Can Your Lawn Mower Pick Up Leaves? A Comprehensive Guide

Fall is upon us, and with it comes the beautiful spectacle of changing leaves. But as the leaves begin to fall, so does the dread of leaf cleanup. You might be wondering, “Can my lawn mower pick up leaves?” The answer, thankfully, is often yes! But there are many factors that determine whether your mower can handle the task efficiently. This comprehensive guide will explore the types of mowers best suited for leaf pickup, the pros and cons of using a mower for this purpose, and tips for getting the best results.

In short, most lawn mowers are capable of mulching leaves, but the quality of the job will depend on the type of mower, the type of leaves, and the amount of leaves present.

Understanding Mower Types and Leaf Pickup

The first step to determining if your mower can handle leaf pickup is understanding the different types of mowers and their capabilities.

Mulching Mowers:

Mulching mowers are the gold standard for leaf pickup. These mowers use a specialized blade design and a closed deck to finely chop up grass clippings and leaves, turning them into nutrient-rich mulch that can be deposited back onto the lawn. This process helps to fertilize the lawn and prevent the need for chemical fertilizers.

Advantages of Mulching Mowers:

  • Efficient Leaf Pickup: They are highly effective at chopping leaves into small pieces, making them easier to collect or disperse.
  • Improved Lawn Health: The finely chopped leaf mulch adds nutrients to the soil and improves water retention.
  • Less Waste: Reduces the need for raking and bagging leaves.

Disadvantages of Mulching Mowers:

  • Limited Capacity: Mulching mowers are not designed to handle extremely large amounts of leaves. You might need multiple passes to pick up everything.
  • Potential for Clogging: Heavy leaf accumulation can cause the mulching chamber to clog.

Rotary Mowers:

Rotary mowers are the most common type of mower. They use a single blade that spins rapidly to cut the grass. While some rotary mowers can handle leaf pickup, they are not as efficient as mulching mowers.

Advantages of Rotary Mowers:

  • Versatile: Can be used for both grass cutting and leaf pickup, although less effectively.
  • Affordable: Generally more budget-friendly than other types of mowers.

Disadvantages of Rotary Mowers:

  • Inconsistent Leaf Pickup: Often leaves are chopped into larger pieces or scattered by the airflow, resulting in less efficient collection.
  • Potential for Lawn Damage: If not used properly, rotary mowers can scalp the lawn or leave behind clumps of leaves.

Side-Discharge Mowers:

Side-discharge mowers discharge the clippings and leaves out the side of the mower deck. They are not typically recommended for leaf pickup as they tend to scatter the leaves instead of mulching them.

Tips for Efficient Leaf Pickup with Your Lawn Mower

No matter what type of mower you have, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of successful leaf pickup.

Start Early:

The best time to use a mower for leaf cleanup is early in the fall when the leaves are still relatively fresh and dry. This will make them easier to cut and collect.

Remove Large Debris:

Before using your mower, remove any large branches, sticks, or rocks from the lawn. These objects can damage your mower or hinder leaf pickup.

Mow in Multiple Passes:

For heavy leaf accumulation, it may be necessary to mow in multiple passes, overlapping each pass slightly to ensure all leaves are picked up.

Adjust the Mower Deck Height:

Lowering the deck height can help to chop the leaves more finely. However, be careful not to lower the deck too much as this could damage your lawn.

Use a Leaf Mulching Attachment:

If your mower doesn’t have a built-in mulching feature, consider purchasing a leaf mulching attachment. These attachments fit over the mower deck and help to chop the leaves into finer pieces.

Clean the Mower Regularly:

After each use, clean the mower deck and other parts to prevent leaves from accumulating and clogging the mechanism.

Weighing the Pros and Cons: Using a Mower for Leaf Pickup

While using a lawn mower for leaf pickup can be an efficient way to clear your yard, there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider.


  • Time-Saving: Mowing is a faster method for clearing leaves compared to raking.
  • Less Physical Effort: It’s less physically demanding than manual raking.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Mulched leaves provide valuable nutrients to the lawn, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.


