The Ultimate Guide to Hand Tools: Care, Storage and Cleaning (Solved!)

How To Store And Protect Hand Tools

If you have a home workshop or a selection of hand tools for work, the chances are that you would see these as something of an investment. For this reason, you will want to ensure that they last as long as possible and one of the best ways to ensure great longevity is to correctly store the tools.

But it may surprise you to learn that many people struggle with how to properly protect their tools and end up finding that they stop working as expected. In this guide, we will be walking you through some of the best ways to protect your hand tools and why this is so important. Let’s dive in!

Why Is It Important To Protect Hand Tools?

One of the main reasons that you will want to properly protect your hand tools is to ensure that they remain in full working order. It is said that if you treat your tools well, they will return the favour by delivering perfect results when you use them. In addition to this, fully functional tools are much safer to use and with many being a potential safety hazard, this couldn’t be more important.

Moreover, keeping your tools protected and well maintained will ensure that they last longer and that you won’t have to fork out for replacements in the near future. For all of these reasons, we would highly recommend paying special attention to how your tools are stored but also regularly inspecting them to check for signs of wear or damage. Catching this early will allow you to rectify the problem rather than it getting worse.

What Happens If You Don’t Protect Your Hand Tools

If you do not properly protect your hand tools then there is very little doubt that they will start to disintegrate in more ways than one. Here are just some of the things that might happen if you don’t properly store your tools.


Rust occurs when metal is exposed to moisture. While a lot of hand tools will be made with resistant materials that have some degree of natural protection against rust, they still need to be kept correctly because, over time, corrosion can and will happen. Not only is rust unsightly but it will affect how easily and safely the tool can be used.

If the tools feature adjustable mechanisms, rust can cause these to become stiff and in severe cases, prevent them from functioning at all. For things like saws and planes, rust will prevent you from being able to make smooth movement which will affect the end result.


Similarly to rust, hand tools will become tarnished when they are exposed to moisture and air. This takes away much of the lustre of any metal components and, in the same way that rust will affect the ease of use, so will tarnishing.

Blunt Blades

When your hand tools are not properly protected, the corrosion and other issues that occur will eventually affect any blades on the tool. When the blades become blunt, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they aren’t going to deliver as clean a cut. If you want the best result for your project, any blades need to be sharp. What’s more, a blunt blade is a safety risk and could affect your ability to use the tool which may result in a nasty injury.

Mould And Blackening Of Wooden Parts

If tools are left out and exposed to the elements, it is not uncommon for mould and mildew to appear on the wooden parts such as handles and grips. This will weaken the wood which ultimately will cause it to break, over the course of time. Not to mention that mould and mildew are incredibly unhygienic.

Long Term Damage

There are some problems like rust that can be addressed in their early stages. It is possible to remove this from our tools, and we will look at this in a little more detail later on. However, there comes a point where the damage is irreparable and the only solution is to bin the tools and buy more. If you have paid a lot of money for your hand tools, we very much doubt that you will want to have to make a second investment, so protect your tools to prevent long term damage.

What Types Of Tools Need Protection?

There are many different types of hand tools and if they are made from natural materials like wood and metal then they will need protection. This can include, but is certainly not limited to the following tools:

Storing Hand Tools In The Shed

It is almost second nature to a lot of us to head directly to the shed when it comes to storing hand tools. If you do this, you’re not alone but there are some downsides to using an outbuilding, workshop or garage for hand tool storage.

The problem is that sheds are more prone to feel the effects of changes in temperature and humidity levels. Here in the UK, the climate is incredibly unpredictable; it can be blazingly hot one moment, and within a matter of days, we may see frost or heavy rain. In these conditions, the tools are exposed to a range of different elements over a short period of time which is certain to have an effect on their overall condition.

How To Protect Your Hand Tools

If you want to keep your hand tools in the best condition, it is essential that you pay special attention to them, especially if they are being stored in conditions where rust and corrosion is more likely. For example, a humid environment.

Put Them Away When Not In Use

When you are not using your tools, we would always advise putting them away somewhere that has a consistent environment as possible. One expert recommends storing the tools in an air conditioned environment as this will help to keep a much more consistent temperature and humidity level. If you have a workshop, it may be a wise idea to consider installing an AC system; especially if you will be getting a lot of use out of the room.

Moreover, it can be useful to store your tools in cabinets or containers such as a storage box. This will prevent them from being overexposed to the elements and offers an additional layer of protection.

Inspecting Your Tools

Even when you keep your tools in the right environment, this doesn’t totally eliminate the risk of rust and corrosion, although it will drastically reduce it. But the best way to stay on top of these problems is to have a good hand tool maintenance routine. This might feel like just something else to do but it doesn’t need to be done all that often so isn’t massively time-consuming.

We would suggest checking your tools every few months, at a maximum of every six months for signs of corrosion, rust and other damage.

On an annual basis, you can take out all of your tools and pay close attention to each one. Things like planes are susceptible to rust forming along the sides and this becomes even more of a problem if the tools are left unused for long periods.

Sand Off The Rust

It is possible to use sandpaper with a coarse grit to remove rust from tools. If you are going to do this, you will want to make sure that, as you sand, you keep the marks going in the same direction to retain the aesthetic appearance of the tool.

It can also be helpful to apply a degreaser before using the sandpaper to remove any dirt or debris. You might also choose to prep the area using a steel brush or wire wool to remove some of the more stubborn rust first. However, if there is only a light layer of rust, this step may not be entirely necessary. Once you have used the coarse sandpaper, you can switch to a finer one to buff away the final remnants of rust.

Apply Oil

Japanese Camelia Oil

To prevent rust from building up in the first place, you can use an oil such as this Japanese camellia oil, which will provide a protective layer over the materials. This is a traditional recipe that dates back more than 80 years and is commonly used to protect sword blades and other metal items with great effectiveness.

The oil should be applied to the surface of the tool and gently rubbed in. Once done, you can then buff any excess away and your tool can be safely stored in a container.


Keeping on top of hand tool maintenance is of the utmost importance. Ensuring that the tools are stored correctly will protect them from a build up of rust and mould which can prevent them from working properly. Avoid putting them in environments where there is a lot of moisture in the air or exposing them to temperature extremes. Additionally, oiling the tools and keeping them in an airtight container will give even more protection.

The Ultimate Guide to Hand Tools: Care, Storage and Cleaning (Solved!)

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