They’re often dirty, they’re all different sizes and you keep tripping over them. No, we’re not talking about your children ­– we’re talking about yard tools. And whether they’re piled in a messy corner of the garage, strewn across the back porch or stuffed in a shed, it’s probably time to reconsider your current storage technique.

Read on to learn the experts’ short- and long-term storage strategies for keeping your yard tools is the best condition possible.

woman holds garden supplies at farm

Get Organized

Before you think about packing your tools away for a few months or more, consider how you’re organizing them for day-to-day use.

If you own a good number of yard tools, start by grouping them according to type and function.

For example, put all the rakes together, the pruning tools together, the shovels together, and so on, recommended Katherine Trezise, president of Absolutely Organized. This simple strategy makes it much easier and faster to find the exact tool you need, when you need it.

Smaller tools are easy to keep in bins on a shelf or in drawers, but it can be challenging to find enough room for long handled tools like shovels and hoes. Trezise suggested hanging them on the wall to save space.

“You don’t need fancy hooks or storage systems; hanging a rake between two nails works just fine,” she pointed out.

Hang garden tools

Prevent Rust

When you store your tools for winter or longer, rust is one of the biggest problems you’re likely to encounter.

The first step for keeping rust at bay is to thoroughly clean and dry all your tools before putting them into storage. You should also make sure your storage location protects your tools from the elements and has good air circulation.

“For tools that are completely metal, such as a stake punch, spray [them] with rust-oleum paint,” suggested Jon Burchett, sales manager at Burchett’s Small Engine Service, LLC in Midlothian, VA.

An easy trick for preventing rust on other types of tools is keep the metal ends dry by storing them in a pot or bucket filled with sand, Burchett added.

And if tools are already rusty, use a wire brush to clean them before storage, suggested Craig Jenkins-Sutton, president and co-owner of Toparius, a landscape design, build and maintenance firm in Chicago. 

rusty shovel leaning on shed

Condition Before Storage

To make sure your tools come out of storage ready for springtime yard work, condition them before you pack them away for the winter.

For wood handled tools, Jenkins-Sutton recommended gently sanding the handles, then applying linseed oil as a protectant.

“Clean pruners and shears with a strong dissolving agent such as turpentine, then clean the solvent off with denatured alcohol,” he added.

Choose the Right Fuel

If you’re planning to store any gas-powered equipment for the winter, Burchett suggested avoiding the 10% ethanol fuel you find at the pumps. The reason? He said that after just 30 days of standing in your machine’s tank, this type of fuel can draw moisture from the air and become contaminated.

lawnmower

Fueling your equipment with ethanol-free gasoline is a much better choice for lawnmowers, weed eaters, leaf blowers and any other equipment that will be sitting idle. “Ethanol-free fuel can sit in the unit for up to two years and not go bad,” Burchett pointed out.

And if you’re storing this type of equipment for longer? “Drain the gas and run the unit dry of gasoline,” he added.

If you’re looking for a place to store your gear, SpareFoot can help you find self-storage at a reasonable price. 

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Anne Wynter