How to take good care of scissors

I love good scissors! Big shiny shears, tiny thread cutters, embroidery snips that look like storks. I like having just-the-right kind handy, so I currently have scissors in my purse, knitting bag, mending bag, sewing basket, wrapping closet, ribbon basket, kitchen drawer, office, laundry area, ironing basket, and garage. 

And because I like to invest in good scissors, I like knowing how to take care of them, too. Here’s how: 

Store scissors correctly

Put them in a special holder. Tossing scissors in a drawer full of other utensils (or a “junk drawer”) can cause them to become scratched and nicked and knocked out of alignment. Close your scissors when you’re not using them. Then place them in a sheath, pouch, or box for protection. (You can make a simple felt pouch for them, if you like.) Some blocks for knives have spots for kitchen scissors — that’s the ideal spot for those!

Avoid humidity. Don’t store scissors in the bathroom or other humid place, or they may rust.  A cool, dry place is best. Hold scissors by the handle, to prevent any sweat on your hands from damaging the blades. Don’t set scissors on your ironing board while you’re ironing (steaming seams, for example). That’s because the ironing board cover can retain the moisture from the steam. Keep your scissors away from things that might spill.

Protect them from falls. Don’t leave scissors on the edge of the desk, counter, or sewing table, for example. 

Use scissors thoughtfully

gold and silver sewing shears and a white tape measurer on top of light denim jeans

Use designated scissors. If you have a sewer in the house, you probably know not to use sewing scissors to cut paper. That’s because the paper will surely dull the blades. Likewise, don’t use haircutting scissors on paper or craft scissors for hair. In other words, use each pair of scissors for its intended purpose. (See the section “Know your scissors,” below.)

So, have designated scissors for each use — fabric, crafts, kitchen use, paper, plants, and hair, for example. If you have trouble recognizing/keeping them apart, you can designate your scissors by tying different color ribbon on each handle, or use a permanent marker to mark each handle. (Keep a crib sheet of which color corresponds to which scissors, at least until you know your color code by heart.) 

Don’t force the blades. If your scissors resist a cut, don’t force them or you’ll damage the alignment of the scissors. Resistance means you might need larger scissors or that your scissors may need sharpening. 

Avoid pins. When cutting fabric, take care not to run into pins with your scissors. Pins can nick the blades and ruin their alignment. Place your pins away from what will be your cutting line. 

Cut correctly. Avoid the misalignment of blades by using them correctly. When cutting heavier fabric, for example, use the full blade (starting at the joint where they open), but when cutting little curves or notches, use the tips. 

Clean and oil your scissors

A person cutting yarn on a loom

Cleaning

Wipe your scissors clean after you use them. This will help your scissors stay sharper by keeping stray fibers, hairs, plant materials, etc. from damaging the metal. 

It’s okay to wash most scissors when they get sticky or dirty, but be sure to dry them well as soon as you’re finished. (Check your manufacturer’s guidelines, though, because some scissors shouldn’t be washed.) Use dish soap and warm water on a washcloth. Rinse with clear warm water. If the blades are rusty, rub them with some white vinegar, then wash and dry. (Of course, you’ll need to be careful not to cut yourself on the blades.)

Oiling 

Oil the pivot screw now and then (once a month or so). Apply just a small drop of scissor or sewing machine oil to the screw. Open and close the blades several times. Then be sure to wipe away any extra oil.  

Oils the blades once in a while, too. Wipe well with a clean cloth, then cut into a clean piece of scrap fabric or paper (depending on which scissors you’re cleaning) to remove any residual oil. 

Tightening

If your scissors have a pivot screw, tighten it when you oil it. BTW, if your scissor blades feel too hard to open and close, or too loose, try adjusting the screw.

Keep your scissors sharp.

Have your scissors sharpened. Local fabric stores often have someone who sharpens regularly, so check with them about their schedule. If they don’t have someone, they can probably recommend a good scissor sharpening company. You can also send your scissors to be sharpened. Gingher (who makes my favorite scissors) sharpens and repairs scissors, via mail, for $12 a pair. 

There are ways to sharpen your own scissors at home, and there are several sharpening tools you can purchase. (I prefer to have a pro do mine, especially since they only need sharpening once or twice a year.) Don’t try to take the easy way out you may have heard about and cut sandpaper or aluminum foil with your scissors in an effort to sharpen them—it’s not a good idea and can actually damage your scissors.

rusted metal scissors wrapped into a roll of twine

Refurbish old scissors

There are some wonderful old scissors out there! Some are still in great shape (having been well cared for), and others need some help. If you have a pair of scissors that have seen better days, try to bring them back into service. 

