How to take good care of your snow shovel

How do you tackle snow removal? Do you wait until Mother Nature is finished and remove all the snow at once, or do you shovel bit by bit to avoid mountainous drifts? Or maybe you hire someone to do the job for you. No matter which, if you live in your own home, you likely own a snow shovel. Or a few, for that matter. (We have one large shovel and one small one for scooping around things on the porch and for grandkids to use when they’re here.)

in any case, taking care of your shovels will help them last longer and do a better job! 

a person wearing jeans and a black hoodie shoveling snow

Tips for taking good care of a snow shovel:

  • Dry off your shovel when you’re finished using it. Keep an old towel in the garage or shed (wherever you store your shovel) for this purpose. This will keep your shovel from rusting and/or becoming clumped up with dirt and grit.
  • Before shoveling, apply cooking oil or car wax paste to both sides of the shovel blade. This will help prevent rusting of metal parts of the shovel — and it will also help the snow slide off easily!
  • When you’re not using it, store your shovel indoors (in the garage or shed or basement) so that it doesn’t rust (some metals used for shovels are rust-proof, but others are not). Plastic shovels, especially, need to be kept indoors because moisture and sun can make them brittle.
  • Occasionally tighten any screws (on handles, for example).
  • Sand any splinters on wood handles. 
  • Apply linseed oil to wood handles a couple of times per season to protect them. 
  • Hang your shovels rather than standing them on the ground. 
  • Don’t try to break up ice with your snow shovel. Plastic-shovel blades can shatter, and too much “chipping away” at ice dulls the reinforced metal front edge found on most shovels. It’s best to soften and loosen ice with salt before removing — and/or use a steel ice chopper designed for the job.
  • At the end of the season, wash your shovel with warm, soapy water. Scrub with a stiff brush, if necessary. Rinse and dry well before storing. 

Choosing a snow shovel

When it’s time to buy a new shovel, consider your many options! (If you’re going to have multiple shovels, you may want different styles to deal with different depths and kinds of snow.)

yellow snow shovel with a wood handle

Size

  • Snow shovel blades usually range from one to two feet or so. Some shovels are deeper than others, too. Keep in mind that while wider, deeper blades mean fewer scoops, those scoops will be heavier!
  • Handle lengths of shovels usually range from 24 to 32 inches, but of course you can find small shovels sized for children, too. Try out the shovel in the store to see if it’s comfortable for your height. (You don’t want to have to bend over too much while shoveling.)
  • Snow pushers are much wider, up to about 42 inches. These are obviously not for lifting but for pushing the snow aside. Make sure you have a place to push all your snow — without lifting — if you depend on one of these. 
  • Snow sleighs scoop large amounts of snow, and they can be pushed while standing upright.  They can get the job done in a jiffy, but they can also be unwieldy and require some strength to push!

Material

  • Plastic is inexpensive and lightweight, and the snow tends to slide off it easily. Plastic isn’t much help when it comes to icy surfaces, though, and the edge can easily become damaged by rock and debris. Plastic is also likely to become brittle and break if left outdoors.
  • Metal (aluminum and especially steel) is strong and durable. Metal is better for ice removal, but it can also damage pavers, decorative concrete, and wooden decks.
  • Wood handles are durable and medium weight. Some people like the heft and natural feel they provide for lifting snow. 
  • Fiberglass is very durable and won’t rust, but it’s a heavier material. 
  • Combo shovels — such as a plastic shovel with a metal or fiberglass edge to protect the blade — are also available. 
red shovel with silver and black handle, pushing snow from a brick walk

Design

  • Ergonomic handles, which look oddly angled, are designed to require less bending over and less muscle to push the snow.
  • Dual handles. These shovels have two handles, a straight shaft and a second, shorter handle. The second handle can give you more leverage for lifting the snow. Some are spring-assisted, to help you toss the snow.
  • Telescoping handles allow you to adjust the length of the handles for comfort — and to tuck the shovel in the trunk of your car during the winter months. (If you get one of these, make sure the telescoped handle locks securely.)
  • Folding shovels are handy for little jobs, like moving the snow out from under your tires. These, too, can be tucked into your trunk.
  • Electric shovels appeal to those who like the idea of snow blowers without the bulk. They run with a battery pack or a cord and turn a blade that picks up and throws the snow. 
  • Snowcasters have blades like snow pushers as well as wheels and a steering bar.

If you’re in the market, Wirecutter has a rundown of what they consider the best snow shovels.

What kind of shovel do you like to use? Have you had it for many seasons? 

You might also enjoy:

How to store your lawn mower for winter

How to clean and store outdoor furniture for winter

Brooms — How to clean and care for your household broom

2 thoughts on “How to take good care of your snow shovel”

  1. I tend to stick with the med-size, rounded plastic shovel. I find it is the perfect size to scoop a decent amount of snow that I can throw several feet. It’s also weatherproof so I can leave it right next to the back door and scoop my way out without packing the snow in footprints all the way to my garage. I also have a child-size shovel for my grandkids. Lydia helped with shoveling this past week and had the great idea to shovel letter paths on the driveway as a first pass! Then we were careful to shovel around her little sister (who stood locked in place like a south-going Zax) while we shoveled everything around her. Their wonder and enthusiasm made the whole event a memorable task for me.

    Reply
    • How great that you included the grands in the fun of the task (instead of seeing them as an obstacle to getting the job done)! And what a cute idea to shovel letters, Lydia! She has her G’ma’s creative streak!

      Reply

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