How to Clean Hand Tools

by MOTORHEAD Tools Team on January 07, 2021

You spend your hard-earned dollars on tools to get the job done. So why not make sure you are getting the most out of your hand tools by properly cleaning, greasing and maintaining them?

This guide will outline the simplest and most effective ways to clean your tools, maintain them and keep them job-ready for years to come.

By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly how to clean your tools, remove rust and keep them at 100% functionality.

Properly maintaining and cleaning your tools is a great way to save money and time. By preventing rust and grease buildup, you’ll get more life out of your tools and stop the vicious cycle of constantly replacing your commonly used hand tools.


Getting started with cleaning hand tools properly

Whilst this guide is to arm you with information on cleaning your hand tools, an important aspect to remember is to make sure you store your tools properly. By storing your tools in a moisture free environment, you can avoid the likelihood of your tools rusting. Now, let’s hop into a few basic cleaning supplies you’ll need to keep your hand tools clean and in optimal working condition.


Cleaning supplies needed for cleaning hand tools and rust preventing

After each use, make sure you wipe down your tools with a multipurpose degreaser and a cloth rag. If you’re looking to give your hand tools a good cleaning, make sure to add these items to your shopping list:

  • Wire brush
  • Steel wool
  • All purpose cleaner / Hand tool degreaser
  • Bucket
  • Cloth rag 

Soak your tools in the hot water with a commercial cleaner for 20 to 30 minutes. Use your wire brush to gently scrub your hand tools, ridding them of all dirt and grease. Each tool should be dried thoroughly and stored in a moisture-free environment to prevent rust formation.


How to remove grease from tools

Not only is grease build-up on your hand tools inhibiting their use, it can also be dangerous! One slip is all it takes to have an awful accident. If your hand tools are looking a bit grimy, let’s tackle the issue. Here are a few different ways to clean greasy tools.

Tips for removing grease from hand tools

Dish Detergent - Simple But Effective

Yes,it really works! Lather up some of the dish soap you have with hot water, leave your tools to soak for about 30minutues, before scrubbing them down. Don’t forget to make sure they’re thoroughly dry, so you prevent any possibility of rust.

Clean up wipes

There are numerous tool wipes available on the market. These work well for after each use to wipe down minimal grease and dust on your hand tools. 

Buildup Prevention

After one use, you might not notice much grease. However, after a few uses it’s easy to gather grease into the nooks and crannies, making it harder for you to get it completely clean.  It’s for this reason we say please clean your tools after every use to prevent this buildup.


Rust removal and prevention on hand tools

As mentioned above, moisture is the main cause of your tools rusting. Store them in a moisture-free environment and make sure they’re dried before putting them away. So how exactly do you remove rust from tools?

Cleaning tips for removing rust from hand tools 

You don’t need elaborate materials to remove rust from your hand tools. Below are a few tried and true ways to have your hand tools back in tip top shape. Before you begin any of the below, ensure your tools are free from grease. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to remove rust from tools.

Vinegar & Salt

Quarter cup of salt for each liter of white vinegar creates a powerful rust removal solution for your tools. Soak for an hour before wiping them down.

Baking Soda

Create a paste with baking soda and water and apply to the affected areas. After a few hours, use a wired brush to scrub off the now loose rust.

Oxalic Acid

Three tablespoons of oxalic acid to one gallon of water makes another powerful soaking solution to rid your hand tools of rust.

Sanding & Steel Wool

An old fashioned way is a simple abrasion method. Start with a gritty sander and work your way down to the steel wool with some serious elbow grease.


How to prevent your tools from rusting

Prevention is always better than cure. Keep your tools rust free by controlling the moisture in the environment they are in. Do not let your tools get wet. Apply a protective coating to each tool. Oiling your tools to prevent rust is a common practice to keep rust at bay! The best types of oil to use are those that are non-oxidizing, such as mineral oil. Aim for motor oil or even WD-40. If you find yourself asking how to clean rusty tools in the future, make sure you bookmark this article!



Cleaning might take a bit of extra time after completing your project, but by properly cleaning and maintaining your tools, you’ll get more life out of your tools.

Armed with the knowledge gained from this article, you’ll now be able to keep your tools functional longer, saving yourself money not having to replace your frequently used tools.

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