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Winter Projects: Tips for Cleaning tools

Dirty, used mechanic's wrenches

The winter months are the perfect time for cleaning tools. By using this downtime to get rid of all the dirt, rust and grease that accumulates on your tools through everyday use, you can ensure that they’ll be ready for the projects on your spring to-do list.

Here are some tips for what you should and shouldn’t do when you’re cleaning tools.

Gather Essential Supplies

Before you get started, make sure you have the right supplies on hand to do the job. These should include soft rags, paper towels and a wire brush for removing stubborn dirt and rust. It’s also important to have the right cleaning agents on hand. A degreaser, mineral oil, rust remover and bucket for dish soap and water are all essential. To keep the cleaning process efficient, get all of your supplies ready before you break out the tools.

Remove Surface Dirt

Start by removing any visible dirt that can be wiped away with a paper towel or a soft cloth. Sometimes all it takes is a little elbow grease to make a used tool look new. Make sure you wipe away all dirt, whether it’s on the handle or on the working end of the tool, and be careful of sharp edges. A pair of work gloves is a good idea to help protect your hands from bladed tools.

clean tools

If you use a cleaning solution on a tool, make sure it’s one that won’t cause any damage, and always use it in a well-ventilated area. The plastic handle on a screwdriver, for example, may not be able to handle more caustic cleaning solutions. Read the cleaning product labels carefully so you don’t end up harming your tools while you’re trying to maintain them.

Get Rid of Grease

Once you remove surface dirt, break out the degreaser to remove sticky hand prints and free any gummed-up gears, threads or pivots. Depending on how dirty a tool has become, it may take a couple of applications and a little more work to remove buildup. For all-metal tools, submersion or a rest under a soaked rag should make quick work of any grime or residue. Pay special attention to any cracks and crevices where grease likes to hide, and use a lubricant when you’re done to help inhibit future rust.

Don’t Neglect Power Tools

While the adjustable wrenches and screwdrivers you use all the time might be the first objects that come to mind when you think about cleaning tools, remember that your power tools need cleaning as well. While you can immerse many hand tools in cleaning solutions like mineral oil or rust removal agents, you can’t immerse power tools. Instead, wipe them down to clear all visible dirt and remove any parts you can for individual cleaning. Never submerge these tools in cleaning solution, and always make sure their cords are unplugged and their batteries are removed when you clean them. A can of compressed air duster might come in handy for hard-to-reach spots.

If you spend a little time this winter cleaning your tools, you’ll be glad that they’re ready to go when spring finally arrives.

Check out all the products for cleaning your tools available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information about how to clean tools, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Nicole Wakelin View All

Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.

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