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Power Rake vs. Dethatcher: What’s the Difference?

power-rake-vs-dethatcher

power-rake-vs-dethatcher

Seeing spotty, brown patches or an unsightly yellow tone where you once had lush green grass? Now that you’ve discovered that a harmfully abundant layer of thatch is the hidden problem, it’s time to get to work removing it. Power rake or dethatcher? The layer of thatch appears as a yellowish, brown section comprised of dead shoots, stems and roots located between the live grass blades and the soil.

Healthy lawns can benefit from up to a half inch of thatch to insolate the roots from extreme temperatures, cushion damage from foot traffic and prevent grass from drying out by retaining an even amount of moisture. The proper amount of thatch is essential to a healthy yard, but too much thatch can cause your lawn to feel spongy and create yellowing and dying grass, even when properly watered.

To remove the thatch, you will need one of two tools, the power rake or the dethatcher. Both devices are powerful but are slightly specialized, and choosing the right one can make the job easier, so join us while we take a close look at each to see what they do, how they work, and when to use them.

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Overview of the Power Rake

using Mantis 5222

The power rake is the more powerful of the two types of thatch removers. The power rake uses many tines to dig deep into the ground to remove large amounts of thatch. The tines can dig ½ inch or more into the ground and help bring back damages and severely distressed lawns. These machines are commercial quality, extremely durable, and will last many years.

The downside to the power rake is that your lawn will need time to recover from the process, and if it’s your first time using this machine, you may be afraid you have ruined your yard. However, after a short time, your lawn will be back and stronger than ever. These machines are also quite expensive, and their infrequent use might make them impractical for some people.

How it Works

The power rake uses a mass of rotating tines to dig ½ inch or more into the surface of your lawn to remove thatch and allow better grass growth. It’s about the size of a lawnmower, and you attach it to a tractor or riding lawn mower to pull it. As the wheels spin, it turns a gear that rotates the tines.

When to Use

Choose the power rake when your yard is distressed and is mostly yellow. In most cases, the power rake, combined with some new grass seed and plenty of water, can bring back most yards.  However, it’s not something you want to do often because of the setback to your yard. Many experts recommend once in the spring, but even that may be more often than necessary, and you may get better results from once every 2-3 years or less.

Because you barely use it, many people choose to rent this machine for the day or hire a professional instead of purchasing and storing it.

Pros
  • Remove up to ½ inch of thatch
  • Commercial quality
  • Heavy duty
  • For distressed lawns
Cons
  • Needs lots of recovery time
  • Expensive

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Overview of Dethatcher

The Dethatcher is the more common tool seen in lawn care. It works basically the same way but on a smaller scale and is much less expensive than the power rake as well as smaller and easier to store. It doesn’t dig as deep into your lawn, and there is not as much recovery time needed after using it, so you can treat your yard more often. More frequent treatments allow you to maintain a more consistent yard throughout the growing season. Dethatchers are also easier to use, and you often push them instead of hooking them to a tractor.

person using Sun Joe AJ801E

The dethatcher’s downside is that it has far fewer tines, so they wear out and can get stuck in the ground, requiring frequent maintenance. Since these tools are more popular, there are many cheap brands not up to the task, and it can be challenging to find one you like. It’s also not going to help much if your lawn is in distress or you notice the yard feels soft. A soft lawn means you have more than ½ inch of thatch you need to remove.

Pros
  • Less expensive
  • Smaller size
  • Easier to use
  • Less recovery time
Cons
  • Remove less than ½ inch of thatch
  • Not as durable

Other Factors to Consider

Here are a few other things to consider when choosing a machine to remove the thatch from your lawn.

Lawn Size

Lawn size is important to think about before choosing a power rake or a dethatcher. A large yard can benefit more from a power rake because large yards can create bigger problem areas or multiple problem areas. If your yard is large enough, you may be able to use the machine without setting back the whole yard. Since power rakes often hook to a tractor, it will be much easier to transport them to the problem area.

A smaller yard may eliminate the need for a power rake if there’s not enough grass to warrant purchasing it. Many urban homes will not need a power rake and will do better with a dethatcher.

Power Source

If you do purchase a dethatcher, you will need to consider the power source. You can buy some models that you need to push to power the tines, but most modern brands use electricity. An electric dethatcher will require an outlet to plug into and an extension cord to reach all areas of your yard.

Auxiliary Equipment

If you are thinking of purchasing a power rake, you will need to consider how you will pull it, and you will need to check each brand you are considering to make sure it will connect to your tractor or riding lawn mower.

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Quick Look: Our Top Choices

Rating Image Product Details
Our Favorite Power Rake
Winner
Mantis 5222 Mantis 5222
  • Has 60 tines
  • Cuts a wide 15-inch swath
  • Lightweight
  • Our Favorite Detacher
    Second place
    Sun Joe AJ801E Sun Joe AJ801E
  • Powerful
  • Has a bag for easy disposal
  • Equipped with all-terrain wheels
  • Our Favorite Power Rake: Mantis 5222

    Mantis 5222

    We recommend the Mantis 5222 when it comes to power rakes. It has 60 tines that pull up and remove thatch and cuts a wide 15-inch swath as it passes over your lawn. It works very well, is fairly lightweight, and you can attach it to a tractor or purchase a handle and push it, making it extremely versatile and useful.

    Our Favorite Detacher: Sun Joe AJ801E

    Sun Joe AJ801E

    The Sun Joe AJ801E is our pick for the best dethatcher. It uses a powerful 12-amp motor to cut a 13-inch patch as it passes over your yard. It has multiple depth settings and collects the thatch in a bag for easy disposal. It has an instant start and rugged all-terrain wheels to help you move over your lawn more smoothly.

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    Conclusion

    When choosing a machine to dethatch your yard, we highly recommend an electric dethatcher for most people. These machines are powerful and have multiple settings to help you maintain your yard for the best results.  The power rake will also work, but it’s much better suited to distressed lawns overrun with thatch.

    We hope you have enjoyed reading over our comparison of these two tools and have learned something new from doing so. If we have helped you choose a way to dethatch your yard, please share this shootout between the power rake and the dethatcher on Facebook and Twitter.

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