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Caring for Scissors

Martha Stewart Living, June 1997

Good scissors can serve you well for years if you use and treat them with care.

Most scissors simply need to be wiped with a soft cloth after use to remove any dust and grit that accumulate on and between the blades. Kitchen shears, however, should always be washed and dried thoroughly, particularly after being used on food. Bill Tate, of Bill's Sharpening Service in Port Orchard, Washington, recommends using paint thinner (in a well-ventilated area) to remove any sticky residue or other stubborn dirt from the blades of scissors used for crafts or gardening.

Apply a little household oil with a soft cloth to the screw area every few months. This keeps the blades moving smoothly and without friction. Rub all the excess oil off before using the scissors again. If you have a problem with the oil staining the next fabric you cut, Tate suggests switching to a Teflon-based lubricant, available in hardware stores.

When you have to work hard to make scissors cut, it's time to have them sharpened. If you're not certain whether they're ready for sharpening, try this test: Slowly and gently close the scissors on a piece of thin, silky fabric; if the fabric folds on the sides of the blades instead of being cut, the scissors are dull. "Sharpening scissors is an art form," says Bill Tate. An unskilled sharpener can do more harm than good, so choose a craftsperson carefully. A good sewing store or hairdresser may be able to provide a recommendation. Sharpeners often do work by mail. To revive a pair of scissors between professional sharpenings, fold extra-fine-grain sandpaper with the grain side facing out, then simply make several clean cuts on the sandpaper.

If you have to rummage through a crowded drawer each time you need a pair of scissors, you're keeping them in the wrong place. All that banging can scratch them, nick the blades, break the tips, or knock them out of alignment. The best thing to do is keep them in something. Many pairs of scissors come in a plastic sheath, pouch, or gift box; if so, don't throw it away. Use it to store the scissors -- and to protect them.

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