Over time your lawn builds up thatch, a layer of organic material that forms in between the green grass shoots and the soil layer. As thatch gets thicker and denser, it can choke out your lawn and prevent your grass from absorbing proper levels of fertilizer and water through the roots.
A dethatcher, also known as a power rake, is important for periodic lawn maintenance but it’s important not to overdo it; you’ll need to dethatch the right amount without harming the grass. Along with maintaining healthy grass length with a lawn mower and string trimmer, dethatching is a required step to make your grass look fantastic. Take a look at our list of lawn dethatchers below to decide what might be best for your lawn.
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1. VonHaus 15-Inch Corded Electric Lawn Dethatcher and AeratorPros:
- Separate dethatcher and aerator drums included
- LIfts organic debris and perforates soil to keep your lawn healthy
- Two-stage safety start
The VonHaus 15-Inch Electric Lawn Dethatcher and Aerator provides two valuable services to make your lawn healthier and greener. Both dethatching and aeration drums are included with the machine and are powered by a corded 12.5 amp electric motor. This lawn dethatcher is a little small at just 15 inches wide however the added value of including an aerating function might make up for it.There’s not much work required to assemble the machine; once you’re done, simply plug it in and you’re off to dig up dead grass. The tines do a great job at pulling out thatch without ripping out healthy roots. The depth settings provided by this machine will be adequate for most homeowners.Everything about the VonHaus Electric Lawn Dethatcher and Aerator says “small lawns are awesome!” The working width is narrow and the collection bag is somewhat tiny. That said, you’re not going to use this machine very often, maybe twice a year so who needs an oversized tool taking up space in the shed? It’s portability and dual-use construction really goes a long way to make up for what might be considered deficiencies at first.You should know that this machine is very lightweight which is great for storage and maneuverability but typically aerators are heavy pieces of equipment so that deep, solid cores can be taken out of the lawn. The VonHaus Two-In-One does a reasonable job with aerating but you may find you’ll want to call in a service if you want to really drill down into the grass. The same goes for when this machine is used to dethatch the lawn: you may feel like you need to lift up the back a bit for the blades to make good contact with the grass. Your experience may vary.
- Lightweight construction means you may have to pick up the backend for the drums to make contact on the front
- Watch that extension cord
- 15-inch width is somewhat problematic for larger lawns
2. Greenworks 27022 14-Inch 10 Amp Corded DethatcherPros:
- Stainless steel tines
- Three-position depth adjustment
- Four-year tool warranty
- Not as many depth adjustments as other models
- Assembly instructions aren't great; luckily it's easy to assemble
- Tines may rip out if you pull the dethatcher backward
This small yet mighty Greenworks 27022 14-Inch 10 Amp Corded Dethatcher is perfect for average-sized lawns. It features a 10 Amp motor, padded and adjustable handle, and a decent 14-inch dethatching path. The handle also includes a bale on/off switch for your convenience.
I’ve personally used this model and it worked beautifully on the highest setting. I was able to extract a small truckload of dead grass and organic material out of my lawn which is about a quarter of an acre. I planned out the route to work efficiently with the extension cord I used and it all worked great. Check out this great video showing how to dethatch your yard using the Greenworks 27022.
The dethatcher features three depth adjustments and nine stainless steel tines that won’t rust. It also comes with a full set of replacements for 18 tines total. While I personally didn’t have a challenge with the tines on the machine, I also took care not to pull the dethatcher backward and also to “wheelie” when I had to turn the machine around. Be careful with your new tool and you should be good for many uses.
The manufacturer recommends using a heavy-duty extension cord meant for the outdoors; this one here should work well for you.
3. Earthwise DT71613 16-Inch Corded Electric DethatcherPros:
- Next to no maintenance required
- Working depths from -0.4 inches to 0.4 inches
- 16-inch working width and four-gallon debris catcher
- Four gallons isn't much for capacity
- Replacement spring pins would be a nice pack-in
- Nice electric power but that cord might get in your way
The reliable DT71613 16-Inch Corded Electric Dethatcher from Earthwise is low-maintenance and easy to use, almost ridiculously so. It needs no oil or gas to function yet provides power comparable to a gas-powered model. Get rid of matted grasses and debris in the fall (not the spring!) with this lawn dethatcher to maintain your yard’s health throughout the year. The powerful 13-amp motor of this corded electric dethatcher is equipped with a bail wire switch for a safe start every time.
The 16″ working width is good to aerate and dethatch your grass effectively without having to make too many passes. The durable spring pins that do the actual dethatching work are made of zinc-plated piano wire. The four-gallon grass catcher might help you collect dead grasses and debris from your lawn but you might be better off employing a true lawn mower for that job.
No noxious fumes or noise means all this lawn tool needs is a live extension cord and it’s ready to go. Get on board the planet-saving train and improve the health of your lawn at the same time; consider picking up this great lawn dethatcher from Earthwise.
4. Sun Joe AJ801E 12 Amp 13-Inch Electric Lawn DethatcherPros:
- Efficient and effective
- Strong steel tines for maximum dethatching
- Super-easy assembly
- Feels and looks plasticky
- Requires long extension cord for any sort of mobility
- That collection bag is going to fill up quickly
First off, I must issue a disclaimer: I really enjoy the Sun Joe and Snow Joe product lines. They fill a niche for the American homeowner that no one else has really embraced and that niche is the wholly inexpensive yet effective yard tool. The Sun Joe AJ801E 12 Amp 13-Inch Electric Lawn Dethatcher doesn’t try to be anything it’s not; it’s simply happy to take care of your lawn on your time.
Best used for small to medium-sized lawns of less than half an acre, it has an electric-powered 12-amp motor with 24 spring steel tines to rake the thatch up and out of your grass. The tines are made of stainless steel and should stay sharp for many dethatching jobs in the future. Pass width is 12.6 inches which is small for a lawn dethatcher but that’s really not a big deal; you might lose ten minutes making up for the lost width.
The Sun Joe AJ801E features an instant start button (no shoulder-killing pull cords!) and a five-position control knob that adjusts the depth of your steel tines from 3mm below the soil to 9mm above the soil. Set your desired depth and hit the start button. That’s it.
This dethatcher comes with a collection bag, a nice touch, however, you’re going to find this is going to fill up quickly even on the highest depth setting. Do yourself a favor: dethatch your lawn then go over it all with your lawn mower. It’s much, much easier.
Sun Joe offers a two-year manufacturer’s warranty, also a nice touch. This is a corded electric power tool so you’ll need a long extension cord but if set up correctly in the first place, you’ll never notice you’re tethered to it.
Note: the Sun Joe people claim that this dethatcher also works as a “scarifier”; in truth, a dethatcher and a scarifier are the same thing. A scarifier simply gets down deeper into the soil to really clean out the dead material.
5. Earthquake MC43 Cultlivator Dethatcher Attachment KitPros:
- Good gas-powered solution to dethatch the lawn
- Provides more use for a small garden cultivator
- Unique, less expensive solution for a gas dethatcher
- Needs a small cultivator to function
- Requires some mechancial proficiency to make it work
- Does not fit on every small cultivator
If you have both a lawn and a garden to take care of, it makes sense to have a cultivator and a dethatcher. This Dethatcher Attachment from Earthquake works with most small 2-cycle garden cultivators like the Earthquake 31452 33cc 2-Cycle MAC Tiller Cultivator. Cultivators are used for preparing and aerating soil, mixing soil additions, and weeding the garden.
With the dethatcher attachment, you can turn your mini cultivator into a lawn dethatcher easily. The Earthquake dethatcher attachment is easy to assemble and disassemble but does require some basic mechanical knowledge in order to use. This tool is lightweight compared with larger dethatchers and cultivators and is perfect for small to medium-sized yards.
6. Gardena 3395 Combisystem 12.8-Inch Thatching Cutter Rake HeadPros:
- Removes moss, weeds, and matted grass thoroughly
- Takes much less effort than a hand rake because of the supporting axle and wheels
- Works in conjunction with the Combisystem that features dozens of different tools
- Handle sold separately
- It will take a lot of work to dethatch more than a quarter-acre with this tool
- Less work than a manual dethatching rake but definitely more than a power tool
Here’s a different idea: Gardena produces a line of tools that use the same telescopic handle to reduce clutter in your garden shed. The Gardena 3395 Combisystem 12.8-Inch Dethatcher Head fits on the end of the Gardena 3720 Telescopic Handle so you can then go and remove moss, weeds, and matted grass. It does a better job than a manual dethatching rake and it’s easier to use because of the supporting axle and wheels.
