Lawn Looks Bad After Dethatching (Reasons & Solutions)

Written by Mike Futia

Updated January 12, 2023

Dethatching is one of the best techniques you can use to get a jaw-dropping lawn that your neighbors will be jealous of, but sometimes your lawn can actually look bad after dethatching.

That's because there are both pros and cons to dethatching. Here's what you need to understand.

Your lawn may look bad after dethatching because you did a bad job dethatching ...

... OR your lawn could look bad NOT because of the dethatching, but because you have other issues with your lawn!

In this guide, let's take a look at some common reasons your lawn can look bad after dethatching, and what you should do about it. And also examine other potential issues.

Lawn Looks Brown & Ragged

Sometimes when you dethatch, your lawn can end up looking brown and ragged. We all know the feeling.


If it's a dethatching issue, then the most common cause of a brown-looking grass post-thatching is that you haven't cleaned up the thatch well enough.

It's possible you have too much remaining thatch buildup sitting on the top of your lawn that you just need to remove. Luckily, this is an easy fix.


When you're done dethatching, collect the loose thatch and dead grass with a leaf blower, rake, or lawn sweeper, and either throw it away, or compost it. If you leave the thatch out on your lawn, it resists natural decomposition and so it won't break down.

Lawn Has Lots Of Bare & Dead Spots

Bare spots on the lawn

Does your lawn have a lot of bare spots after dethatching? Does it look like you have a lot of dead grass?


Remember, dethatching is the process of removing excess organic matter that sits between the live, active grass, and the roots and soil below it.

Dethatching is not going to magically patch up any bare or brown spots!


For that, you'll want to overseed your lawn with a product like Scott's EZ-Seed to help repair it.

Just keep in mind, covering up bare spots is not an overnight process—it very well may take an entire season to recover.

Dethatching Alone Is Not Going To Fix Your Lawn

Here's something important to understand: if your lawn looks bad after dethatching, it's probably not a dethatching problem to begin with.

Dethatching is simply getting rid of the dead matter in your lawn. What you should be more focused on is actively encouraging new growth!

To do that, implement the best lawn care practices like testing your soil, overseeding, fertilizing, removing weeds, watering, and proper mowing.

Benefits Of Dethatching

Dethatching is the process of removing the thatch from your lawn. Thatch is the layer of dead and living grass blades, stems, and other organic matter that builds up on your lawn over time.

Dethatching has many benefits for your lawn.

If you don't dethatch your lawn, the thick layer of thatch will eventually become so thick that it will prevent water, air, and nutrients from reaching the roots of your grass. This will make your lawn more susceptible to disease and insect infestations, and it will also cause your grass to start turning yellow.

Dethatching Is Not Always Necessary

Also remember that in many cases, dethatching your lawn is not even necessary. In fact, most lawns don't really have a thatching issue to begin with!

While the dethatching process has many benefits, it also has some downsides for grass plants.

The aggressive raking of dethatching can tear up your grass roots, exposing the soil which leads to loss of moisture.

If you have too little thatch, you're also removing nutrients that the grass depends on.

Finally, dethatching can actually make it easier for weed seeds to grow on your lawn.

For these reasons, it's vital to first determine that your lawn actually needs dethatching before you take on this project. Generally speaking, if you have a thatch layer greater than 1-inch, it's okay to go ahead and dethatch. You shouldn't need to dethatch your lawn more than once per year.

Dethatching Tips Moving Forward

If you didn't have a successful go dethatching your lawn the first time, don't worry—you can always do it better next year.

Here are some best practices to follow:

  • Only dethatch when it's absolutely necessary. You should only dethatch your lawn when there is noticeably too much thatch present, usually anywhere greater than 1 inch thick. Also, be sure not to dethatch after it rains.
  • Use the right tools. For a proper dethatching job, make sure you're using the right equipment. Either a dethatching rake or an electric dethatching machine works best. Don't use a dethatching blade mower attachment. (Verticutters aren't a great option either, and same with power rakes and scarifiers).
  • Dethatch during the right seasons. When you dethatch is just as important as how you dethatch your lawn. For cool-season grasses (Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, tall fescue) that's usually going to be either early spring or early fall. For warm-season grasses (bahia grass, bermuda grass, centipede grass, St. Augustine grass, and zoysia grass), that's typically end-of-spring through the beginning of summer.

What To Do After Dethatching

So, what should you do after you're done dethatching?

Well, you definitely want to rake up the thatch.

Then, you could just do nothing, and be done with it.

But if you're interested in establishing a solid lawn care routine, we recommend the following:

Rake up the thatch

After you dethatch, your lawn is going to look kind of ugly!

First, you'll want to rake up all that thatch that's now sitting on top of your grass. You can either compost it, or throw it away.

Either way, you'll want to clean it up, not only because it's an eyesore, but also because it won't break down naturally just sitting there.

Core aeration


Aeration plugs

It's best to perform core aeration immediately after dethatching your lawn.

Aeration is basically poking holes in your soil with a machine to alllow it to breathe, while getting all that good water and nutrients into the soil.

This is how we help with root growth, which gets us that nice, luscious lawn we all love.



Overseed your lawn

Next, you should overseed your lawn.

Overseeding is simply planting grass seeds right into the turf, without digging up the soil.

The reason we do this after dethatching is because we want to cover up any bare spots that were left because of the dethatching process.

Apply fertilizer

Next, you should apply some fertilizer.

Fertilizer works together with your soil to supply all of the nutrients that your grass needs during the growing season to keep it looking healthy and help it grow.

Prevent Thatch Buildup

Remember, thatch is basically when "new" grass grows faster than "older" grass can break down. So once way to slow down a thatch problem is to keep your grass from growing too quickly. (Yes, there is such a thing!)

When it comes to turbo-charging your grass, that means you should be mindful of giving it too much water, and hitting it with too much fertilizer.

Other ways to prevent thatch buildup is by implementing the best lawn care practices, and regularly aerating your lawn. 

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Mike Futia

My name is Mike, and I'm the owner and founder of My lawn care advice has been featured on Family Handyman, Home & Gardens, Gardening Etc., and Apartment Therapy. I love nothing more than helping my readers achieve their dream lawns. That's why I started, where I share all of my best tips and tricks for keeping a lawn healthy and well-maintained. You can read more about our mission on our About Page.

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