Pros And Cons Of Lawn Dethatching

Written by Mike Futia

Updated January 12, 2023

There are so many ways to keep your lawn healthy and looking great, but it’s not always easy to do.

One of the most common methods is by dethatching your lawn when the need arises.

Removing thatch from your lawn has some amazing benefits for your lawn's overall health. However, it’s not a perfect lawn care method, and there are some notable downsides. 

If you’re after the best pros and cons list for dethatching your lawn, you’ve come to the right place. 

Read on to find out all you need to know about the advantages and disadvantages of lawn dethatching.

Pros of Dethatching Your Lawn

lawn sample

Looking for thatch

Dethatching your lawn helps your grass breathe, and gives new seeds space to germinate.

Here are a few more ways dethatching your lawn helps its health:

Allows Air And Water To Seep Into Roots

Thatch can act as a blanket for your lawn, smothering the grass.

If it grows too thick, your lawn roots may be cut off from much—needed air and water. Left for too long, your lawn will begin to die off.

Dethatching breaks up the suffocative thatch layer so that your lawn can continue to access the water and air it needs to thrive!

Effective Penetration Of Nutrients Into Grass

Similarly to water and air, nutrients can also be locked out of your grass roots by dense thatch. 

Nutrients will struggle to penetrate the thatch surrounding your grass roots, regardless of whether it’s from the soil or fertilizer.

Dethatching your lawn enables a free flow of nutrients, air, and water, around the root system of your lawn. It won’t be long before you notice positive results!

Promotes Draining

Dethatched lawns drain better. It’s a simple fact of lawn care, yet one that’s often overlooked!

If your lawn has turned a bit swampy, you may want to take the next available opportunity to dethatch it. (Just make sure you don't dethatch it when it's too wet).

Without a densely packed upper layer, water will no longer pool on the surface of your lawn. 

Instead, it’ll drain through your soil as intended— so long as there are no other drainage problems, of course!

Minimizes The Risks Of Lawn Disease And Pests

The thatch layer is a godsend to pests and lawn diseases. After all, they have a whole separate layer of your lawn that they can attack or feed off!

Therefore, it’s always a good idea to dethatch your lawn to minimize the risk of these pests and diseases. 

If you think your lawn has thatch that’s hosting diseases and pests, liquid dethatcher may be the cure!

Creates An Overall Healthy Lawn

You know what they say: A dethatched lawn is a healthy lawn! 

Large thatch buildups are often signs of neglect, so dethatching your lawn can be a great first step to returning your lawn to a healthy state.

By minimizing the risk of disease and giving your roots access to air, nutrients, and water, you create a lawn that is healthy across the board. 

Regulates The Temperature

Thatch acts as an insulative layer, especially in the summer months. A thick layer of thatch can cook your lawn’s roots, causing browning, withering, and death.

Similarly to how dethatching lets your roots breathe, it also regulates the temperature below ground. A dethatched lawn will have better (I.e. more ideal for growth) soil temperatures than one with heavy thatch.

Preserves The Aesthetic Quality 

As mentioned above, a heavy layer of thatch symbolizes neglect. A well-manicured lawn can lift the appearance of the rest of your home, giving it a welcoming, warm aura.

You can help to preserve the aesthetic quality of your lawn by dethatching it when it needs! 

A well-kept lawn of lustrous green always wins over a browning patch of dry, dead grass.

It Boosts Overseeding Success Rate


Seeding the lawn

As seeds are more able to penetrate a dethatched lawn, it follows that dethatching boosts your overseeding success rate!

Sowing seeds right onto the thatch is a recipe for disaster; many won’t reach the soil, and those that do will be in sub-optimal conditions.

Dethatching your lawn breaks up the thatch so that seeds can fall directly into the soil. Sowing onto heavy thatch is similar to sowing onto baked hard clay– the seeds won’t penetrate, and will die off instead.

Cons of Dethatching Your Lawn 

There are a certainly few cons to be aware of when dethatching your lawn. However, it will only negatively impact your lawn if it’s carried out improperly.

Improper dethatching could mean you’re too rough (like when using a verticutter or a power rake or scarifier), using the wrong method for the situation (liquid vs. mechanical), picked bad weather to do it in, or that your mixture is off. Proper dethatching will never result in hardship for your lawn!

Here are the cons of dethatching your lawn:

Thatch Can Sometimes Be Beneficial

We mentioned earlier that thatch has insulative qualities. 

These are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you don’t want your roots to cook in the summer— but on the other, this insulative thatch layer actually protects the grass from temperature extremes. 

It also reduces the evaporative rate of grasses, meaning they can retain essential moisture. It’s therefore up to your own discretion and judgment when determining whether your lawn thatch could be nourishing rather than suffocating your lawn. 

Research the topsoil of your area: What’s the geographical function of thatch there? Is the thatch preventing your grass roots from feeding? 

Or, is it the one thing standing between your lawn and the sun, and keeping it alive?

It's Expensive

Mechanical dethatchers cost anywhere between $100 and $1000+. 

Liquid dethatching can be cheap, but it depends on how many ingredients you already have, and how big your lawn is. 

Whatever method you choose, you’ll have to pay some money to dethatch your lawn, or pay for a tool to do it yourself.

Word of advice: don't use a regular leaf rake to dethatch, and don't use a dethatching blade mower attachment: neither methods produce a desirable result. 

Damaged Soil Balance

Both liquid and mechanical dethatching can cause a damaged soil balance, either through a chemical imbalance in your mixture or through a physical disturbance of the biosphere.

Arduous Process

Like lawnmowing, lawn dethatching is a taxing process. 

Whether mechanical or liquid, be prepared to walk around for the better part of the day in the sun, hauling equipment. No one said dethatching was easy!

Kills Beneficial Bacteria

Dethatching may minimize the risk of pests and lawn disease, but it can also kill the beneficial bacteria living in your soil. 

It’s a bit of a trade-off, and one that depends on the nature of your soil and the strength of your dethatching concentrate. Therefore, it’s always important to proceed with caution!

Damages Grass Blades 

Using a mechanical dethatcher will physically break up the thatch layer on your lawn. 

However, these machines have no discretion; it’s just as likely that some of your grass will get damaged in the process.

What is Lawn Dethatching?

If you’re an amateur lawn owner still learning the basics of lawn care, you might be asking yourself: 

What is lawn dethatching? 

Lawn dethatching is the breaking down or removal of the thatch layer in your lawn and soil. Dead plant matter, rhizomes, stolons, and other materials make up the bulk of thatch in your lawn. 

While this layer is naturally occurring and can be beneficial to the health of your lawn, it can also suffocate your grass or even stop new seeds from germinating!

Therefore, a proper lawncare routine will always include lawn dethatching if and when it’s required. It's important to know when to dethatch your lawn, and how often to dethatch your lawn.

If you’re struggling to sow new grass seed, or can actually see the thatch covering up your grass, dethatching may be what’s needed.

You can dethatch a lawn with an electric machine or, for smaller spaces, a special dethatching rake. 

An easier method that’s also available is liquid dethatching. You can purchase these products from home and garden stores, and simply spray your lawn with them to break down the thatch rather than physically destroying it.

And read this if your lawn looks bad after dethatching! 


Thatch Management in Lawns

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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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