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Eight of the best lawn scarifiers, from manual to mechanical machines

Dreaming of a lush, green lawn? Browse our pick of the very best scarifiers to help you whip it into shape, from manual to mechanical models.

A soft, springy lawn might seem ideal when it comes to lounging around on hot, summer days or walking barefoot in the cool morning dew, but it’s also a sign that your lawn needs a bit of attention. A build-up of moss and lawn thatch in the grass is often the cause of this spongy feeling, which not only makes turf look patchy, but prevents water, nutrients and air from reaching the grass’s root system. The result can be an unhealthy lawn, which has lost its vigour and struggles to withstand year-round wear and tear. However, all is not lost as the problem is easily tackled by a process called scarification, which means getting rid of the unwanted moss and thatch. This job is carried out in spring or autumn, and can be done manually with a rake, or mechanically with a powered machine.

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We reviewed a range of the most popular scarifiers on the market, putting them through their paces to bring you a list of the best scarifiers, both manual and powered.

Each model review has a detailed list of pros and cons for clarity and has been rated according to ease of use, handling, performance, and value for money. Each scarifier has scored a minimum of four out of five stars, so you can buy with confidence.

Need to show your lawn some TLC? Take a look at our round up of the best lawn scarifiers and expert tips on how to improve your lawn in 12 weeks.

Looking for the best lawn mowers? Read our guides to the best cordless lawn mowers, the best robotic lawn mowers and the best electric lawn mowers. If you have a small lawn, our round-up of the best hand push mowers may prove helpful.


Best lawn scarifiers to buy at a glance


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What is a lawn scarifier and what does it do?

A scarifier is essentially a comb for your lawn – strong tines, on either a manual spring-tine rake or a rotating drum, pull through the grass, removing moss and organic debris, also known as lawn thatch. Scarifying is worth doing at least once a year – twice if you’re having to deal with a lot of moss and the best scarifiers have different settings so you can adjust their height to avoid tearing up your lawn However, depending on the extent of the moss invasion and debris, you may have to put up with seeing a bit of soil where larger clumps have been removed – if this is the case, simply sow some lawn seed in any areas of the lawn you’re concerned about.


Types of lawn scarifiers: ways to scarify your lawn

There are four types of scarifier, including manual and powered versions, and each have their own pros and cons. Some brands refer to their powered range as lawn rakers, so don’t be confused by this because they don’t mean a manual rake, they mean a powered lawn rake with a plastic cylinder which is lined with metal tines. Powered scarifiers, on the other hand, feature metal blades which not only remove moss and debris, but cut into the turf to help aerate it.

  • Manual scarifiers. Best for small lawns, or if you just have a few patches of moss to tackle, they’re also handy if you don’t have lots of storage space. A spring-tine rake is one option, as the sharp, hard tines will pull away moss and thatch, but it’s hard work and tiring, even on a small lawn. A manual lawn scarifier is the other alternative, which is similar to a rake, but has stronger blades, rather than tines, and often features wheels, which help to drag it over the lawn. Neither of these options come with a collection box, so once you’ve finished raking the lawn, you’ll have to collect the moss and thatch using a mower with a collection box, or scoop it up by hand and put it on the compost heap or in your green waste bin. Although these scarifiers are very hands-on, they’re a quieter alternative to mechanical machines, will keep you fit and are better for the environment too.
  • Powered lawn rakers. These are ideal if you have a small or medium-sized garden. Choose from corded, if you have a nearby power supply, or cordless. They feature a cylinder lined with sprung metal tines that’s capable of combing through the lawn and pulling out moss, thatch, and horizontal grass stalks. They also come with a collection box, so there’s no need to get out the mower or rake to gather up the cuttings.
  • Powered scarifiers. Available as either corded, where you’ll need a power supply, or cordless, these have knife blades attached to their cylinders rather than tines, making them effective at removing moss and thatch. Used on the lowest setting, they create slits in the turf, which helps aerate it.
  • Powered 2-in-1 aerators and scarifiers. Either corded, where you’ll need a power supply, or cordless these save buying both types of machine, which is great in terms of money and storage, and feature interchangeable drums with spring tines for scarification and blades for aeration.

