Power Rake vs. Dethatcher: Which One Do You Need?

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If your lawn has spotty, brown patches or a yellow tinge instead of a picture-perfect green color, it could be suffocating from a thick layer of thatch. Power rakes and dethatchers are two tools that help get rid of the thatch, giving you the best chance of salvaging your lawn and with far less effort than the traditional garden rake.

Knowing a little about power rakes and dethatchers will help you decide which one to use. They’re often talked about in the same terms, and it can be not very clear to understand their subtle differences.

A lush and healthy lawn usually has a thatch of around ½ an inch underneath. All properties need it as the thatch insulates it from high and low temperatures and protects it from foot traffic. 

It also prevents water from draining away too quickly that would otherwise dry the grass out.

So, a small amount is essential. But what happens when it grows too much?

If your lawn has a thicker thatch, it’s going to suffer and could eventually die back. The main problem is a condition called shallow root syndrome. This is where the grassroots grow into the thatch itself rather than the soil.

The knock-on effect of this is the grass will be thin and patchy and opposite to what you ideally want! Feeding lawns with shallow root syndrome is made more difficult because the grass cannot absorb as much water and nutrients.

You could quickly end up spending a lot of money on expensive grass feed and weed, only to end up wasting your time. The real problem is the hidden thatch.

The good news is you have some options to remove the excess thatch. So, power rake or dethatcher? Read on to see which one you need.

Power Rake

In most cases, these are used in industrial and commercial settings. For domestic use, it’s a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, as the tool is potent.

You can quickly remove large amounts of excess due to the fast-turning tines that dig into the lawn. Generally speaking, they are the same size as a domestic push mower, but they boast the capability of removing up to four times the amount of thatch than a Dethatcher machine can.

The use of the power rake should be limited to when the lawn is dying and distressed. It’s a very intense way of removing thatch, and the recovery time for the yard can be quite long.

Early spring use is the best time to use a power rake as the lawn will then enter the growing season, and the recovery time should be less.

As with any machine, they will require regular maintenance, but most people tend to hire them for a couple of days and, therefore, the cost of maintaining them falls to others. 

Of course, each circumstance is different. You may find purchasing a power rake more economical, especially if you have a large area to cover, as the daily rental price could outweigh the purchase cost.


These are more suited to the domestic setting where occasional use is required. They are not as powerful or forceful as a power rake, and so the lawn’s recovery time is much shorter.

They do work in the same way, though. The tines are smaller and shallower, and it digs out smaller amounts of thatch.

These come in handy. After all, they can be used as part of your annual lawn maintenance, as you can use them on a generally healthy lawn because they will help keep the thatch layer at the right thickness. This is not the case for a power rake.

A dethatcher machine is smaller, easier to operate, and stored quickly in a garden shed or garage. Their purchase price is also significantly less than a power rake.

If you own one, you’ll need to maintain it, so check for trapped debris, tighten wing nuts and carriage bolts, and replace worn or significantly damaged tines and belts.

Power Rake vs. Dethatcher


Both tools essentially do the same thing, but the circumstances as to why you need them are very different.

A power rake is needed when the lawn is so bad that there’s no other option other than to rotovate and re-seed. It’s unlikely the domestic yard will be in that condition, certainly not every year, so purchasing one is doubtful. Renting from a professional for a few days will be the better option.

A dethatcher can be used annually and is seen as more of a prevention tool. Used in the spring, this can help your grass to flourish through the summer months. Because it has shallower tines and a less powerful motor, only a small amount of thatch is removed on each pass.

We hope this has helped you decide which, if either, of the tools you need. Their use will help you say goodbye to the horrible, unsightly brown patches and hello to the lush green grass you have always wanted.

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Walter Snyder