained. I’ll show you how in three simple steps.
Rust, dirt or sap on the blades will make using the pruners difficult as they will be more difficult to open and close. They will not cut well, which will not only be frustrating to you but also damage your plants.
Dirty blades can also help spread disease between your plants, which you want to avoid.
Here is what my pruners looked like before cleaning them. Looks like they missed being cleaned a few times in a row!
Rinse off with water first. Use a sanding sponge, steel wool, regular and stainless steel brushes to get rid of rust and debris that is stuck on the pruners. It helps to frequently rinse the pruners off and check your progress.
No need to get them pristine. Focus mainly on the blades. However also clean the spring and the hinge area as that will help them open and close easily. You should end up with pruners that look like this:
Now it is time to sharpen the blades. No need for special sharpening stones or liquids. You can actually sharpen blades with a metal file or use a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a block of wood, a sanding block/sponge or just laid on a flat surface.
When filing or sanding the blades, keep the existing angle on the blades. If the blades are not too bad you will find you only need to take a minute or two to sharpen. Sharpen both sides of the main blade and the side of the bypass blade that the main blade slides against. Once they are shiny all along the length you will be done.
Alternatively stroke the pruner blades along the sandpaper, again at the same angle as the blade.
Sometimes a metal burr will form on the blade. Simply pass the edge of the blade over the edge of a block of wood to remove the burr.
Rinse the blades again to remove any sanding or filing residue and dry them.
Now test the pruners out on a thin branch. You will be surprised at how the blades now cleaning slice through the branch without any tearing. This is what you want as pruning cuts that are cleanly made lessen the chance of disease entering the branch.
Sometimes pruner blades are simply past their prime and need to be replaced. If the blades are bent or nicked severely, you may be able to buy replacement blades from the pruner manufacturer. Or you may need to buy new pruners.
Finally you will want to lubricate the blades, hinge and spring. Not only does this make the pruners easier to use, it will also inhibit rust and make it easier to clean dirt off.
I use something called Fluid Film (manufacturer’s link), that is a lanolin-based corrosion preventive and lubricant. The main reason I use it, especially in the garden, is that there are no solvents and it is non-toxic and non-hazardous.
It supposedly is available everywhere in the world. If you have problems buying it at your local hardware, home center or automotive center, then you can check on the manufacturer’s website for their international dealers.
You might also find other products that are environmental friendly and don’t have any toxic chemicals.
Once you have your spray, spray a light coat on the blades, hinges and spring. Open and close the pruners at least a dozen times or so to move the lubricant around. You should feel the pruners loosen up and become easier to open and close.
Wipe off any excess lubricant with a cloth or paper towel.
And you are done. You should now have pruners that are almost like new, easy to open and close, and sharp enough to cut through the hardest branches. Remember though not to overdo it and use loppers for cutting thick branches.
From now on every time you use the pruners, clean them with some water and a brush. Don’t be lazy and just put them in your garden shed dirty, even though that is tempting especially after a long day pruning.
Remember to re-lubricate when they need it and maybe once a year follow the three steps above again to restore your pruners to the best they can be.
You can follow the steps above for your loppers and hedge shears as well.
Also if you missed it, check out my more general post on How to Maintain your Garden Tools
Now go out to your garden shed at the next opportunity and follow these steps to maintain your pruners. It will make for a more tranquil gardening experience next time you need to prune a plant, bush or tree.