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Past Articles Library | Lawn & Garden Equipment | Revitalize Pruning Shears

Revitalize Your Pruning Shears

Clean and sharpen ANY pruning shears in 10 minutes or less!

OK - We're all slightly guilty of giving our gardening equipment, especially our pruning shears, a significant amount of work to do, and then not cleaning and caring for them properly.

It's the nature of what we do. We have some pruning that needs to be done, so we pick up our trusty shears, take care of the job, and then put them away without another thought until the next pruning job is at hand.

The good news is that while it isn't always ideal for the equipment, most pruning shears that I know of can take a lot of abuse. Even a year or two later they can be cleaned and sharpened in as little as 10 minutes, and they will look and work like new.

Now I don't advocate waiting a year or two, but the point is, no matter how rusty, dull, or sticky and gummy they are because of all the plant residue that has built up, with a few minutes of easy effort on your part, you can correct the problem.

Your pruning job will be easier, you'll have nicer cleaner cuts which is better for the plant material, and your hands won't be as tired from using dull shears!

So go grab your pruning shears, and follow the steps below, so the next time you have some pruning to do, your shears will open and close smoothly without sticking, and they will cut branches like butter because they'll be nice and sharp again.

Getting Started

The following steps will work on any type of shears such as pruning or garden shears, hedge shears, or edging shears, etc.

You will need the following:

  • Dirty pruning shears

  • A small bucket of water

  • A small wire brush (about the size of a toothbrush)

  • A sharpening file

  • Some bleach

  • Some oil, like WD-40

Click on images
for larger view

Dirty shears:

Dirty shears:

Supplies needed:


  • Put some water in your bucket

  • Take your small wire brush and start scrubbing

  • No soap is needed, just water, and scrub vigorously over all the metal areas

  • Stop when the metal is clean as shown on the right

Click on images
for larger view

Start scrubbing
with wire brush:

Keep going!

Before and after cleaning. Notice the color of the water!


  • Place your sharpening file, available at any hardware or home improvement center, on the existing bevel so that it is sitting level and flush

  • With short, firm strokes push the file away from you making sure the file is still flush with the existing bevel

  • Work your way from the base of the shear all the way to the very tip

  • This may take a few minutes if your shears are really dull and haven't been sharpened in a while

  • Using your finger, VERY CAREFULLY, check to feel how sharp the blade is. DON'T CUT YOURSELF!

  • Notice that when sharpened, the bevel is the same width as when you started

  • When satisfied with the sharpness, take the file and smooth off the other side of the blade if any filings are hanging over

Click on images
for larger view

Existing bevel:

Using your file,
follow the existing bevel:

Keep going until sharp:

Finished sharpening:

Before and after sharpening.
Notice the difference in the sharpness of very ends of the blade. The tip and base of the blade before sharpening are quite rounded and dull.

Check that the bevel is still the same width:


  • Fill your bucket again, but this time with a 1 part to 10 parts water and bleach solution. 1 part bleach to 10 parts water

  • This will give you a mild disinfectant. Simply wash the cleaned and sharpened shears in the solution for a few seconds and then allow to dry

  • As a note, every time you are done using your pruning shears, you should disinfect them so you don't pass any plant diseases around next time you prune something

Click on image
for larger view

Disinfect shears:

Coat With Oil

  • Apply a very liberal coat of oil (I use WD-40 because it is so versatile) to your newly cleaned and sharpened pruning shears

  • This will help prevent future rust from building up

  • Oil also helps your pruners open and close smoothly without catching or sticking

  • Use a rag or paper towel and wipe off any oil residue, leaving a thin coat of oil

Click on image
for larger view

Apply liberal coat of
oil and wipe clean:

That's It!

As usual, it takes longer to describe how to do this than to actually do it!

This entire process from start to finish takes less than 10 minutes, and that is nothing compared to using dull and dirty pruning shears that you are fighting at every cut.

If you have never done this, try it, you will be amazed at how much more work you can get done, and how much easier it is.

Gardening is very enjoyable, but sometimes a heavy pruning job can be tough work, so make life easy and tackle the next job with sharp, clean shears.

Click on image
for larger view

Before and after
what a difference!

The writer is a member of the National Garden Writers Association, a nationally published writer, and a certified organic grower. She regularly speaks and writes about all gardening related topics, with an emphasis on making gardening a successful and enjoyable process for anyone who wants to learn. Weekend Gardener Monthly Web Magazine concentrates of giving detailed gardening tips and gardening advice to all levels of gardeners.

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