Over time, dead grass clippings can accumulate between the green leafy blades of grass and the soil, creating a layer that’s known as thatch. While a thin 0.5-inch layer of thatch provides much-needed nutrients to a lawn, if that layer grows to 1 inch or more, it can prevent nutrients and water from reaching the soil, stifling the growth of healthy grass. When that happens, a good dethatching rake is needed to remove the buildup of grass.
A dethatching rake has a head with curved steel tines that can sink into the thatch layer so it can be pulled free. The head attaches to a sturdy hardwood or fiberglass handle that’s long enough to allow the operator to apply the necessary leverage to pull that dead grass free.
While there are manual rakes, there are also power dethatchers that make removing the dead grass easier as well as large pull-behind dethatchers that attach to riding lawn mowers. Ahead, learn about what features to consider when shopping for a dethatcher and find out about some of the best dethatching rakes on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Ames 15″ Adjustable Thatch Rake
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Anvil 51″ Wood Handle Steel 14-Tine Bow Rake
- UPGRADE PICK: VonHaus 2-in-1 Lawn Dethatcher and Rake
- BEST DESIGN: Wolf-Garten Interlocken Dethatching and Moss Rake
- BEST EASY-TO-USE: The Groundskeeper II Full-Size Rake
- BEST WITH WHEELS: Wolf-Garten Interlocken Scarifying Rake
- BEST TOW-BEHIND: Brinly-Hardy 40″ Tow-Behind Dethatcher
- BEST POWER: Greenworks Corded 14″ Adjustable Dethatcher
Types of Dethatching Rakes
The first step to finding the right dethatching rake for one’s lawn is to learn about the different types: manual, power rake, and tow behind.
The most affordable type of dethatcher, a manual rake, looks very similar to a standard rake one would use to gather leaves in the yard. Dethatching rakes differ in that they have thinner tines that are designed to bite into the yard to pull up dead grass.
Unlike a power dethatcher or a tow-behind dethatcher, this style requires the user to supply all of the force needed for pulling up thatch. In addition to being cheaper, they also take up much less room than powered versions or tow-behind dethatchers.
A power rake looks similar to a small lawn mower, only instead of a spinning blade that cuts grass, it is equipped with a cylinder that’s covered in dethatcher tines. A motor powers the cylinder, which spins through the lawn pulling up dead grass as it goes.
Power dethatchers use an electric motor and can be plugged into a standard outlet. Since they use a power cord, they have limited range, making them suitable for small yards.
A tow-behind dethatcher consists of a metal frame with several rows of tines that extend beneath it. The frame sits on two wheels and has a hitch that attaches to the back of a riding lawn mower or ATV, which tows the detatcher.
A tow-behind dethatcher is usually about 4 feet wide, allowing it to cover a broad area with each pass. Some tow-behind dethatchers have handles that allow the operator to adjust the height of the tines. While its broad width makes this type of dethatcher suitable for large yards, they can be more of a challenge to operate due to their bulky size.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Dethatching Rake
A dethatching rake consists of a handle that’s attached to a head with metal tines responsible for pulling loose thatch. Ahead, learn more about the common parts of a dethatching rake.
The tines are the metal prongs that extend from the dethatching rake. Unlike a leaf rake that has wide tines to snag leaves, a dethatching rake’s tines are thinner with a pointy tip that allows it to pull up dead grass without doing significant damage to the soil and healthy grass. The rake’s tines are also curved so that they bite into the thatch.
Since pulling up thatch requires more force than raking leaves, dethatching rakes are made of steel, which is strong enough to pull up dense layers of dead grass without bending. Some dethatching rakes have tines on the opposite side of the head that are designed to prepare soil for reseeding after the thatch has been removed.
The head of a dethatching rake consists of the dethatcher tines and a frame that holds them. A dethatcher rake head varies in width from between 13 and 15 inches. The wider the head, the more thatch the rake is able to pull up with a single pass.
Keep in mind that a dethatcher with a wider head and more tines will require more force to pull it through the thatch than a rake with a narrower head. Some dethatching rakes have adjustable heads that allow the operator to change the head’s angle in relation to the handle for more precision while dethatching.
Dethatching rakes have handles that are thicker than a leaf rake. These handles, which are typically made of hardwood, can withstand the force needed to pull the rake head through dense thatch without breaking.
Some rakes have fiberglass handles, which have similar strength qualities as hardwood but are much lighter. They are also typically more expensive. Dethatching rake handles also come equipped with a rubber cover, which allows the operator to get a firm, comfortable grip on the rake while using it.
Our Top Picks
The list below includes manual dethatching rakes with designs and materials that are effective at removing thatch. In addition to manual rakes, this list also includes powered and pull-behind dethatchers. One of these top picks may be the best dethatching rake for your needs.
