Best tool to aerate lawns

Best Tool to Aerate Lawn: The Complete List

If there’s one thing that makes it difficult for grass to develop long roots in the soil and thrive, it is soil compaction. At its core, soil compaction hinder efficient water flow from artificial irritation and rain, not to mention block the oxygen necessary for the growth of healthy grass.

Fortunately, compaction is a condition you have full control over. With the best tools to aerate lawn, you can create gaps and holes into the soil and make it easy for essential nutrients to reach the roots of the grass.  

The best tool to aerate lawn is a list of different types of aerators, which, through testing, are effective in helping lawn owners get a green, lush, healthy lawn throughout the year. And with aeration necessary only twice a year, you don’t have to worry about having a regular maintenance budget per se. 

If done properly, aeration allows grass roots to grow deeper and stronger, making it easy for healthy grass to grow throughout the season. That’s why it’s important to aerate your lawn first, at least two times every year, before you think of overseeding.

In this guide, we’ll look at the different types of aerators with examples in each. The goal of this guide is to make it easier to choose what’s suitable for you without necessary having to spend a lot of time on research.

DIY aerator shoes

Let’s get started:

What is a Lawn Aerator?

A lawn aerator is gardening equipment that helps lawn owners to create holes and gaps in the soil to allow free movement of soil. Aerating a lawn ensures grass develops deeper roots and that water and oxygen easily get into the soil to facilitate better growth. 

While they come in different shapes and sizes, lawn aerators have spiked or plug mechanism used to dig into the soil. Some such as the handheld models requires more force to make holes and gaps. Others, such as push and tow-behind have driving mechanisms that make them easy to maneuver.

List of the Best Tool to Aerate Lawns

1. Plug Aerators

Plug aerators are the best alternative to spike aerators because they have long, hollow tines that penetrate into the soil way better. Ideal for lawns where water tends to pool after a heavy downpour, plug aerators tend to create more space for light and air while reducing compaction.

How Do Plug Aerators Work?

They use hollow tines to remove about an inch of thatch from the soil. Not only does this make aeration easy, but also makes it possible to get rid of aeration much faster.

Because a plug aerator removes plugs of thatch from the core, they tend to offer a more long-term decomposition than spike aerators do. Plus, they tend to be much more effective for people whose yards have clay soil.

The best plug aerator is the one that can create holes that are 1 to 6 inches deep into the ground and at the same time remove plugs that are at least 0.5 inches wide. This is important because it helps to loosen up soil quite significantly, making your lawn ready for overseeding.

It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to pick up and dispose plugs after aerating your lawn. The thatch has nutrients. So leave the plugs to break down on their own and release the nutrients back to the soil thereafter.

We do understand that there are lawn owners who may not like the appearance of thatch on their lawns. If you fall into this category, you can add the plug to your compost and then use them for topdressing later.

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Tow Behind Plug Aerator

2. Spike Aerators

Spike aerators aren’t as strong as plug aerators. So instead of penetrating deep into the soil to create holes and gaps, they only puncture the surface and push the soil out of the way.

Because they don’t have the striking power to create holes in tough, compacted soil, it’s best to use them in areas with loose, sandy soil.

How Do Spike Aerators Work?

A spike aerator uses sharp tines that can easily penetrate soils with low or medium compaction. Although it makes the soil loose to allow water and oxygen to penetrate down to the grass roots, a spike aerator can’t remove soil plugs from the core. Instead, the tines push the soil to the sides and down.

Given that a spike aerator can’t remove soil from the ground, it’s only guaranteed short-term soil de-compaction.

While spike aerators work well, the results you get are unfortunately short-term. With time, the soil pushed down tends to readjust, closing the small holes you previously created. Unlike with a plug aerator, you will need to aerate your lawn more often if you choose to use a spike tool.

If you choose to use a spike aerator, you’ll have to aerate your lawn at least 3 times every season because the results are often short-term.

3. Push Aerators

If you’re looking for the best tool that can aerate tight areas with obstacles like trees, consider getting a push aerator.

Keep in mind that these require some hard work to push the tines into the soil. So if your aeration goal is to break down compacted soil, you should consider getting a pull behind plug aerator instead.

Given that they have spikes, they are often only suitable for lawns that don’t have soil compaction yet.

Example of a Push Aerator for Lawn

Greenworks 10A Corded 14-inch Dethatcher

Greenworks 10A is the best example of a push aerator to buy. Although it’s somewhat pricier than some models in the market, it’s one of the few makes that earn a higher rating for better performance.