  • If they are very rusty, soak them in some white vinegar overnight. Brush off any rust. 
  • Wash with soap and warm water, and dry well. 
  • Tighten or loosen the screw to adjust them, and oil the screw (see above). 
  • Wipe the blades with a small amount of oil, then wipe well with a clean cloth. Cut scrap fabric or paper (depending on the scissors) to get the remaining oil off. Wipe again before using.

Know your scissors. There are scissors especially designed for certain tasks. And there are so many tasks! You can find mustache scissors, upholstery scissors, left-handed scissors and even ambidextrous scissors. You can find EMT scissors for cutting clothing off injured people and nurse’s scissors for cutting off bandages. And, of course, there are safety scissors, with blunt ends and plastic-covered blades, making them safe for children. Some scissors are straight (the blades in line with the handles) and others are bent (the blades at an angle with the handles). 

When you’re in the market for a new pair of scissors, buy good ones. They’ll last much longer (if you take care of them!) and perform better, with occasional sharpening. 

Here’s a rundown of the most popular scissors: (I’ve linked to pictures, so you can see the variety of beautiful scissors out there!)

Black paper-cutting scissors lay open on top of floral stationary
  • All-purpose scissors (also called crafting scissors or paper scissors) have long blades with pointed tips. Use them for non-fabric cutting—crafts, kitchen use, wrapping, paper, etc. They’re not sharp enough for precise fabric cutting. Aren’t these paper scissors beautiful?
  • Dressmaker scissors (fabric shears) have higher quality blades and cut cleanly through fabric. They have long blades (7 to 10 inches), with one rounded and one pointed blade. The round edge keeps the fabric from snagging, and the top blade is angled for a smoother cut on fabric.
  • Tailor scissors are smaller, with about a 5-inch blade length. Use them for quilting, crafting, and sewing. They’re handy and very sharp clear to the tip. 
  • Pinking shears have jagged blades that cut a zigzag edge on fabric. Use them to keep fabric edges from fraying (the jagged edges slow the weave from becoming undone). (These cut a pretty scalloped edge.) Sometimes a pinked or scalloped edge is nice on paper, too, but don’t use your fabric pinking shears to make it. There are many paper edger scissors you can purchase to make decorative edges. 
  • Buttonhole scissors have short blades and are heavy duty. Use them for cutting buttonholes and cutting off buttons. Some have an adjustable screw that you can set to make sure you don’t accidentally cut the buttonhole too long. 
  • Applique Scissors have a bend in the handles that allows you to cut very close to the fabric without damaging it.
  • Small scissors are handy for all kinds of little jobs, from snipping loose threads to cutting itchy tags out of garments. Notion scissors are small, sharp, and come in handy in a variety of situations.  Yarn scissors/thread clippers are fine and have a sharp tip. They don’t have finger holes. The curved blades allow you to cut close to the fabric without damaging it. Little embroidery scissors are my favorites for small jobs. These (gifted by a friend) are the scissors I carry in my purse. 
  • Ribbon scissors are small and sharp. If you’ve ever tried to cut a tidy ribbon edge with all-purpose scissors, you know why you need ribbon scissors!
  • Floral scissors include herb scissors, topiary shears, bonsai shears, and flower shears. I have a pair in the kitchen for arranging vases of flowers and a pair outside for deadheading flowers. Gardenista offers a good variety of floral scissors. 
  • Hair cutting shears are also known as barber shears or hairdressing shears. They’re very sharp and have a smooth edge. They come in various lengths, mostly 5- and 7-inch blades.  Many of these have a finger brace on one of the finger loops, which helps keep a steady hand when cutting hair.
green and white flowers, black plant scissors, and a tan tag that reads "love" on to of green fabric

Note: I am an Etsy affiliate, so—while these links are intended for information and fun—if you purchase any from Etsy, I’ll receive a small commission (which does not affect your purchase price).

So, did you learn anything about types of scissors and taking care of scissors?  Do you have a favorite brand to share?

You might also enjoy:

How to take care of a wood cutting board

Brooms—How to clean and care for your household broom

Caring for books—How to store, clean, and handle your books

4 thoughts on “How to take good care of scissors”

  1. My Cutco scissors have been reliable and well-used on all sorts of materials! They were expensive ($99), but have held up well for many years and for a wide variety of uses. I recently mailed them off to be sharpened and am discovering I need some other pairs!

    Reply
  2. Good scissors are expensive (compared to what you can buy scissors for!), but so worth the investment, I think. Not only will they last forever, they’re a joy to use – especially when they’ve just been sharpened! I haven’t tried Cutco scissors, but I had a Cutco knife I loved. (Been thinking of getting another; mine disappeared. Maybe I’ll add scissors to the order now, since you like yours, Mary!)

    Reply
  3. You definitely get what you pay for with scissors and any sewing person will tell you they guard their fabric scissors with their life! Thanks for including my little felt embroidery scissor pouch, it makes such a difference to keep really sharp pointy scissors protected.

    Reply

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