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17 Best Leaf Rakes: The Ultimate List

When it comes to removing leaves from your lawn, shrub beds, and garden, there’s one very important, must-have tool in your shed: the ubiquitous leaf rake. There are many leaf rakes out there. Some are great and some, well, aren’t so much.

For a garden tool that you’ll use most likely more than any other, make sure you have a great one. It used to be that you had two choices of rakes: bamboo or steel. These days, leaf rakes come in a variety of widths, materials, and sizes.

The range of tasks that leaf rakes can tackle has grown considerably as well. Leaf blowers are great but they’re primarily good for broad, general yard work. To tidy up your space in a more detailed fashion, take a look at our list of handy leaf rakes. Better be quick, though: pretty soon you’ll need to break out the electric snow shovel.

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What is the best rake for leaves?

A leaf rake is absolutely essential for anyone with a yard to maintain. Raking leaves doesn’t have to be looked at as a boring chore, though. Leaf raking can make for a nice impromptu workout. It’s also a chance to get outside and enjoy the fresh air of the season.

But that doesn’t mean you have to use that rusty old rake you’ve had for decades. A good tool will make the time cleaning up the yard much more enjoyable. Rakes aren’t simply for collecting errant leaves, you know. 

These days, there are rakes available designed for specific tasks as well as those that take a jack-of-all-trades approach. When shopping for a good, solid rake that may last the rest of your days, think about materials, style, and (of course) budget.

The most important component of a rake is the set of tines. While I’ve owned and enjoyed rakes with plastic ones, tines made of metal have always stood the test of time. Plastic tines can become brittle and break, especially in cold weather. Metal tines have some serious flex to deal with rocks, sticks, and a lifetime of getting dragged against turf and hardscapes.

The handle comes in a close second place. Wooden handles are comfortable, easier to use in cold weather, and sustainable. Metal handles will last as long as you do but I’ve never enjoyed using them when the weather turns in November. Try not to invite a rake with a plastic handle to come live in your shed. They’re just not as long-lasting and good to use.

In short: a rake with metal tines attached to a hardwood handle is the one I want to use. That doesn’t mean there aren’t great alternatives, however. Make sure whatever rake you choose is sized for you. Raking isn’t for sissies. Just because a lawn rake is large, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to do a better job. Ergonomics are important here.

What are the different types of rakes?

Leaf rakes are the ones most people think of when the word ‘rake’ comes up. They’re typically lightweight with thin tines designed to move across the ground easily to pick up leaves. Leaf rakes won’t chew up your lawn with use and in fact stimulate root growth.

Bow rakes are what I consider ‘garden rakes’. The head is wide across and short in depth with thick metal spikes designed to turn up the soil and collect rocks. These are excellent for gardening and moving mulch around.

Shrub rakes are like leaf rakes but much smaller in order to get in and around flowers, plants, and shrubs. They have a narrow profile and a shorter head to strike at that debris quickly and get things tidied up in a flash.

Thatching rakes are heavy-duty metal implements meant for dethatching grass, that is, sink into your lawn and rip up the dead material between your plants and the soil. Dethatching by hand will definitely be a workout. The head looks like it comes out of a horror movie with (usually) massive stainless steel teeth spaced a few inches apart. Nasty.

Hand rakes are smaller versions of bow rakes. They’re designed for close-up work between vegetable plants and flowers and are good for getting weeds out from where they're supposed to be. There are smaller hand versions of leaf rakes as well.

What is the easiest way to rake leaves?

There is definitely a right and wrong way to rake leaves. Let’s go through some pointers so you can get things done in time to watch the football game. You’re going to bring some brats to the tailgating party, right? 

First off, if the weather is still cooperating, consider mowing first to take care of clippings and leaves at the same time. Work smarter, not harder!

When it’s time to rake, make sure you’re doing it with the wind and get some natural assistance working for you. Speaking of which, make sure you rake downhill whenever possible. If you have a cordless leaf blower, blowing leaves into a pile then hand raking is a nice alternative. 

Have a tarp ready and rake your leaves on top of it in case you have to move a large pile. Leaves are light and you’ll be able to move a lot of them in one go. Make sure to wear gloves and maybe even a dust mask if you’re prone to allergies. And dress in layers!

As I mentioned before, make sure you choose a rake that fits your height and build. Nothing is worse than a backache from using the wrong tool all day. Your rake should be comfortable and (yes!) actually fun to use.

Finally, mulch what you can either by using your mower, a leaf vacuum with mulching ability, or even a leaf shredder. Mulch left on your grass and plants over the winter contributes nutritious elements back to the soil making your greenscape look much better the next spring. It takes some patience on your part but using fewer chemical fertilizers will work wonders.

See Also:

Best Cordless Leaf Blowers

Best Leaf Vacuums & Blowers

Best Leaf Shredders

Best Wood Chippers