Best leaf mulchers: cordless, vacuum, electric, walk-behind, tow-behind

Aside from the cool breeze and longer nights, autumn is known for its lovely foliage that brings a nice patchwork of fallen dried leaves in bright red and yellow hues. But waking up to piles of dead leaves spread across your lawn every morning could leave you with no choice but to do the laborious task of raking and bagging them constantly. While that could help you shed those calories, it could also be a real headache if you have to do it on a regular basis. Thankfully, you can simplify this task by using a leaf mulcher. Like a waste oil heater, it is a practical investment that will save your precious time and contribute in preserving the environment. They come in different shapes, sizes and power capacities. They also vary in functionality as well as ease of use. In this article, we will discuss the types, factors to consider when buying one and some of the top-rated models you can find on the market.

wood chipper

Types

A leaf mulcher eases the task of cleaning up the yard. It is a handheld or standalone machine that vacuums and shreds everything into tiny pieces for easy dumping or composting. It often uses a dedicated impeller or blades to reduce the size of the leaves into pieces that are small enough so they can be used as mulch. A collection bag is attached to the machine for added convenience in dumping the leaves. Many models are not only designed to suck those but yard debris as well. Some also come with a leaf-blowing function so you can vacuum easily. It is as important to someone who deals with the seasonal yardwork as a gauge wire is to an electrician.

Theys are operated via an electric outlet, gas or battery. But they can also be classified by their usage and way of operation. Here are the types you can find on the market.

Types
Blower Walk-behind Electric
Commercial Cordless Gas
Tow-behind

Leaf blower

A leaf blower, vacuum and mulcher combines three functions into one versatile equipment. This type is most common among handheld machines like those offered by Worx and Toro. The leaf blower function collects and gathers everything in one place. Once they are set into large piles, the vacuum feature is activated to suck them in. Afterward, the mulcher function is used to shred those leaves and cut them into tiny pieces. This method is useful not only in speeding up the task of collecting debris, but in decompsting as well. It is designed to shred everything into fine pieces so they can be reused for other purposes.

Commercial

They can also be classified by their purpose. Models that are designed for industrial or professional use adopt high-performing engines that can accomplish heavy-duty clearing. They can be powered through electric, battery or gas, and have an airspeed of at least 160 mph. They often come as standalone units, which are known for handling larger volumes. A commercial leaf vacuum cleaner usually retails for $300 and up.

Walk-behind

The main difference of this type from the rest is that it allows the user to push the machine from behind. Hence, it is also often called a push behind mulcher. It can run on electricity, battery or gas. This type often acts as a vacuum and mulcher only, unlike the handheld variants, which also function as a blower. But like its counterparts, a walk-behind model is perfect for vacuuming leaves, branches and debris. This type is recommended if you frequently cover wider areas and do not want to put too much strain on your wrist. While a walk behind model is not recommended when discarding leaves or small branches from flower beds, it is better at handling large volumes than handheld units.

Cordless

If you are looking for power and convenience, a cordless vacuum option is a great bet. Since it is not connected to any cord, you can operate it from anywhere and cover larger areas without the limits of an extension wire. This type is powered by a battery and does not require any mixing of gas or fuel, reducing the chance of you being exposed to these toxic elements. However, it comes with downsides, too. Since it is battery-operated, it will stop functioning once the battery is emptied out. On average, its battery can operate from 15 to 40 minutes. The length largely depends on the rechargeable lithium battery’s voltage, which averages 20 to 40 volts. As a rule, the machine will have a longer runtime as the voltage increases. To prevent disruptions, you can keep a second battery and have it charged for easy replacement once the original battery runs out.

Electric

Corded electric ones operate more quietly than those running on gas. Since it is powered by electricity, there is no need for you to store any flammable gas when using a corded model. This type will keep on functioning as long as it is attached to an outlet, removing the limitations of a battery-operated variant. You also do not need to spend on battery replacements using this type. Corded electric models are often lightweight and can be operated using one hand, reducing the chance of fatigue. But since it is connected to a cord, your movement and the area of coverage may be limited. You may consider using an extension cord to resolve this. The power of an electric model’s engine is rated in amps, going by an average of 8 amps to 14 amps. The higher the amp level, the more powerful the engine.

Gas

Gas options are extra powerful machines that get the job done without any fuss. This type can cover a larger area than its counterparts and has a longer operation time. It is best if you are targeting small branches and debris. When looking for a gas-powered model, check out the engine’s size measured in cubic centimeters. Keep in mind that the engine gets more powerful as the size increases. A two-cycle gas model needs gasoline mixed with engine oil, with the ratio dependent on the manufacturing label. Meanwhile, a four-cycle gas engine runs purely on gasoline.

