Though broadly related to leaf blowers, leaf vacuums operate in the opposite direction. While leaf blowers disperse leaves by blowing them away, leaf vacuums suck fallen foliage through a tube and into a bag much like a house vacuum. A pool leaf vacuum does the same thing in a swimming pool.
Leaf vacuums are exceptionally handy for tidying up small yards and banishing leaf buildup beneath hedges and flower beds. Keep reading to learn the most important considerations to bear in mind while shopping, and discover some of the best leaf vacuum options in an array of categories.
- BEST OVERALL ELECTRIC: Greenworks 40V Cordless Vacuum
- BEST OVERALL GAS: Poulan Pro PPBV25 Handheld Leaf Blower/Vacuum
- BEST BUDGET: BLACK+DECKER 3-in-1 Electric Leaf Blower, Leaf Vacuum
- BEST CORDLESS: BLACK+DECKER Leaf Blower/Vacuum Kit, Cordless(LSWV36)
- BEST BACKPACK: CRAFTSMAN Leaf Blower / Leaf Vacuum & Mulcher
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: K I M O. Cordless Leaf Blower
- BEST HEAVY DUTY: Husqvarna 2-Cycle Gas Leaf Vacuum
- MOST VERSATILE: Worx WG509 12 Amp TRIVAC 3-in-1 Electric Leaf Blower
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Leaf Vacuum
From the leaf vacuum type to the size of the leaf collecting bag, there’s a lot to consider when making a choice for a leaf vacuum. There are options with gas, electric, and battery power, and each type of power source can make a big difference in runtimes and suction. Take a look below at some of the most important factors that can help you determine the motor type, power, and design that will work best for you.
Leaf vacuums are made in a few types, and some kinds work better in certain situations and setups than others.
- Handheld leaf vacuums are the smallest and least powerful option, but they’re often the most affordable and lightest. These models can be a leaf vacuum only or a hybrid that works as a blower and/or sweeper, too. Handhelds have the smallest collection bags. However, some models cross the line into backpack territory. These models have larger collection bags that the user wears as a backpack. A cordless leaf vacuum also falls into this category, providing better maneuverability.
- Backpack leaf vacuums are usually a hybrid that has leaf blowing as its main function. A handheld leaf vacuum with a backpack collection sack can be considered to be a backpack leaf vacuum, too. Backpack models tend to have larger collection sacks that need emptying less often.
- Walk-behind leaf vacuums look similar to a lawn mower, but instead of cutting grass, they suck up leaves into a large collection sack. These models hold the most leaves and may mulch as well. However, they’re more expensive and cannot be used as a leaf blower.
Electric vs. Gas
Like lawn mowers, leaf vacuums are available in electric- and gas-powered versions.
- Electric leaf vacuums are quieter, easier to maintain, and typically less expensive. Corded vacuums are best suited to modestly-sized outdoor spaces since they require access to an electrical outlet. A cordless leaf blower vacuum with rechargeable batteries allows room to roam and is compact enough to be easily stored. However, they don’t match the power of other leaf vacuums and can only be used for relatively brief periods of time between charges.
- Gas-powered leaf vacuums offer greater power and the ability to cover lots of ground in one go. As a result, these models are often more expensive. Gas leaf vacuums also run loud, emit fumes, and require maintaining the right gas-to-oil ratio.
To figure out the power of a leaf vacuum, check the product description for two numbers: the mph and the cfm. The mph stands for miles per hour—in this case referring to how quickly air is suctioned into the unit and through the tube. Most run between 110 and 180 mph, although some may reach extremes of 250 mph or so.
Somewhat more important than airspeed, however, is cfm, or cubic feet per minute. This describes how much air moves through the vacuum in the span of 60 seconds, indicating how powerful the unit is. While mph provides an idea of how quickly leaves can go through the tube, cfm tells how much can go through all at once.
The cfm rankings for leaf vacuums range from around 150 to 600. A unit with a cfm under 200 may be all that’s needed to clean up an apartment balcony or a small yard, but for larger areas, it may be desirable to invest in a higher-cfm unit.
The runtime of a battery-powered leaf vacuum can limit the amount of work that can be done. Most models offer at least 20 to 30 minutes of runtime on the highest power levels. At lower levels, the battery may run for 45 minutes or more.
Battery-powered models that include two or more interchangeable batteries can increase the available work time. While one battery is in use, the other battery charges. Charge times vary from 1.5 to 3 hours and sometimes longer depending on the battery size. The amount of work may still be limited with interchangeable batteries, but it will provide more work time than a single battery.
Some manufacturers provide batteries that are interchangeable with the brand’s other power tools. In these cases, buying power tools of the same brand can add to the number of batteries available. Ultimately, that can extend possible work time even more.
Some leaf vacuums offer bells and whistles beyond simple suction. In fact, most vacuums these days are actually leaf blowers with a vacuum function. That provides extra use options with a single tool.
Vacuums are best suited for smaller outdoor spaces, like those surrounding apartments and duplexes. Some models also offer a mulching option, great for repurposing leaves into healthy plant beds.
