what is the difference between a lawn rake and scarifier

What Is the Difference Between a Lawn Rake and Scarifier? Which One Do I Need?

Last Updated on January 10, 2023

Keeping a healthy lawn means using garden tools beyond your mowers, such as lawn rakes and scarifiers. However, often being used interchangeably, scarifying and raking are, in fact, quite different.

If you’re wondering what is the difference between a lawn rake and scarifier, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn about these garden tools, their functions, when to use them, and more.

What Is a Lawn Rake?

A lawn rake is a garden tool designed for moss removal from lawn surfaces to prevent diseases. Rakes use springbok or wire tines, capable of eliminating unwanted material, such as dead roots.

Lawn rakers also remove debris, dead grass plants, and grassroots.

What Does a Lawn Rake Do?

The primary purpose of a lawn rake is to promote a healthy lawn, allowing it to breathe by removing moss. During the year, moss and other material will accumulate on the lawn’s surface, suffocating the lawn, resulting in dead grass clippings, rhizomes, and waste also called thatch.

Moss can build up without consent and is a problem for many lawns, as it blocks nutrients and water from absorbing into the lawn. Low nutrients and lack of water can be dire if the soil level is low heading into summer.

Lawn rakers also reduce the need for a chemical moss killer that may poison lawns. Some people use lawn sand, which covers moss and makes the lawn green, but it is temporary and requires additional costs.

When Do I Rake My Lawn?

Because a lawn raker is more gentle than other options, such as a lawn scarifier, you can use a rake multiple times a year and after you mow.

Spring raking removes grass blades that did not make it through winter. At times the snow accumulates mould and clumps within the lawn, inhibiting new growth.

Autumn is an excellent time for raking to remove leaves and other debris. It will ensure your lawn can breathe throughout the summer. Also, raking can prep the lawn for a scarifier.

What Is a Scarifier?

A lawn scarifier is similar to a lawn rake but uses vertical blades attached to a drum to penetrate the grass. The action of the moving blades removes anything from grass stalks to sand.

What Does a Scarifier Do?

Lawn scarifiers are used for ‘de-thatching,’ which remove roots, grass clippings, moss, weeds, and other material that builds up. This action is also called scarifying, as the machine cuts into the soil, allowing air, water, and nutrients to penetrate.

When Do I Scarify My Lawn?

Most experienced gardeners might scarify their lawn at least once a year, which helps keep a healthy landscape.

Scarifying the lawn in the autumn is an ideal time to remove thatch that accumulated during the summer. It also prevents the lawn from getting too saturated during winter.

Spring is another excellent opportunity to scarify the lawn, but it’s important that you don’t start too early or closer to summer as you can damage your lawn or end up with too many weed seeds. Wait until your grass is starting to grow because it will be able to recover more quickly, especially in the warmer weather.

Lawn scarifying also digs deep into the soil surface, allowing you to apply new fertiliser. Since moss may grow more rampant during damp winters, scarifying in the spring enables your lawn to start anew.

Lastly, if dead patches appear, scarifying and re-planting grass seed can bring the lawn back to life throughout the summer.

Main Differences Between a Lawn Rake and Scarifier

Despite similar functions, rakers and scarifiers have differences in their design and purpose.

A lawn raker uses a plastic cylinder with wired tines to primarily move moss multiple times a year. It is more of a preventative measure to ease the growth of diseases and thatch. Raking may also remove thick grass clippings, and grass cuttings left over from lawnmowers.

A scarifier uses steel blades, called scarifier blades, that cut deep, removing thatch and penetrate enough to aerate the soil. It encourages grass growth, as a gardener can reseed and remove debris that inhibits the lawn from flourishing.

A lawn rake is typically more affordable and used more often than a scarifier. It is possible to begin raking before scarifying in the autumn to remove moss, rejuvenate the soil, and remove any patches.

Can I Use a Rake to Scarify?

It depends on your lawn and the time of year if you want to use a raker to scarify.

For instance, if you have been maintaining the lawn all year with no visible signs of deteriorating or dead grass during the summer, you can use a rake for general upkeep purposes.

However, if it’s autumn and the lawn visibly needs moss and thatch removal, lawn scarifying will provide the best results. Keep in mind that a lawn raker is not powerful enough to penetrate with its wired tines compared to blade tines.

If you must scarify with a raker, use a spring tine rake. Electric machine powered rakers are a suitable option if you cannot do it manually.

What to Consider Before Choosing a Lawn Rake or Scarifier

If you’re undecided about which tool is best for your lawn, consider the type of machine, comfort, lawn size, and your finances.

Power or Manual

Machine powered rakes are available with a collection box for better moss removal. The scarification process of removing thatch also comes in electric or petrol machine types.

Manual machines require more labour and are time-consuming. Powered rakes or scarifiers do more work but need more maintenance.

A manual raker is more budget-friendly, while an electric scarifier is typically more expensive. An electric raker makes raking much more manageable, while scarification is easier with a powered scarifier.

To summarise:

  • Manual raker: Easy to use, most affordable, best for basic removal of moss
  • Machine raker: Collects more moss, does the job quicker, requires more upkeep for longevity
  • Manual scarifier: Removes thatch, easy to use with ergonomic handles
  • Machine scarifier: Collects more thatch, best for larger lawns, most expensive

Keep in mind a motor will increase the tool’s weight, requiring more physicality and making it loud.

If your lawn is small, you might not need a powered tool and find it best to stick with a manual raker or scarifier. A large lot needs a machine to cover more ground and storage for debris.

A lawn raker scarifier mix is also available in machine form, excellent for big spaces.


If you plan to use a manual tool, ergonomic handles are good features to look for and can reduce strain or discomfort. While raking or scarifying with a machine will help with large lot maintenance and debris collection, it’s also tougher to push around with a motor adding to its weight. Look for something with adjustable handles for your comfort.

Lawn Size

If you have a small lawn size or lot space that requires minimal cutting, a manual scarifier may be best. However, large lot spaces and more coverage requires machines to work faster and more efficiently.


Whether it’s an electric lawnmower, rake or scarifier, your budget directly affects how you can maintain your lawn.

Manual tools are typically more affordable, but an electric model is a worthy investment if you plan to rake or scarify at least once a year.

Big brand names like Black and Decker may also play a factor in the price, but lesser-known brands equipment may work just as well and at a fraction of the cost.

Knowing the Difference Is Important

Now that you know what is the difference between a lawn rake and scarifier, follow our tips to choose the best options.

Ultimately, your lawn’s health comes first and using a lawn rake or lawn scarifier to remove moss and debris to aerate the roots may result in a more vibrant landscape.

Do you use a lawn rake or scarifier? Do you have any other tips for using them? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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