How to clean tools?

We have a lot of old tools that I need to clean. What is the best way to clean them: Tide laundry detergent, gas, carb cleaner, something else?

Spray WD-40 on them and wipe them with a towel or rag. You may want to let the WD-40 sit for a few minutes. You can also use any old motor oil but WD-40 is the easiest.

Edit: If you have to soak them, kerosene works really good. Then wipe, use WD-40 and wipe again.


Won’t the tools be too slippery to use safely?

That is why you wipe them off after. They will get oily, greasy and slippery over and over. That just part of mechanicken.

I use whatever hand cleaner they had for sale at NAPA (GoJo, Goop, etc.) I clean the tools when I wash up. Cheap enough, and it smells good :slight_smile:

I like PB blaster, exercise them, wipe them down after soaking in the spray.

I put them in a can ATF then a good wipe down then WD40. -

Kerosene or mineral spirits work pretty well. Leave a bit of wax on the surface when it dries. Brak-Kleen makes them squeaky clean. That’s not so good with non-chrome or zinc plated tools here in the humid south.

I would avoid gasoline. One microscopic static electricity spark from clothing or shuffling across carpet could set that off.

Mineral spirits or lacquer thinner would be my choice.

I guess I’m a real grunge. All I’ve ever done was wipe tools off with a shop towel when I’ve finished with them.


I use brake parts cleaner. It has less harmful vapors, and it doesn’t dry out my skin like using carburetor cleaner would.

We try to prevent Craftsman-19 by superior cleaning. I used to clean the crud out of the socket extensions after I couldn’t get it on the ratchet.

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I use LOMS (low odor mineral spirits) and paper towels which I usually then burn. I wear thin medical gloves for this and other detail work.

Clean tools? What for, only to rub different grease on them after cleaning? 50+ years never cleaned a tool. Just wipe with a rag* before putting back in toolbox.

*if necessary :wink:

If you use an oil product, wipe it off with a paper towel moistened with isopropyl alcohol afterwards to get the oil off. This isn’t necessary if you use the solvent products that evaporate after cleaning. You might just use IPA instead of oil to clean the tools. It isn’t the best solvent, but it is cheap and using a lot of it won’t hur you or the tools.

One more thing: don’t submerge your ratchet wrenches in solvent. That will remove the lube inside the mechanism. You can submerge the bar, just not the mechanism.

@ArlHtsMelissa - you’ve got me curious-why do you need to clean them? Did you inherit a them? Are they also rusty?

A garage full of years of family tools used by many different people over the years need to be cleaned and organized so I am making plans to do it in the next few weeks.

In extreme cases, I clean certain tools in the hot solvent tank

But afterwards, I rinse them off

That solvent can leave a film, if you don’t rise it off