The last thing on your mind after a long and exhausting install or repair is tool care. In an effort to salvage whatever time is left of the day, you quickly gather your dirty tools and toss them into the toolbox or hang them back up on your wall rack.

Tools can last a lifetime if you take care of them but unfortunately basements and garages are places that are more likely to contain moisture than the rest of your house, magnifying your tools’ susceptibility to rust – and once rust forms on a tool, it will keep corroding faster and faster. Although moisture and oxygen are everywhere, these simple methods using household items will help keep your tools rust-free.

Blackboard Chalk

Store a few pieces of blackboard chalk in each compartment of your toolbox that contains metal tools or other hardware and it will absorb the moisture before it gets a chance to go to school on your tools.


Not only will it grill up a delicious steak, using a few pieces in your toolbox will absorb enough oxygen to help inhibit the rusting process.

Silica Gel Packs

You can find these in new shoe boxes, at the bottom of purses, or packaged with any item that has to stay dry. If you’re stuck in the shoe department while your significant other shops, it’s a good opportunity to build a good supply because they’re usually sprinkled all over the floors. Toss a few in each drawer of your toolbox to absorb moisture. It’s important to periodically dry them out so they can be reused or else they’ll eventually start leaking once fully saturated. Hold each pack for about 15 minutes in front of a warm bright light bulb and they’ll be ready to go to work again.

Moth Balls or Camphor

Camphor emits a gas that interferes with oxidation and works pretty well to prevent tools from rusting. Place a cube of camphor and a few ordinary moth balls in your toolbox for a more complete attack on rust – camphor will block the reaction while moth balls absorb moisture.


There’s a reason that greasy tools rarely get rusty. A thin film of oil like mineral or camellia oil, or even paste wax is an excellent rust inhibitor minus the grit. After oiling your tools, wipe off the excess until you’re barely able to feel the oil. Even an ultra thin coat is enough of a barrier against moisture. Other more controversial coatings I’ve seen used are motor oil, WD-40, and furniture polish. Whatever coating you choose, the key is to reapply often.

Climate Control

The root cause of rust is moisture so if you have a humid shop, you’re going to get rust. Running a dehumidifier may sound expensive but how much did you pay for some of those prized tools? It’s also taken a lot of time to build up your arsenal so there’s more than just money invested in them. A dehumidifier costs less to run than you may think and protects your investment at the source.

Micro Climates

Although those wall racks are a convenient way to have your tools at the ready they’re constantly exposed to the moisture in your shop. If running a dehumidifier isn’t an option, consider creating a micro-climate for your tools with a tool chest. A tight-fitting lid goes a long way to controlling humidity and allowing you to create a separate dry environment within your shop.

Photo credit: geoftheref