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How to Clean Power Tools

Have you given what’s inside your toolbox a good look recently? We bet that those power saws, drills, and other electrical tools need a little TLC. Like everything else in your life, tools also need to be maintained or they become susceptible to rust. Luckily, we’re here to guide you on how to clean power tools.


If you’re a DIYer, you know what a huge investment power tools are. They come to your household’s rescue every time a screw falls loose, a shelf breaks or a door comes off its hinges. To make sure they keep working in top condition, it’s time you paid a little attention to them.


Fair Warning ― since power tools are heavier than hand-held tools, you’ll need to put in some elbow grease to make them shine and rust-free. We’ll start by removing any dust that has accumulated inside the tools and move on to wiping away grease. Finally, end with scrubbing off the rust. We’ll be using DIY solutions as well as commercial cleaners along with a shop-vac and air compressor.


Let’s go through the cleaning process step-by-step:


Items You’ll Need

  • Vinegar
  • Dishrags
  • Steel Wool
  • Hard and Soft-Bristle Brush (Small and Medium-Sized)
  • Q-Tips
  • Oxalic Acid
  • Air Compressor
  • Shop-Vac
  • Degreaser
  • WD-40

Note: Never submerge your power tools in water as this can damage the hardware. Moreover, never clean the tools when they are plugged in. Lastly, don’t use the tools until they have completely dried.


Step #1 Removing Dust

Power tools accumulate a lot of dust, as well as sawdust. Before bringing a dishrag near your power tools dipped in any kind of solution, you need to remove the dirt first. For this step, wear coveralls and goggles to protect yourself as sawdust can get into your eyes and cause irritation. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Use a shop-vac to suck up any debris that is hiding inside
  • It’s possible that if the power tool is too small, the shop-vac won’t do the trick. In this case, use an air compressor to blast out any remaining residue


Now, remove all the bits and blades that can be dipped in the cleaning solutions.


Step #2 – Cleaning Grease

  • Fill a bucket with hot water and add vinegar to it
  • Dip a dishrag in this solution and clean the surface of the tools. Be careful to not let any droplets in through the openings
  • Next, apply a citrus degreaser on the tools and leave it in place for 10 minutes
  • Wipe the tools clean and then wipe them once more with a dishrag dipped in clean water


Step #3 – Cleaning Rust

  • Once the grease is removed, you’ll have a clear view of all the rust on the surface and in the crevices. Here’s what you need to do next:
  • Spray WD-40 on all the tools and let it stay for 20 minutes
  • Use a hard-bristle brush to scrub the rust off the surface and a soft-bristle brush for the hard-to-reach places
  • Use a dishrag to wipe off the surface flakes and inset the Q-tip in the crevices to remove the rust hiding there
  • Clean the surface again with a dishrag dipped in clean water

In the end, wipe down the tools with the WD-40 Specialist Penetrant to give them a light coat of protection.


Step #4 – Clean the Bits and Blades

  • For the small metal parts, fill a bucket with water and add oxalic acid powder to it
  • Dump the parts in this buck and let them soak for 10 minutes
  • Wear rubber gloves and take out the parts
  • Use a hard-bristle brush to clean the part and then wipe them with a dishrag
  • Run the parts under tap water and wipe them again with a clean dishrag


Maintaining Power Tools

Power tools need to be maintained regularly to ensure that they don’t get stuck due to rust. Our how to clean power tools guide can’t be complete without telling you that maintenance is part of the process. Following are a couple of tips on how to keep your power tools in mint condition:

  1. Let Heated Tools Cools Down: When a power tool is used continuously without any breaks, they tend to overheat. If you’re working on a particularly long project, take a few short breaks in the middle and let the tool rest for a while. This will prevent the parts from burning out.
  2. Clean Regularly: Use the above methods to clean your power tools regularly if you see any signs of grease or rust. Additionally, keep a can of WD-40 in your toolbox for a quick wipe down.
  3. Lubricate: Lubricated tools never get stuck or rust. All you need is a quality primer and your power tools will remain safe and shiny for a long time.
  4. Sharper Blades: When the blades of a power tool are unsharpened, it takes longer to complete your work. This overheats the tool and puts too much stress on it. Before the blades get damaged beyond repair, get them sharpened.
  5. Safe and Dry Tool Storage: Always store your tools in a place where water can’t touch them. When not in use, put them in a toolbox in a cabinet.


Our Final Thoughts

And that’s how to clean power tools safely! The key to making sure that your power tools don’t rust is maintenance. They are plenty of household solutions that you can use instead of store-bought cleaners. Check out our blogs “How to Clean Rusty Tools” and “How to Clean Greasy Tools” to know more about the methods. Final Reminder ― do unplug all the tools and remove any batteries before you start cleaning.


About Chris

When Chris first bought a house, he quickly realized that he was now going to need to be a weekend handyman. Every project that he worked on, he kept realizing that he needed more and more DIY tools. Chris is also someone who likes to do a lot of research before making large purchases. Since he had already done most of the research, Chris decided to put the info that he accumulated about his favorite daily tools onto