Lawn Vacuum Tips and Tricks
How to Use a Lawn Vacuum for Yard Cleanup
Ask any lawn care professional or enthusiast about the steps you can take to improve the look of your lawn, and you’ll get some tried-and-true advice:
- Mow it regularly and keep it at the right height (typically around three inches)
- Fertilize it at the right time of year
- Water it only when it starts to look parched
You rarely hear one of the easiest pieces of advice to follow: pick up your waste!
We’re not just talking about bits of litter like gum wrappers and soda cans, although those are unsightly. Large amounts of lawn debris like leaves, grass clippings, and pine needles harbor pests, increase the buildup of thatch and weeds, and prevent your grass from getting the sunlight it needs.
Lawn vacuums are an effective solution for picking up ground waste, and not just for people with lawns. Anyone with some outdoor maintenance to do can benefit from a lawn vacuum :
- Homeowners with small yards (recommended: handheld lawn vacuums)
- Landowners with large tracts of property (recommended: self-propelled walk-behind lawn vacuums
- Farmers and ranchers (recommended: tow-behind lawn vacuums)
- Professional landscapers
- Churches, stadiums, and businesses with large parking lots
For each of those people, a lawn vacuum can make cleanup fast and easy.
Tips for Buying a Lawn Vacuum
The type of lawn vacuum you buy will depend on a couple of factors. Your budget is one; the size of your outdoor property is another.
Handheld lawn vacuums are a common, wallet-friendly choice for homeowners. They make it easy to pick up debris from some of the tightest and most difficult areas of a yard to clean:
- On top of landscaping rocks and mulch
- Underneath patio decks
- Beneath and around chain link fences
Both gas and corded electric handheld models are available, and both provide the amount of power needed to create strong suction while you're using your vacuum.
If you prefer even more power, you might consider either a tow-behind lawn vacuum or a walk-behind lawn vacuum. Ideal for commercial users or for people who own large properties, these options cost more but offer plenty of power and additional features for the price:
- Shredding and chipping capabilities: vacuums that have shredding and chipping functions are excellent for dealing with branches and twigs on the spot
- Ability to pick up trash: if picking up garbage is a concern, look specifically for models labeled as litter vacuums
- Detachable hose: common on tow-behind models, a detachable hose is essential for picking up debris from areas that are hard to reach with large vacuums, such as the spaces under shrubs
In addition to these features, most walk-behind lawn vacuums offer a self-propelled design that requires far less effort from the user when it comes time to push the vacuum across a lawn.
Our Lawn Vacuum Buyer’s Guide contains more advice for choosing the right vacuum for your property and is especially useful if you're considering a walk behind vacuum.
Once you’ve found your perfect lawn vacuum, your next step is to learn how to use it.
Tips for Using a Handheld Lawn Vacuum
A handheld lawn vacuum is a powerful piece of equipment that you hold close to your body. Every time you use it, be sure that you use it safely and properly.
1. Zip Up the Bag
Most handheld vacuums include a collection bag that attaches to the side or the back of the machine. We’ve heard plenty of stories about first-time users who begin vacuuming their lawns only to discover the hard way that they forgot to close that bag.
2. Remove or Avoid Twigs and Branches
Handheld blower/vacuums are designed to pick up lightweight, flexible pieces of debris. Even if your vacuum does have the power to pick up twigs and branches, they likely will damage the vacuum’s internal components.
Make sure you clear twigs from your leaf and grass piles, and avoid them while you’re vacuuming along edges.
3. Adjust the Speed for the Surface
Your handheld blower/vacuum most likely will have an adjustable speed control. As tempting as it might be to run it at high speed all the time, different speed settings will be more effective at creating powerful suction along certain surfaces:
- Low speed: ideal for hard surfaces, like blacktop
- High speed: ideal for uneven terrain, like grass
4. Adjust the Length of the Vacuum Tube
Just as you need to adjust your handheld lawn vacuum’s speed for the surface you’re cleaning, you also might need to adjust the length of the vacuum tube for better performance. If your vacuum isn’t creating as much suction as you’d like, try extending the tube. Bringing the mouth of the vacuum closer to the ground might create a more powerful pull.
5. Practice Proper Safety
Loud noise, flying debris, vibrations that cause muscle fatigue – using a leaf vacuum poses more risks than you initially might think! The good news is that you can reduce your risk just by wearing proper safety gear while you work:
Additionally, you should pay attention to safety when you’re done vacuuming your lawn – specifically when you’re refilling your gas-powered vacuum’s fuel tank. You might be ready to put your lawn care tools away and congratulate yourself on a job well done, but in order to avoid high temperatures that risk fuel combustion, we recommend letting your vacuum cool down for 15 minutes before filling the tank.
Tips for Using Walk-Behind and Tow-Behind Lawn Vacuums
Some of the tips for using a handheld lawn vacuum also apply when using walk-behind and tow-behind models – safety should be a priority with any tool, for example. However, larger lawn vacuums come with their own set of tips and advice to make working with them convenient.
1. Vacuum Over Dry Surfaces
Even though walk-behind and tow-behind models use a lot of power, you’re only making them work harder when you try to vacuum debris from wet surfaces. Because moisture can cause leaves and grass clippings to form heavy clumps, you’ll find it easier to pick them up when the ground is dry.
2. Aim the Discharge Chute
Walk-behind and tow-behind lawn vacuums generally offer two options for getting rid of debris:
- Collecting it in an attached bag or bin
- Disposing of it through a discharge chute
If you choose not to bag your debris, you’ll save yourself time by aiming your discharge chute toward the areas of your lawn you have yet to vacuum. This will ensure that you’re constantly adding debris to one large cleanup pile instead of scattering it over the areas you just cleaned.
3. Adjust the Intake Door
Every wheeled lawn vacuum has an intake door through which debris flows. Believe it or not, you can adjust the strength of the vacuum’s suction by adjusting the width of the intake door opening:
- Open the door wide to pick up a lot of lightweight material
- Close it slightly to create a stronger vacuum for heavy debris
4. Adjust the Height Setting
Remember how we discussed adjusting the length of a handheld lawn vacuum’s tube? A similar idea applies when discussing the height of a walk-behind or tow-behind vacuum’s mouth: keeping it low and close to the ground will create more suction.
However, there’s another factor to consider with walk-behind lawn vacuums: the terrain you’re riding or driving over. Raising the height setting will reduce the odds of your machine getting damaged when passing over bumpy, uneven ground.
5. Work with a Friend
Yes, walk-behind and tow-behind vacuums make cleanup convenient – so convenient, you can clean even large spaces by yourself.
But large spaces usually harbor lots of debris, and that debris can get heavy if you’re collecting all of it in a bag or bin. Depending on the size and weight of your collection bag, you might find unloading it easier and safer if you have a work buddy to help.
Cleaning Inside and Out
Lawn vacuums might not be as common as the kinds of vacuums you use inside on carpet and rugs. When it comes to tending to your outdoor property, though, why shouldn’t it get just as much attention and care as the inside of your home?
By cleaning up yard debris with a lawn vacuum, you'll keep your lawn healthy and attractive throughout the year. With these tips in mind, you’ll be so skilled at using your vacuum that you’ll be the one other people come to for advice.