Brilliant Ways to Organize a Tool Chest-Unlimited Guide

If your tool chest is messy, you can be sure your work will be messy as well, and you don’t want that, or do you?

That is why it’s paramount to get that greasy, grimy, disorganized tool chest cleaned up; your work will be much simpler and you’ll be happy with your accomplishments.

We are going to walk you through a few awesome strategies of cleaning and organizing your tool chest, so read on.

What is a tool chest?

Also known as a workbox or a toolbox, a tool chest is a box that is used for organizing, carrying, and protecting tools. People keep tool chests for various reasons, like professional work,wood-working, hobbies or DIY projects, and the contents of their tool chests vary based on the purpose of the owner.

There are various types of tool chests; some are huge with separate drawers for sorting tools and others are small with no modifications inside.

In the past, tool chests were built from wood but today, they’re primarily made of plastic or metal, as these materials are more durable.

Here are the stages you need to follow to organize your tool chest efficiently.

Stage I: Get Organized

Empty the chest

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to reorganize your portable tool chest or a storage box in your garage, the first thing you want to do is toss everything out and evaluate the situation. By laying the box’s contents in a pile, you’re able to gain access to all the box’s corners and that way, you’re able to organize it efficiently.

If your tool chest is particularly dirty and greasy, it’s best to lay a barrier beneath its contents so you don’t end up creating a mess. An old cardboard will work perfectly; you could also use a tarp.

I suggest you do all this outdoors, perhaps in the driveway or the yard to avoid dirtying your house.


Once everything is out of the chest, you have a great opportunity to scrub the chest thoroughly. If there’s a heavy grease layer in there, some paint thinner will come in handy. Use it to cut through the grease.

You’re not targeting for a spotless-clean chest – you’ll not eat off of it – however, you will find it easier to organize your items when the chest is clean.

Want to clean your tools or tool chest with acetone?

Ensure you are outside in a properly-ventilated area to avoid getting lightheadedness, and once you start feeling lightheaded, take a break before continuing with the cleanup exercise.

TIP: Also you can use rust remover to keep your tool clean.

Clean the tools

Clean the tools one by one, examining them as you go. Utilize an abrasive pad and some paint thinner to get the grease off. Look out for rust and other issues, and test the tools a little to make sure they’re working as expected.

Ensure your adjustable wrenches are still adjusting appropriately and that tools with moving parts are well greased and moving properly.

Dump the broken or ruined items

Ruined items include loose screws and nails that have no purpose in the chest box. If a tool is totally rusted or broken beyond any repair, discard it. Be sure to get rid of all the junk that’s only wasting space in the chest.

Only keep the items you still look to use. As a rule, if you can’t identify something, it deserves to go into the garbage.

Only keep the essential tools

What tools totally need to be in your tool chest?

Be sure not to leave out the basic tools for your projects. Most folks will need at least a hammer, a wrench and screwdriver set, a flashlight, a tape measure, some safety glasses, a tape measure, and some pliers.

You might also find an electric drill and a carpenter’s level very useful, depending on the nature of your tasks. The problem is, if your tool chest is small, all these items might not fit in there. That’s why you need to prioritize and figure out what objects to keep and which ones to leave out.

Re-evaluate your tool chest

Ask yourself this question: Am I attempting to force 20 pounds of tools in a 15-pound tool chest?

If so, you need to do some upgrade. You could get a larger tool chest or do what most people do – get a draw style storage box to supplement the tool chest. Here, you can keep the extra items.

We recommend getting a smaller unit as a start and as you progress and secure more tools, you can upgrade to a bigger drawer style tool box.

Stage II: Repack the Toolbox

Let the birds of a feather flock together

There’s no universal manner of arranging a toolbox; the object is to be as organized and neat as possible. How can you do that? By creating piles where like tools stay together.

The manner in which you choose to pull this off is up to you; it depends on the kind of tools you have. Pile the screwdrivers together, let the wrenches stay together, and so on and so forth. That way, each time you need something from that tool chest, you will be able to find it with ease.

Sort them out by function

Items like fasteners, washers, and bolts perform similar functions – they secure things to one another. Therefore, such items need to be kept together in the same area.

Also, tools like wrenches and screwdrivers perform similar duties. Therefore, if you keep the screwdrivers in one drawer, keep the wrenches in the next.

Sort them out by project

Do you specialize in common projects?

