The Best Leaf Mulchers to Clean Up Your Lawn This Fall

Gabrielle Hondorp
·7-min read
Photo credit: Staff
Photo credit: Staff

From Popular Mechanics

We’re in the thick of fall. And while in many places that means beautiful foliage making a patchwork of the landscape, it also means a constant battle to keep your lawn clear of fallen leaves. You can certainly rake and bag them, but there’s a better way to utilize dead leaves—and save some plastic from a landfill. Invest in a leaf mulcher, which will chew them up so they can then be used in your compost pile or garden, turning something previously useless into free fertilizer.

Check out quick info below on the top five leaf mulchers, then scroll deeper for buying advice and full reviews of these and other models.

Types of Leaf Mulchers

We reached out to our resident home improvement specialist, Test Editor Roy Berendsohn, for advice about leaf mulchers. “There are generally four type of leaf mulchers,” he said, “handheld, walk-behind, stationary, and ride-on, and they will all function a bit differently.”

Handheld: These are best suited for smaller jobs, like cleaning out between bushes, but you will want to be wary of larger items like sticks or acorns, which can easily clog the system. They can run off of gas or electricity (via a cord or battery). The bag will also get heavier as you suck up leaves, so you’ll have to empty it often, which could be an annoyance if you’re attempting to clear a large area. “Look for a machine with a large-diameter nozzle to permit sufficient air flow and resist clogging,” says Berendsohn.

Walk-behind: Berendsohn likened this type to “yard vacuums” given they suck up debris as you push them along your lawn. They sometimes also have a hose to reach in smaller areas but are generally suited to larger open swaths of property. “Big engines rule in this category,” Berendsohn says. “This is a high-torque job that demands a big engine to pull in and shred what the machine will encounter.”

Stationary: These work as woodchippers but are slightly less powerful and get their power from via a cord or gasoline. They can take some smaller branches, but if you want to chop up larger pieces of wood, you’ll want to opt for a Power Take Off (PTO) model, which is powered by a tractor. “Bigger motors and bigger engines provide more torque but also more noise,” Berendsohn says. “ Don’t get too ambitious in terms of feeding branches into these, as a knot or curved branch can easily clog the chute.” Most have a large chute for leaves and a small chute for branches. These will work with any size yard, depending on how patient you are with feeding debris into them.

Ride-on: Consider a mulcher of this type if you already own a lawn tractor or rideable lawn mower. They attach underneath or on the back and will gather leaves as you ride along. These are ideal for large areas with a lot of leaves as they can carry big loads, and you don’t have to do anything but steer.

How We Selected and Rated Them

We selected these leaf mulchers relying on Berendsohn's expertise, our knowledge of the product category, and 5,500 customer scores. Our Consumer Score represents the percentage of customers who rated the product at least four out of five stars on retail and review sites like Amazon, Walmart, and manufacturers’ pages.

—CORDLESS HANDHELD—

Greenworks 40V Leaf Vacuum

Consumer Score: 78% gave it 4 stars or more
Lightweight and cordless, this makes quick work of small jobs.

Measuring out to only 32 inches in length, this leaf vacuum is ideal for getting in the tough to reach cracks and crevices. It can run for up to 21 minutes on a single charge—which isn't a lot but should be enough to clean up a walkway or small garden. It also functions as a leaf blower, which makes it great two-in-one tool for the fall. Customers praised its power, noting that it had plenty of suction even on the low setting, and it's mulching power which allows you to fill up to 4.5 bags of debris on a single charge. Greenworks also backs it up with a four-year tool and two-year battery warranty, which is great—particularly for a tool under $350.

—CORDED HANDHELD—

Worx WG509 TriVac

Consumer Score: 82% gave it 4 stars or more
Change it from a blower to a vacuum with the touch of a button.

Though labeled a leaf blower, this tool comes with an impressive vacuum and mulcher attachment. And unlike many leaf blowers, which require a bit of disassembly to go from blower to mulcher and back again, the WG509 allows you to change between the two modes easily with the flick of a switch. It’s small enough to fit under porches and in tight spaces. Plus it’s powerful for its size, with an 18:1 mulch ratio and up to 210 mph air speed in an 8.6-pound package. Bonus: the quick-release tube, which makes dumping the bushel collection bag a breeze.

—PREMIUM WALK-BEHIND—

Billy Goat TKV650SPH

Consumer Score: 90% gave it 4 stars or more
It will suck up everything but the grass.

This Billy Goat walk-behind is by no means a budget buy. But if you’re looking for a lawn vac that can handle just about anything your yard could throw at it, it’s worth the price. It features impressive suction that reviewers joked could “suck up your cat if you aren’t careful.” Designed to take on leaves, flowerbeds, and sticks that could be littering your yard, it doesn’t clog easily, and the 12:1 mulching ratio—as well as 40-gallon bag—allows you to cover large areas without stopping to unload. It can however, be a bit difficult to handle. The TKV650SPH weighs about 140 pounds and, when in motion, surges forward with significant force which can be difficult for some people to steer and control.

—BUDGET STATIONARY—

Worx WG430

Consumer Score: 83% gave it 4 stars or more
Saving money doesn’t mean giving up on quality.

If you’re looking for an affordable way to clean up your lawn this fall, the WG430 is a great pick. Coming in at under $220, it won’t break the bank, and it works way above its price range, mulching up to 53 gallons of leaves per minute. It has an 11:1 chop ratio and weighs only 20 pounds, which makes it easy to lift and store but just heavy enough to stand sturdily on its own. Customers were impressed with its mulching abilities and claimed that it could easily handle the remains of their garden, plus some small sticks.

—RIDE-ON—

DR Power Premier 200

Consumer Score: 89% gave it 4 stars or more
The Premier is a great partner for your rideable lawn mower.

An attachable leaf mulcher is really the way to go if you already own a ridable lawn mower or lawn tractor—particularly if you have a large piece of land. This mulcher can hold up to 200 gallons of leaves and is easy to unload as you simply unbuckle the closures on the back and release the lock lever from the front while tilting the collector in the rear. The shredder is mainly suited for leaves but can handle some smaller sticks as well, leaving your property clean and clear. You can also remove the collector and use the trailer to haul things around your property. Note that it does take at least a 12-hp engine to pull it on level ground, and 14 horsepower if there’s any sort of grade.

— PREMIUM STATIONARY—

DR Power Wood Chip Shred Premier 300

Consumer Score: 88% gave it 4 stars or more
Chop up leaves and small sticks without a hitch.

This mulcher from DR Power packs a real punch. Designed as a woodchipper, it easily takes on leaves, sticks up to three inches thick, weeds, and even pinecones, breaking them down into a perfectly compostable mulch. While a stationary model, it has handles that facilitate relocating—it does however weigh 126 pounds so it can be quite cumbersome. Reviewers were pleased with the shredding and chipping abilities, but they did note that you should be careful not to put too much in at once as it could get clogged relatively easily.

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