The Best Mulching Lawn Mowers of 2022

By mulching your lawn clippings instead of bagging them, you can return nutrients to your grass and reduce its dependence on fertilizer.

By Tony Carrick | Updated Apr 28, 2022 1:04 PM

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The Best Mulching Lawn Mower Option

Photo: homedepot.com

While one can bag those lawn clippings to create a clean-looking yard, a smarter option is to use a mulching lawn mower. Lawn mowers with mulch functions can cut grass blades into tiny bits that nourish the yard. Not only does mulching eliminate the need to bag grass clippings, but it also reduces the amount of fertilizer needed to treat the yard.

Mulching lawn mowers come as walk-behind and ride-on mowers that are powered by either a gas engine or electric motor. They have decks specially designed to cut clippings into tiny pieces before returning them to the lawn. Read on to learn about the design features found on these specialized mowers and why the models below are some of the best mulching lawn mowers on the market.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Toro 21in Recycler/Rear Bagging Lawn Mower
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Troy-Bilt TB110 Push Lawn Mower
  3. UPGRADE PICK: Honda HRX217VKA 21″ Lawn Mower, Self-Propel
  4. BEST BATTERY-POWERED: EGO Power+ 21″ Mower
  5. BEST SELF-PROPELLED: Honda HRN216VKA 21″ Walk-Behind Mower, Variable Speed
  6. BEST FOR SMALL YARDS: Ryobi 40V Brushless 20″ Push Lawn Mower
  7. BEST FOR LARGE YARDS: Toro 30″ Personal Pace TimeMaster Mower
The Best Mulching Lawn Mower Option

Photo: homedepot.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Mulching Lawn Mower

Choosing the appropriate type of mower for the job and the right size deck is key to selecting the best mulching lawn mower. Ahead, learn more about the different lawn mower types and how to choose the right power source and deck size.

Type

  • Push: This type of walk-behind mower requires the operator to provide the necessary physical power to move the lawn mower forward. The best mulching push mower will have larger rear wheels that make the mower easier to push up inclines and over uneven terrain.
  • Self-propelled: This type of mower looks similar to a push mower, only there is a belt that runs from the blade’s driveshaft to the wheels that provides power to move the mower forward. Controls located on the handlebar allow the operator to modulate the speed of the wheels.
  • Riding: A riding mower has a seat for the operator and a steering wheel that allows them to steer the mower. Riding mowers come in zero-turn and tractor models. They come equipped with larger 12 to 24 horsepower engines to power the drive wheels and the mowing deck.

Deck Design

The mowing deck houses the blade or blades that cut the grass. Decks vary in size from the 20-inch decks found on many push lawn mowers to the large 46-inch decks on riding mowers. The size of the yard determines what size deck is appropriate. A 20-inch deck is suitable for small to medium-size yards of about ½ acre. Larger yards of up to ¾ of an acre require a mower with at least a 22-inch deck. Lawns greater than ¾ of an acre would benefit from a riding mower that has a deck that is 28 inches or wider.

The deck houses either single or double blades, depending on the size of the deck. These decks have an opening that discharges the clippings out the side of the mowing deck. To trigger the mulch function, the user simply closes the opening with a cover. With the discharge opening closed, the clippings circulate inside the mowing deck, allowing the blade to cut them multiple times before they fall into the yard.

Power Source

Mulching lawn mowers come with three different power source options: gas, electric, and battery-powered. Gas lawn mowers have engines that range from 125 cc to 230 cc, depending on the size of the mowing deck. Riding mowers have larger engines that range from 12 to 24 horsepower. A good 20-inch mulching lawn mower should be equipped with a 140-cc engine to produce the power needed to cut clippings into smaller pieces.

Electric mowers come in both corded and battery-powered models. Since corded lawn mowers are tethered to a power cord, they are suitable for smaller lawns of less than ¼ acre. Battery-powered, or cordless mowers, use a powerful rechargeable lithium-ion battery to power the mower blade and drive wheels. These mowers typically allow for up to 45 minutes of runtime before needing a recharge, making them suitable for small to medium-size lawns. Battery and electric-powered motors are easier to start but don’t produce the same amount of power as gas-powered lawn mowers.

