Verticutter vs. Dethatcher: Differences & Similarities

Written by Mike Futia

Updated January 12, 2023

Nobody wants thick thatch on their lawn—an overgrowth makes it difficult for water and nutrients to nourish the roots of your grass. Luckily, both verticutters and dethatchers remove thatch from lawns!

But how do you know which one to use? 

In this article, we’ll be taking a close look at all the distinctive features of verticutters and dethatchers, as well as the pros and cons of each– and when and how to use them!

What is a Verticutter?

Verticutting machine

Verticutters are a piece of lawn care equipment used to remove thatch. They have vertical blades that cut into thatch without damaging the grass below. 

The types of verticutter available vary. 

Some verticutters come as attachments for your regular lawnmower, and some look like a lawnmower but with a verticutter built in. 

Others are larger, more specialized ride-on lawnmowers with the verticutter at the back.

What is a Dethatcher?

Greenworks dethatching machine

It’s in the name: A dethatcher is any device or machine that gets rid of thatch

For example, a rake would meet the definition of a dethatcher, and most dethatchers do look like a variation of a rake, though we don't recommend trying to dethatch with a regular rake. (Nor do we recommend trying to dethatch with a mower attachment).

Dethatchers use horizontal blades all in a row to remove thatch from a lawn. They can be attached to a lawnmower, or bought specifically as a dethatching lawnmower. Like verticutters, dethatchers can also attach to a ride-on lawnmower.

Dethatchers remove thatch, break up and loosen soil, and have a higher risk of damaging your grass if you’re not careful.

Verticutter vs Dethatcher: What are their Differences?

There are a few differences between the two, but the major contrast is that the verticutter has blades that cut vertically, while the dethatcher’s blades rake the thatch and pull it from the ground.


Both the verticutter and the dethatcher remove thatch, but the methods they use are different. The verticutter has sharp blades that cut the thatch but avoid the grass.

The dethatcher pulls out thatch, breaking up, loosening, and smoothing the soil as it goes. This means the soil is better able to absorb nutrients.


There are many benefits to removing thatch from your lawn, and both dethatchers and verticutters do this. (There are both pros and cons to dethatching your lawn, however).

Removing thatch allows your soil to receive nutrients, water, air and light to improve grass growth. You also avoid mold and other diseases from growing in the thatch, causing your grass to die.

However, verticutters will avoid the grass and soil below, so they may be a better option than dethatchers if you want to leave your lawn otherwise untouched.


Verticutting helps to prepare the ground for seeding. It can be done once a week during the growing season if you have fast-growing grass, otherwise once a year.

Dethatching is a more serious process that should be done once a year or when thatch is particularly thick.

Overall Results and Effects

Both verticutters and dethatchers aid soil and root health. The removal of thatch improves drainage, allowing for healthier soil and greener grass. 

With thatch gone, your lawn will have more exposure to sunlight, air and nutrients, regardless of whether you choose to use a dethatcher or a verticutter.


Dethatching is a more intense process that digs down to the root level to pull out thatch, whereas verticutting works at the surface level and avoids the grass below. 

Verticutting may be the right choice if you want a gentler dethatching process.

Verticutter vs Dethatcher: What are their Similarities?  

There are a few similarities between verticutters and dethatchers. 

They’re both designed to remove excessive thatch to allow water, fertilizer, nutrients, air, and light to reach the soil and roots. This is important when the grass is in its growth cycle.

Lawnmowers are often pretty noisy. Luckily, both dethatchers and verticutters are quiet, and they’re very effective at removing thatch without making too much noise or fuss.

When to Verticut or Dethatch Your Lawn

It’s best to use the verticutter when the grass is in its growth period or at seeding time. Verticut at least once a year, or more often at your discretion if you have a fast-growing grass like Kentucky Bluegrass.

Use the dethatcher when the thatch is half an inch thick and the grass is in its growth period.


Verticut in late summer or fall during your lawn’s active growth phase. 

Avoid using the verticutter in the middle of summer because the ground is too hot, and you risk disease or fungus setting in.


Dethatching should be done in the spring so that the grass can regenerate before the weather gets too hot.