The smart design and sturdy construction of this adjustable thatch rake make it a great option for those with small- to medium-size yards. While this rake looks similar to other manual dethatching tools, features on the head and tines set it apart from the rest. The formidable-looking curved tines taper to sharp points, which makes them well suited for pulling up thatch without damaging the lawn.
The 15-inch-wide head of the rake is adjustable, allowing the user to create the necessary angle to remove dead grass gently or switch to a more aggressive pitch for pulling out weeds and breaking up earth. The rake is also durable and easy on the hands thanks to a hardwood handle that’s fitted with a cushioned grip at the end.
- Type: Manual
- Head width: 15 inches
- Handle: Hardwood with rubber grip
- Sturdy construction
- Well-designed curved and pointed tines
- Adjustable head
Get the Ames dethatching rake on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
For lawns with minor thatch issues, spending money on a specialized dethatching rake may not make sense. This bow rake may not be as effective as a dethatching rake, but it can get the job done. It costs just a fraction of the price of other dethatching rakes and can be used for a variety of other landscaping needs ranging from cultivating a garden to spreading gravel.
The Anvil comes equipped with a 14-tine steel head and hardwood handle, ensuring the rake will last a long time. Its versatile design and low price tag makes this rake a good choice for those who may only need to dethatch small areas or remove dead grass every couple of years.
- Type: Manual
- Head width: 13.75 inches
- Handle: Hardwood with rubber grip
- Affordably priced
- Can be used for various jobs
- Durable steel and hardwood construction
- Not as effective as a dethatching rake
Get the Anvil dethatching rake at The Home Depot.
For yards that suffer from chronic thatch problems, a manual dethatcher or even a corded model simply won’t cut it. This large model from VonHaus is a great option for those with bigger thatch issues. It has a 12.5-amp motor that powers a 15-inch wide dethatching cylinder, making it suitable for small to midsize lawns with significant thatch issues.
It rides on four wheels and features five adjustable heights, allowing the operator to pull up the maximum amount of thatch without digging up soil or healthy grass. Whereas other power detachers require the user to collect the thatch with a rake or mower, the VonHaus electric lawn dethatcher comes equipped with a bag, eliminating the need to rake up the thatch after pulling it out. Though this dethatcher is twice the cost of other power models, it comes with an aerator cylinder that lets it perform two essential lawn-care tasks.
- Type: Power
- Head width: 15 inches
- Handle: Adjustable
- Comes with bagging system
- Also functions as an aerator
- 5 height options
- Rides on 4 wheels
Get the VonHaus dethatching rake on Amazon.
The wide design and hook shape of the tines of this dethatching rake from Wolf-Garten makes it one of the best tools for pulling dead grass out of a suffocated yard. The hook-shaped tines dig into thatch, so it is easier to pull up. However, the tines are thin enough so that they exact minimal damage to healthy grass while doing so.
At 12 inches wide, the rake is one of the broader manual options on the market, allowing the operator to collect more dead grass with each pass than other rakes. The head angle is also adjustable, making it easier to get the optimal tine angle for dethatching. Its steel construction also means it will last a long time. Wolf-Garten only sells this tool as the head, which means the handle must be purchased separately.
- Type: Manual
- Head width: 12 inches
- Handle: Sold separately
- Thin curved tines create minimal damage to lawn
- Sturdy steel construction
- Adjustable head angle
- Handle is sold separately
Get the Wolf-Garten dethatching and moss rake on Amazon.
Many manual dethatching rakes can weigh upward of 5 pounds with their hardwood handles and steel heads, making them tougher to use, especially for larger jobs. This rake from Groundskeeper is a lightweight option that’s still effective at removing thatch. It weighs just 2 pounds but includes 28 thin steel tines that are curved to bite into dead grass and pull it loose from the soil.
Rather than a heavy hardwood handle, it comes equipped with a lightweight fiberglass handle that is 55 inches long, allowing the user to stand more upright while using it. In addition to being easier to use, it’s also more versatile. In addition to removing thatch, it’s also an effective tool for raking up sticks, bark, twigs and other yard waste.
- Type: Manual
- Head width: 21 inches
- Handle: Fiberglass
- Weighs just 2 pounds
- Longer length makes it easier to use
- Useful for other lawn-care tasks
- Not as effective against thicker thatch
Get the Groundskeeper dethatching rake on Amazon.
Wolf-Garten uses a novel design to take the upper-body workout out of manually dethatching the lawn with a rake. Similar to other manual dethatching rakes, this model has a set of tines that dig into the lawn to latch onto thatch and pull it up and away from the soil—only this model has two wheels attached to the head. Rather than using a repeated raking motion to remove thatch, the user simply pulls the rake on the wheels through the lawn to dig up thatch.
This not only makes the job easier but also keeps the tines at a uniform height, helping to prevent damage to the soil and healthy grass blades. Just keep in mind that the head is sold separately from the handle, adding to the rake’s overall expense.
