Reel Mower Facts


Sometimes called manual mowers or hand mowers, reel mowers allow you to cut your grass using your own power rather than that of a gas-powered motor. Although there are different models--with some even boosted by an electric-powered battery--all reel mowers work on the same principle, with rotating blades cutting the grass in a scissors-like fashion. Reel mowers are safer, quieter and more reliable than their gas-powered counterparts. Most importantly, reel mowers are an effective means of reducing your carbon footprint.


Because the reel mower has no engine, there is little that can go wrong with it. It doesn't require gasoline or engine oil, and doesn't need spark plug replacements or engine tune-ups. There is no danger of flying debris hitting you and bystanders. The blades turn like a paddle boat, rotating with every turn of the wheels. When the wheels stop, so do the blades, making them far safer than the blades on a gas-powered mower.


A reel mower is far more quiet than a noisy gasoline mower engine.The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health classifies power lawn mowers at 90 decibels (greater than 85 decibels has the potential of damaging hearing). Reel mowers are quiet and will not endanger your hearing, or that of your family and your neighbors.

Environmental Benefits

By using a reel mower instead of a gasoline powered mower, you are making a difference environmentally, since even a newer gas lawn mower produces as much or more air pollution than a car. According the, a website dedicated to environmental concerns, gas mowers emit 10 to 12 times the amount of hydrocarbon of the average automobile. Even though their engines are small, gas mowers are not equipped with catalytic converters, making them a significant source of air pollution.

Choosing a Model

Reel mowers are available in both electric and manual models, with an electric model having more parts and being heavier due to the battery. You should know the recommended height for your particular type of grass, so you can choose a model that will do the job. If you have a larger yard, a wide mower will allow you to mow the lawn with the fewest passes. Thick grasses, such as Bermuda, Zoysia or St. Augustine, require a heavier mower.


Reel mowers work most effectively on lawns that are not too big, too bumpy or too rocky, says, and do best on grass that is not too high. It is important that the blades be properly adjusted and sharpened. Mowing your lawn with a reel mower will take a little longer than if you were using a gasoline-powered machine. Also, because the wheels of a reel mower are located outside the blades, you cannot cut as close to edges of garden beds or fences as you can with a rotary power motor, so you will probably want to use an electric trimmer/edger for a neat finish to your mowing.

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About this Author

Gwen Bruno has 28 years of experience as a teacher and librarian, and is now a full-time freelance writer. She holds a bachelor's degree from Augustana College and master's degrees from North Park University and the University of Wisconsin. She writes articles about gardening for