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How to Clean Bonsai Tools? (5 Methods)

Cleaning your tools reduces the risk of accidentally spreading infections and diseases to your tree and between trees. 

So, you need to take the utmost care in cleaning your implements before and after using them on your bonsai. 

Nobody wants to accidentally kill the tree they’ve worked so hard on just because they didn’t correctly clean their tools. 

Overall, you can clean bonsai tools using a sanding block eraser or soapy water and a soft cloth.

You can also use special cleaning oils to remove stains and help the blades resist rust. 

Meanwhile, alcohol will kill germs that could cause an infection or disease in your bonsai. 

So, let’s take a look at the different methods you can use to clean your tools, how each technique works, and how to mix procedures for optimum results. 

How to Clean Bonsai Tools

There are a few different options for cleaning bonsai tools, and which you follow will depend on how dirty the tool is and how much cleaning it needs.

It may also depend on the kind of bonsai tree you have because some trees produce more sap, which will stick to the tool and can be quite hard to remove. 

In this case, you’ll need a stronger cleaning solution.

Overall, you can clean bonsai tools using:

  • A rag
  • Soap and water
  • A sanding block eraser
  • Special cleaning oils
  • Alcohol wipes or liquid alcohol

All of these methods have different advantages and disadvantages, and you may sometimes need to use several of them on one tool.

For instance, a rag can be useful for the initial wipe of the tool, while alcohol will sterilize it and make it safe to use again after it has touched diseased wood.

5 Methods to Clean Bonsai Tools 

1) A Rag

A rag is a helpful object to have around so you can give the blades of your tool a quick wipe in between each cut.

Wiping the tool this often might seem like a lot of extra work, but doing so can reduce the risk of spreading contaminants from one part of the plant to another.

So, keep a handful of rags available whenever you are working on your bonsai, and simply run the rag over the blades each time you use them.

This cursory wipe will not do a great deal to clean the tool, however. 

Thus, you need to follow it up with one of the following methods before you put the tool away or move on to pruning another plant.

2) Soap And Water

Soap and water are the next best cleaning option, and they are nice and simple to use.

But, this method does mean getting the blades wet, which some people prefer not to do because they fear rust. 

So, if you use soap and water, you will need to make sure you dry your tools carefully afterward to avoid rust.

Also, although it has its downsides, soapy water is a great way to clean off sap, especially if the water is warm.

Yet, sap will also introduce a risk of rust, so you need to clean it off your tool after every use.

Additionally, be careful not to cut yourself when scrubbing your tool in soapy water. 

Bonsai scissors are very sharp and could inflict a deep cut if you slip, so always use the utmost care.

Finally, once the tool is clean, dry it thoroughly and then place it on an absorbent material, such as a paper towel, to get rid of any remaining moisture.

Do not put the tool away until it is completely dry.

3) Sanding Block Eraser

Some people prefer to use a sanding block eraser for their tools, particularly because it’s great at removing sap.

A sanding block eraser has some fine sandpaper on it, which works to clear away sap and other debris.

It can even take off small particles that you can’t see with the naked eye. 

Sanding blocks also help to remove rust if it has started to affect the blades.

To use a sanding block eraser, you simply need to rub the eraser over the edges of your tool.

Make sure you scrub all edges and get into the nooks and crannies. 

You should also open the tool fully so that you completely expose the blade for cleaning.

And don’t worry about the sanding block affecting your tool in any way. 

These erasers won’t damage your tool’s cutting edge, and they are actually among the most effective methods for cleaning the blades.

However, the disadvantage to this technique is that you will need to buy the eraser rather than using resources you already have (e.g., soap and water). 

So, there is an associated cost with this option.

4) Cleansing Oils

You can also get special oils designed to help clean blades.

Many of these solutions can also loosen stains and will lubricate and protect the tool, reducing the risk of it rusting.

To partake in this cleaning technique, you should first choose an oil suitable for use on your particular tool.

Some people like to use WD-40, but other oils such as Choji oil or TriFlow oil will also give great results and should help to clean the tool effectively.

Additionally, remember that if you store your tools in a slightly damp environment, using oil will keep them free from rust because it prevents the metal from oxidizing.

5) Alcohol

Alcohol is a great cleaning option if you worry about transferring diseases or infections from one tree to another or from one part of the plant to another.

And it’s best to be cautious and minimize the risks of disease transfer because it isn’t always apparent that a plant is sick.

You can clean your tool with alcohol wipes or dip it into alcohol for a few minutes to sterilize it.

Just make sure you use alcohol with a high percentage to maximize the sterilization potential.

Bear in mind, however, that alcohol alone won’t take off dirt and debris. 

Therefore, you will also need to rub the blades with a towel to remove any residue.


It’s vital to clean bonsai tools after every use because you need to keep them in excellent condition, or they won’t work well. 

You also want to keep your cutting edge free from rust and disease, so regular cleaning and maintenance is crucial.

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