The American home has more than doubled in size since the 1950s; this means our lawns have increased in size as well. Regular rotary lawn mowers have evolved to help us manage these lawns and the regulations many homeowners’ associations have placed on them. Rotary mowers also come with additional maintenance, parts, and hazards. What if we head back to the 1950s, but just for our machinery? The push reel mower is making a comeback for lawns across the United States. While they follow the same principles and design as your grandpa’s mower, modern reel mowers have evolved for more comfortable use, less maintenance, and more versatility.
This revitalized relic piece of machinery is less hazardous for the user and healthier for the lawn than a rotary mower. These mowers require less maintenance and are cheaper, but they need extra elbow grease to get your lawn mowed. We’ve scoured yards and the internet for information about how to choose a reel mower and if a reel mower is right for your lawn and life. Enjoy our selection below of the best reel mowers.
The Best Reel Mower
Our favorite of the best reel mowers is the Greenworks Reel Mower. This mower offers a 14-inch cutting path; this size is on the small side. However, this lawnmower weighs in at 24.1 pounds, making it easy to carry, store, and push. It’s dimensions measure 20″ by 42.5 inches by 24 inches. The T style handle sits at a comfortable height for most users and features a cushioned grip for comfort while mowing.
The five-blade design and 1.06 inch to two-inch cutting height provide versatility and adaptability, allowing this mower to cut various types of grass and lawns. To keep lawn cuttings off your feet, this mower also has rear bag capabilities. This mower is quiet with contactless cutting, no more loud engines droning out the rest of the world as you mow. This reel mower is easy to assemble and inexpensive at just $89.99, making it an excellent choice for any household, lawn, and grass type.
The American Lawn Mower Deluxe Hand Reel Mower is another smaller mower that packs a punch. This mower has a four-blade reel, making it capable of cutting dense lawns and grass up to four inches tall. If your grass grows quickly and you plan to mow a bit less, this mower is an excellent choice for your lawn. The adjustable cutting height of 1 inch to 1.75 inches is smaller than some of the other ranges on this list but still provides plenty of range.
This mower is also one of the lightest on our list at just 20 pounds. It has a 14-inch cutting path and measures 20 inches by 24 inches by 42.5 inches. This mower’s size makes it easy to use and excellent for younger folks and teenagers to use, too, as they learn to cut the lawn. The 8.5-inch polymer wheels also make for excellent maneuverability around your yard. You should expect to sharpen the heat-treated allow steel blades every three to five years. This push mower costs just $79.99, making it a cost-effective yet versatile choice for any home.
Fiskars has put a lot of energy into revitalizing the technology of the classic reel mower. They’ve developed the StaySharp cutting system for contactless cutting that increases the blades’ life and the time between sharpening them. They’ve improved the reel itself as well. The Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower provides 50% more cutting power, makes it easier to cut, and is appropriate for all grass types, including denser varieties like Bermuda. The reel allows for cutting through tough spots with ease and makes for less work for you. The additional technology behind this mower does come with a heftier price tag and weight. This mower costs $199, the most expensive of our list, and weighs 51.7 pounds. The weight may make it more difficult to push, but the 18-inch cutting path makes for fewer passes as you mow.
Other features include reversible grass chutes that adjust to send clippings forward, backward, or downwards and away from your feet, keeping you cleaner. The wheels are inset allowing the blades to extend across the mower’s full width, making it harder to leave uncut strips and edges on corners and near fences. You can be confident in your purchase with a limited three-year warranty. This cordless lawn mower is an excellent and versatile mower with lots of new technology at a higher price tag. If you love to have the most cutting-edge technology, this is the mower for you.
This package gets you some serious bang for your buck with this combo reel mower and blower package. The Greenworks 16-Inch Reel Mower provides a 16-inch cutting path and an adjustable 4 stage cutting height of 1 1/8 inches to 2 ¼ inches. You can utilize the included bag for catching all your lawn trimmings or use the grass and leaf blower to move them to a more appropriate location. It weighs 32.4 pounds, has 10-inch front wheels, and 2-inch rear rollers, making it maneuverable for most users.