You could also dethatch in late summer to get rid of thatch build-up. Avoid dethatching when the lawn is too dry or too wet, and don’t wait until late fall to dethatch.

How to Verticut and Dethatch your Lawn

It’s easier to remove thatch from your lawn than you may think. Here’s a summary of what to do:

How to Verticut your Lawn 

Water the Lawn

The first thing you’ll want to do is water your lawn. Do this a few days before the thatch removal.

Watering your lawn before verticutting or dethatching your lawn makes it easier to remove thatch. 

This is because the thatch is softened, without being too wet. Avoid trying to remove thatch when your lawn is wet, as it can damage the grass.

Mow the Lawn

Next, mow the lawn. Make sure to use the lowest setting on your lawn mower, and remove any grass clippings afterwards.

Mowing your lawn at too high a setting can cut into the thatch and scalp your lawn.

Set the Verticutter's Blades

If your grass isn’t very thick, set the blades of your verticutter to a high level, or 3 inches apart.

However, if your grass is quite thick, set the blades 1 inch apart, so that it can remove the thatch easily.

Verticut the Lawn

Steer the verticutter from one corner in a straight line to the next corner. 

Keep going in straight lines a little to the side of each pass until you have done the entire area. Go over once more!

Rake the Thatch

The next thing you’ll want to do is rake over your lawn. 

Raking your lawn after dethatching or verticutting allows you to remove any remaining thatch that may be left on the grass.

This is vital for our next step!

Fertilize the Lawn

Now, you can finally fertilize your lawn! Feed through the correct fertilizer for your lawn type straight after verticutting.

Without any thatch getting in the way, your soil can soak up the fertilizer, allowing for green, healthy grass.

Water the Lawn

Finally, water your grass. Making sure your grass and soil are hydrated is a vital step in the dethatching process. 

If your thatch was quite bad, then it’s highly likely your grass and soil have been without nutrients for a while. 

Watering the grass will help it recover and promote growth.

How to Dethatch Your Lawn

Dethatching your lawn is very similar to verticutting it, just make sure never to dethatch after it has rained.

Use a rake with vertical blades for the dethatching, pushing the rake down deeply through the grass in parallel lines and pulling out the thatch. Clear away the thatch as you go, and either compost it or throw it away.

If you are using a yard dethatcher that’s towed behind your tractor, then mow your lawn at half the usual height. The dethatcher will pull out the thatch and you simply rake it up at the end.

Overseed any bare patches and then fertilize the lawn.

Read this guide if your lawn still looks bad after dethatching.

Verticutter Pros and Cons


  • Removes thatch without touching the grass and soil below, keeping your grass safe
  • The vertical cutting allows water, fertilizer and air to get through to the roots, as it aerates the lawn slightly
  • The verticutter cuts the stolons (runners), which helps avoid weeds and the overall deterioration of your lawn
  • Designed for the removal of thatch, rather than having many purposes


  • Requires more care to avoid damaging the grass
  • It doesn’t break up and smooth soil, resulting in less healthy grass
  • You can achieve similar results with other machines that do more for your grass
  • Minor thatch can be beneficial for your lawn, preventing burning from the sun in warm seasons

Dethatcher Pros and Cons


  • Easy and efficient process 
  • Can be done in spring or fall, depending on the grass you have
  • It breaks up heavy thatch and hard soil, allowing for nutrients to absorb into the grass
  • Reduces the risk of diseases and mold in your grass
  • Makes it easier to seed your lawn


  • It can be easy damage your lawn, especially if done at the wrong time
  • It does not get rid of stolons
  • Minor thatch can be beneficial for your lawn, preventing burning from the sun in warm seasons
  • It’s an intense process for the lawn, and it will be vulnerable afterwards

The Bottomline on Verticutter vs Dethatcher

The right machine for your lawn depends largely on how much thatch you have, and how healthy your grass is already. 

If you want a gentle process that will only remove the thatch, a verticutter is your best option. If you’re after something that will remove all the thatch and break up hard soil, a dethatcher is the answer.

In either case, make sure you remove thatch in the correct season. Avoid carrying this work out in temperature extremes, or when the ground is very wet or bone-dry!


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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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