A good lawn spreader is a precision tool and should be treated accordingly. Your lawn spreader doesn’t need a great deal of time-consuming maintenance, but a few simple steps can help preserve its life and precision.
You should wash your spreader after every use (Figure 1). Even if you plan to use the spreader again soon (tomorrow, even) wash it now. Cold water is adequate for washing after applying most granular products. It is helpful to close the spreader ports, then fill the hopper with water. By the time the water leaks out, the buildup of material should be loosened and can be rinsed out with a garden hose.
Next, wash the rest of the spreader. If there is a persistent buildup of material on the spreader that doesn’t readily come off with cold water, try warm water and wipe with a cloth or sponge. You need to be especially careful to wash any buildup from under the shut-off-bar on a drop spreader or on the impeller of a rotary spreader. Be sure to operate the on/off linkage several times while spraying water under the shut-off-bar or shut-off-plate to clean between the bar or plate and the hopper.
Drying your spreader is easy. Just place it in the sun for an hour or so. You may need to turn it upside down for part of the drying time to be sure all the water drains from the nooks and crannies.
The most important thing here is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions (Figure 2). The gears on some rotary spreaders are designed to be greased; other models are not designed to operate with grease and will wear faster if greased. The same warning applies to axle bearings; some are designed to be oiled or greased, and some are not. Be careful with lubricants around plastic components. Some popular spray lubricants will dissolve polystyrene, a common spreader component.
Always store your spreader with the ports fully open (at the highest setting). This will relax the spring on the mechanism. Store the spreader inside away from moisture and away from direct sunlight. Never store anything on top of the spreader! A good way to store most small homeowner spreaders is to hang them from a bracket on the wall.
If you take care of your spreader, it can take care of your lawn. If you abuse your spreader, you will damage the spreader and will very likely not get good results from the products you apply to your lawn. Protect your investment in a spreader!