Ease of Use
The leaf vacuum’s mix of features and design can make it easier or harder to use. Bag size, for example, determines how often it will need to be emptied. Larger bags mean less frequent emptying, but they can be awkward and heavy to carry.
Weight also affects ease of use. Gas-powered leaf vacuums are the heaviest, though some battery-powered models are almost as heavy. For those with a large yard, gas power makes sense because it can keep consistent high power throughout the whole yard.
However, for those with smaller yards, the light weight of a handheld or battery-powered model can be more comfortable. Models with a backpack bag combine the lighter weight of a handheld model with the convenience of a backpack.
Finally, there are controls to consider. Trigger switches and on/off buttons directly on the handle are easier to use. They allow the user to turn the machine on or off one-handed. Toolless conversion for hybrid models can also add to ease of use.
Our Top Picks
After thinking about the various options and how the different types of leaf vacuums could meet your yard care needs, the next step is narrowing down the field of possible tools to the best one. To help with the selection process, the following are some of the best tools available in specific categories. Keeping your yard, garage, or flower bed free of fallen leaves can be easier with any of the top picks below.
If a property is too large for a corded leaf vacuum, but having to mix the fuel necessary to operate a gas model isn’t desired, check out this battery-powered option from Greenworks. Its 12-amp lithium-ion battery (included along with the charger) powers the vacuum to run up to 60 minutes on a single charge.
The vacuum draws in air at six-speed options up to 235 mph, with an impressive airflow volume of 380 cfm, which is suitable for light to moderate leaf accumulation. A metal impeller breaks up leaves for mulching before depositing them in the collection bag. A bigger battery puts the weight at 9.26 pounds, so users will need some strength for longer jobs.
- Power source: Battery
- Airflow: 380 cfm
- Weight: 9.26 pounds
- Functions as a blower or vacuum with good power for both
- Six variable speeds
- Toolless transition from vacuum to blower
- Weight may be difficult to manage with larger jobs
As the pick for the best gas leaf blower vacuum, the Poulan Pro (made by well-known manufacturer Husqvarna) features a 25cc two-cycle engine that produces airspeeds up to 230 mph and creates 450 cfm. Despite that power, it remains at a low weight of only 4.88 pounds. At that weight, users are much less likely to get fatigued before they run out of gas.
This blower vacuum also reduces fatigue with its vibration reduction technology. Fewer vibrations provide easier control. A soft-grip handle houses the trigger control and variable speed control options. The collection bag sits over the shoulder of the user to further reduce fatigue.
- Power source: Gas
- Airflow: 450 cfm
- Weight: 4.88 pounds
- Lightweight for a gas-powered leaf vacuum
- Overall design reduces fatigue
- Offers good power for the weight and size
- Requires a screwdriver to remove blower tube
- Not ideal for tall users
This Black+Decker features a 12-amp electric motor powered by an electrical cord. Consistent power from the electrical cord keeps air flowing, whether using this model as a leaf blower, vacuum, or mulcher.
Black+Decker’s handle design features additional grips at both ends of the main handle. Those grips give users additional leverage based on the terrain.
This model only has two speeds, but it can maintain speeds of up to 210 mph. Both the vacuum and blower tube can be removed without tools. They then break down into sections for easier storage. The collection bag holds up to 1 bushel of leaves.
- Power source: Electric
- Airflow: 300 cfm
- Weight: 7 pounds
- Provides consistent suction and airflow
- Change tubes without tools
- Versatile handle design
This Black+Decker’s 40-volt lithium-ion battery works interchangeably with any of the brand’s 36-volt or 40-volt MAX tools, so this tool is a versatile addition to a power tool collection. Its power provides airspeeds up to 120 miles per hour and makes it one of the best cordless leaf vacuum options available.
This two-in-one design includes different nozzles for vacuuming and blowing. They’re easy to change and have a length that provides a comfortable fit for the average-size person.
The vacuum also mulches before depositing leaves in a 6:1 ratio in the collection bag. That means that it can reduce six bags worth of leaves down to one. This model may not have the fastest airspeeds, but it performs consistently and has a battery that works with a whole system of tools.
- Power source: Battery
- Airflow: 90 cfm
- Weight: 6.9 pounds
- 40-volt battery interchangeable with brand’s other power tools
- Additional soft-grip handle offers better control
- Built-in scraper helps remove stuck leaves
This Craftsman tool functions as a blower, vacuum, and mulcher. A 12-amp motor provides consistent power, with airflow up to 450 cfm and top airspeeds of 260 mph. That much power quickly removes dry leaves and can potentially move wet ones, too.
A high-capacity 55-liter collection bag has backpack straps for greater comfort. At that capacity, the bag doesn’t need emptying very often. This model comes with a vacuum and blower tube that remove and install without the aid of extra tools.