- Type: Manual
- Head width: 14 inches
- Handle: Sold separately
- Wheels make it easier to operate
- Maintains level height for tines
- Durable steel construction
- Handle sold separately
- Tines not as wide as other manual rake heads
Get the Wolf-Garten Scarifying dethatching rake on Amazon.
With its broad width and adjustability, this tow-behind lawn detacher is an ideal option for those who have a riding lawn mower. The detacher hitches to the back of the mower and rolls on two wheels, pulling 20 thatch tines across the yard. A tray on top of the dethatcher holds concrete blocks, adding necessary weight to drive the tines into deep thatch.
There’s also a long bar that allows the operator to adjust the height of the tines so they bite into thatch without disturbing the soil below. A simple hitch attaches or detaches quickly to most brands of riding mower. And, at 40 inches wide, this detatcher is ideal for large yards. Just keep in mind that once pulled up, the thatch will still need to be collected either by raking it up or with a mower and bagger.
- Type: Tow behind
- Head width: 40 inches
- Handle: N/A
- Covers broad swath of grass
- Can be weighted down with concrete blocks
- Adjustable tine height
Get the Brinly-Hardy dethatching rake at The Home Depot or Northern Tool + Equipment.
Those with smaller yards may want to consider the Greenworks 14-inch adjustable detatcher. It uses a 10-amp motor to operate a 14-inch-wide dethatching cylinder that holds 18 thatch-pulling tines, making it one of the best power-rake options on the market. It also has three height adjustments, allowing the user to find the optimal height for removing thatch without damaging the yard.
The dethatcher rides on two large wheels that glide easily through the yard and uses a cord that connects to a standard extension cord, so it is most suitable for dethatching smaller yards. It also has a padded grip and a safety feature that prevents accidental start-ups. Because the Greenworks dethatcher has a compact size and foldable handlebar, it’s easier to store in a shed or garage.
- Type: Power
- Head width:14 inches
- Handle: Padded; adjustable height
- Adjustable height
- Compact size and foldable design for storage
- Safety starter
- Corded power supply limits range
Get the Greenworks dethatching rake on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
With its adjustable head, curved tines, and sturdy hardwood handle, the Ames dethatching rake is the best all-around tool for removing a thick layer of thatch from a yard that’s suffocating.
Those who may only need to remove thatch from a yard occasionally may want to consider the affordably priced Anvil dethatching rake, which is useful for light dethatching and a variety of other yard-maintenance jobs.
How We Chose the Best Dethatching Rakes
The best dethatcher rake for a user is one that’s well equipped for the job. Keeping that in mind, we chose a broad range of dethatching rakes to suit yards of various sizes and needs. For small- to medium-size yards, we included manual dethatching rakes with tine designs that allow them to bite into dense thatch without doing significant damage to healthy grass. These manual rakes have sturdy hardwood or fiberglass handles and steel heads.
In addition to manual dethatching rakes, we also included corded electric models that don’t require the physical demands of a manual rake and are suitable for smaller yards. For larger yards, we included the best tow-behind dethatcher for ride-on mowers.
If you’re wondering how to measure the amount of thatch in your lawn or if a standard rake will do the job, then read on for answers to some of the most popular questions about dethatching rakes.
Q. How can I tell if my lawn has too much thatch?
It’s possible to find out how much thatch your lawn has by removing a 2-inch deep chunk from the yard. After removing the sample, measure the amount of spongy material between the soil and the green grass. If it’s more than 0.75-inch thick, you have too much thatch in your lawn.
Q. What is the best way to dethatch a lawn?
The best way to dethatch a lawn is to use a dethatcher tool, which includes a manual rake, power rake, or tow-behind dethatcher. You can also attempt to accelerate the decomposition process of the thatch by watering the lawn regularly and applying fertilizer.
Q. Is a dethatching rake worth it?
Whether or not a dethatching rake is worth it depends on the condition of your lawn. If your lawn frequently has problems with too much thatch, then a dethatching rake can be a good investment.
Q. Can I use a regular rake to dethatch?
You shouldn’t use a regular leaf rake to remove thatch from a lawn. The rake won’t effectively remove thatch from the lawn and may damage healthy grass when attempting to use it to dethatch. That said, a metal rake can be used for lawns with minor thatch issues.
Q. Can I use a dethatching rake in the summer to prepare my lawn for fall?
Late spring and early fall are the best times to dethatch a lawn; however, the best dethatching times can vary depending on whether the grass grows in warm weather or cool weather. Warm season grasses should not be dethatched in the early spring, as the process can damage new growth.
Q. How do I get rid of thatch naturally?
You can break down thatch naturally and avoid a dethatching tool altogether by following a few steps. Make sure the soil under the thatch is always kept moist. Collect any lawn clippings in the lawn-mower bag until the thatch problem is under control and add fertilizer with nitrogen to help speed up the decomposition process of the dead grass.