When it comes to choosing whether you go for an electric, cordless or petrol scarifier, consider the pros and cons associated with each type:

  • Electric corded scarifiers: Lightweight, quiet and often at the budget-end, this type of scarifier is best suited to small and medium-sized gardens with a power supply. Most models come with a collection box, which is a useful, time-saving feature, but the cord length can be restrictive as well as potentially hazardous.
  • Petrol scarifiers: Often the most powerful models, this comes with the inconvenience of using messy, expensive petrol, which, as we have seen in recent times, can be in short supply. Like cordless, they do mean you’re free to roam wherever needed, but they’re noisier than the battery-powered alternative, not as good for the environment and will need more in the way of general maintenance, with regular servicing to keep them in tip top working order.
  • Cordless scarifiers: Lightweight, quiet and an environmentally-friendly alternative to electric and petrol types, the downside to buying cordless tools is that they can cost more, and the batteries and chargers are sometimes an additional cost. While they don’t have a restrictive cable and are therefore ideal for accessing all areas of the garden, it’s important to be aware of their charge and run times, as this could limit their effectiveness if you have a larger garden.  

How to choose the best lawn scarifier

Once you’ve worked out which type of lawn scarifier will suit your needs, there are several key features to look out for:

  • Manual scarifiers – in addition to strong, good-sized blades, a telescopic handle is a useful feature to make it as comfortable as possible to use – a soft-grip is also a bonus. Some types are designed so you can adjust how deeply the blades rake through the grass and thatch, which is extremely useful.
  • Powered lawn rakers and mechanical scarifiers – strong, good-sized blades and a collection box are worth looking for. If storage is an issue check whether the handles collapse down so it takes up less space..
  • 2 in 1 combination aerator and scarifiers – Check that it’s easy to remove and install each drum.

Browse our pick of the best lawn scarifiers below.


Eight of the best lawn scarifiers to buy in 2021

1

Darlac DP888 Lawn Scarifier

RRP: £40.99

Our rating: 4.8 out of 5

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Darlac DP888 Scarifier

Pros:

  • Adjustable handle
  • Smooth pulling action
  • Easy to control how deep or shallow the blades cut into the turf
  • Lightweight
  • Good for storage

Cons:

  • Hard work and tiring – not suitable for larger gardens
  • No safety cover for blade tips
  • Less suitable for large gardens

Awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy award for performance, the Darlac DP888 Scarifier is an excellent choice if you’re up for scarifying your lawn by hand. Its adjustable handle is a great feature, extending from 97cm to 1.5m, and is made from high-quality steel treated with anti-corrosion protection, so it’s lightweight but durable, and feels sturdy to use. The head is 32cm wide and features 11 sharp blades, which you can push into the turf at varying depths by raising or lowering the angle of the handle. It also has two wheels to help it move smoothly along the lawn. It comes with a 35 year guarantee.

Read the full Darlac DP888 Scarifier review


2

Wolf Garten Multi-Change® Roller Moss Removal Rake

RRP: £64.98 (including handle)

Our rating: 4.8 out of 5

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Wolf Garten Multi-Change® Roller Moss Removal Rake

Pros:

  • Super easy to attach handle
  • Smooth pulling action
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight
  • Good for storage

Cons:

  • Hard work and tiring
  • No safety cover for blade tips
  • Not ideal for large gardens

Part of the Wolf Garten Multi-Change® tool system, this manual scarifier is made from high-quality plastic and rust-proof aluminium, so it’s lightweight and easy to use. The blades are made from hardened steel, so they’ll stay sharp over their lifetime, and the head is 30cm wide. It’s a really effective tool with a smooth action, but it’s best suited to small gardens because it doesn’t have a soft grip handle, and is hard work to remove moss and thatch in this way. It comes with a 35 year warranty.

