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How to Maintain Bypass Pruners

Ask This Old House Landscape Contractor Jenn Nawada explains what should be done to maintain a set of bypass pruners and why it matters.

What’s the Difference Between Dull and Sharp Blades?

According to Landscape Contractor Jenn Nawada, sharp pruners will leave a very clean, smooth cut while dull pruners will leave a rough cut. Cuts with dull blades will take longer to heal and can leave a plant vulnerable to disease.

Why Should You Maintain Pruners?

Jenn stresses the importance of maintaining pruners because plants are living things, so they should be treated as such. Therefore, the tool you cut them with should be sharp and sterile, so the cut can heal properly without risking rot and disease.

How to Keep Bypass Pruners Sterile

  1. Spray the pruner with a household cleaner.
  2. Dip pruners in a bucket of clean water.
  3. Wipe dry with a rag to prevent the blade from rusting.
  4. Go over the blades with steel wool.

How to Sharpen Bypass Pruners

  1. Make sure the pruners are clean before sharpening.
  2. Sharpen the blades like you would a kitchen knife. On the bevel edge side, rub the blade in one direction on a sharpening stone.
  3. Turn over to the flat side. Look for any raised pieces of metal and run the sharpening stone over the raised pieces.
  4. If the blades are extremely dull, you can take them completely apart and take some time on the stone. But if you’re sharpening regularly, this shouldn’t be necessary.
  5. Using 3-in-One Oil or lubricant spray and put in between the two blades.


Jenn demonstrated a variety of ways to keep pruners sharp and sterile. For the examples, she used some of her own pruners, which are ARS pruning shears.

To clean the blades, Jenn used a combination of steel wool and Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner.