Menu
Updated May 2022
Header Image
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

30
Models
Considered
60
Consumers
Consulted
18
Hours
Researched
Category cover

Buying guide for Best lawn dethatchers

Unlike dirt, soil is alive. To remain alive, it needs the same things humans need to survive: air, water, and nutrients. When thatch builds up in your yard, it can keep your soil from thriving. To keep your soil healthy enough to support plant life, your lawn may occasionally need to be dethatched.

As it sounds, a dethatcher is a tool that removes the thatch that has built up on your lawn. The best model will be sized for your property and reside within a reasonable budget. Since dethatching is a physical process, a dethatcher needs a rugged build to endure rough handling.

Before purchasing a dethatcher, you need to understand what thatch is, how it affects your lawn, and when to remove it. The best way to learn about this is by reading a comprehensive and objective guide on the topic. It can also help to look over an impartial list of the top dethatchers available. This way, you know at a glance which models are worthy of your attention.

lawn dethatcher
If there is too much thatch on your lawn, it can make your yard prone to diseases and less tolerant to drought.

How to buy the best lawn dethatcher

In order to buy the best lawn dethatcher for your needs, it’s helpful to first understand a little about thatch and dethatchers.

What is thatch?

Thatch is a layer of organic and inorganic material that builds up on top of soil. The layer may be composed of anything that falls on the yard — leaves, grass clippings, or small debris. Eventually, these materials decay and feed the soil. But that process takes time.

If thatch accumulates faster than it decays, it eventually builds up to the point where it is suffocating the soil and lawn, not nourishing them.

Where does thatch come from?

Thatch occurs naturally. It builds up whenever you mow the lawn or allow leaves to accumulate on the grass. However, if there is poor drainage, too little water, cold soil temperatures, or poor soil aeration, this can cause thatch to accumulate. Chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers may also contribute to a persistent thatch problem.

What is a dethatcher?

A dethatcher is a tool that digs into the uppermost layer of your soil, using either flexible tines or rigid claws — depending on the model — and loosens the material that is woven together on top of the soil so it can be removed.

It is important to understand that a dethatcher does not get rid of thatch. You still must do that after it has been broken up. The purpose of a dethatcher, then, is to get the thatch into a state where it can be easily removed by raking.

Dethatching vs. aerating

If you are unfamiliar with the terms, dethatching and aerating can be confusing. Both help your soil and lawn thrive by allowing the soil to breathe, but they accomplish the task in two different yet complementary ways.

Dethatching: As mentioned, dethatching is the process of loosening and removing the layer of organic and inorganic debris that has accumulated on top of your soil. Removing this allows sunlight, nutrients, water, and air to get to the roots of the grass.

Aerating: Aerating is a process that creates small holes in the soil. This relieves soil compaction and lets air, water, and nutrients reach the roots of your plants.

Not every lawn requires either or both processes. Some lawns may not build up thatch; others might never have compacted soil. If you have trouble with both, dethatch first, then aerate. It is possible to purchase a machine that is a dethatcher and an aerator. This can come in handy for homeowners who need to tackle both tasks.

There are three types of dethatchers

When shopping for a dethatcher, you will quickly discover there are three types: manual, electric, and tow-behind. Each has a somewhat specific purpose.

Manual: A manual dethatcher is like a rake with sharper tines. These models require a great deal of physical exertion to use, so they are best for people with small yards. On the plus side, a manual dethatcher gives you excellent control and is a clean way to clear your yard of unwanted thatch.

Electric: If you have a small to midsize yard, an electric dethatcher may be your best option. Because they must be plugged in to work, these models do not have unlimited range. However, they remove almost all the physical effort required by the task. You must be careful to read all directions and set up these models properly as they could do more harm than good.

Tow-behind: If you have a large yard, you need a tow-behind dethatcher. These models attach to the back end of a tractor and dig up the thatch as you drive. They are not kind to your lawn, but in many situations, they are the best way to get the job done. A variation to the tow-behind dethatcher is the front-mount dethatcher. Since it attaches to the front of your tractor, you can clean up the thatch in one pass. On the downside, these models are more expensive and can make it difficult to steer.

If you have an adjustable tine depth on your dethatcher, never set it deeper than one-half inch.

STAFF
BestReviews

What features do lawn dethatchers have?

Depth

The maximum depth for dethatching is a half inch. If you get a model that goes deeper than that, it may damage the root system of your lawn. A dethatcher with an adjustable depth is best so you control how deep the machine goes.