While a gas model has its merits, there are some downsides, too. Unlike its counterparts, this type is much heavier, weighing an average of 10 to 18 pounds. It also has a tendency to get noisy during operation. You also need to consider the storage of gasoline since you have to do some mixing with this model. If convenience is a more important factor for you than capacity, then opting for a corded electric one may be a better choice.

Tow-behind

This system can be attached to other tools such as an ATV, a tractor or a lawnmower whereby you can get some serious power going as well. As the name suggests, a tow-behind option is one that is carried by another powered device, as they will often weigh 300 or more pounds.

What to Consider

kids playing in leaves

Just like when searching for the best engine-driven welders or MIG welders, there are different factors to consider when you want to score the right model that suits your needs. You have to weigh the machine’s functions and capacity against other important considerations like price and convenience. After all, this machine does not come cheap, so spending your money wisely should be a priority. Here’s your checklist before adding this equipment to your cart.

What to consider
Mulching ratio Price Noise
Capacity Functions Convenience

Functions

It primarily acts as a shredder. Most standalone units are only designed for this sole function, while their handheld counterparts often offer added features, and act not only as a mulcher, but as a blower and vacuum as well. Worx and Trivac products are popular for offering products that roll all these three functions into one. Handheld models are also designed to target hard-to-reach areas such as those under the patio or underneath furniture. Meanwhile, standalone units often do not help much with leaf collection as they do not have a built-in blower. However, standalone models perform better than handheld ones when large volumes of yard debris or leaves are involved.

You should also consider the blades. Many models use a metal shredder that spins rapidly to chop off leaves and cut them into tiny parts. But there are also variants that use a plastic but heavy-duty blade to get the job done. Worx’s products often come with the brand’s patented metal impeller along with a plastic shredder, leaving the user to decide depending on his needs and preferences. In most cases, metal blades still prove to be more durable than plastic ones.

Mulching Ratio

The mulching ratio determines how much the machine can reduce the leaves or debris from their original size. With a ratio of 16:1, for example, means that it can cut the size of 16 bags to one. Ones with a higher ratio indicates that it can shred to even smaller sizes. These usually have a ratio in the range of 8:1 to 18:1. If you have a need to shred large volumes, it is ideal to look for a machine with a high  ratio. Smaller shreds are also broken down more easily, making a high-ratio model perfect if you are planning to make compost.

Capacity

Another important factor to consider is capacity. This refers to the air volume measured in cubic feet per minute or cfm. Both corded electric and cordless mulchers have a capacity ranging from about 175 cfm to 500 cfm. Models with higher capacity are more powerful and are suitable for heavy-duty operation. But if you do not require frequent heavy-duty cleaning or if you only need to handle a few bags, you may opt for low-cost models with medium capacity as the high-powered ones tend to consume more battery.

Price

The price of the model largely depends on how powerful it is. Ones that are designed for light-duty clearing costs around $75 to $150. Heavy-duty units usually start at around $175 to $300. Additional features such as a wood chipper or extra capacity may jack up the price. Ones with these added functions, as well those intended for commercial or industrial use can cost around $500 and higher. If price is a huge factor for you before purchasing one, consider a unit that strikes a balance between functionality and affordability.

Noise

Like other power tools, these machines produces some noise during operation. However, corded electric and battery-operated models often operate more quietly than their gas-powered counterparts. Corded and cordless models emit up to approximately 63 decibels, a level that is comparable to the loudness of a normal conversation. On the other hand, ones running on gas operate more loudly, emitting approximately 85 to 90 decibels. This level has the same loudness as a lawn mower. Before buying one, it is better to check if loud noises are disallowed around your neighborhood. You can also wear ear plugs as a safety precaution especially if your machine is powered by gas. Additionally, you can wear an eye cover to protect your eyes from catching debris.

Convenience

If you put too much weight on convenience when deciding which oner to buy, then choosing a corded or cordless model may be a great choice. This variant would not require you to mix any fuel and there is no need for you to think about storing any gas that could further expose you to harsh toxins. But if your needs suit the extra power that a gas-powered model can offer, it may be worth considering these minor inconveniences.

Another thing to consider that affects the ease of use is the presence of a conversion switch. Models that boast 3-in-1 functions should ideally have a conversion switch that will enable you to change from one function to another in a snap. In some cases, these added functions require you to attach and detach nozzles or tubes, something that could be a hassle if you have to do the switching on a regular basis.