  • Potential for Lawn Damage: Overuse or improper use of a mower can damage the lawn.
  • Inconsistent Results: Some mowers are not as effective at mulching leaves as others, resulting in uneven leaf pickup.
  • Potential for Clogging: Heavy leaf accumulation can clog the mower deck.

Alternatives to Using a Lawn Mower for Leaf Pickup

If your mower isn’t up to the task, or you prefer a different approach, here are some alternative methods for dealing with leaves:

  • Raking: The traditional method, raking can be effective but is time-consuming and physically demanding.
  • Leaf Blower: A leaf blower can quickly move leaves into a pile for easy disposal. However, they can be noisy and require additional effort to bag or dispose of the leaves.
  • Leaf Vacuum: A leaf vacuum efficiently collects leaves and can often be used for mulching as well. They are more expensive than other options but can be very effective.


Using a lawn mower for leaf pickup can be a viable option for many homeowners, offering a time-saving and environmentally friendly solution. However, it’s important to choose the right type of mower, adjust the settings appropriately, and use the equipment safely to achieve optimal results. By following these tips and considering the pros and cons, you can determine if a lawn mower is the right tool for your leaf cleanup needs.


1. Can all lawn mowers pick up leaves?

No, not all lawn mowers are built to handle leaves. While some mowers have features designed specifically for leaf mulching, others are better suited for traditional grass cutting. You’ll need to check your mower’s specifications and features to determine if it’s capable of handling leaves effectively.

Look for features like a mulching deck, a powerful engine, and a large collection bag. A mulching deck finely chops leaves, while a strong engine ensures efficient leaf suction. A large collection bag allows for convenient leaf collection and prevents clogging.

2. What are the benefits of using a lawn mower to pick up leaves?

Using your lawn mower to pick up leaves offers several advantages over traditional methods like raking. First, it’s significantly faster and less labor-intensive. A mower can cover a large area in a short amount of time, saving you time and energy.

Secondly, mulching the leaves with a mower provides beneficial nutrients for your lawn. As the leaves decompose, they release nutrients back into the soil, enhancing its fertility and promoting healthy lawn growth.

3. What type of lawn mower is best for leaf pickup?

For optimal leaf pickup, a mulching lawn mower is your best bet. These mowers feature a special deck design that repeatedly cuts and chops the leaves into fine particles. The small pieces are then deposited back onto the lawn as mulch.

Alternatively, if you prefer to collect the leaves, you can choose a mower with a collection bag. Look for a bag with a large capacity to ensure efficient leaf collection.

4. How do I use my lawn mower to pick up leaves?

To use your lawn mower for leaf pickup, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure your mower is clean and in good working condition.
  2. If you have a mulching mower, adjust the height of the blade to the lowest setting.
  3. Start the mower and slowly drive it over the leaves, overlapping each pass slightly.
  4. For a collection bag, empty it regularly to avoid overloading.
  5. For mulching, rake the leaves into piles before mowing for optimal results.

5. What are the downsides of using a lawn mower to pick up leaves?

While using a lawn mower for leaf pickup has its advantages, there are also some potential drawbacks. If your lawn mower isn’t designed for leaf mulching, it might struggle to pick up all the leaves.

Also, if the leaves are wet or very thick, your mower might clog or even get damaged. In such situations, it’s best to use other methods like raking or a leaf blower.

6. Can I use a lawn mower to pick up wet leaves?

Generally, it’s not recommended to use a lawn mower to pick up wet leaves. The wet leaves can easily clog the mower’s deck and engine, leading to performance issues or even damage.

If you must pick up wet leaves, use a lower blade setting and avoid using the mulching function. Consider emptying the collection bag more frequently to prevent clogging.

7. What other alternatives exist for leaf removal?

Besides using a lawn mower, you have several other options for removing leaves from your lawn. These include:

  • Raking: A traditional method that involves manually gathering leaves with a rake.
  • Leaf blower: A power tool that blows leaves into a pile or into a collection bag.
  • Leaf vacuum: Similar to a leaf blower but with a powerful suction system to collect and bag leaves.

Choose the method that best suits your needs, budget, and the size of your yard.

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