Why you must do this to your secateurs to save your plants 

Cleaning them protects your plants and keeps your secateurs in tip-top condition.

As a gardener, you’ll be used to dirt and grime. It has a canny way of building up on all garden tools and can particularly affect the performance of cutting equipment, such as secateurs.  

The bad news is that a build-up of garden grot can blunt secateur blades, which can damage your plants, leaving them looking lacklustre rather than luscious. But by simply showing your secateurs the same care and attention as you do your plants, they should give you years of use.  

We spoke to the experts to discover how to clean secateurs to ensure they’re always performing at their best.  

Niwaki yellow secateurs shown on decking with open bladesCredit: Exceptional
It doesn’t take long for secateurs to become grimy and in need of a clean

How to clean secateurs

There are three simple steps

The good thing about cleaning your secateurs is if you do it on a regular basis, it won’t take much time. However, if you leave it too long and the blades have become seizedup with grime, it will be a much more laborious chore. So, to get the most out of your secateurs, follow our tips on how to get them clean. 

John Myers, head gardener at the National Trust’s Ham House and Garden, gets to work with his secateursCredit: National Trust
John Myers, head gardener at the National Trust’s Ham House and Garden, gets to work with his secateurs

1. Get to grips with the dirt

Give it the brush-off

John Myers, head gardener at the National Trust’s Ham House and Garden suggests starting by giving your secateurs a clean with a stiff brush to remove the dirt, adding: “If they are particularly dirty, give them a rinse in warm water, then dry them fully with a clean cloth.” 

If a brush won’t quite do the trick, grab some wire wool and set to work. Personally, I found wire wool to be the best way to remove the muck from my secateurs. However, if using wire wool, Myers says that “you must make sure to wipe the secateurs clean and oil them when you have finished scrubbing”.   

Secateur blades being cleaned with wire woolCredit: Exceptional
A stiff brush or wire wool will help lift of the dirt

2. Sterlise the blades

Rubbing alcohol does the trick

Once your secateurs are clean of dirt, wipe over the blades with rubbing alcohol (also known as surgical spirit) to kill any viruses or germs. “If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, white wine vinegar or a bleach-free disinfectant will do the job too,” says Myers. 

3. Apply oil

Ease the joints

“Don’t forget to oil your secateurs after cleaning them,” Myers adds. “Cleaning your secateurs will remove any oil, leaving them vulnerable to rust.”    

There’s no need to go to the expense of any specialist oil, as Guy Barter, chief horticulturist at the RHS says: “Any household oil will do and will help to keep everything moving.”  

Premium secateur manufacturer, Niwaki, suggests using camellia oil on its secateurs – a pair of which we tested in our buying guide. 

Once, you’ve added the oil, wipe off any excess before storing your secateurs. 

Niwaki secateur blades are sprayed with oilCredit: Exceptional
Any household oil can be used on your secateurs

How often should you clean secateurs?

The professionals do it at least once a day

It may seem extreme to those of you who simply pop your secateurs back in a toolbox or drawer after you’ve used them (I’m also guilty), but the experts tell us that they clean after every use. 

“Professionals clean and sharpen them every day, and perhaps more often,” says Barter, “but gardeners can get away with cleaning them after every big pruning session.  

“When pruning sappy or resinous growth that can gum up the works of the secateurs, more frequent cleaning and sharpening is called for,” he adds. 

Myers says you also need to watch out for plants that appear unhealthy or are showing signs of disease. “In this instance, you should clean your secateurs after using them on each separate plant, to avoid spreading any health problems.” 


Bad habits

I’m only too guilty of not looking after my secateurs. After pruning a few plants, I often get distracted and store them for another day without giving them a second thought. I certainly wouldn’t act this way in my kitchen. Any kitchen tools with sharp blades are thoroughly cleaned and dried as soon as I’ve finished using them I certainly wouldn’t toss them aside to gather germs. 

Camilla Sharman

Written by Camilla Sharman she/her


With her 30 years of experience, Camilla Sharman has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.  As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader.