Few sights are as lovely as the red and gold hues of falling leaves, but when you have to rake them and bag them—often multiple times in a season—they can begin to lose their appeal. However, if you don’t remove dried leaves from your yard, they can become wet and soggy and increase the risk of lawn disease. Raking leaves is a time-honored tradition in many communities, but by shredding the leaves in a leaf mulcher, you can significantly reduce their bulk and, if you like, use the shredded material to mulch around your perennial plants.
The best leaf mulcher for your needs will depend on how many leaves accumulate in your yard, the size of your yard, and how you prefer to collect the leaves. Read on to discover what to consider when shopping for a leaf mulcher and find out why the following products are some of the best leaf mulchers on the market to shorten your time spent on yard work this year.
- BEST OVERALL: WORX WG430 13 Amp Bladeless Electric Leaf Mulcher
- RUNNER-UP: Black+Decker (BV6600) 3-in-1 Electric Leaf Mulcher
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Sun Joe SBJ606E-GA-SJG 4-in-1 Electric Mulcher
- UPGRADE PICK: WORX TriVac WG500 12 amp All-in-One Electric Mulcher
- BEST CORDLESS: Greenworks 40V Variable Speed Cordless Leaf Blower
Types of Leaf Mulchers
Leaf mulchers are all designed with one primary task: shredding leaves. Yet, plenty of features are worth considering when you’re choosing the type of mulcher you’d prefer. Leaf mulchers offer spinning impeller blades that chop dry leaves and a variety of power options, such as an electrical cord, a gas engine, or a rechargeable battery. In addition, while many leaf mulchers are handheld, some are designed to be stationary.
Corded leaf mulchers, which fall into the electric leaf blower category, feature motors rated in amps that range from around 8 amps to 14 amps, and the higher the amps, the more powerful the motor. Corded models are quieter than gas-powered models, and there is no fuel to mix or flammable gas to store in a garage. With a corded leaf mulcher, you also won’t need to charge a battery, but you will be limited to the length of an extension cord, which usually tops out at around 100 feet. A handheld corded mulcher weighs about 6 to 9 pounds, so it’s easy to use without developing shoulder or arm fatigue.
With gas-powered leaf mulchers, you’ll have all the power you need at your fingertips, and you don’t have to worry about tripping over an extension cord or charging a battery. The engine of a gas leaf mulcher is rated by its size in cubic centimeters (cc), and the larger the number, the more powerful the engine. An engine is also rated by the type of fuel it requires—a 2-cycle gas engine requires mixing gasoline with engine oil at a ratio determined by the manufacturer, while a 4-cycle gas engine only needs pure gasoline. The upside of a gas leaf mulcher is that you can take it anywhere and use it for as long as you need; the downside is that a gas leaf mulcher tends to weigh more than corded or cordless models. Expect a gas mulcher to weigh between 10 and 17 pounds.
Like corded mulchers, battery-operated cordless leaf mulchers won’t require you to mix fuel or expose yourself to toxic fumes. Cordless leaf mulchers also have the benefit of not being restricted by the length of a cord; however, they only function until the battery runs down. The average runtime is around 15 to 35 minutes, depending on the voltage of the lithium battery. These rechargeable batteries average 20 to 40 volts, and the higher the voltage, the longer the runtime. Buying a second battery and keeping it charged will double the runtime.
Handheld vs. Stand-Alone
Another way to classify leaf mulchers is by whether they are handheld or stand-alone. The majority of leaf mulchers are handheld, and they provide vacuum capability to suck up the leaves, which then pass through spinning impeller blades for shredding. Many handheld models also feature leaf-blowing capability to blow leaves into piles for easier vacuum collection.
You may find it easier to use a stand-alone model, which you can position in a central spot in the yard and then dump the dried leaves into a top intake chute—known as a hopper—for shredding. A collection bag attaches to a discharge chute at the bottom of the hopper.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Leaf Mulcher
Additional shopping considerations go beyond the type of power that operates a leaf mulcher and include ease of operation, efficiency, and how well the leaf mulcher actually produces mulch. Once you’ve decided on the type of power that best suits your yard and lifestyle, check out the following considerations.
Most leaf mulchers have metal blades that spin at rapid speeds to chop and shred leaves into tiny bits, but some models feature heavy-duty, plastic blades, or even string-trimming line. All three kinds are capable of shredding leaves, but metal blades are often more durable.
A leaf mulcher’s mulching ratio, also known as its reduction ratio, indicates how much the tool will reduce the leaves’ overall size. For example, a mulching ratio of 10:1 indicates the mulcher will reduce 10 bags of dried leaves to shreds that will fit in a single bag. Typical mulching ratios range from 8:1 to 18:1, with the highest ratios producing the smallest shreds. If you’re into composting, small shreds will decompose more quickly in a compost pile.
A leaf mulcher’s capacity relates to the amount of air it moves in cubic feet per minute (cfm). Most corded and cordless leaf mulchers range from around 175 to 500 cfm, with the highest-capacity models designed for heavy-duty leaf clearing. Gas leaf mulchers, which are more powerful, tend to have higher capacities—in the range of 450 to 700 cfm.
Stand-alone leaf mulchers have a single function—they shred leaves dropped into their hoppers, but handheld models often do more, including blowing leaves into a pile and then vacuuming and shredding them as well. A few handheld leaf mulchers only vacuum but do not blow leaves. Models that possess all three functions are often called 3-in-1 leaf mulchers because they also operate as leaf blowers and leaf vacuums.