- Power source: Electric
- Airflow: 450 cfm
- Weight: 11.27 pounds
- Large capacity collection bag with backpack straps
- Consistent high-power from the 12-amp motor
- Toolless conversion
The KIMO provides balance between weight and power. At only 4.4 pounds, it can still provide 30 minutes of runtime on the 20-volt 4.0Ah lithium-ion battery. It reaches airspeeds up to 150 mph. That’s not enough for wet leaves, but if they’re dry, the KIMO can move them.
After the battery has run out, the charger can get it back to full capacity in an hour. This vacuum also comes with a carrying bag for the vacuum, making it easier to transport and store.
- Power source: Battery
- Airflow: 95 cfm
- Weight: 4.4 pounds
- Fast, 1-hour charging
- 30-minute runtime
- Lightweight at only 4.4 pounds
- Not enough power for wet leaves
For large gardens and heavy leaf accumulation, it’s hard to beat the Husqvarna 2-Cycle Gas Leaf Vacuum, which draws in air at speeds of up to 170 mph and features an air volume of 425 cfm. An auto-return stop switch automatically resets the vacuum for easier starting. It also features cruise control for easier handling and less hand fatigue.
This vacuum also features mulching knives that grind up natural debris so that up to 16 bags of dry leaves fit into the single collection bag. Fuel-powered, this leaf vacuum requires a standard mixture of 50 parts gasoline to 1 part of 2-stroke engine oil.
Though it weighs in at 9.6 pounds, the leaf bag comes with a shoulder strap that will help support the vacuum to reduce arm fatigue while working. Its easy-crank engine enables quick starting. The Husqvarna includes anti-vibration technology to reduce hand stress.
- Power source: Gas
- Airflow: 425 cfm
- Weight: 9.6 pounds
- Cruise control and anti-vibration technology reduce fatigue
- Soft-grip handle with easily accessed controls
- Adjustable blow tube
The Worx WG509 changes between its three modes with the flip of a switch. There’s no need to change the tube or use tools to go from blowing to vacuuming. When it’s time to mulch, a metal impeller reduces leaves in an 18:1 ratio (18 bags to 1 bag). The 1-bushel collection bag includes a shoulder strap that reduces fatigue.
The model only has two speeds, but it reaches a top speed of 210 mph with a 350 cfm. An ergonomic tube design reduces back strain by putting the tube at a parallel angle to the ground. The angle also helps it reach under and around landscaping elements.
- Power source: Electric
- Airflow: 350 cfm
- Weight: 8.6 to 11 pounds, depending on mode
- Angled tube provides comfortable reach
- Durable metal impeller reduces leaves to 1/18 of their size
- Easily switches between modes
For the combination of ease of use, weight, and features, the Greenworks cordless vacuum gets the top spot as the best leaf vacuum. It also brings reliability and durability to outdoor power tools. As far as versatility goes, the Worx leaf blower/vacuum provides three modes and can be easily switched between them without the use of extra tools. Its convenience and performance earn it a spot on our list of top picks.
How We Chose the Best Leaf Vacuums
Our curated list of leaf vacuums came as a result of hours of research. We not only looked at reviews but considered the combination of features, functionality, and material quality used to make the leaf vacuums.
The leaf vacuums needed to have both adequate airflow (mph) and suction power (cfm). We also evaluated certain issues that may come about because of a product’s particular weakness: a difficult conversion process or poor power for its size, for example.
We looked at the reputation of the brand, including the quality of their other product lines. Battery life, design, features, weight, and how those combine and affect the performance rounded out the criteria used to determine which models made the list.
Leaf vacuums aren’t as common as blowers, so you might find yourself scratching your head as you look at specs. They aren’t complicated once you understand how they work and what kind of features are needed for specific jobs. We’ve answered some of the most common questions to help with your search.
Q. What machine is best for picking up leaves?
Handheld leaf vacuums work best for small yards and few leaves. Once the leaves start piling up, a backpack or electric model will offer longer running times and a larger collection bag capacity. Gas leaf vacuums also work well for large yards, though they do require more maintenance and can be heavy.
Q. How powerful does a leaf vacuum need to be?
Look at the leaf vacuum’s mph and cfm when determining the power. While these measurements aren’t volts or amps, they are a better indicator of the quantity of leaves the vacuum can handle. Speeds of anywhere between 110 to 220 mph are usually adequate for leaf removal.
The cfm tells you the quantity of leaves the vacuum can move at once. Higher numbers (at 200 or higher) mean more powerful suction and removal. However, a model with a well-designed tube can provide adequate suction at 95 cfm and above.
Q. Will a lawn vacuum pick up grass clippings?
A lawn vacuum can pick up grass clippings. However, depending on its power and cfm, it may struggle with wet clippings.
Q. Can you clean gutters with a leaf vacuum?
Although the angle of use is not quite right, you can clean gutters with a leaf vacuum. However, a leaf vacuum may not have the power to remove wet leaves.
Q. How do I switch from blower to vacuum?
The process of switching from blower to vacuum depends on the make and model of the leaf blower. Some models require nothing more than the flip of a switch. Others require extra tools to remove a blow tube before functioning as a vacuum. Check the owner’s manual for specific instructions.