Additional Features

Mulching lawn mowers come with additional features that make them easier to operate. Many walk-behind mowers have controls that allow the operator to adjust the deck height without adjusting each wheel individually. Many mowers also have levers that make it easy to change the clipping settings from mulching to bagging to side discharge.

Mulching lawn mowers are also equipped with technologies that make them easier to start. Battery-powered mowers have push-start features, and many gas-powered mowers have pull starters that require less force to get the engine going.

Some self-propelled mowers will automatically modulate the wheel speed to match the operator’s pace. Battery-powered mowers come equipped with LED lights for nighttime mowing.

Our Top Picks

The list below includes mowers designed for producing the fine grass clippings needed to mulch a yard. The best mulching lawn mower for each category is listed, including gas and electric-powered models for yards large and small.

Best Overall

The Best Mulching Lawn Mowers Option: Toro 21in Recycler/Rear Bagging Lawn Mower
Photo: homedepot.com

Toro’s aptly named Recycler sets itself apart from other walk-behind lawn mowers with a design that makes it ideal for producing fine grass clippings. The Recycler has a vent that allows air to circulate in the mowing deck, keeping the clippings airborne so the blade can cut them multiple times before returning them to the lawn. These finer clippings break down more quickly than larger clippings, allowing them to better nourish the lawn.

In addition to its mulching ability, this self-propelled mower also gives the user other cutting options with a bagging system and attachment for side discharging. A 140-cc gas engine provides ample power for its 21-inch cutting deck and rear-wheel drive, and it’s also easier to maintain thanks to an engine that never requires an oil change.

Product Specs

  • Type: Self-propelled
  • Power: Gas
  • Deck size: 21 inches

Pros

  • Mulching system creates fine grass clippings
  • Oil-change-free engine design
  • Includes bagging and side-discharge options
  • Powerful 140-cc engine

Con

  • Gap can form between bagger and mower

Get the Toro Recycler mulching lawn mower at The Home Depot, Mowers Direct, and Toro.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Mulching Lawn Mowers Option: Troy-Bilt TB110 Push Lawn Mower
Photo: homedepot.com

This Troy-Bilt is the best mulching push mower at a budget price for those who don’t mind supplying the power to move this mower forward. Troy-Bilt’s cutting system uses a rake on the front of the mower that lifts the blades upright, preparing them for an even cut. The clippings then circulate in the mower’s symmetrical deck, allowing the blades to cut the excess grass into smaller pieces that will break down in the lawn to serve as nutrients.

In addition to its mulching option, Troy-Bilt’s mower also comes with a bag that has a wide opening to prevent clogs. Larger 11-inch rear wheels make the mower easier to push over uneven and rough terrain. A 140-cc gas engine powers the mower’s 21-inch deck.

Product Specs

  • Type: Push
  • Power: Gas
  • Deck size: 21 inches

Pros

  • Cutting system produces finer clipping for mulching
  • Ample power with 140-cc engine
  • Includes bagging system

Con

  • Some reported issues with leaking oil

Get the Troy-Bilt 21 mulching lawn mower at The Home Depot and Troy-Bilt.

Upgrade Pick

The Best Mulching Lawn Mowers Option: Honda HRX217VKA 21" Lawn Mower, Self-Propel
Photo: homedepot.com

Those who want cutting-edge technology to cut their lawn need look no further than this self-propelled gas lawn mower from Honda. While most walk-behind mowers have a single blade, Honda equips this mower with two. The twin blades give it the ability to cut grass blades into ultra-fine pieces that are great for promoting a healthy lawn.

Not only can this mower mulch grass clippings, but it also has a special setting for shredding leaves into fine particles. The mower will bag clippings or side discharge them as well. The mower’s grass cutting settings are easy to cycle through via simple-to-use controls on the mower deck. Honda’s mulching mower is powered by a monster 200-cc engine, making it one of the most powerful (and one of the most expensive) walk-behind mowers on the market.

