The Best Leaf Mulchers of 2022 - Tested by Bob Vila

2022-08-26 19:11:08 By : Mr. Arron Liu

By Glenda Taylor and Mark Wolfe | Updated Jun 21, 2022 6:00 PM and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Few sights are as lovely as the red and gold hues of falling leaves, but when you must rake them and bag them—often multiple times in a season—they can lose their appeal. However, if you don’t remove dried leaves from your yard, they can become a soggy mess that increases the risk of lawn disease. Shredding leaves in a leaf mulcher significantly reduces their bulk and, better still, creates organic mulch you can use around perennial plants.

The best leaf mulcher for you will depend on how much leaf accumulation you get, the size of your yard, and how you prefer to collect the leaves. We tested a variety of leaf mulchers to learn how they perform overall and which ones offer the best value in different categories. Read on to learn what to look for when shopping for a leaf mulcher, and check out product reviews based on our hands-on tests. You’re likely to find the best leaf mulcher for your needs to make short work of tidying up the yard.

Leaf mulchers are all designed with one primary task: shredding leaves, typically with spinning impeller blades. Yet certain features are worth considering when choosing the type of mulcher that suits you best. Leaf mulchers offer a variety of power options, such as an electrical cord, a gas engine, or a rechargeable battery. In addition, while many leaf mulchers are handheld, some are stationary. As with all power tools, read and follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions, and do not operate a leaf mulcher when small children are nearby.

Corded leaf mulchers, which fall into the electric leaf blower category, feature motors rated in amps that range from around 8 amps to 14 amps, and the higher the amps, the more powerful the motor. Corded models are quieter than gas-powered models, and there is no fuel to mix or flammable gas to store. With a corded leaf mulcher, you needn’t worry about charging a battery, but you will be limited to the length of an extension cord, which usually tops out at around 100 feet. A handheld corded mulcher weighs about 6 to 9 pounds, so it’s easy to use without developing shoulder or arm fatigue.

With gas-powered leaf mulchers, you’ll have ample power at your fingertips, with no risk of tripping over an extension cord and no battery to charge. The engine of a gas leaf mulcher is rated by its size in cubic centimeters (cc), and the larger the number, the more powerful the engine. An engine is also rated by the type of fuel it requires: A 2-cycle gas engine requires mixing gasoline with engine oil at a ratio determined by the manufacturer, while a 4-cycle gas engine runs on pure gasoline only. While a gas leaf mulcher is portable because it isn’t tethered to a cord, at between 10 and 17 pounds, it will weigh quite a bit more than any corded or cordless model. Another downside to gas models is the fumes they emit.

Like corded mulchers, battery-operated cordless leaf mulchers won’t require you to mix fuel or expose yourself to toxic fumes. Cordless leaf mulchers are ultimately portable since they’re fairly lightweight and aren’t restricted by the length of a cord; however, the average lithium battery runtime is between about 15 and 35 minutes, depending on the voltage. These rechargeable batteries average 20 to 40 volts, and the higher the voltage, the longer the runtime. Buying a second battery and keeping it charged will allow you to use your cordless mulcher longer.

The majority of leaf mulchers are handheld models that vacuum up leaves, then pass them through spinning impeller blades for shredding. Many handheld models also feature leaf-blowing capability to blow leaves into piles for easier vacuum collection.

However, some folks prefer the ease of use of a stand-alone model. These leaf mulchers can be positioned in a central spot in the yard and the user dumps dried leaves into a top intake chute—known as a hopper—for shredding. A collection bag attaches to a discharge chute at the bottom of the hopper.

Now that you understand the types of leaf mulchers available, consider ease of operation, efficiency, and performance. These factors are dependent on the following:

Most leaf mulchers have metal blades that spin at rapid speeds to chop and shred leaves into tiny bits, but some models use heavy-duty plastic blades or even string-trimming line. All three options can shred leaves, but metal blades are often more durable.

The mulching ratio, also known as the reduction ratio, indicates how much the tool will reduce the leaves’ overall size. For example, a mulching ratio of 10:1 indicates the mulcher will reduce 10 bags of dried leaves to shreds that will fit in a single bag. Typical mulching ratios range from 8:1 to 18:1, with the highest ratios producing the smallest shreds. If you’re into composting, small shreds will decompose more quickly in a compost pile.

Leaf mulcher capacity relates to the amount of air the machine moves in cubic feet per minute (cfm). Most corded and cordless leaf mulchers range from around 175 to 500 cfm, with the highest-capacity models designed for heavy-duty leaf clearing. Gas leaf mulchers, which are more powerful, tend to have higher capacities, in the range of 450 to 700 cfm.

Stand-alone leaf mulchers have a single function—they shred leaves dropped into their hoppers. Handheld models often do more, including blowing leaves into a pile and then vacuuming them up for shredding. While a few handheld leaf mulchers vacuum but do not blow, models with three functions operate as leaf blowers and leaf vacuums.

