Scarifier vs Dethatcher :Which tool should you pick?

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An excessively thick thatch layer can cause problems for your lawn- the barrier it creates will prevent moisture, nutrients, and air from getting to your grass roots.

In short, your grass roots virtually suffocates when thatch buildup is 1/2 inch (or more) thick.

That being so, it may be helpful to dethatch your yard as a way of getting rid of the restrictive layer- it may help restore your lawn’s healthy and ultimately its deep, verdant green look.

Which brings me to the two key tools that folks usually turn to when it comes to thatch removal- scarifier vs dethatcher.

You see, if you’re a passionate DIYer and you’d rather dethatch yourself (hiring a lawn care company is the other option), you’d want to choose the right tool for the job.

Okay, these two lawn-care tools do similar things including getting rid of uncontrolled thatch buildup from your turf and choosing the right tool can be pretty confusing.

In fact, some people refer to a lawn scarifier as a dethatcher which is not very accurate (are they similar? Yes!. Are they the same? Not exactly!).

Don’t be worried if you’re in this most difficult conundrum – below we will explain the difference between a scarifier and a Dethatcher and tell you when it is best to choose each piece of equipment.

Read on- this should point you in the right direction.


Scarifier vs Dethatcher :Which tool should you pick?

First things first: What is the difference between a scarifier and a Dethatcher?


What is the difference between a scarifier and a Dethatcher?

About a scarifier

To begin with, a lawn scarifier is simply a gardening tool that is typically designed to slice through the soil and roots to allow food, water, and pesticides to penetrate to the roots.

In terms of construction, the machine almost always features sharp, knife-like metal blades that cuts into your turf, removing massive amounts of organic detritus.

In the process, the scarifying blades leave holes (in the ground) that allow air, water, fertilizers, etc. to get deep into the grass (and soil).

Put another way, you can think of scarifying as deep cutting and raking a lawn.

With regards buying/renting the tool, you can opt for these alternatives:

  • Hand/manual scarifier – they rake thatch pretty much like normal rakes. Racked thatch is picked up by hands. Overall, they only work for smaller yards with light thatch problem.
  • Electricity/petrol-powered scarifier– if you don’t fancy a good core muscle work-out, you can opt for the more advanced electricity/petrol-powered scarifier machines. They cut into the surface while simultaneously turning over the lawn. They also have a mechanism to pick up the thatch brought to the surface. On the whole, these are ideal for mid-sized yards.
  • Towable Scarifiers– if you are looking at dethatching a larger yard, these cover bigger swathes and cut down the time it takes to complete the job making them the best yet for massive yards especially those with serious thatch issues.

About dethatchers

On the other hand, a dethatcher is simply a device that is engineered to accomplish one mission: effectively remove the thatch barrier from your lawn.

The device uses metal blades/tines to comb over your grass and pull accumulated thatch up to the lawn’s surface.

Dethatchers are available as a dethatching rake for small properties (check this one), motorized models such as this (for medium sized yards), and tow- behind units (pulled behind your tractor) for expansive lawns with extreme thatch buildup (here is a great example).

Another option would be to go for a dethatcher attachment kit that you mount on garden equipment such as cultivators (take a look at this).

So, what is the key difference?

One major difference between a Scarifier and a Dethatcher is that:

A dethatcher machine removes lawn debris in a style very similar to removing dead skin (off your body) with a pumas stone (recall I had mentioned that it will comb the ground to pull out thatch).

To cut a long story short, look at de-thatching as raking a lawn (and pulling up the dead grass) without going too deep.

In contrast…..

A scarifier is closer to the verticutter (vertical mowing)- just like verticutters, scarifiers cuts grooves through the accumulated thatch to allow better oxygen and water movement into the soil.

In a nutshell, the average penetration of a scarifier is generally deeper than a Dethatcher- they usually go deeper into the soil to increase oxygen flow (to the root base).

In other words, scarifying is essentially the more invasive thatch removal technique.


Scarifier vs Dethatcher : Enjoy the best of both worlds

Remember that de-thatching is akin to merely scratching the soil’s surface while scarifying is basically digging into the ground.

What is more important to note is that sometimes your yard will do with just dethatching (when the thatch problem is not too serious) while at other times, you must scarify the yard to effectively clear thatch.

And so instead of having both tools (it is definitely more expensive) or having just one tool (that may not be helpful in some situations), why not go for an all-in-one Lawn Scarifier + Dethatcher?

That way, you can quickly dethatch the yard when required or scarify when only scarifying will appropriately get rid of thatch problems in your lawn.

In truth, for the best results in a lawn with acute thatch problems, experts recommend that you first dethatch it (to remove the top layer of thatch) and then use a scarifier to scarify the yard (for maximum penetration and thatch removal).

Here is one wonderful Lawn Scarifier + Dethatcher if you’d like to take this direction.

Scarifier vs dethatcher – cons of each tool compared

The main downside of using a scarifier is that your grass may take longer to heal because, as I said before, it is extra invasive.

And though your grass will recover quicker, a dethatcher is not faultless- keep in mind that it does not get as deep as a scarifier so it is most suited to light thatch issues.

Final tips

To prevent excessive thatch, you should target a soil pH of approximately 6.5.

In addition, don’t overfertilize (it encourages excessive growth that won’t easily break down).

Plus, keep the lawn watered the right way and avoid using pesticides unless when absolutely necessary (some kill organisms that are beneficial in thatch control).


When to power rake lawn: Read this if unsure when to do it

Pros and cons of dethatching lawn

Best tow behind dethatcher for small/large properties

Dethatcher for lawn sweeper –best recommendations

Read this if looking for a lawn roller alternative (sod roller alternative)

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