Disinfecting garden tools can help ensure the long-term health of plants and vegetables. Plant pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, cause diseases that can damage and even kill plants, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. These pathogens can be transmitted to plants and infect them through pieces of soil and plant debris that stick to common garden tools such as shovels and shears. Pathogens are microscopic and invisible to the naked eye. Therefore, even tools that appear clean can still contain harmful substances on their surface, which can turn out to be life-threatening for plants. Disinfecting tools at the right time, e.g. Storing tools in the fall, or before use in the spring, or after removing infected plants, can prevent damage from invisible pathogens. Avoid rigorous bleaching to disinfect gardening tools, as the UME notes that bleach can corrode metal and therefore render tools that require sharp edges ineffective. A homemade solution consisting of nine parts water and one part bleach can be used to effectively clean shovels, spades, and rakes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find that isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) in concentrations of 70 percent or more can effectively disinfect surfaces for bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Such a solution can be used to disinfect hand cutters and other small hand tools. Store-bought detergents containing 0.1 percent alkyl dimethylbenzylammonium saccharinate can also be effective at disinfecting small hand tools and small pots and saucers.

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