The price tag of $105 sits in the mid-range of reel mowers’ prices, but the included blower makes this package a steal. The helical contact-free blades also provide silent cutting and will save you from rotary mower headaches. This mower also comes with a four-year warranty, leaving you with confidence in your purchase. For those who love a great deal, this is an excellent choice for you!
The Earthwise 7-Blade Push Reel Mower provides a specialty use at an affordable price. This mower is a seven-blade ball bearing reel mower with a 16″ cutting width. Its dimensions measure 27 inches by 23 inches by 47 inches, and it weighs 26lbs, making it heavy duty but maneuverable.
Earthwise outfitted this mower with an unbreakable steel side plate, alloy steel blades, and ten-inch composite wheels. The adjustable cutting height ranges from .5 inches to 2.5 inches. At $107, this mower specializes in cutting bentgrass. These grasses include Bermuda, Zoysia, Centipede, and St. Augustine grass. These grass types are traditionally difficult for reel mowers to cut, making this reel mower an impactful player for yards with these types of grass. If you’ve long wanted a reel mower but haven’t found one suitable for your dense lawn, this choice is your answer. If you want a more powerful device, check out our selection of the best riding lawn mowers to buy right now.
The Great States 5-Blade Push Reel Mower is the epitome of simplicity. Its look might fool you into thinking this is your grandfather’s reel mower. This mower weighs in at a shocking 2.2 pounds, the lightest device on our list by far. This lightweight mower is 23.1 inches by 10.6 inches by 13.18 inches and has a 16-inch cutting width. A 5-blade ball bearing reel and an adjustable cutting height of .5 inches to 2.5 inches make this mower versatile and capable of cutting lawns of many sizes with ease.
The T-Style handle has a cushioned grip for additional ease while mowing. This mower also requires no tools for assembly so you can put this mower right to work. At $79, this lightweight mower is an excellent choice for any lawn and home, especially those who want something incredibly portable and lightweight. Our buying guide on the top zero turn lawn mowers features some more amazing tools like this one, so make sure to check it out, too.
The Fiskars 17-Inch Reel Mower is another technology-driven mower from the Fiskars line. This mower has the same cutting-edge InertiaDrive and StaySharp technology as its counterpart earlier in this list, but with a slightly smaller cutting width and lighter weight.
If you loved the earlier Fiskars model but want something more inexpensive or lighter, this is an excellent choice for you. This reel mower features a 17-inch cutting width, dimensions of 23.5 inches by 18 inches by 13.8 inches, and weighs in at 40.1 pounds. The adjustable cutting height from 1.5 inches to 3.5inches is one of the more extensive ranges on our list. If you still aren’t convinced, Fiskars offers a lifetime warranty on this mower, which is quite rare. To keep your garden looking perfect, make sure to have a reliable hedge trimmer, too.
The Scotts Outdoor Power Tools 20-Inch 5-Blade Reel Mower offers the most extensive cutting width of our selection of mowers. This mower strikes a beautiful balance of being cost-effective, size, and weight. At $139, this mower provides a lot of power for just a hair more money than some of our other selections. This mower measures 28 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches, a cutting width of 20-inches, and weighs just 34 pounds.
While this mower might be a little trickier to maneuver than some of its counterparts, it covers an unmatched surface area, making your mowing go by faster. The 10-inch dual-track wheels and ergonomic handle with a cushioned grip make it easier to steer and move around your lawn. The steel handle provides durability, the tool-less assembly lets you get straight to mowing, and it is easy to store in your outdoor shed. Lastly, it comes with a quick adjustment range of 1-inch to 3 inches for a vast range of grass heights.
For just $75, the DuroStar 16-Inch 5-Blade Height Adjustable Reel Mower provides an exceptionally versatile cutting ability for a low cost. This mower has a 16-inch cutting path and boasts dimensions of 44 inches by 19 inches by 22.5 inches.
