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Sanitizing methods for pruners / saws?

Posted by Josh Willis 
Sanitizing methods for pruners / saws?
February 06, 2022 01:41AM
Ok, I'm here to put in my yearly noob question. ; )

How do y'all sanitize your pruning equipment (pruners, loppers, saws, etc.), without rust?

I've usually walked around with a bottle of bleach solution or alcohol solution, and try to dry with a rag. But the rag always gets stuck in the saw teeth and makes a mess, and even with pruners, it's hard to dry them completely and they end up rusting more than I'd like.

Am I missing some obvious solution here?


Zone 7a in West-Central MD

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/06/2022 11:27PM by Josh Willis.
Re: Sanitizing methods for pruners / saws?
February 06, 2022 04:45AM
I just use a spray bottle with approx 70% metho and the rest water and spray my pruners after each plant. Rust doesn't seem to be a big problem, every winter I give them a clean, sharpen and oil.

Not sure if bleach invites more rust than metho?

Black Barn Farm
Zone 8b in Victoria, Australia
Re: Sanitizing methods for pruners / saws?
February 06, 2022 07:20AM
This is a question I have often asked myself...
I used to use a diluted bleach solution, but also noticed that made the tools rust a lot.
Nowadays I use a simple kitchen cleaner/germ killer in spray that claims to kill 99.9% of germs, virus and bacteria. There are many similar brands, I usually use Lysol, eg:

Now, to be frank, I don't have any certitude this is really efficient for sanitizing cutting tools! Maybe using this simply makes me feel better...
I'd be curious to know what others think.


Jolicoeur Orchard
Zone 4 in Quebec
Author, The New Cider Maker's Handbook
Re: Sanitizing methods for pruners / saws?
February 06, 2022 03:49PM
I agree with Charlie above - I buy a $4 small-size spray bottle at hardware store, fill with 70% rubbing alcohol, and attach it to myself along with my pruning gear. Easy and efficient to spray your tools as often as you want during pruning. I just wipe the pruners on my pant leg to roughly dry them off. It's funny, rubbing alcohol has a slippery property to it as well - so it kinda cleans/loosens stuck chips etc. as you sanitize

I started using isopropyl b/c I just can't stand bleach!! Also no rust issues. I assume it works just as well as bleach, you could use the 90% alcohol version if you're paranoid
Re: Sanitizing methods for pruners / saws?
February 06, 2022 04:43PM
Interestingly in terms of disinfecting things in the medical context, 70% alcohol is more effective than a higher concentration. It seems plausible to me that the same would apply in the setting of pruning tools.

Broomholm Orchard
Zone 5b in Nova Scotia
Re: Sanitizing methods for pruners / saws?
February 06, 2022 05:27PM
Sorry I just realised that my Australian slang might not compute in USA. 'Metho' is short for methylated spirits, likely called denatured alcohol in USA, it's much much cheaper here than rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol).
Re: Sanitizing methods for pruners / saws?
February 06, 2022 11:24PM
Thanks, all! Charlie, you read my mind -- I was wondering what agricultural journals I hadn't read that talked about 'Metho'...good to know it's a continental difference, not something I missed! winking smiley

Claude, glad to hear it's not just he noob.

Alcohol makes the most sense to me, esp. given that it's more likely to evaporate before any rust issues. I'd diluted it down to 20-30%, which I remember being the min. strength needed back in my lab research day, but 70% is probably a little less likely to rust, so I'll probably do that in the future.

thanks, all!

Zone 7a in West-Central MD
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