Read the full Wolf Garten Multi-Change® Roller Moss Removal Rake review


3

Vonhaus 1300W Lawn Rake

RRP: £89.99

Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

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Vonhaus 1300W Electric Scarifier

Pros:

  • Easy to manoeuvre
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Folding handles and removable collection box for storage
  • Dual start system for safety
  • Four depth settings

Cons:

  • Tips over when not in use
  • Protruding screws base handle
  • The collection box doesn’t pick up all the debris

The Vonhaus 1300W Electric Lawn Rake is lightweight, compact and a good step up from a manual scarifier if you have more than a small patch of lawn to tackle. It features a dual start safety system as well as a thermal cut out that kicks in to prevent it from overheating, folding handles for storage and four depth settings. The scarifying drum is 32cm wide with  steel blades and, depending on how much moss and thatch you’re dealing with, there are four depth settings to choose from: -15mm, -11mm, -7mm and +1mm. Weighing 9kg, it’s noticeably lightweight – in fact it has a tendency to tip backwards when not in use and it’s also a noisier than some of the others we tested, reaching 98dB. It comes with a 28L collection box and a 10m cable, which makes it best suited to a small to medium sized garden. It has a two year warranty.

Read the full Vonhaus 1300W Electric Lawn Rake review


4

Powerbase 1400W Electric Lawn Rake and Scarifier

RRP: £89

Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Powerbase 1400W Electric Lawn Rake and Scarifier

Pros:

  • Easy to manoeuvre
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Folding handles and removable collection box for storage
  • Dual start system for safety
  • Four depth settings

Cons:

  • Plastic collection box cover catches on handles
  • Noisy at 103dB
  • The collection box doesn’t pick up all the debris

Awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Budget Buy, the Powerbase 1400W Electric Lawn Rake and Scarifier is light, compact but fairly noisy, reaching 104dB. That said, it removes moss and thatch effectively, and features a dual start system for safety, folding handles for storage. It has a working width of 32cm wide, and there are four depth settings to choose from. Its body is made from plastic, which feels sturdy, although the cover on the collection box is flimsy and catches on the handle as you close it. Both of the interchangeable drums are easy to attach and remove with the allen key provided, and it has a generous 40L collection bag. However, it does miss some of the debris, which needs to be picked up with a mower or rake. It comes with a 10m cable and is only £30 more than the manual scarifier, so it’s a great, labour-saving alternative. It comes with a two-year warranty.

Read the full Powerbase 1400W Electric Lawn Rake and Scarifier review


5

Vonhaus 1800W 2 in 1 lawn rake and scarifier

RRP: £139.99

Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

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Vonhaus 1800W 2-in-1 Aerator and Scarifier

Pros:

  • Easy to manoeuvre
  • Lightweight
  • Folding handles and removable collection box for storage
  • Interchangeable drums are easy to remove and install
  • Dual start system for safety
  • Five depth settings

Cons:

  • The collection box doesn’t pick up all the debris
  • Noisy – 104dB

The Vonhaus 2-in-1 Electric Scarifier is a sturdy machine, with a robust but lightweight plastic body, which weighs 16.1kg. Powered with a 1800W motor, it’s a little noisy at 104dB, but removes moss, thatch and other organic lawn debris very efficiently and has two interchangeable drums to switch between aerating and scarifying modes with a working width of 38cm. It has folding handles for easy storage, a dual start system for safety, and a built-in thermal cut out if it overheats. There are five depth settings, ranging from -12mm, -9mm, -3mm and +6mm – although we found the lowest setting made the lawn look quite ravaged. At 60cm wide it’s one of the largest machines we tested, but is still easy to manoeuvre and comes with a 10m cable. The generously-sized 55L collection bag is moderately efficient, but misses some debris as there is a gap between the box and the blades. It has a two-year warranty.