The 10-inch heavy-duty wheels keep this mower mobile. The five steel blades cut grass and deposit it into the included grass catcher, so it doesn’t end up all over you or your lawn. This mower’s unique feature is a knob for adjusting the blade height, ranging from .5 inches to 2 inches. This mower weighs in at just 26 pounds and is lightweight for all users and can fit into any storage shed. If you are looking for a do-it-all mower at an affordable price, this is the mower for you.
Last but not least, the Sun Joe 14-Inch Quad Wheel Manual Reel Mower is the most cost-effective push reel mower on our list at $60. This affordable mower provides a 14-inch cutting path and weighs less than 25 pounds. Its dimensions are 45.7 inches by 20.5 inches by 31.9 inches, so it rivals its competitors in size.
The five durable steel blades and nine-position adjustable cutting height of 1.1 to 2.9 inches make this mower surprisingly flexible and suitable for almost all lawns and homes. You can rest easy knowing your purchase also comes with a 2-year warranty to protect your mower, making it a nice gift for gardeners.
Reel Mower Buying Guide & FAQ
Features To Look For In Reel Mowers
Size - Reel mower size plays a factor in how easy it is to mow your lawn. One thing to look for is the cutting path of your reel mower. This length can range from 14 inches to 20 inches: the shorter the range, the more passes you'll need to finish mowing your lawn.
Reel mowers with wider cutting paths may be heavier and harder to push. However, you will need fewer passes with a wider path. Consider the size of your lawn and how many passes you'll need to make with each mower before you make your purchase.
Weight - The weight of a reel mower will determine how hard it is to push. The weight may also affect the storage and transportability of your reel mower. If you can't lift or move your mower with ease, you'll struggle to push and utilize it.
Some of the heavier reel mowers are heavier because of their width and cutting path. This factor could end up saving you more energy in the long run if you have to make fewer passes across your lawn but will require more effort output in that short time.
Effectiveness - Reel mowers are an effective way to cut your grass. They don't have the same maintenance issues as rotary mowers. There is no engine, spark plugs, gas, or other parts that cause more maintenance in a reel mower. Reel mowers also snip the grass like a pair of scissors, which is overall healthier for your lawn.
The downside is that reel mowers lose their effectiveness in tall grass. Reel mowers usually have an adjustable height range for the size of grass they can cut. If you have quick-growing, tall grass, a reel mower will be less effective. Certain grass types are also more difficult for a reel mower to cut like Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine.
Maintenance - Reel mowers are generally much more low maintenance than rotary motors. Because they do not have an engine, require gas, spark plugs, or other electrical bits, their maintenance is a breeze. There are a few things you should do to care for your reel mower.
After you finish mowing, make sure you wash off any remaining grass clippings. You'll want to double-check each blade and make sure it's clean before storage. These two items shouldn't take long at all. When storing your reel mower, make sure it is covered, so it does not rust in the rain. Lastly, you'll need to sharpen the blades occasionally. The instructions for this process are below!
Blade cutting height - Number of Blades- Reel mowers come with various blades; the most common range is five blades to ten blades. Overall, fewer blades are better for taller grass, and more blades are better for shorter grass. Five blades tend to be the most common offering in reel mowers, as it provides better versatility and adaptability to the terrain and grass.
Six blade reel mowers are ideal for gardens. They also work well for those who want to keep their grass under an inch and are open to mowing one to two times per week. Seven blade reel mowers are also better for shorter grass and are best when used to cut two times per week. Ten blade reel mowers serve a particular purpose. Ten blade mowers are best for maintaining bowling and putting greens or very short grass. If you choose a ten-blade mower for your lawn, you should be ready to mow three times per week.
Blade durability - The durability of reel mower blades is generally impressive. Most reel mower blades are alloy steel. Alloy steel does not dull quickly, and you should only have to sharpen your reel mower blades every few years based on use.
