Dethatcher vs. Lawn Sweeper: What’s the Difference?

Updated: Dec. 04, 2023

Dethatcher vs lawn sweeper: Which one do you need to get your lawn in shape? The answer can save you time and money.

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Spring isn’t just a good time to get your house clean and ready for summer. After a tough winter, your yard could use some cleanup, too.

If you’ve got a well-established lawn that’s starting to get a little yellow or tired, the problem might be thatch—a heavy mat of organic material that develops between the grass and the soil underneath. Thatch isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It can hold in water and nutrients, keeping grass healthy and resilient. But when the thatch gets too thick, it can hold in insects and weeds as well, and it can keep your grass from reaching moisture and nutrients in the soil below.

To check, dig a small test patch or take a core sample. If the thatch—the brown area between the green grass and the dirt—is more than 1/2-inch thick, you’ve got too much thatch. Dethatching your lawn can refresh your grass and get it ready for the hot, dry days of summer.

If the issue isn’t thick thatch, it’s still a good idea to clean debris from your lawn to give it a fresh start before summer arrives. That’s where a lawn sweeper comes in handy. The last of the fall leaves, twigs and sticks that fell in winter storms—and that thick mat of grass clippings from your first big mow of the season—might be too much for a bagging lawn mower to handle. A lawn sweeper replaces a rake, making quick work of cleaning up the grass and getting rid of things that might hamper good growth. You can also use some lawn sweepers to clean paved areas, like driveways or sidewalks.

What’s the Difference Between a Dethatcher and a Lawn Sweeper?

Sometimes dethatchers are called power rakes, but they’re not the same thing. Power rakes are heavy machinery used by professional landscapers, and can damage the grass if they’re not used correctly. A lawn dethatcher is a light-duty tool that’s easier to use. It acts like a rake with tines (sometimes called scarifiers) that get under the grass to pull out excess thatch.

There are three styles of dethatchers. Manual dethatchers look like big rakes that you pull across the grass. Tow-behind dethatchers can be pulled behind a riding lawn mower or yard tractor to clean up as you go along. Power dethatchers use a motor to drive the tines through your grass.

Lawn sweepers have rotating brushes with a catcher in the back for gathering debris. You push them across the lawn so the brushes can grab debris and toss it into the catcher. Like dethatchers, you can get lawn sweepers that are manual or motorized, or they can be pulled behind a riding mower or yard tractor. Lawn sweepers are similar to bagging lawn mowers, but some of them can handle heavier debris like small sticks, acorns, leaves and pine needles.

Pros and Cons of Dethatchers

Tow-behind or power dethatchers can be pricey, usually coming in around $130 to $150, and you need room to store them. If you’re willing to put in the work, a manual dethatcher like the True Temper dethatching rake is less than $100, and a fantastic investment for a healthier lawn. For more options, check out our picks for the best dethatching rakes.


  • Wallet-friendly
  • The 54-inch handle is made of sturdy hardwood with a cushioned end grip for comfort and control, and it’s long enough to be easy on your back
  • The 15-inch rake head with curved steel tines is double-sided and designed for dethatching on one side and tilling on the other


  • If you have a large yard and a lot of thatch, you may be better off renting a motorized dethatcher
  • Dethatching manually can take several days

Pros and Cons of Lawn Sweepers

Tow-behind sweepers are usually in the $200 to $300 range, but they can be worth it if you have a large yard with big trees that shed a lot of acorns. A top-rated option for this is the Agri-Fab Lawn Sweeper. An affordable option for smaller lawns is the Earthwise Push Lawn Sweeper.


  • Sturdy and lightweight, so it’s easy to maneuver
  • The 21-inch brush, with two brushes per section, is wide enough to cut down on the number of passes you’ll need to make
  • Rake height is adjustable
  • Significantly more affordable than a motorized or tow-behind sweeper
  • Folds flat for easy storage


  • It’s best for leaves and small debris; but can’t handle acorns, rocks or wet debris

How Long Do Dethatchers Last?

You shouldn’t dethatch your lawn every year. A little buildup of tchatch is good for your lawn, holding in nutrients of water. Since you only use a dethatcher once every three years or so, a good dethatcher should last for decades.

How Long Do Lawn Sweepers Last?

As long as you use it when the grass is dry and keep your lawn cut short enough not to produce large amounts of grass clippings, a lawn sweeper should give you years of use. To prevent wear and tear, you can also mulch grass clippings by mowing over them, so there’s less bulk for the lawn sweeper to handle.

The Bottom Line

If you have a large yard and lots of trees that drop nuts and debris, a lawn sweeper towed behind your riding lawn mower can save a lot of work. A push lawn sweeper is more affordable, and will probably be fine for smaller yards, particularly in areas where you don’t have to fight the squirrels to gather up acorns.

Dethatching depends on how much muscle you’re willing to put into it. You only need to dethatch a lawn once every two or three years, so it depends on whether you have space to store a tow-behind or motorized dethatcher. Before you buy, you can rent a dethatcher from many garden centers and home improvement stores, giving you a chance to find out if it’s something you’ll use, or which style is right for you.

Where to Buy a Dethatcher

The Ames Companies True Temper Thatch Rake Ecomm Amazon.comVIA MERCHANT

Dethatchers are available at home improvement stores such as Ace Hardware or on Amazon. If you have never dethatched your lawn, this is a good year to start. Once you’re done, you won’t have to do it again for a couple of years!

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Where to Buy A Lawn Sweeper

Earthwise Leaf & Grass Push Lawn Sweeper Ecomm Amazon.comVIA MERCHANT

Lawn sweepers are available at garden centers, at home improvement stores like Ace Hardware or on Walmart. If your garden shed is getting crowded, look for one that will fold flat easily.

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