Leaf clearance is one of the least enjoyable of all gardening tasks and for several reasons – hence why buying one of the best leaf vacuums, blowers or sweepers makes sense.
Why is leaf clearance so tiresome? Firstly, there’s the huge surfeit of foliage that drops every autumn like clockwork, and you know there’s no avoiding it. The second most irritating thing is that tree leaves are as light as a feather and that makes them notoriously irritating to sweep up with a broom which somehow always skips over a bunch of them in the process. Then there’s the issue of rain because when it rains, the leaves get wet and stick to any concrete or paved surfaces as if they’d been glued down with a gallon of Evo-Stik. Finally, there’s our old friend Mr Wind who always seems to time his show of strength on the one day we elect to finally clear the driveway of leaves.
Clearing leaves from hard surfaces is one thing, but clearing leaves off the lawn is a whole new kettle of pain. You could try raking the leaves – which is actually good for the lawn – and have a modicum of success. But you can be sure there will always be a bunch of them that remain which means you end up crouching around the lawn like a Sumo wrestler picking up stray leaves by hand. And then the wind blows and you’re back to square one.
Thankfully there are some efficient, time-saving solutions out there that can greatly assist in the area of leaf clearance and, as luck would have it, we’ve collected a tranche of products that do just that and put them through their paces to see which models are best for taking the sting out of leaf clearance.
The best leaf vacuums, blowers and manual sweepers you can buy in 2022
If you find that most leaf blowers are too heavy and ungainly to wield for minutes at a time you must try this one from Worx. Aside from the fact it looks like a battle prop from Star Wars or even a rocket launcher, the LEAFJET is one of the lightest blowers around (just 1.7kgs) and it’s perfectly balanced, too, which makes it super easy to use without your arm falling off.
The LEAFJET uses a brushless motor and air amplifier technology for maximum thrust. In high mode it has a top airspeed of 130mph but in most cases you’ll use the standard mode which is plenty powerful enough for most leaf clearance duties. What’s more, you can adjust the airflow for more volume (width) or more speed by sliding the directional thingamajig on the end to one of two positions. The LEAFJET runs on a 4.0Ah PowerShare battery which should provide up to 15 minutes of leaf-dispersal time.
For something so small and light, this is an extremely powerful blower that is perfect for day-to-day use. Highly recommended.
Instead of breaking your back using a stupidly inadequate broom, rake, dustpan and brush, strap this baby on and blast everything into a pile of sorts, then remove the narrow blow tube, add the wide suction fitting which comes with wheels, pop the suction tube on, attach the admittedly small-ish 45-litre collection bag and watch the leaves disappear up the tube where they’re mulched into little bits and deposited into the bag for easy disposal.
This model runs on two 3.0Ah 18-volt batteries which need to be bought separately for a rather reasonable £100 (incidentally, ToolStation is currently offering a 59.98 deal (opens in new tab) on both batteries and the charger). At 4.7kgs, the Einhell is a weighty beast, mind, but wait till you feel the power of its blowing function. In normal mode it blows a decent gale like many leaf blowers on the market and there’s a speed control wheel, too, which makes it really easy to adjust the output for various scenarios. But turn the wheel to full speed and hit the Turbo switch and the force quite literally blows your arm back. I’ve tested many leaf blowers but this is one is far and away the most powerful. Einhell says its air speed is 130mph but it feels more like 250mph.
Switchover from blower to vacuum is thankfully a painless tool-free process and, while there’s no turbo suction available, it generally performs really well at sucking though not quite as well as the corded Black & Decker we review below. Also, I’m not a fan of leaf vacs that come with wheels since the suction tubes are never long enough to hold them in a comfortable position. And that’s the case here. As with all leaf vacuums, it’s quite a rigmarole getting it all into position.
In normal blowing mode, you can expect a running time of about 20 minutes but far less in Turbo mode. The suction function using two 30Ah batteries should provide up to about 30 minutes of usable running time.
If you’re looking for an exceedingly powerful cordless leaf vac that also blows like a hurricane and sucks like a mollusc, consider this contender. The cordless element is perhaps the biggest bonus here because there’s no fiddly cable to contend with, and that means you have the freedom to go where you like.
