Should one (occasionally) clean pruning shears with hot water, alcohol, or similar?

I am imagining pruning is a bit like plant surgery (see also here), so precautions similar to regular surgery may apply in principle.

For the time being I am just wiping mine clean after use, and the same tools serve e.g. for pruning both lavender and vines.


Yes, this is a good practice. Candidates for cleaning include secateurs, hedge shears, grafting knives and anything that contacts plant tissue.

A quick dip in alcohol followed by a wipe down should go a long way to remove any plant material that has pathogens in it.

However, as much as it is good advice, I rarely do this.

  • alcohol can rust steel and must be cleaned off promptly
  • if I have a plant that is diseased I pull it rather than try to salvage it

I keep a bottle of alcohol in my pruning gear along with silicon spray and files. Clean your pruners between each and every plant. If you've ever killed plants by passing on diseases you'll understand. Some plants have diseases that aren't apparent because of their vigor, genetics or beneficials preventing the disease from causing harm. But easy to pass on disease to other plants not so lucky. I learned the hard way. Great that you asked this question!! Also, don't use anvil pruners, use bypass. Felco is my favorite as you are able to purchase new blades and keep these guys forever. Learn to sharpen. Alcohol will not hurt your pruners if you use oil/silicon to clean/sharpen. Keep the main blade of bypass pruners/shears on the inside, closest to the plant...good job!

  • Tx. This is very informative. – Drux Mar 18 '15 at 13:27

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