Ideal for small and medium-sized lawns, the Greenworks 10A is for environmentally conscious folks because it doesn’t produce an emotion. Thanks to the corded operation, you never have to worry about the machine running out of battery and you don’t have to think about gas.

Cords tend to get in the way for this kind of aerator. So you have to find a way to ensure you keep as far away from the cord as possible. This might take some practice, but you should figure it out nonetheless.

You will love this machine because includes an adjustable, 14-inch cutting deck. With this feature, you decide the depth of the holes you would like to make to aerate your lawn.

Walk behind core aerator machine

4. Aerator Shoes

Aerator shoes aren’t the most popular tools in lawn care, at least not when compared against other options in our list. However, if you have a small lawn, and you also happen to be on a tight budget, these shoes can make a big difference. 

In terms of design and structure, aerator shoes feature straps that wrap around the heels and the vamp and include solid spikes on the sole. These spikes will dig into the soil with medium or no compaction, making holes and gaps enough for aeration.

To be clear, the spikes of aerator shoes don’t remove soil from the ground. Instead, they force the soil down and to the side. As such, the results can only be temporary, which means you will need to aerate more times a year than you would if you used a different type of lawn aerator.

While landscapers hardly ever recommend them, especially because of their short-term results, aerator shoes can actually help if you have a small lawn that doesn’t warrant renting a stand-on aerator.

Examples of the Best Aerator Shoes

The following are the best examples of aerator shoes that you can buy right now:

1. Punchau Lawn Aerator Shoes with Secure Fit Heel Strap

Punchau shoe have stronger soles with three strap metal buckles for heavy-duty performance. The added toughening on the sole provides sufficient arch support, allowing your feet to stay stable as you aerate the lawn.

The spike tines on the sole are strong and sharp enough to penetrate composite soil. And therefore every area you step on with these will allow water, air, and fertilizer to penetrate into the grass roots well. 

You will love Punchau because it allows for a custom fitting. So regardless of your shoe size, you should be able to get these to fit quite well.

2. PLANTNOMICS Lawn Aerator Shoes with Hook-and-Loop Straps

PLANTNOMICS aerator shoes are designed to fit any kind of footwear. Whether you want to fit them on rain boots or you prefer to aerate the lawn in Timberlands, this one should fit no doubt.

Like the Punchau aerator, this one can pierce just the right holes and create gaps in the soil, allowing for easy aeration.

We love these aerator shoes because they’re versatile. They can easily dig into silt, loam, clay, as well as sandy soil.

So if you want to make holes and gaps even on soil with high compactness, the PLANTNOMICS lawn aerator shoes can give you the best overall results.

3. Leweio Lawn Aerator Shoes

Leweio is another example of a well-made pair of aerator shoes that come at a price that’s nothing short of a bargain.

With tough steel tines that can easily dig into the soil, this one creates the holes and gaps necessary to allow proper lawn aeration. And while the results aren’t long-term, you can at least restore the health and vibrancy of the lawn.

Instead of a plastic build, Leweio uses an aluminum alloy to make the sole. What you get for the price are strong aerator shoes that can stand up even to tough soil. The leather strap with a Velcro design nicely wraps around the shoes to give you a custom fit.

Effective ways to prevent lawn aerator shoes from slipping

5. Tow-Behind Aerators

Tow-behind aerators are made of steel for strength, durability, and heavy-duty performance. They are the best tools for those who have massive lawns to care for. And although they can be somewhat pricier than other types of tools for aerating lawns, they do get the aerating job done much faster.

A pull behind lawn aerator can attach behind a garden tractor, an ATV, or a lawnmower. Given their size, they create holes and gaps in minutes, therefore taking only a short time to get your lawn ready for overseeding.

Tow-behind aerators’ tines don’t have an adjustment mechanism. However, some do allow you to add more weight to push the tines deeper into the ground.

Examples of Tow-Behind Aerators

1. Agri-Fab 4545-0518

With its 140 pounds weight and 24 galvanized coring knives, the Agri-Fab 45-0518 can plug up a large area at once.

The working width is 40 inches, making this model suitable for medium as well as large-sized lawns.

2. Brinly PA-40BH

Brinly PA-40BH is also a good example of a tow-behind plug aerator.

Made of heat-treated steel, and weighing 150 pounds, the PA-40BH lets you create holes and gaps into the soil to allow water and oxygen while ensuring proper grass growth.

It features a weight tray that supports additional weight.