The special tines with smooth sliding backs are made of high-grade stainless spring steel so you’ll get years of use out of this dethatcher. It’s a great idea to cross-pollenate a tried-and-true hand tool with a type of manual lawn mower. Folks that have purchased and used the Gardena 3395 swear it’s one of the best lawn tools they’ve tried. You’ll get a workout from using it but the tool itself is definitely effective.
The Gardena Combisystem features dozens of different types of tools that work with handles made of different woods and metals. Their thinking is, “Why invest in a bunch of handles when you could do it this way and save space and cash?” Why, indeed.
7. Brinly DT-40BH Tow Behind DethatcherPros:
- Durable, no flat rubber wheels
- Easy to access engagement lever
- Works with any lawn tractor and most ATVs
- Requires a lawn tractor or riding lawn mower
- Will require significant storage space
- Not meant for average yards
If you have a large field, yard, or acreage that needs to be dethatched, there’s a good chance that you have a small riding lawn mower or lawn tractor. If that’s the case, then the Brinly DT-40BH Tow Behind Dethatcher will work for you. It has a 40-inch working width with two rows of ten independently flexing spring steel tines that comb through your lawn, lifting thatch up and out of the lawn where it can be mowed or mulched to promote a healthier root system.
The Brinly Dethatcher can be set to work as a straight dethatcher or, if you’re reseeding or overseeding, more aggressively to scarify the soil as the tines pull up thatch. It’s made entirely of steel with a heavy-duty tray to hold up to 70 pounds of additional weight (think cinder blocks) if needed. In the unlikely event that a tine breaks, a safety rod is included to catch the tine and prevent contact with mower blades. No flat, rubber-tread, durable transport wheels make for a smooth ride while towing.
The engagement lever is conveniently accessible from your tractor’s driver’s seat to engage and disengage the tines when crossing sidewalks, driveways, and paths. A single, heavy-duty universal hitch pin is included to easily attach the Brinly Dethatcher to any rider or tractor and most any ZTR or ATV.
Why Do I Need a Dethatcher?
Thatch is a natural part of your turf’s health. Thatch is a mixed layer of living and dead organic material including shoots, stems, and roots that sits in between the live grass blades and the soil layer. As this layer grows thicker and denser, roots begin to grow into the thatch itself instead of the soil.
Dethatchers are tools that use rake-like steel tines to slice through the thatch layer and remove some of it. They come in different forms: handtools, attachments for your larger power tools or tractors, and full-sized machines that can be electric or gas-powered.
Dethatching should be done every year to prevent thatch from growing too thick. The best time for dethatching is fall or early winter, when the grass and thatch has gone through a full year of growth but before the soil freezes. Dethatching in the spring rips up turf that is often still dormant and will be unable to recover after winter injury, snow mold, and ice damage. It can also bring up noxious weed seeds and crabgrass to set your lawn up for a future infestation.
How Can I Identify Thatch Problems?
Thatch can cause problems in your lawn such as preventing it from absorbing enough water and fertilizer or trapping moisture and humidity that creates an advantage for fungi and mold. Brown grass is a clear sign that your grass isn’t getting enough water because of thatch.
Spongy lawns can be a sign of thatch as well. It may look healthy and green, but if you feel sponginess under your feet you may have a thatch issue.
Using a bulb planter or trowel, take a core sample of your lawn in several locations. Thatch will look like a brown or yellow layer in between the green grass and soil. Some thatch is good and should be present for a healthy lawn. If the layer is a half-inch thick or more, you have issues and should use a dethatcher.
Dethatching too much or too deeply thins and damages a normal lawn that isn’t typically needed. Many people feel it’s part of the annual spring clean-up as it helps clean up all the yard debris from the long winter. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true.
If your lawn does have an excessive thatch layer over a half-inch, then dethatching is warranted but do it in the fall when you don’t have to worry about wreaking havoc on young spring grass or causing weeds to germinate.
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