Review the full Vonhaus 2-in-1 Electric Scarifier review


6

Stiga Essential SV 213E Electric Lawn Scarifier

RRP:£139

Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

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Stiga Essential SV 213E Electric Lawn Scarifier

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Folding handles and removable collection box for storage
  • Interchangeable drums easy to remove and install
  • Dual start system for safety
  • Four depth settings
  • Quiet at 91dB

Cons:

  • 15m cable isn’t included
  • The collection box doesn’t pick up all the debris

The Stiga Essential SV 213E Electric Lawn Scarifier is light, compact and efficient at tackling moss and thatch in the lawn. It comes with two interchangeable drums, one each for scarification and aeration, a dual start safety system and can be adjusted to four depths, ranging from -6mm to +4mm, which is shallower than other models we tested. We found that the 40L collection bag left some debris behind and the 15m cable – the longest in the group we tested – is an additional cost. It’s compact and easy to fold the handles for storage, and comes with a two year warranty.

Read the full Stiga Essential SV 213E Electric Lawn Scarifier review


7

Stihl RLA 240 Cordless Lawn Scarifier and Aerator

RRP: £229

Our score: 4.5 out of 5 

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Stihl RLA 240 Cordless Lawn Scarifier and Aerator

Pros:

  • Excellent safety features
  • Easy to use
  • Comfortable

Cons:

  • Struggles with inclines 

Awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy, this machine is quick to charge, taking 205 minutes, and thanks to its folding handles, easier to store than other models we tested. Its 36v, 4.8Ah battery is easy to plug in and use, and has a helpful charge indicator, although this is faint to see clearly in daylight. The battery has great safety features – it won’t work without a safety key, and there’s a lock on the powerbar for an effective dead-man switch, and it lasts long enough to cover a 250m2 lawn (about the size of a tennis court). Thanks to smooth, high-quality wheels, it feels lightweight and easy to manoeuvre, which is surprising given it weighs 15kg. The powerful aerator/scarifier blades cut through soil well, and tackles most of the thatch and moss in the lawn. The scarifying drum attachment was also effective on moss, though it was average on thatch. However, this machine struggles with inclines. If your lawn isn’t level, it catches on the soil and shuts itself off. Fortunately, this isn’t too much of a problem, because the heights of the scarifier –  +7.5 mm to -9.5 mm – can be easily controlled with a switch. This automatic shutdown is also a great safety feature. 


8

Cobra S3840V Cordless Lawn Scarifier and Aerator

RRP: £360.99

Our score: 4 out of 5

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Cobra S3840V Cordless Lawn Scarifier and Aerator

Pros:

  • Comfortable to use
  • Very effective
  • Quick to charge

Cons: 

  • Scalps the lawn
  • Very poor instructions

The Cobra S3840V Cordless Lawn Scarifier and Aerator handles well. It’s big, and the wheels are a little stiff, but its handle is comfortable. At 92dB, it’s relatively quiet, too. Its 40V 5Ah battery charges quickly in just 90 minutes, and offers 40 minutes’ use. The machine itself is easy to use, with a comfortable, soft handle, and we love being able to see the charge indicator through the transparent window. It scarifies very well, neatly cutting through the soil and getting most moss and thatch. However, the spring tine scarifying drum lifts moss and thatch, but catches a lot of living grass, no matter which of the 5 heights from -10mm to +5mm you choose. The instructions are also poor, so it took a while to get this tool working. At 38cm wide, it covers a large area, but its size makes this scarifier very bulky and difficult to store. 


How we tested lawn scarifiers

To see how well lawn aerators perform, the BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Reviews team tested a range of models across a range of garden situations – removing moss, lawn thatch and other organic debris. Before we started, we checked for any wildlife in the grass and organic debris on the lawn surface. The lawn scarifiers were compared, and the following criteria used to calculate the scores, with equal weight given to each:

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  • Set-up & storage: We looked at the assembly needed, ease and clarity of instructions, any storage features and, where relevant, the cable length.
  • Handling: We assessed ease of use, weight, noise levels, comfort and safety features.
  • Performance: Considered the strength of the blades, as well as how well the spring tines removed moss and thatch in the scarifying mode. For the 2-in-1 machines, we also evaluated how well the blades created slits in the lawn to aerate it.
  • Value for money: We considered all of the above, plus quality and design, the RRP and the length of warranty.