Make it a habit to clean tools after each use before you return them to storage. Wipe them down with a rag or old towel and be sure they are free of dust, grease and debris before you put them into their proper places. This is also an opportunity to look for any damage or defects. Check your tools' handles for splinters, breaks and cracks. Also, make sure that metal parts show no signs of corrosion or rust. Repair or replace any tools that show signs of damage.
Cold chisels, log-splitting wedges and other striking tools can be very dangerous if they are not maintained properly. Because these types of tools are used for repeated striking, the surface of the metal head eventually mushrooms out and spreads to form a lip or ridge around the edge. With continued use, there is more spreading and the metal lip may continue to thin, split or curl until it finally breaks. If the metal head separates from the handle while in use, this could result in a dangerous projectile. To prevent this hazard, just grind off the metal edges with a powered grinder on a regular basis.
Don’t use tools that need repair or replacement. Broken tools can cause injury.
Don’t use tools inappropriately; you risk injury to yourself, others and damage to the tools.
After cleaning, use an all-purpose oil, such as WD-40® to lubricate tools with adjustable parts. Lightly spray other metal tool parts as well (avoid getting oil on handles), such as screwdrivers and bladed lawn and garden tools. Wipe away any excess with a rag before storing. This will help fight corrosion and rust.
If your tools already show signs of rust, there are a number of rust removers available at True Value, such as Evapo-Rust Rust Remover. You can also try spraying tools with WD-40® and then scrubbing them with steel wool or a stiff wire brush. Afterwards, wash them with warm, soapy water and scrub them again with a cloth or rag until all signs of rust are gone. Then dry them thoroughly with a clean, dry rag. Apply a light coat of WD-40® and wipe away excess oil before storing.
You should wear heavy gloves when cleaning or removing rust from tools that can cut. Wear safety goggles when using a wire brush to remove rust.
Smooth weathered, rough wooden handles with a medium-grit emery cloth. Handles should be smooth enough to slide your hand along. If the wood is very rough, first sand across the grain in a shoe-shine fashion. Finish by sanding with the grain. Wipe a dry handle down with a heavy coat of linseed oil to rejuvenate and protect the wood.
Bladed tools, such as shovels, pruners and other lawn and garden tools should be sharpened once per season. Use files to sharpen digging tools and to sharpen nicked or dull cutting tools. For digging tools, file the working edge to a 45-degree bevel with a coarse file. Hone and maintain the sharp edge of all cutting tools with a medium-grit sharpening stone. For faster cutting, wet the stone with water or lubricate it with honing oil depending on the type of stone you have.