How to Properly Clean a Hatchet

How to Properly Clean a Hatchet

Hatchets are some of the best tools to bring into the outdoors. Known to many as the smaller axe, hatchets are used for a plethora of jobs and tasks while in the wilderness. However, in order to make the most of the tool and what it can do, you need to properly take care of it.

Hatchets are like anything else. They perform at their best when they are in the best possible form and condition. If there are flaws, hatchets can become dangerous and inefficient.

Today, we will break down how to properly clean your hatchet. This is a super important part of using the tool, so let’s layout a few great pointers for getting that hatchet into the best shape possible.

How to clean the head

Although every part of a hatchet should be thoroughly cleaned, but the head may be the most important part that should be carefully watched over. Because the head is going to be metal, and potentially coated, the head is a high-risk area of the hatchet.

As you already know, metal rusts. When the hatchet is open to the elements, it can be compromised on a number of levels. Here are some tips for cleaning the head of a hatchet!

Clean thoroughly after use

The easiest and best way to keep your hatchet in good shape is to clean it after every significant use. This ensures that no debris or issues will stay with the tool while it is in storage. You can use soap and water to clean the head as long as you dry it thoroughly. Soap is another element that can lead to bad things if it is not properly applied then wiped away.

Use a wire brush when necessary

When there is a bit more grime caked on the hatchet, it is much harder to get it clean with just soap and water. There are wire brushes specifically made for cleaning tools similar to hatchets. Even if you do not want to go that deep, just about any wire brush will do the job.

This takes the ability to clean your head up a notch. Caked on dirt and sap are common issues that come from using a hatchet in the wild. Using a tool like a wire brush will really clean the hatchet head as much as possible. Not every cleaning session will require something this intense, but keep it in the back of your mind just in case.

In cases where even a wire brush will not get all of the gunk off, there are a few chemicals that can be used without damaging the metal. Paint thinner and acetone are both known to strip sticky resins and other substances off of hatchets and provide a more consistent tool.

Scrape and manage rust

The biggest issue to watch for when thinking about the head of a hatchet is rust. Whenever there is metal involved, extra care and attention need to be paid in order to get the most possible out of your hatchet.

When rust starts to form, there are a few things you can do before the tool needs to be replaced. One of which is to scrape the rusted area down enough to rid any issues. Then, you need to give it some extra care to ensure it does not happen again.

The other strategy is to soak the hatchet head in white vinegar. The formula of the vinegar does a great job of breaking down the rust and pushing it out.

How to clean the handle

How you clean the handle of your hatchet does depend on the material being used. Is it traditional wood, or is it composite? That is the first question you should ask yourself and figure out.

For both handles, you can use soap and water, similarly to the head, to get off basic dirt and grime. As long as you dry and wipe them down thoroughly, you are good to go.

The difference between the two is when there is super strong dirt that requires some scraping. When you have a beautiful wood handle, you have to be careful not to strip the finish or create any big scratches. This could ruin the look and protective features of the finish.

If you are using a composite handle, you can be a little more rough with a wire brush or chemical to strip off sap or whatever else may be on the handle. When you have a traditional wood handle, you need to be far more careful about what can be applied. 

How to clean the sheath

The shealth is the part of the setup that you will probably clean the least out of the three. Although this is the first contact to outside grime, the materials used should not be as corrosive or subject to major change due to the elements.

A common material for a sheath is leather. Leather can be wiped down for simple fixes, but you need to be careful as it can be affected by large amounts of water and soap.

The other type of shealth will be made of a composite or synthetic material. These can be cleaned very easily with water and even washed thoroughly depending on the option.


There is no set rule for how often you need to clean the various aspects of your hatchet. As a general rule, cleaning your hatchet should directly correlate to the quantity and quality of work being done. If you have to cut one simple log, you don’t have to roll out all of the works. If it is your go-to tool on a long adventure, you may need to bring out the big guns.

Take care of your hatchet

Overall, be more careful than not and treat your hatchet like anything else that you care about!

Hopefully, you now have a much better idea about how to take care of your hatchet! Without taking the necessary steps, your tool will not have a long life. So, think about your specific situation and apply these steps for the best results possible!

John Sunder

John Sunder, an outdoors and bushcraft enthusiast, is the founder and operator of A collector of axes and hatchets, he enjoys writing and educating people about these amazing and ancient tools while also writing about other outdoor experiences.

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