Both corded and cordless leaf mulchers are easier to use than gas models because they don’t require mixing fuel, adding engine oil, servicing a carburetor, or using a hand recoil to start the engine. However, fans of gas models may consider the greater power derived from a gas-powered leaf mulcher to be worth the extra effort.

All power tools, including leaf mulchers, make some noise, but cordless and corded models are fairly quiet, at approximately 60 to 63 decibels—comparable to the sound of conversational speech. Gas-powered leaf mulchers are quite a bit louder at around 85 to 90 decibels or comparable to the sound of busy street traffic from the curb. Check your city ordinances, and if you live in a community where loud noises are discouraged or prohibited, you may want to choose an electric leaf mulcher.

The best leaf mulcher for your purposes will depend on the size of your yard, the amount of leaf accumulation, and how you like to approach yard cleanup. We put several machines to the test in an average backyard to determine real-life performance. To qualify as a top pick, the following leaf mulchers proved to be dependable, reliable, and effective at shredding dry leaves. Note: While our testing included the Sun Joe CJ601E Electric Wood Chipper, we found that its narrow hopper and flywheel chopper are designed for grinding up sticks, not for shredding leaves. Here’s how some of the best leaf mulchers on the market fared when we put them through their paces.

Blow-dry leaves into a pile and then vacuum them up and shred them with this three-in-one electric leaf blower from Black+Decker. This handheld machine weighs in at 8.1 pounds, and it includes a detachable shoulder strap, reusable bag assembly, and three disposable bags. The unit features a blowing speed of 400 cfm, metal impeller blades, and adjustable speed control. It produces a 16:1 reduction ratio, resulting in finely shredded leaves that can be added to plants or the compost bin. A heavy-duty 12- to 14-gauge exterior extension cord is needed to operate this versatile tool.

We liked the convenience of having a blower, vacuum, and mulcher in one. Changing from blower to vacuum was easy and took about a minute: using a flathead screwdriver, remove the blower tube and air intake cover, and attach the vacuum tube and leaf collection bag. This tool performed well in both modes, with ample power and minimal clogging in vacuum mode.

Get the BLACK&DECKER leaf mulcher on Amazon and at Target.

There’s no reason to spend a fortune on an effective leaf mulcher. The nicely priced Sun Joe 4-in-1 electrical mulcher features a powerful 14-amp motor that moves air at an impressive 440 cfm and reduces leaf waste by a 16:1 reduction ratio. Not only does it serve as a blower, a vacuum, and a leaf mulcher, but this corded machine also includes an extendable U-nozzle gutter-cleaning kit to vacuum leaves out of house gutters without climbing a tall ladder.

The 8.6-pound unit uses aluminum alloy impeller blades and boasts several unique design elements. Though a handheld model, it includes an interchangeable vacuum tube with attached wheels so that it can be rolled along the ground rather than carried, if desired. Plus, the collection bag clips to the suction tube for added support. These features take away some strain for average-size workers, but users taller than 6 feet may have difficulty adjusting the shoulder strap to see any benefit. While we found that this tool supplied ample power to work quickly, even with large or wet leaves, it was much louder than the other three-in-one tools we tested.

Get the Sun Joe leaf mulcher on Amazon and at The Home Depot.

The WG512 is much improved over the previous TriVac incarnation. It uses a single tube for both blower and vacuum modes, with an easy-to-use dial to switch modes. The 12-amp corded electric motor uses an upgraded metal impeller fan to grind leaves and debris at a mulching rate of 16:1. It weighs in at 9 pounds and moves air at a rate of up to 600 cfm.

In our trial, the WG512 showed a good balance of power and relatively quiet operation, with a noise operating level listed at 79 decibels. It easily pushed wet and dry leaves around the yard, then quickly dispatched them in vacuum/mulcher mode. When we forced the issue by shoving the vacuum tube deep into a leaf pile, the tube clogged briefly but righted itself as soon as we pulled it back out of the pile. The single-tube design, simple mode change dial, and better-than-average air handling ability made this model stand out. As a handheld corded electric model, it seems best for small to midsize yards with moderate to heavy leaf cover.

Get the WORX leaf mulcher at Amazon, WORX, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart.

Electric three-in-one leaf mulchers are popular because they’re so easy to use, and this Toro model was the breeziest of the bunch we tested, largely thanks to the toolless switching from blower to vacuum. The machine generates up to 390 cfm of blowing force to move leaves, small twigs, and other debris from around HVAC units, decks, and fences. We found that to be plenty of power to gather all of the leaves into a pile and then to suck them up into the metal impeller shredder. The only material that slowed it down was coarse, wet, matted leaves.