Make sure to also check out our article on the best gasless MIG welders and this one on the best welding glasses.

Best Leaf Mulchers

Worx WG509

Weighing a little more than 9 pounds, the Worx WG509 features an all-metal system that can cut up leaves into as small as 1/18th of their size. This device has a ratio of 18:1, which means it can reduce the volume of 18 bags of debris or leaves into one. It is designed with a tube that curls up at the mouth, allowing it to cover hard-to-reach areas. The Worx WG509 has an air speed of 75 to 210 mph and runs on 120V at 60 Hz. You can customize the speed setting depending on your needs. Like these versatile plasma cutters mentioned in this article, this device is lightweight and ergonomic. It can be operated using one hand, thanks to its design that allows it to blow air from the back all the way to the front. This product is priced under $120. Its product measurements are 20x15x9 inches.

Trivac 2

Worx’s Trivac 2 acts as a blower, vacuum and mulcherall in one. Simply turn the knob attached to the main machine to switch from one function to another. This equipment boasts a two-speed control with an air volume of up to 350 cfm, enabling you to accomplish any task whether that be sweeping dried leaves or vacuuming large yard debris. The air speed is up to 210 mph.

Trivac 2 also features a two-stage metal impeller that can reduce the volume of 18 bags of leaves to one. They are contained in an easy-to-clean detachable bag. It is compatible with the LeafPro, a universal collection system. The machine weighs less than 10 pounds and comes with a three-year warranty.

Worx WG512

The Worx WG512 features a patented metal mulcher that cuts the size of 16 bags into one. It has Worx’s signature orange and black design and weighs only 9 pounds, allowing you to operate it with only one hand. You can easily switch from blower to vacuum mode by turning the machine’s dial for added convenience. This machine comes with a wide mouth that lets out a robust stream of air at a speed of 600 cfm. It also features two speeds that enable you to go easy when cleaning up pavements or faster when covering open lawns. Like other Worx models, the WG512 has a detachable bag so you can empty and clean it out easily. It is perfect for removing things from flower beds and targeting areas that cannot be reached using a standalone model. The Worx WG512 is powered by an electric cord and retails for under $100. It measures 35.5x10x14 inches and runs on 120V at 60 Hz.

Worx 3 in 1

The Worx 3-in-1 WG505 is a versatile device that enables you to blow leaves or debris at up to 210 mph. It works as a blower, mulcher and a yard vacuum. This machine is capable of vacuuming at a speed of up to 14 gallons per minute so you get the job done without straining your wrist. With a maximum airspeed of 210 mph, the Worx 3 in 1 can target even wet debris. The airspeed is easily adjustable and can be lowered to only 80 mph, allowing you to target small areas or tight corners. The tube design also enables you to clean the underneath of furniture and go under the patio, as well as other areas that are difficult to reach. This product can reduce the volume of 16 bags into one using Worx’s signature metal impeller. Its vacuum bag is designed with a quick-release button for easy cleaning and storage.

Toro 51621 UltraPlus

The Toro 51621 UltraPlus is a 3-in-1 machine designed with a strong blower, high-speed vacuum and a powerful shredder. This corded electric option boasts Toro’s patented shreds-all ring, which works in tandem with the powerful metal impeller to reduce the size of mulched leaves and debris to less than half an inch. It can even pick up small debris produced by using a tig welder. It is designed with an ergonomic oscillating nozzle kit, which creates a larger blowing path when sweeping hardscapes without requiring the user to move his wrist often. You can choose the main blower tube mode when you want to mulch dry leaves; the power insert mode when you want to cover heavy and wet ones; and the concentrator mode if you want to target hard-to-reach areas such as crevices and corners. For storage, simply wrap its cord around the hook and then keep it inside the dual-purpose bottom-zip vacuum bag. This product measures 45x9x14 inches and weighs 8.9 pounds.

Worx WG518

Blowing up leaves and debris at up to 250 mph, the Worx WG518 is a powerful device that promises to get the job done at a flick of a switch. This corded electric option is designed with a two-speed control that makes it suitable for heavy-duty and light tasks. It has a metal impeller with a 16:1 ratio, which means it can mulch 16 bags down to only one. A plastic impeller is also included, though this produces a lower ratio. You can switch from blowing to vacuum mode at a touch of a button. Aside from leaves, this machine can also pick up debris on your yard or workspace such as those produced if you are using a mini wood lathe or a metal lathe. This machine weighs only less than 11 pounds and comes with a shoulder strap for a one-hand operation. It runs on a 120V AC and measures 40×11.7×10 inches.

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