Like all things in life, if you don't take care of your reel mower, it won't last as long. If you leave your mower out in the elements to rust or don't clean the clippings off your mower after you mow your lawn, you'll end up with a mower that doesn't last you long at all.
Reel Mower FAQ
Q: What are reel mowers?
A: Reel mowers are lawn mowers with blades that spin vertically and use a scissoring motion to cut the grass. A reel mower generally has three to seven blades. Reel mowers are usually healthier for grass as they snip, making a clean cut. Reel mowers are often people-powered, but they usually move via tractors or other machinery in places like golf courses.
If you have a small urban lot or want to give your grass the absolute healthiest look possible, a reel mower may be an excellent choice for you. Reel mowers will be more work when you use them, but as they are people-powered, you won't need to mess around with spark plugs, gasoline, motors, or anything of the sort.
Q: Do reel mowers cut better?
A: This topic is quite the debate! Push reel mowers are healthier for your lawn and cut with a different motion than rotary mowers. Reel mowers cut grass like scissors instead of lobbing off the top of the grass. This scissoring motion creates a cleaner cut and is healthier for your lawn. Reel mowers have limitations, though; they are not an optimal choice for rocky and uneven yards and cannot cut tall grass.
While reel mowers cut does make for a healthier lawn, which is, in turn, better overall, they aren't suitable for all yards. Reel mowers also struggle with some types of grass. You should consider your lawn size, terrain, and height before deciding if a reel mower will cut your grass better.
Q: Are reel mowers dangerous?
A: Reel mowers are safer than regular rotary motors. Since there are no engines, spark plugs, mechanical parts, or other issues, they are safe to use. Rotary motors can go from convenient tools to appendage munchers in the blink of an eye. More than 75,000 Americans each year are injured by rotary lawnmowers. Hot engines can cause burns as well.
If your reel mower hits a rock, forgotten toy, or another object, instead of spitting it out as a flying projectile, it simply jams, keeping you and any passersby injury-free. While there are still some dangers associated with reel mowers, they are exponentially safer than the alternative options.
Q: Are reel mowers hard to push?
A: Each reel mower comes with different dimensions, cutting paths, and weight. The heavier a reel mower is, the harder it will be to push. However, the widest reel mowers need fewer passes because of the size of your cutting path. So you may get the job done faster.
Assessing your lawn's size and what you can reasonably push is essential before deciding on a reel mower. You will get a workout cutting your yard with a reel mower regardless of size and weight, but how much of a work out depends on the above factors. Some newer reel mowers also have new technology that makes them easier to push.
Q: Can a reel mower cut wet grass?
A: Regardless of what kind of mower you are using, it is generally not a great idea to mow damp grass. Reel mowers will damage your lawn if mowed while wet less than a traditional mower because of the way they cut, and their weight shouldn't change the terrain of your lawn as a rotary mower will.
If you choose to mow your lawn with your reel mower while the grass is wet, you will experience increased resistance, and you will burn more calories for sure. It'll be more complicated than if the grass is dry, but if a workout is what you're after, then using your reel mower after a rainstorm might be a decent idea.
Q: How to sharpen a reel mower?
A: While most might assume you need a knife or blade sharpener or other instruments to sharpen the blades on your reel mower, this is not the case. You will need three items, a crank or object to turn the blades, a lapping compound, which is an abrasive suspended in a thick goo, and something to apply the lapping compound with, like a paintbrush or other instrument.
To start, you want to adjust the blades so that they are as close to coming into contact with the bed knife as possible without actually touching it. Then, apply the lapping compound to the very edge of the blades. After you apply, you can use a crank or other instrument to move the wheels backward and continue applying until each blade has some lapping compound. Now, crank for about ten minutes or so, still backward. After a while, your arm may tire, so it might be a good idea to have another person who can take over cranking duties. After a while, you should start seeing the shiny edges appear with a bit of corrosion. To check the progress of your blades, remove the compound. If they aren't totally shiny, apply more compound and keep going. Once you think your mower is sharp, test it with a piece of paper, it should cut like scissors.