How to Clean Power Tools: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide

How to Clean Power Tools: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide

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No matter whether you go with a relatively affordable Ryobi tool or a top-of-the-line Hilti hammer drill, to maximize its lifetime, you should routinely clean it.

You should, of course, lightly clean it after each and every use. You should, however, also clean it more thoroughly every now and then. Below, I take a closer look at how you should clean your tools to keep them in the best possible shape at all times.

Why Should You Clean Your Power Tools?

The bottom line is that your tools will stop working if you don’t keep them clean.

As you know, power tools aren’t used for surgery – they aren’t used in pristine, perfectly clean environments. Quite the opposite. Dust, mud, and grime will build up on your power tools as you use them. Even though the tools are designed to be used in rugged environments, they aren’t designed to be used that way without routine maintenance.

Power tools have electronic components as well, and typically an air vent. Continued dust buildup in either of these will lead to overheating and eventual failure. That being said, a little upkeep after each use will extend your tools’ overall life.

How Often Should You Clean Your Power Tools?

That is based on how often the tools are used. The short answer is that every time you use a tool, you should give it a quick wipe-down. Even using compressed air and a rag to quickly get the dust out of the tool is sufficient.

From time to time, you will need to do a more comprehensive cleaning. This means replacing whatever air filters you have, cleaning out the tools’ exhausts, and giving a more patient wipe.

As an additional tip, you should consider your tool storage to avoid excessive need for cleaning your power tools. Storing your power tools in a toolbox, chest, or other similar container will keep the dust away between uses.

If you think it’s a waste of money and time, try predicting the time and money spent having to replace your power tools.

Cleaning and replacing parts should be done per your manual provided by the manufacturer. It might be a good idea to keep this manual in the box you store your tool in between uses.

How to Clean Your Power Tools: A Step-by-Step Guide

For most power tools in your shop or garage, the cleaning process will about the same. We are going to work from the easiest to hardest parts of it.

Vacuuming and Wiping Down Your Tool

The first and easiest thing to do would be cleaning the dust and debris off the machine. A shop vac will save you a lot of time. Clean the belt, guard, table, vent, auger, chuck, and any moving parts. Basically you want to clean dust and light debris from every nook and cranny of your tool.

After vacuuming any dust, an optional step would be to give a quick air-blast to the tool. This would clean out any deep-seated dust in your tool. It’s important that you only do this step after vacuuming, not before. Using compressed air before vacuuming could actually hurt your tool by driving all the dust in further and caking it on the internals of your tool.

We are now going to give a quick wipe-down to your power tool. For any waterproof parts, you should use a damp cloth. For liquid-sensitive parts, stick to a dry towel. This step will get rid of the stubborn grime and buildup on your tool. Don’t be afraid to use a little elbow grease to work the power tool clean.

Visual Inspection and Additional Maintenance

Now you should give a quick visual check on your tool. Are there any broken pieces? Does anything seem odd? Check your manufacturer’s manual to remedy these situations.

Check for rust on your tool. If you see any rust, use a stiff brush and be very gentle – you don’t want to scratch the surface of your tool. If you want to use a degreaser, that will also help.

Now that we’ve done some housekeeping, let’s take a closer look at our power tool.

Go through and play with every moving part on the tool. Make sure that everything is moving as intended. Check the fasteners and tighten as needed. See if there are any squeaky or worn parts that need lubrication. This is also a good time to check all of the wires, cables, and plugs on your tool.

Check your blades and see if they need to be sharpened or replaced. Again, refer to your manufacturer’s manual to see if anything needs to be adjusted or fixed.

When Clening Tools, Make Sure to Check Blades Too

Now that you’ve cleaned, inspected, tightened, and replaced the parts on your power tool, it’s time for the final step.

Make sure that everything is where it belongs, and you didn’t forget to replace any parts. Then make sure the unit is mechanically sound and square. After you’re done, go through and check everything one more time. Remember that there are often dangerous, fast, and sharp moving parts.

If anything is misaligned, improperly fastened, or otherwise misassembled, it could be catastrophic.

Best Products for Cleaning Power Tools

In the second step of cleaning your power tool, you used compressed air. If you don’t have a compressed air hook-up in your shed or garage, then you need to use a compressed gas duster, like this one by Falcon. It’s a can of compressed air with a trigger so you can easily blow dust and debris off of your power tool.

It’s completely ozone-safe and is gentle enough for use on electronics.

Compressed Air for Cleaning Power Tools

A degreaser can go a long way when it comes to cleaning your power tool as well. Simple Green makes a great heavy-duty degreaser that will break down grease, remove stains, and get rid of grime. It’s an easy go-to in the shop.

Finally, one more thing you need when it comes to cleaning tools is a firm-bristle brush for removing rust and stubborn grit. I recommend getting the OXO brand brush set. The brushes are small enough to fit into the corners of your tool, but long enough to be held comfortably.

They can be quickly wiped or washed off to make sure the bristles are ready for their next use.


As you can see, cleaning power tools is not difficult. It can be a hassle, though – especially if you are busy with projects. Because of that, more than anything, it is important to slowly develop the habit of cleaning your tools after every use if nothing else.

To do so, you will need an air duster, a set of brushes, and a degreaser.

Once you get into the habit of cleaning your tools after every use, you should plan for a deeper clean every now and then. If you rarely use your tools, once every few months might be enough. On the other hand, if you use your tools daily, you will want to do it at least once a month.