Caring for Garden Tools part two, Power Tools

Many power tools are easy enough to clean if you follow common sense rules, although servicing is more complicated. Always check for a manufacturers warning on the machine, non professional servicing may void the warranty. Likewise, if a screw is not either a Phillips or flat-head, you probably not supposed to touch it. If you’re not sure, we would always recommend you have them cleaned and serviced professionally.
Firstly gather together tools and cleaning/ sharpening equipment.


Cleaning equipment:

A selection of cleanish rags, including cloth for wiping your hands; general purpose oil; spray lubricating oil; ‘drip tray’ (for when you’re getting oil onto rag); stiff brush; wire brush/ rust scraper;  scraper (patio weed scraper works well); grease; soapy water; bucket or container for used rags/ rust/ dirt  to be dropped into; WD40 or similar may be useful too.

Most of the equipment you probably already have in your shed or can be obtained from your local hardware or diy store or garden centre.


Petrol fuelled tools:

It’s good practice to disconnect the sparkplug lead when the mower is not in use for any length of time; clean the plug preferably at the end of autumn, or before you start to use the machine again in spring.

At the end of the mowing season, empty the petrol in the tank before storing the machine for the winter as most petrol deteriorates; if oil/petrol mixes, then the oil should be replaced with new clean oil.


Electric tools:

Make sure the machine is unplugged before working on it.

Check the condition of plugs and all along the flex or cables; any sign of damage should be dealt with and the cable replaced if necessary.
Does the socket you plug the mower into have a circuit breaker?


Mowers, petrol:

Both rotary and cylinder mowers benefit from being cleaned.  Remove any grass and soil from the rollers, blades and grass boxes with a stiff brush; use a little water and scraper if necessary.

Remove the air filters and clean out any dust or grass; this will help protect the engine.

Check the throttle and clutch cables; a little general purpose oil trickled along them should prevent sticking on the first mow of the season. However, they should be replaced if there are any signs of wear as it would be dangerous if they snapped during use.

If you’ve not had to adjust the height adjusters they may have stiffened up; apply some grease or WD40 and turn slightly to loosen.

The blades of both rotary and cylinder mowers are best sharpened, repaired and replaced by a professional.

If you turn a petrol mower on its side to inspect the underneath, there is a risk of damaging the fuel injection system in the engine. It is always preferable to raise it on a platform. The mechanics don’t turn your car on its side when they service it, do they?


Mowers, electric:

Clean away debris as above.

Check the plastic case for cracks and damage.

Blunt blades may be sharpened at home, as per instructions on part one, but badly worn or damaged blades need to be replaced. If you have any doubts about how to carry out the repairs, consult your local service shop or company.


Mowers, hand push:

See Caring for garden tools part one


Hedge trimmers:

Check there are no loose parts that shouldn’t be loose and tighten where necessary.

Clean blades and handle as above.
Wipe the metal surfaces with a light coating of general-purpose oil to prevent them rusting; spry the blades that are difficult to reach.
After oiling, turn on the trimmers briefly to make sure the oil works its way into all areas.



At the risk of alienating some of you, it is our opinion that unless you’ve been trained to use a chainsaw you shouldn’t be using one. And if you’ve got your chainsaw license then you know how to maintain it!
If you haven’t been on a course to use a chainsaw we strongly recommend you do so. And always wear chainsaw protective clothing, or chainsaw massacre could be appearing in a garden near you…


Nathan Waterfield

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