They could be fixing the water systems, repairing cars engines like air intake, replacing antennas, and so on. If you specialize in different projects like those, then there are tools you need together at the same time, maybe a socket set and a grease gun. Keep such tools together.

Sort them by popularity

There are, without doubt, tools are you use more frequently than others. Consider placing your most popular tools at the front where you can access them with ease and keep your less popular tools at the back, as you won’t be needing them as often.

Another way of arranging them based on popularity is to keep your popular tools in one drawer and your less popular tools in a separate drawer.

Sort out standard and metric tools

For wrenches and sockets, there might be different sizes, and digging through uncategorized drawers to find the right tool for the job can be a huge pain. That is why it’s advisable to keep different sizes in separate locations.

Store wrenches and sockets on rails

There are rails sold at tools and hardware stores that are meant specifically for organizing wrenches. Purchase such organizers and use them to store your wrenches and sockets in a manner that they’re easily accessible. Fortunately, these rails are very cheap.

Place a cardboard at the bottom of your tool chest

Do your tools attract grease quickly? It will help a lot to line the bottom of your tool chest with a cardboard. The cardboard will soak up some of the grease and prevent it from staining the tool chest.

Label your stuff

Secure a masking tape and a marker and begin to label each drawer in the tool chest. You have just done a reorganization and might take some time to tell where a certain tool is but with labels, things will be a whole lot easier.

Stage III: Stay Organized

In this part, we will give you a few tips to help you organize your tools properly:

Get a tools pegboard

Maybe you have four or five of the same tool. In that case, you need a way to organize the extra tools, and one of best solutions is to have a pegboard. That way, your work will be much easier to manage. Hang some hooks on the pegboard for storing items that can be hanged. As for the items that are not easy to hang, you can hang baskets and store them in these baskets. Things like screws ought to go into these baskets.

Get organization trays for miscellaneous items

Go over to the hardware store and purchase little trays for storing small and miscellaneous things like nuts and nails that you don’t want to throw to the garbage.

Things like screws and nails are very important but storing them incorrectly often causes a huge mess. That is why these little trays will be very helpful. And, by the way, rather than buying trays from the hardware, you could use old coffee cans or milk jugs, or any other containers that are have no useful business in the kitchen.

Just be sure to mark them properly. For example, you can have a container for nails and another one for bolts, and so on.

Clean your tools after use

One of the biggest contributors to disorganization is dirt. Therefore, try cleaning your tools after using them. Sometimes, perhaps, you will use the pliers to cut a thin wire and not dirty it much. That’s where we now talk of periodic cleaning. The tools that are not too dirty can be cleaned once a week or twice a month.

To clean the tools, first wipe off the grime and oil with a rag, then wipe them down with a damp cloth. Be sure to dry them before returning them to the tool chest, to avoid rusting.

Also Read: Our Editors Pick Top 10 Foam Cannon On The Market

Put them back promptly

Once you’re done with that hammer or wrench or drill or whatever tool you’re using, don’t just leave it lying around and walk away, be sure to return it to its proper spot in the tool chest.

It’s better to clean up as you work rather than waiting till the evening so you can start worrying about the mess you created during the day.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: How do I keep a steel tool chest clean?

  • Lubricate the casters with high-grade bearing oil at least once annually. Also, lubricate the slides with light duty oil at least twice per year.
  • When you’re dusting the chest, do it with a soft and clean cloth that doesn’t present the risk of scratching.
  • If there are any liquid spills on/in the chest, wipe them off promptly with a clean rag.

Q2: Which one is better – a steel or a stainless-steel tool chest?

Steel is coated with a powder that protects it from corrosion while stainless steel has a chemical composition that safeguards it against corrosion without the need for a powder coat. As stainless steel is not coated with powder, you can polish it to a fine shine and moreover, it’s construction is more corrosion-resistant than that of plain steel. That’s why stainless steel is much better.

Q3: What should I do with the extra items that were in the toolbox?

As for the items that are just filling up space in the tool chest, you can either throw them to the garbage (that’s if you absolutely don’t need them later) or you can get small containers and store them in there in an organized manner.

Q4: What if my tool chest is too small for all my tools?

You have two options – either get a larger tool chest or secure drawer storages or containers where you can keep the extra items.

Final Word

If you’re very serious with your DIY tasks, getting and staying organized is indispensable. By following the guidelines we have outlined here, you will certainly see some improvement in your efficiency at handling tasks. Remember, if your tool chest is too small, getting a bigger one will be a great move. You could also secure smaller storage boxes to store some of your equipment.

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