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I once read that storing garden hand tools (weeder, hand shovel, pruning sheers, etc.) in sand mixed with a little bit of mineral oil is a good practice because it lubricates them and keeps them sharp.

I have been doing this for several years, but I now question that this is a good idea - at least for the pruning sheers. They get sand all through them and seem to dull faster than I would expect.

Is the practice of storing garden tools in sand wise/good (e.g. does it actually actively help tools)? Or have I been slowly ruining my garden tools?

Update: By "store", I mean between uses, not just over the winter (though, in practice they get placed in the sand over the winter as well).

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    Sand will quickly blunt sharp tools. Try cutting up some sandpaper with scissors to check that out! On the other hand pushing blunt tools (e.g spades and forks) into sand will tend to clean the dirt off them, which is probably more beneficial than leaving them in the sand. – alephzero Aug 10 '20 at 18:33
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I have never heard of this practice and couldn't find any authoritative sources for it (although I did find a number of anecdotal sources and sources that pretended to be authoritative).

Personally (and anecdotally), I store my tools for the winter by wiping them with machine oil, applying a thin coating of the oil. I then put them into an unheated, ventilated, shed. I've never had issues with rust on them from following this practice, and some of my tools are 50-70 years old (oiled by a generation of gardeners before my time). Where did I learn this? From my grandfather, who probably learned it from his own grandfather. I fail to see how storing them in a sand/oil bath for 4-6 months is an improvement.

EDIT

Actually, if you live in a very humid environment (rain forest, coastal area, perhaps in the Deep South (US) or maybe Ireland in the UK, i could see where storing small tools in sand could be useful in preventing rust over the winter. - but then, it would also work with larger tools and no sites that I've seen even mention that.

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  • I see, I may have miscommunicated a bit. When I said "store", I did not mean for the winter, but rather between usage. I will clarify in the question. – SethMMorton Aug 10 '20 at 18:17
  • The articles I've read suggest storing them for the winter in sand, not between uses. – Jurp Aug 10 '20 at 19:29
  • I see, so it was likely me that misinterpreted “store” in the first place. – SethMMorton Aug 10 '20 at 20:02
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    Not necessarily a misinterpretation - could be a regionalism between PNW and Midwest US. – Jurp Aug 10 '20 at 20:46
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    I just clean my tools and store them upright somewhere dry between uses and for winter, thoroughly clean and spray with WD40 before putting them away. Seems to work really well. – Bamboo Aug 10 '20 at 20:59
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I have seen this done in Australia, but only for shovels (spades). Seems to reduce the rusting at the cutting edge of the shovel where it matters the most.

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  • Thanks! I think that I will only use the sand for shovels going forward. – SethMMorton Aug 11 '20 at 1:03

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