Product Specs

  • Type: Self-propelled
  • Power: Gas
  • Deck size: 21 inches

Pros

  • Drive controls automatically adjust speed to match the operator’s pace
  • Capable of mulching leaves
  • Equipped with 2 blades
  • Massive 200-cc engine

Con

  • Very expensive

Get the Honda mulching lawn mower at The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Mowers Direct.

Best Battery-Powered

The Best Mulching Lawn Mowers Option: EGO Power+ 21 Mower
Photo: amazon.com

Ego tops the list of battery-powered mulching lawn mowers thanks to the power and runtime its battery and motor produce. The Ego Power+ comes equipped with a 56-volt 5-Ah rechargeable lithium-ion battery that gets a whopping 45 minutes of runtime on a single charge. That’s impressive given that the Power+ is equipped with a 21-inch mowing deck.

Cycling through the three cutting settings on the Power+ is easy, thanks to a large ergonomic handle located on the top of the mowing deck. Other user-friendly features include a push-button start and LED headlights. The Ego Power+ also folds into a small box shape that stands upright, making it easier to store than most walk-behind mowers.

Product Specs

  • Type: Push
  • Power: Battery-powered
  • Deck size: 21 inches

Pros

  • Long 45-minute runtime on a single charge
  • Design makes it easy to switch between cutting options
  • Folds up for easy storage

Con

  • Doesn’t mulch as well as a gas-powered mower

Get the Ego mulching lawn mower on Ace Hardware, Amazon, and Lowe’s.

Best Self-Propelled

The Best Mulching Lawn Mowers Option: Honda HRN216VKA 21" Walk-Behind Mower, Variable Speed
Photo: homedepot.com

Perhaps no brand makes a mower better capable of mulching than Honda. Whereas most walk-behind mowers use one blade, Honda supplies this 21-inch self-propelled gas mower with two. And while many other 21-inch gas mowers have a 140-cc engine, Honda powers those blades with a large 170-cc engine. The result is a machine that’s better able to cut clippings into tiny pieces.

In addition to mulching, this mower is also capable of bagging and side discharge. There’s also a dual-lever system that makes it easy to move between its seven blade height options. With great power comes a higher price tag; Honda’s self-propelled mulching mower is one of the most expensive models on the market.

Product Specs

  • Type: Self-propelled
  • Power: Gas
  • Deck size: 21 inches

Pros

  • Twin blades create finer grass clippings
  • Large 170-cc engine
  • Easy-to-change blade height
  • 3 cutting options

Con

  • More expensive than other 21-inch self-propelled mowers

Get the Honda mulching lawn mower at The Home Depot, Amazon, and Mowers Direct.

Best for Small Yards

The Best Mulching Lawn Mowers Option: Ryobi 40V Brushless 20" Push Lawn Mower
Photo: homedepot.com

Smaller yards don’t require a mower with a large deck, nor do they require the power of a gas engine. This battery-powered model from Ryobi has ample cutting power for mowing small yards. Its 40-volt 6-Ah battery (sold separately) and the brushless motor can power this 20-inch mower for up to 48 minutes on a single charge.

In addition to mulching, the Ryobi also comes with a bagger and can side discharge. It’s equipped with LED lights for nighttime mowing, and its cutting deck has seven height positions ranging from 1.5 inches to 4 inches. A lever on the mowing deck makes it easy to adjust the cutting height. When the day’s mowing is done, it folds into a compact size for easy storage.

Product Specs

  • Type: Push
  • Power: Battery
  • Deck size: 20 inches

Pros

  • Long runtime on a single charge
  • Broad cutting height range
  • LED lights for nighttime mowing
  • 3 cutting options

Con

  • Blade dulls more quickly than those on other mowers

Get the Ryobi mulching lawn mower (tool only) at The Home Depot.