Width

If you have a large yard, you will want a wide dethatcher. This means you will get the task done quicker. The downside of having a wide dethatcher is you won’t be able to get into narrow spaces.

Multipurpose

Some dethatchers do more than one thing. If you want a tool that can dethatch and aerate, look for a model that does both.

Storage

Most of the time, your dethatcher will be in storage. Some models fold down to be more compact; others can be stored on their side to save room. It is important to purchase a dethatcher that fits the storage space you have available.

lawn dethatcher
DID YOU KNOW?
It is only when thatch builds up quicker than it decays that it becomes a problem. If you have a persistent thatch issue, consider bagging grass clippings instead of mulching them directly on your lawn.
STAFF
BestReviews

Other items you may need for lawn care

Thatching is only one task that must be done to ensure a healthy lawn. Here are three other items you can use before and after thatching.

Lawn mower

To achieve the best dethatching results, use a lawn mower to cut your grass to half its normal height before dethatching.

Lawn Aerator

Your soil needs to breathe. After dethatching, use a lawn aerator to make sure your roots can get an adequate supply of oxygen, water, and nutrients.

Grass seed

Sometimes, after dethatching, you will need to patch areas of your yard that were unable to grow. For this, you need a quality grass seed.

How much do lawn dethatchers cost?

Inexpensive

If your yard is small enough that you can use a rake, it will only cost around $30 to $50 to get the tool you need. For around $70 or $80, you may be able to find a budget tow-behind dethatcher. At this price, however, be sure you are purchasing a quality tool.

Mid-range

If you have a mid-size yard, manual dethatching can become too labor intensive. A quality electric dethatcher costs between $129 and $169. There are models that cost more, but if you are only using it once every couple of years and do not have a large yard, it might be hard to justify a higher-priced option.

Expensive

If you have a large yard, a tow-behind dethatcher is your best choice. While some of these models start at less than $100, it’s best to purchase a rugged dethatcher that costs $150 to $250. Another high-end option is a front-mount dethatcher. Because these models require additional hardware for mounting, they can cost upwards of $400.

If you’d like to help your lawn thrive again after dethatching, consider adding fertilizer and water immediately after removing the thatch.

STAFF
BestReviews

Tips

  • Mow first. Before dethatching, mow your lawn.
  • Wait to fertilize. Do not fertilize your lawn before dethatching, as the thatch may trap fertilizer that you end up removing.
  • Use the right dethatcher. For a small yard, a dethatching rake is fine. For a mid-size to large yard, use a tow-behind dethatcher or an electric model.
  • Know your yard. Before dethatching, make sure you know where all sprinkler heads, irrigation lines, and utility lines are. Avoid these areas.
  • Lift up while thatching. When using a manual dethatcher, dig the tines into the thatch and pull up to loosen. If you are doing it right, you will see the thatch separating from the soil.
  • Clear away the thatch. After using your dethatcher, you will have clumps of debris covering your lawn. You can clean this up using a leaf rake.
  • Patch the bald spots. If there are patches of grass missing after dethatching, overseeding can solve this problem.
lawn dethatcher
After dethatching, your yard is supposed to look ravaged. Do not stress. Rake away the thatch so the soil can breathe, and it should return to a healthy state in no time.

FAQ

Q. How much thatch is too much?

A. A little thatch is beneficial. It can help regulate the soil temperature and moisture levels that nourish the root system of your lawn. However, once it accumulates beyond half an inch thick, it can be detrimental. When this happens, the roots of your grass start to curl up, trying to reach areas that have greater nutrients, water, and oxygen. To check how thick the thatch is, use a trowel to dig up a small section of your lawn. Look at the cross section of your grass. If there is more than a half inch of accumulated thatch, it is time to dethatch.

Q. When is the best time to dethatch?

A. To ensure your lawn stays healthy during the process, it is best to dethatch when your grass is growing and the soil is moist. For warm-season grasses, this would make early summer the ideal time to dethatch. If you have cool-season grass, early fall is a much better time to tackle this task. The important takeaway is to never dethatch once your lawn is dormant. If you do, you may damage your lawn beyond the possibility of recovery.

Q. How often do I need to dethatch my lawn?

A. The good part about thatch is it takes a long time to accumulate over half an inch. If your lawn is prone to thatch buildup, you may need to dethatch once a year. If the material in your yard decays as expected, you may only need to dethatch once every few years.

Our Top Picks