How to clean bonsai tools

It’s essential that when you finished with the day’s work, you must clean your tools to ensure the tool’s quality.

Today we explain how to properly clean bonsai tools. There are 2 main reasons to clean your bonsai tools properly.

Clean bonsai tools

  • 1. It helps to keep the tools fresh and strong.
  • 2. It helps with the hygiene of the trees because you get rid of all the bugs and pests that may linger on the bonsai tree and then get passed from tree to tree.
how to clean bonsai tools

When you’re cleaning, for example, a pair of scissors, make sure that you use a toothbrush and get off any visible dirt that you have on it. A toothbrush will help get a more detailed clean.

Then, use an emery rubber. An emery rubber is just rubber infused with sandstone. It is much softer on the tools as compared to normal sandstone.

Use the emery rubber to clean up any lingering rust, persistent sticky sap, or anything else.

I’ve used these for years to clean up rust from my carbon steel bonsai tools, and they work great.

Rust and corrosion take place very fast on a bonsai carbon steel tool, and if you’re not diligent and efficient about cleaning and oiling your blades regularly, you can expect rust to form.

You want to get rid of rust fast so that it doesn’t pit the metal too badly.

rust eraser for bonsai tools

Clean up the rust from your bonsai tools with the emery rust eraser.

For light cleaning, you should just use sand flecks. Or, better yet, a rust eraser.

On your tools, you can use fine, medium, or coarse, depending on how dirty it is. I recommend the fine one.

Now for harsher cleaning, you might have to soak these in CLR or some chemical rust remover, and what you need to do is soak them for about 20 minutes, clean them off, scrub them down rigorously, and then continue with the oiling process.

When you have a straight edge tool, you want to make sure to clean the inside. Emery rubber is amazing because it just scrubs it right on; it’s like magic!

claeaning rust on a bonsai shears
rusted bonsai shears

The first time you use it, it gets significantly cleaner.

You want to make sure that you clean as far into the groove as possible. You may have to shift things around to properly see the spots you missed.

Continue to move up. Now, these tools have been exposed to a little bit of water to give you an understanding of how quickly these tools can be ruined if they’re not properly cleaned and oiled.

There’s a sealant that the tools come with; it’s oil-based and it turns the tools a little bit darker. You want to make sure when you clean them that you’re cleaning off any debris, but not scrubbing off that protective coating.

Once the protective coating is gone it’s going to become a lot dirtier a lot quicker.

You will also notice that when your tool pivots becomes dirty, you have to scrub that too and you want to make sure you get the back, the inner gap, and any other parts which are dirty

I’ve shown you how to do a straight edge one; you basically just hold it firmly and rub it down.

claeaning a curved bonsai tool
working on a branch cutter

When you work on a curved tool, the method is basically the same for the outside. When it comes to the inside you have to get a smaller one and be very delicate when cleaning it.

It’s very easy to cut yourself on the inner curve of a concave cutter or any other curved tool; so be careful!

It also becomes harder to get the gap on these tools because unlike the gap on a straight edge, there’s a protective gap.

Eventually, as you wear down your sand flux, you can cut it into different shapes to match the shapes you are working with.

Now that we have our tools nice and clean, we can explain how to sharpen our bonsai tools

Once you’ve cleaned them, make sure that you apply a dose of oil onto the tools. It makes the tools stay fresh and keeps away any humidity from the tools so rust is kept at bay.

Make sure that you wipe it down with a cloth that has some oil on it to keep your tools shiny.

Tricks and tips for bonsai tools

It is convenient if you use them occasionally to prevent them from becoming dirty and oxidizing.

If the tool is dirty, it is sufficient enough to clean it with an oil-soaked cloth rather than water to avoid possible oxidation. 

If we kept the tools dirty and oxidized them a bit, then it’s more difficult to get the tool to the initial shine. We also need to use a fiber cleaning tool and rub with little patience. If the tool is more oxidized, a slightly more abrasive material can be used, an oil-impregnated bicarbonate-impregnated cloth that runs one at a time with the finger.

bonsai wire cutter made in carbon steel alloy

The surface is gradually cleaned by removing a minimal amount of metal. And if the tools are very rusty and these techniques have no effect, we would preferably polish them with silicon carbide polishers. 

When working with sharp tools, it is recommended to wear gloves to avoid cuts. And if the quality of the tools is good and we use them well, years can pass without having to sharpen them.

So remember the emphasis on cleanliness and to keep pests and disease and your tools lasting longer.