How to Disinfect Gardening Tools

Gardening tools are implements used to carry out gardening tasks, such as trimming plants, pruning bushes, transplanting plants, removing weeds, digging soil and aerating soil. Common gardening tools include shovels, spades, trowels, rakes, hoes, tillers, shears and saws. Gardening tools often are used to remove diseased, rotting or dead foliage and plants. During this process, harmful bacteria is transferred to the gardening tools and should be removed so it doesn't transfer to healthy plants in your garden. By disinfecting gardening tools on a regular basis, you help prevent the spread of plant diseases in your garden. Use these tips to disinfect gardening tools.


  1. Image titled Disinfect Gardening Tools Step 1
    Remove dirt and debris from tools. Before disinfecting tools, remove dirt, debris and sap by wiping the tools with a damp cloth or paper towels. The tools should be free of dirt and debris so the disinfecting solution can penetrate every cutting surface.
  2. Image titled Disinfect Gardening Tools Step 2
    Dip or soak tools in a disinfectant solution. Many products can be used to disinfect gardening tools. Most products include basic household cleaning agents, however, commercially mixed gardening tool disinfectants are available at most garden centers. The amount of time necessary to dip or soak the tools varies depending on the disinfectant solution.
    • Choose a bleach solution to disinfect gardening tools. Mix 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water with 2 cups (.5 liters) of bleach in a bucket. Soak the tools in the bleach solution for about 10 minutes. Bleach solutions are highly effective in eliminating plant disease, but may corrode gardening tools with repeated use. Always wear protective masks and rubber gloves when cleaning tools with bleach solutions. Rinse tools immediately after soaking to avoid transfer of bleach to garden plants.
    • Use ethanol or isopropyl alcohol to disinfect tools. Ensure that the alcohol is at least 70 percent pure for effective disinfecting. Fill a bucket with enough alcohol to cover a single tool. Soak 1 tool at a time for about 1 minute each. If you prefer, you may wipe tools with the alcohol rather than soaking them. Do not rinse the tools after disinfecting. Alcohol is flammable, so keep it away from open flames.
    • Use detergent to clean gardening tools. A household detergent, like dishwasher detergent or laundry detergent, will remove viruses from garden tools. Mix about 1 cup (.2 liters) of detergent with 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water. Soak the tools in the detergent mixture for several minutes. Rinse with water after disinfecting.
    • Use Pine Sol to clean gardening tools. Fill a bucket with enough full-strength Pine Sol to cover a gardening tool. Soak the tool for 1 or 2 minutes. Pine Sol may be corrosive to gardening tools. Rinse with water after disinfecting to remove Pine Sol residue and keep the tools from corroding.
    • Choose a Lysol solution to disinfect tools. Fill a bucket with about 20 percent liquid Lysol and 80 percent water. Soak the tools in the Lysol solution for several minutes. Of the general household products used to disinfect gardening tools, Lysol is the least corrosive. Lysol poses little threat to garden plants, so you do not need to rinse tools after application.
    • Consider quaternary ammonium salts to clean tools. An effective disinfectant, quaternary ammonium salts are available through horticulture supply retailers or garden centers. Follow the directions on the product label. In most cases, the salts are mixed with water to create a cleaning solution. Hard water or organic matter may reduce the effectiveness of quaternary ammonium salts. Rinse tools after disinfecting.
    • Select hydrogen dioxides to clean garden tools. Hydrogen dioxide, often referred to as oxygenated water, is less toxic than many other cleaning agents, but removes a limited number of pathogens from garden tools. Commercial hydrogen dioxide products are available from garden centers and horticulture supply retailers. To use hydrogen dioxides to clean gardening tools, follow the label instructions. Hydrogen dioxides may corrode garden tools with repeated uses, so be sure to rinse tools thoroughly after application.
    • Consider environmentally-friendly products like Physan 20 or Oxidate. Physan 20 is a broad-spectrum fungicide, while Oxidate is a hydrogen dioxide-based product that kills bacteria, algae and fungus on contact. These products are more expensive than most household cleaning products, and are available at select garden centers and commercial agriculture retailers. Follow label instructions for information on how to apply Physan 20 or Oxidate to disinfect gardening tools.
  3. Image titled Disinfect Gardening Tools Step 3
    Dry tools. After disinfecting the gardening tools, dry them with a soft cloth. Do not allow water-based cleaning solutions to dry on the tools as they may rust the implements. In the case of pruning shears and other hinged tools, be sure to dry the inside and outside blades of the tool.


  • In between cleanings, spray garden tools with Lysol, wipe them down with alcohol applied to a soft cloth, or clean with them a disposable bleach-free disinfectant wipe. This will help remove infected plant sap, bacteria and fungus from tool blades and surfaces.


  • Bleach may cause pitting or discoloration with prolonged contact on metal. If inhaled, bleach may cause damage to your nose, throat and lungs, and may damage skin upon contact. Always wear protective masks and rubber gloves when cleaning tools with bleach solutions. Use bleach with caution and follow all warning labels on the product's container.

Things You'll Need

  • Gardening tools
  • Damp cloth or paper towels
  • Bucket
  • Disinfectant solution
  • Water
  • Soft cloth

Article Info

Categories: Gardening