Living's features and garden editor Melissa Ozawa shares the tried-and-true oil that keeps her loppers, pruners, and spades good as new.

By Lisa Butterworth
April 06, 2021
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If you have carefully maintained your garden over the years, you likely have a slew of tools that take you from the start of the season to its close. We'd also guess that you have had these essentials for quite some time—and for good reason. Most quality garden utensils come with a hefty price tag, so you want to do everything you can to keep them clean, sturdy, and polished. And while giving your shovels, rakes, trowels, and more a daily clean is integral in this effort, so is preventing them from slowly rusting over.

gardening tools hanging in shed
Credit: Tom Merton / Getty Images

Luckily, there's a simple way to prevent the oxidation process: All you need is a simple ingredient and diligent method. To maintain her own MVP tools—which include loppers, pruners, a hori-hori knife, and a spade—Living features and garden editor Melissa Ozawa relies on a Japanese standby: camellia oil.

Extracted from the seed of the flowering plant, it lubricates the moving parts of these essentials (making the ingredient perfect for anything with a hinge, like a hoe) and adds a coating that protects metal from rust. "I clean them at the start and end of the growing season, and a few times in between for a little boost," Ozawa says, noting that she prefers Kurobara's formula ($16, amazon.com), which was actually designed with kitchen cutlery maintenance in mind.

As for how to apply camellia oil to your tools? "First, I wipe them down with rubbing alcohol—especially the pruners and loppers, so I don't transfer any diseases to the next plant. Then I apply a thin layer of the oil and wipe off the excess," she continues, noting that she treats other parts of the utensils with the oil, as well. "I use it on the wooden handles once or twice a year, too, to prevent splitting and splintering," she says. Commit to Ozawa's schedule, she says, and your favorite garden tools will look as good as they did on the day you purchased them for longer—it's as simple as that.

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