6. Handheld Aerators

Available in plugs and spikes, handheld aerators are the best option for those who have small lawns. These tools are easy to use. All you have to do is to hold the handle section on the far end and step on the aerator to drive spikes or hollow tines into the soil.

While handheld aerators require more force to operate, they’re the most cost-effective option for those who only want to aerate a small-sized lawn.

Examples of Handheld Aerators

The following are the best examples of handheld aerators to consider if you have a small-sized lawn to work on:

1. Yard Butler Lawn Aerator

Featuring a price point that’s a definite bargain, the Yard Butler is the manual lawn aerator to get if you’re on a tight budget. It has two, 4-inch long coring section, which makes it easy to use.

Although it’s a lightweight model, the strong, durable steel frame means it’s a tough build that can take a lot of force.

The handle grips have a soft cushioning that makes the aerator comfortable to grip. And the foot bar is stable enough to allow you to apply the maximum force possible during use.

With Yard Butler, you will remove two, 3.5 inches long core, which come off from the top of the cylinder.

2. Gardzen Plug Aeration

Gardzen is a good plug-hand aerator for those who have small yards.

The frame is made of steel combined with powder coating for corrosion resistance and durability. Plus, it has well-made hollow tines that can dig into the soil by up to 3-inches.

7. Liquid Aerators

Liquid aerators are a relatively new technology in the lawn care segment. Before you consider this option, you need to understand that the solution takes longer to work on your soil. However, you can expect the results to be long-term.

In action, a liquid aerator has the ability to condition soil enough to break apart its compaction over a given duration. With chemical ingredients such as ammonium lauryl sulfate, these liquid aerators ensure the right nutrients get deep into the soil, thus ensuring proper growth of your grass.

Example of liquid aerators

Liquid Soil Loosener

This liquid aerator can break heavily compacted soil and encourage the vertical movement of soil.

Yard tool storage tips

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should I remove thatch from my lawn?

Lawn thatch isn’t bad, so you might as well leave them. As much it’s a layer of already dead organic tissue, it can be a good option for shading your lawn against extreme temperature and possible transpiration.

However, you should make sure there isn’t too much on the grass, otherwise soil may have crippled supply of water and oxygen.

2. How much do lawn aerators cost?

A lawn aerator can cost between $29 and $4,000 depending on the type and the model that you choose. That’s why it’s important to consider the size of your lawn as well as how much you’re willing and able to spend to decide which model to buy.

3. How often should I aerate my lawn?

While you can aerate your lawn at any time of the year, consider doing so in the late summer or in the early fall. Since fall is the best time to overseed a lawn, we strongly recommend that you schedule your aeration project at this time.

You can also aerate the lawn in the spring season.

4. Can I use a pitchfork to aerate my lawn? 

You can use a pitchfork to aerate a small area of the lawn. Medium and large-sized lawns take time and will therefore require a better option such as pull behind aerator.

Merits and demerits of slice seeding

As you can, there are different types of aerators that you can buy for lawn care. When it comes to choosing the best tools to aerate lawn, the best advice we can give you is that you pick something that’s within your budget.

You might also want to consider the size of your lawn and the amount of time you can dedicate to aerating the lawn before overseeding.

Remember that regardless of the type of lawn aerator that you choose, the results will always be more or less the same. So whether you find a manual aerator more effective or you believe that a stand-on model would be good for the job, really the choice you make comes down to personal preference.


  • Ricky

    Hi, I’m Ricky. I’ve been involved in lawn care and landscaping from when I was 15. To be honest, I didn’t like the idea of pushing mowers, collecting grass clippings, and maintaining flowerbeds at the time. But having seem the passion my parents had for gardening and outdoors and the effort they put in maintaining the health and beauty of our landscape, I couldn’t help but not only admire their hard work but also I became a part of it. As someone who loves to spend time with nature’s best, I find myself learning a lot more about gardening and outdoors on a daily basis. Not to mention I love to share the knowledge I’ve gathered over the years with my readers at We Mow Dallas. To be clear, I don’t have a Master’s degree in gardening or anything like that. Everything I’ve learned about gardening, landscaping, and lawn care spring from passion and engagement with my parents. And with a ton of free information out there, plus the ability to run tests and determine what works best for lawn care and landscaping, every day is an opportunity to learn and implement something new. My goal with We Mow Dallas is to teach you exactly how to maintain your lawn and landscape. And since I walk the talk in reality, you shouldn’t hesitate to join me in this wonderful world of landscaping and lawn care. K Beatrice

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