How to Dethatch a Lawn So It Thrives

Some thatch can make your lawn thrive, but you know what they say about too much of a good thing. Here’s what you should know about this mysterious layer of organic matter, along with when and how to dethatch a lawn.


Thick thatch on a lawn
Some thatch is good, but too much can block water and nutrients. (©Ingo Bartussek, Adobe Stock Photos)

About Thatch

Have you noticed decaying grass shoots and roots that build up, over time, on your lawn? This blanket of plant matter is called thatch.  

A bit of thatch is good for your lawn, but too much can block water and nutrients from reaching the roots, and basically choke healthy grass. That’s why it’s important to know how to dethatch a lawn.

If your yard’s thatch is more than a half-inch thick, it’s past the point of being beneficial. For small lawns, you’ll need to remove it with a lawn rake or specialized thatch rake.

For bigger lawns, work smarter, not harder! Buy or rent a gas-powered dethatcher, also known as a power rake, to tackle the job.


Woman uses a thatch rake to dethatch a lawn.
You need a thatch rake to properly dethatch a lawn. (©Ingo Bartussek, Adobe Stock Photos)

Two Ways to Dethatch

Using a thatch rake is a DIY-friendly task for homeowners with small lawns — or those who just want a good workout!

You can buy a good-quality thatch rake at home and garden centers for about $30. Just make sure it has thick blades designed for this task. Regular rakes can’t dig into your lawn and loosen thatch with the same efficiency.  

To reduce manual labor, purchase or rent a vertical mower or dethatcher. Its revolving blades do two things: cut thatch and bring it to the surface.

These machines range from $200 to $1,200 to buy, or they cost $80 a day to rent. Dethatching isn’t a one-time thing, so it’s usually more cost-effective to purchase a dethatcher.

When you’re ready to learn how to dethatch a lawn and purchase the right equipment, remember, price is a good indication of quality. The cheapest dethatchers have the fewest features, and higher-cost dethatchers usually have the best features. Buy one that’s not cheap, but also not expensive; something in the middle.


An electric or gas-powered dethatcher is an efficient machine for removing thatch. (©Ingo Bartussek, Adobe Stock Photos)

How to Dethatch a Lawn

Ready to work? Here’s how to dethatch a lawn, whether you’re using a thatch rake or a dethatcher.

Just pull the thatch rake across the lawn and then remove and toss the debris. That’s simple enough, right? Well, keep doing that for your entire lawn and you’ll get plenty of upper-body exercise!

Dethatching with a vertical mower requires a few steps. First, set your lawn mower’s blades so they’re lower than normal. Then moisten the area.

Next, run the vertical mower across the yard in one direction and follow that pattern until you’ve dethatched the entire lawn. Then, make a second pass over the lawn, perpendicular to the first pass. Finally, remove and dispose of any debris.

Whether you dethatch with a rake or vertical mower, you’ll still need to do some follow-up work, aerating, fertilizing and watering the lawn.


Once you’ve removed thatch from the lawn, load it up in a wheelbarrow and dispose of it. (©pitrs, Adobe Stock Photos)

When to Dethatch a Lawn

Dethatch your lawn when these two things are true: the grass is actively growing, and the soil is moist. These conditions vary with grass type.

If you have cool-season grass, dethatch in the early spring or early fall; for warm-season grass, Scotts recommends saving the chore for anytime from late spring through early summer — just after the second mowing.

Use these schedules for aerating your lawn as well, and you’ll have a solid game plan for a thriving lawn.  

Further Reading

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