Best for Small Yards

The Best Mulching Lawn Mowers Option: Toro 30" Personal Pace TimeMaster Mower
Photo: homedepot.com

You won’t find many walk-behind lawn mowers that can cut as wide a swath of grass as Toro’s aptly named TimeMaster. Its massive 30-inch deck makes it suitable for large yards that would otherwise require the services of a riding lawn mower. One might think that such a broad deck would have difficulty cutting clippings down to the minute size needed for mulching. That’s not the case with the TimeMaster, which has two blades powered by a massive 223-cc gas engine.

In addition to its broad deck, the TimeMaster comes equipped with useful additional features. One can disengage the blade without turning off the engine, making it easier to remove obstacles, and the self-propelled wheels automatically modulate their speed to match the operator’s pace.

Product Specs

  • Type: Self-propelled
  • Power: Gas
  • Deck size: 30 inches

Pros

  • Wide 30-inch deck cuts mowing time down
  • Massive 223-cc engine powers twin blades for better mulching
  • Easy-to-adjust wheel speed
  • Folding design makes it easier to store

Con

  • Much more expensive than any other walk-behind mower

Get the Toro TimeMaster mulching lawn mower at The Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and Tractor Supply.

Our Verdict

For the unique venting system that allows it to cut grass clippings multiple times before returning them to the yard, the Toro Recycler lawn mower is a worthy option for those looking for the best mulching lawn mower overall. Those willing to pay for a top-of-the-line mulching lawn mower will want to consider the Honda 21 in. self-propelled lawn mower, which is capable of mulching not only grass but leaves as well.

How We Chose the Best Mulching Lawn Mowers

We researched some two dozen lawn mowers with mulching capabilities to produce our list that shows the best mulching lawn mower for each of several categories. Since mulching requires more power than standard cutting, we selected mowers with ample power. For gas lawn mowers, we selected models with at least a 140-cc engine. For battery-powered models, we chose models with at least a 40-volt battery.

Since deck and blade design is also important, we selected mowers explicitly designed to produce the fine grass clippings needed to effectively provide nutrients to a lawn. These included mowers with technologies designed specifically for mulching, including multiple blades, special venting, or integrated rakes. Since most owners don’t mulch their lawn with every cutting, we also chose mowers that offer versatility with side-discharge and bagging cutting options.

Tips for Using a Mulching Lawn Mower

You can do a few things to get the most out of your mower’s mulch settings. First and foremost, mow at the proper height. Only cut a third of the height of the grass blade. This will ensure that the clippings are small enough for your mower to mulch them effectively. Mower blades need to cut the clippings multiple times, so keep the mower blade sharp. Also, it’s easier for a lawn mower blade to cut dry grass, so only mulch when the lawn is dry. Finally, if you’re mulching your grass clippings instead of bagging them, you’re returning nutrients to your yard. That means you can use less fertilizer.

  • Only mow a third of the height of your lawn.
  • Mow when it’s dry.
  • Keep the mower blades sharp.
  • Use less fertilizer.

FAQs

If you’re wondering how mulching can help improve the health of your yard or whether you need to equip your mower with a special blade, read on for answers to these and other commonly asked questions.

Q. What does mulching do for your lawn?

Mulching returns nutrients to your lawn in the form of grass clippings, which helps feed it.

Q. Is it better to mulch or bag when mowing?

Most of the time, mulching is the best option as it returns nutrients to your lawn and doesn’t create yard waste. However, bagging is the best option if the grass is tall or covered in leaves.

Q. Do you need special mowing blades to mulch grass?

Most lawn mowers come with blades suitable for mulching or bagging grass. Users typically do not need a special blade for mulching.

Q. Will a mulching mower put decorative strips on my lawn like on TV?

You can use a mulching mower to create decorative stripes on your lawn. But, as with any mower, you’ll need a lawn roller to achieve the striped look you see on a Major League Baseball field.

Q. How long does a mulching lawn mower last?

Most lawn mowers last for about 10 years, although that depends on how often you use it and how well you maintain it.

Q. What is “thatch”?

In yards, thatch is a layer of organic material that collects around the base of the grass blades that

can prevent new grass from growing. When thatch becomes too thick, the lawn must be dethatched by raking it out or using a dethatcher. Contrary to popular belief, mulching a lawn does not contribute to additional thatch.