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How To Clean Up After Dethatching: A Practical Guide


Options for cleaning up after dethatching your lawn.

Dethatching your lawn every couple of years is a great way to keep your grass healthy and green. But after the work is done, what do you do with the mess left behind?

How do you clean up after dethatching?

  • Small yards – a simple leaf rake or leaf blower.
  • Large Yards Up To 1 Acre – Push sweeper.
  • Over 1 Acre – invest in a pull behind lawn sweeper.  

So how do you know what tool is right for you and your needs, and how do you use them? Let’s look a little deeper into the benefits and downfalls of each tool to help you chose the perfect tool and method of clean up.

The Rake

While it may not be a good idea to trying actually dethatching your yard with a lawn rake, when it comes to small yards, a rake is all you need to clean up after the dethatching is done. It’s simple, and it allows you to build controlled piles of thatch for disposal. 

It also makes it easier to clean other yard trimmings at the same time, unlike leaf blowers and push sweepers, which can’t handle anything too large or too heavy. 

Raking gives you the ability to maneuver about freely if there are obstacles or obstructions in your yard, like trees, rocks, ponds, and playhouses, that you might not get with a pull behind yard sweeper.

If you enjoy yard work or are looking to get in a little more exercise, then raking up is ideal.

But the rake is impractical for big lawns, because of how physical and time consuming it would be.

Leaf Blower 

The leaf blower was made for clearing messes in short amounts of time. It’s a useful tool for cleaning all but the grandest of yards, and it could do in a few minutes what it would take an hour to do with a rake. A blower like the ECHO 170 MPH Light Weight Leaf Blower (link to Amazon) will probably be your fastest and labor relaxed option to clean up a dethatching job.

That being said, not a lot of people like leaf blowers. They’re loud, hefty, and it isn’t going to work if you are trying to make a controlled pile of yard trimmings.

There are two main power classes and two model classes of leaf blowers to choose from too. For power, you can choose from either electric or gas-powered blowers. 

Power Type

  • Electric blowers are typically lighter and more compact but are less powerful, depending on the battery size. You also might have to buy the battery and battery charger separately and keep track of those extra pieces too.
  • Gas-powered blowers are typically more powerful. But they are also louder and heavier than electric. You’ll also have to gas them up and add oil when you use them. These blowers require more upkeep but offer more power.

Not sure which is best for you? Read Gas vs Electric: 6 Reasons To Use Battery-Powered Yard Tools

Model Types

  • Handheld blowers are smaller and lighter than backpack blowers, and function as one piece. They are made to be handled in one hand, which depending on their weight, and your strength can make it easier or more difficult to handle.
  • Backpack blowers are bigger, heavier, and stronger. They are made to function as two pieces, one that you wear as a backpack, and another which you point and blow as you go. 

All the weight of the backpack blower is on your back; this makes the handling of the actual point-and-blow end easier than the handheld in most cases. These are usually meant for professional use or very large jobs.

Pros and Cons of Leaf Blowers

The leaf blower is very quick when it comes to clean up but they require more muscle to handle than most of your other options. They will also require upkeep, either in the form of gas and oil or charging batteries.

Electric hand-held leaf blowers are the lightest, but weakest, while gas-powered backpack blowers are the heaviest and strongest of the leaf blower options.

For cleaning up thatch from your yard, you probably won’t need something so heavy duty and pricey, but if you’re doing it professionally, you might want to invest in a backpack model.

Push Lawn Sweeper

Push lawn sweepers are great choices for cleaning up after dethatching a larger yard

A lawn sweeper is a great choice for small to mid-sized lawns. Using one is less laborious than a rake and doesn’t have the upkeep that a leaf blower does. 

If you don’t know what a lawn sweeper is, it is essentially a broom for your lawn. Just push the sweeper in front of you across the yard, the brushes pick up loose material on the ground and sweep it into a bag for easy disposal. Simple! It can even be used to clean up the patio and other spaces.

Here’s a quick overview of the lawn sweeper’s pros and cons:

  • This simple tool won’t work well on a lawn with a lot of dips or holes. If you don’t have somewhat even terrain, the brushes can miss a lot of the mess.
  • A lawn sweeper can only pick up small, light yard trimmings. Big or particularly thick sticks and branches can’t be picked up and can occasionally get stuck in the brushes. If you can’t pick it up with a broom, you probably can’t pick it up with the sweeper.
  • Thatch, however, is a pretty light material, and there should be no problem picking it up with a lawn sweeper.

Here’s a good rule of thumb. If you use a push mower, a push lawn sweeper is probably the best option unless you have a very small yard.

Check out the features and latest pricing on the Agri-Fab Push Lawn Sweeper (link to Amazon).

Pull-behind Lawn Sweeper

Towable lawn sweepers are great choices for cleaning thatch and debris in large yards.

If you are dethatching big areas, your best option for clean up is probably the pull behind (or tow behind) lawn sweeper. The pull-behind is meant to attach to a riding lawn mower to pick up the lawn clippings.

If you use a riding mower, a pull-behind option makes sense. A model like the Agri-Fab 44-Inch (link to Amazon) is designed comes with a built-in hopper (collection bag) that can be quickly removed and emptied.

The height adjustment option allows you to customize the sweep to your lawn and it’s made to fold up out of the way for easy storage.

It’s much bigger than a push sweeper, so it can pick up more than the push sweeper can. Pinecones, small sticks, leaves, and thatch, are no trouble at all for these tools.

Of course, this is only helpful if you have a riding lawn mower, but if you are maintaining a lot of lawn, that should be a tool in your arsenal as well.

Choosing the Right Tool for Your Dethatching Job

When choosing a tool to use for cleaning up your dethatching job, remember these key points.

RakesA great way to get small yards clean while getting a little exercise in too.
Leaf blowersA handy tool for cleanup after any yard work but they are noisy and require preventative maintenance (unless you go with a battery option).
Push lawn sweepersGreat for yards that are managed with a push mower but they need a somewhat level area to work.
Pull-behind lawn sweepersThe most efficient and effortless tools for this job, but they require a riding mower to tow them.

So, You’ve Picked a Tool – Now What? 

Once you’ve picked the tool that will help you clean up after dethatching, the last question to ask is, what do you do with the mess itself? 

If you’re a composter, thatch is a great addition to your compost pile, unless you use herbicides. See our recommended composting products to help you get started turning that thatch into nutrient-rich soil.

If you have used any kind of herbicide, even selective herbicides (that kill weeds and not grass) within the last six months or so, don’t add the thatch to your compost.

Lawn maintenance chemicals are built to last a long time, so keep track of when your last treatment was. Even pesticides meant to keep your lawn or house bug-free are dangerous and long-lasting.

If you have used any kind of treatment for weeds or bugs, even organic ones, you are better off throwing your yard thatch away. If you haven’t used any kind of treatment and you have a compost pile (or if you are thinking about making a compost pile), you have a great addition to the pile on your hands!

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Paul Brown

Paul has a two-acre yard on red clay soil in Southeast Texas. He knows exactly what the challenges are to nurturing a thriving yard in difficult soil. He takes a practical approach to yard improvement and enjoys putting best practices and “golden rules of lawn care” to the test. Click here for Paul’s author page

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