The mulcher weighs just 7.5 pounds, making it easy to carry. It also includes a reusable collection bag and two additional tube attachments to concentrate air power. The impeller features magnesium-serrated metal blades that resist rust and corrosion. It shreds leaves at a 16:1 reduction ratio, a small size sure to quickly decompose in a compost pile that also suits layering around plants to reduce weeds and retain soil moisture.

Get the Toro leaf mulcher at Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, and Walmart.

Put the power of lithium-ion energy to work with the Greenworks cordless leaf mulcher. This battery-operated mulcher includes a high-performance G-MAX 40-volt lithium-ion battery that produces up to 340 cfm of blowing power and runs up to 21 minutes on the highest mode. It offers six speed adjustments and both a narrow blowing tube and a wider-angle vacuum tube for versatile yard cleanup. The mulcher weighs 9.92 pounds, features a 10:1 reduction ratio and aluminum alloy impeller blades, and includes a reusable mulch collection bag.

We wanted to see if this cordless tool had adequate power to collect and shred leaves without changing batteries or running out of charge. After using it in blower mode to collect a pile of leaves, we switched to vacuum mode and proceeded to fill the collection twice, plus another partial bag. Altogether, it worked for more than 20 minutes on the highest power setting.

Get the Greenworks leaf mulcher on Amazon and at Greenworks.

For yards with lots of leaves, an electric stand-alone leaf mulcher is often the best bet, and this Flowtron model is a worthy contender. Its 5.9-amp motor will run all day, with just a few stops along the way to install new trimmer lines. It grinds up dry leaves at a rate of up to 55 gallons per minute. Choose from fine, medium, and coarse mulching settings, based on material. Fine is great for dry, thin material like pine needles and dry leaves, while coarse is better suited to wet matted leaves and grass clippings. An onboard safety shutoff kills the engine if it overheats.

This stand-alone model almost made the cut as our best overall pick since in terms of performance it’s a viable option. The trouble was, the setup proved to be far less user-friendly. The plastic hopper arrived in two halves requiring assembly by aligning tabs and installing four screws. Assembling the two halves of the metal stand requires two screws, two brackets, and two wingnuts. Though this wasn’t difficult, these engineering choices made the process more clunky and complicated than it had to be. In action, we liked the lower working height but found it necessary to use trash bags instead of paper lawn and leaf bags for collection because the base is so low to the ground.

Get the Flowtron leaf mulcher at Amazon, Walmart, and The Home Depot.

If you deal with a large volume of fallen leaves on any size property, the BLACK+DECKER (BV6600) is the best choice. It quickly grinds through mountains of leaves and discharges them directly into leaf disposal bags. When not in use, it is easy to disassemble and stack into a compact configuration for storage.

Those who prefer the efficiency of a multitasking tool that they can use year-round will appreciate the Toro Ultra 3-in-1 leaf blower, vacuum, and mulcher. It works quietly and powerfully and quickly changes between blower and vacuum/mulcher modes without tools.

We spent 2 days in an average suburban backyard turning fallen leaves into mulch. Each mulcher had to run the gamut of large and small, dry and wet leaves, along with whatever small twigs, pine cones, and acorns happened to find their way into the mix. Note: While our testing included the Sun Joe CJ601E Electric Wood Chipper, we found that its narrow hopper and flywheel chopper are designed for grinding up sticks, not for shredding leaves.

The first testing day was under normal conditions, with leaves that were dry or only slightly damp and recently blown into a pile. With the handheld vacuum/mulchers we held the suction tube at or slightly above the level of the leaves, as they should be used according to the manufacturers’ instructions. The stand-alone models were simply turned on and fed by the armload.

On the second day, we attempted to put the mulchers through more stressful conditions, including wet, matted leaves and large, leathery magnolia leaves. During this test, we also pushed the suction tubes farther into the leaf piles to see if they would become clogged or simply stop. To stress the stand-alones, we used large baskets to “force-feed” extra-large quantities.

In the end, all of the models that made our list passed both tests. In average testing, each mulcher shredded without hesitation, filling its bag. In the stressful testing, several clogs occurred, but none were catastrophic, nor did they take more than a little thump on the side of the suction housing to clear. In all, this group worked as expected or better.

A leaf mulcher can simplify yard cleanup, but if this is your first time shopping for one, you might want some more information. Check out the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about leaf mulchers.

While both items will produce small bits of biodegradable material for use as mulch around plants or for adding to a compost pile, a leaf mulcher handles only leaves and tiny twigs, while a wood chipper can shred small tree branches.

A leaf mulcher is only intended for dry leaves. Avoid sucking up acorns and twigs larger than ⅛ inch in diameter, and don’t mulch green leaves or grass clippings. Green plant matter can clog the blades of a leaf mulcher.

Spreading a layer of shredded leaves around the base of plants helps reduce weed growth, improves soil content, and retains moisture in the soil.

There are no disadvantages to mulching. It reduces leaf waste, and the mulch can benefit plants and soil.

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