Ease of Use
In terms of which type of leaf mulcher is easiest to use, the award goes to both the corded and cordless models that don’t require mixing fuel, adding engine oil, servicing a carburetor, or using a hand recoil to start the engine. However, fans of gas models may consider the greater power derived from a gas-powered leaf mulcher to be worth the extra effort.
All power tools, including leaf mulchers, make some noise, but cordless and corded models are the quietest, emitting approximately 60 to 63 decibels, which is comparable to the sound of conversational speech. Gas-powered leaf mulchers are quite a bit louder at around 85 to 90 decibels or comparable to hearing the sound of busy street traffic from the curb. Check your city ordinances, and if you live in a community where loud noises are discouraged or prohibited, you may want to choose an electric leaf mulcher.
Our Top Picks
The best leaf mulchers for this annual chore will depend on the size of your yard, the amount of leaf accumulation, and how you like to approach yard cleanup. To qualify as a top pick, the following leaf mulchers had to be dependable, reliable, and effectively shred dry leaves.
In the top spot—and the only stand-alone mulcher on the list—this electric leaf mulcher from WORX is designed with the sole purpose of shredding leaves. The upright model operates via a heavy-duty, 12- to 14-gauge extension cord, and its rugged, 13-amp motor features an 11:1 mulch reduction ratio.
The cylindrical, molded plastic unit sits atop strong steel legs (minor assembly required). Rather than metal or plastic blades, this leaf mulcher uses the same type of plastic line found in string trimmers. It features a large intake hopper and can shred up to 53 gallons of leaves per minute. Like with any power tool (including others on this list), read and follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions, and do not operate when small children are around.
Blow dry leaves into a pile and then vacuum them up and shred them with this 3-in-1 electric leaf blower from Black+Decker that does it all. This handheld machine weighs in at 8.1 pounds, and it includes a detachable shoulder strap, reusable bag assembly, and three disposable bags. The unit features a blowing speed of 400 cfm, metal impeller blades, and adjustable speed control. It produces a 16:1 reduction ratio, resulting in finely shredded leaves that you can add to plants or the compost bin. You’ll need a heavy-duty, 12- to 14-gauge exterior extension cord to operate this versatile tool.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on an effective leaf mulcher. The Sun Joe 4-in-1 electrical mulcher features a powerful 14-amp motor that moves air at an impressive 440 cfm and reduces leaf waste by a 16:1 reduction ratio. Not only does it serve as a blower, a vacuum, and a leaf mulcher, this corded machine also offers an extendable, U-nozzle gutter-cleaning kit to vacuum leaves out of house gutters without you having to teeter on a tall ladder. The unit has aluminum alloy impeller blades and weighs in at 8.6 pounds. It includes an interchangeable vacuum tube with attached wheels so you can roll the tube along the ground rather than carrying it, if desired.
A powerful multipurpose machine, this all-in-one electric leaf mulcher from WORX is a yard-cleaning force to be reckoned with. Weighing in at 8.3 pounds, it features a 12-amp motor that moves air up to 350 cfm in blowing mode, and it changes to either vacuuming mode or mulching mode with the simple press of a button. The unit boasts durable metal impeller blades and an ergonomic tube design that makes it possible to blow leaves out from underneath decks and play equipment without crouching or bending. The mulcher provides a 10:1 reduction ratio and offers a comfort-grip handle and a reusable mulch collection bag that holds up to 10 gallons of mulch.
Put the power of lithium-ion energy to work for you with the Greenworks cordless leaf mulcher. This battery-operated mulcher includes a high-performance, G-MAX 40-volt lithium-ion battery that produces up to 340 cfm of blowing power and lasts up to 21 minutes on the highest mode. It offers six speed adjustments and both a narrow blowing tube and a wider-angle vacuum tube for versatile yard cleanup. The mulcher weighs in at just 9.92 pounds, features a 10:1 reduction ratio and aluminum alloy impeller blades, and includes a reusable mulch collection bag.
FAQs About Your New Leaf Mulcher
A leaf mulcher can simplify yard cleanup, but if this is your first time shopping for one, you might have some questions. Check out some of the most frequently asked questions about leaf mulchers and their corresponding answers below.
Q. What is the difference between a mulcher and a chipper?
While both items will produce small bits of biodegradable material for use as mulch around plants or for adding to a compost pile, a leaf mulcher handles only leaves and tiny twigs, while a wood chipper can shred small tree branches.
Q. What can you put in a mulcher?
A leaf mulcher is only intended for dry leaves. Avoid sucking up acorns and twigs larger than ⅛ inch in diameter, and don’t mulch green leaves or grass clippings. Green plant matter can clog the blades of the leaf mulcher.
Q. Should you remove leaves before mulching?
You’ll have an easier time if you use a leaf blower—and many leaf mulchers are also blowers—to gather the leaves in piles before mulching.
Q. What are the benefits of mulching?
By spreading a layer of shredded leaves around the base of your plants, you’ll help reduce weed growth, improve the soil content, and retain moisture in the soil.
Q. What are the disadvantages of mulching?
There are no disadvantages to mulching—it reduces leaf waste, and the mulch can benefit plants and soil.