Anvil-type pruners have one sharp blade and one flat blade; both require treatment.

How to Sharpen Rusty Garden Clippers

by Angela Ryczkowski

Cleaning and sharpening clippers and other gardening tools is an excellent chore for the winter time, when you are daydreaming about and planning for the warmer days of spring and summer. Sharp, rust-free and clean garden clippers or shears make simple pruning tasks as painless as possible and minimize unnecessary injury to plants and the spread of disease. Remember, garden clippers, even when rusty, have at least one sharp blade and should be handled carefully. When disassembled for cleaning and sharpening, blades are even more exposed and there may be small parts like bolts lying around, so care for your clippers where small children cannot access them. Wear safety goggles and thick work gloves for protection.

Put on leather or other thick gloves and safety glasses to prevent accidental cuts and protect your eyes from pieces of rust and metal shards.

Disassemble the garden clippers to separate the blades. It may be necessary to oil rusted parts and use other tools like pliers or wrenches to take the clippers apart.

Soak the garden clippers in soapy water or otherwise clean them to remove any plant sap, dirt clods or other debris.

Rub rust off the blades using steel wool or a wire brush.

Secure one of the blades tightly by its base at the bolt end in a vise or clamp with the blade exposed and accessible. Make sure the blade is completely secure to avoid both making mistakes sharpening and potentially serious injuries.

Run a sharpening stone or file over the blade in only one direction, always away from your body and beginning at the point of the blade. Move the stone or file diagonally, following the original, or factory, angle of the blade and covering the entire length of the blade with each stroke to sharpen the blade evenly. The newly exposed metal will look shiny. This small shiny area should have a uniform width across the entire blade length. Only a few strokes with the stone or file may be required.

Stroke the backside of the blade from the bolt-end towards the tip with the file held flat against the blade to remove burrs, small, prickly pieces of raised metal that develop during filing.

Repeat the securing and sharpening with the clipper's other blade and, again, follow with burr removal if the second blade is sharp like the first. If the second blade is an anvil blade with a flat surface, filing is only necessary if there are dents in the blade. If there are dents or nicks, run a round or half-round file over the blunt surface in one direction until you create a smooth, completely flat surface that will be at a 90-degree angle to the sharp blade.

Wipe the clipper blades down with a rag that has a lightweight oil on it.

Reassemble the garden clippers.

Items you will need

  • Safety goggles
  • Leather or other thick gloves
  • Oil
  • Soapy water
  • Steel wool or wire brush
  • Vise or clamp
  • Sharpening stone or flat file
  • Round or half-round file (for anvil-type blades)
  • Rags
  • Pliers, wrenches if needed


  • Handle the garden clippers carefully, especially when disassembled, to avoid cuts.
  • Keep sharp tools like clippers, oil or oil-soaked rags and other potentially harmful materials away from small children and pets.

About the Author

Angela Ryczkowski is a professional writer who has served as a greenhouse manager and certified wildland firefighter. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in urban and regional studies.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images