If you have a small garden, consider this fairly lightweight but adequately powerful cordless blower. It only has one speed setting and you won’t get much more than about 10 minutes out of a full charge of its 18v battery, but it’s a great performer that uses its narrow, curved, clip-on nozzle to impressive effect.
The Ryobi is light in the hand, well balanced and powerful enough to shift damp, sticky leaves on paths as well as dead vegetation around sheds. It’s not quite as noisy as others in this roundup though it does vibrate a bit more, leaving one’s hands tingling after use.
This 2-in-1 corded model is efficient – and noisy – which is hardly surprising given that its wind speed in blowing mode is allegedly a phenomenal 260mph (418kph). Thankfully its air speed is adjustable via a little knob just below the handle.
The Black & Decker 3000W Blower Vac sucks exceedingly well, and is more efficient at collecting moderate amounts of leaves than the Bosch and Einhell. It’s also well balanced and easy to hold, especially when used with the included shoulder strap. The rake attachment for the vacuum tube is a nice touch since it makes the collection of insubordinate leaves a wee bit easier. It also ships with a huge 72-litre collection backpack that is way bigger than others on the market. However, the changeover process from blower to vac is a faff and involves finding the inverter part you thought you’d left in the shed somewhere but now can’t find.
Aside from that irritating foible, this is a keenly priced and relatively easy-to-use model that’s pretty much all you need for efficient autumnal garden clearance. But you will need to drag a cable around behind you.
Sweeping leaves, dust and other outdoor detritus from hard surfaces like pathways, driveways, patios and verandas requires some elbow grease and most brooms aren’t the most efficient at gathering everything in up in one sweep. Worse, once you’ve gathered up a pile of it, you then have to reach for the dustpan and brush for a vigorous tidy-up session.
Admittedly, sweeping is a first world problem but sometimes first world problems require first world solutions. And I think I may have found one in this Kärcher push sweeper. This simple but clever product has no motorised parts at all. Instead, the action of pushing it along activates two large inwardly spinning brushes that do a remarkable job of flinging leaves and other debris into its 20-litre container.
At around 67cm in width, you would obviously need to sweep debris out of any corners first, but thereafter it’s just a case of pushing it along and being amazed at how efficient it is, especially with leaves, beech nuts, dust and loose gravel. Its brushes are also adept at collecting anything that lurks along any edges.
The Kärcher Push Sweeper S 4 Twin weighs 10.2 kilos but it’s very easy to push and you can do it at a fairly brisk pace too. In fact, the faster you walk, the quicker the front brushes spin and the further the debris is flung into the collection box.
If you’re in the market for a silent and efficient outdoor hard floor leaf sweeper that performs the task faster than any broom and with less hassle and noise than a leaf vacuum, step right this way and embrace the power of no power at all.
Leaf vacuums are great at sucking up leaves on a smaller scale but they’re useless on lawns. What you need is either your lawnmower on a higher cut setting or this surprisingly effective push-along sweeper from Gardena.
How does it work? Simple, a row of long bristles start revolving in reverse as you push it along, flinging leaves into the huge catcher on the rear. The Leaf and Grass Collector isn’t too taxing to assemble though there is a fine line between its brushes either jamming into the lawn or missing it entirely, so some adjustment is necessary for optimum performance.
Against all odds, this thing actually works really well. I tried it out on my leaf-strewn lawn and was pleasantly surprised at how well it functioned. Yes, stray twigs did jam the brushes so I had to do a bit of prep before heading out but I was genuinely impressed by the results. I then tried it out on the path and although it made some impression, it wasn’t as efficient as the path-specific Kärcher above. Otherwise I’d say this is a worthwhile, albeit bulky, buy for anyone with a leafy lawn that would otherwise be time-consuming to clear using a rake. It’s also a lot quieter than any leaf blower.
This electric model from the Bavarian house of Bosch blows, sucks and shreds, leaving your leaf-strewn garden looking spick and even a bit span. The UniversalGardenTidy’s adjustable air speed ranges from 102mph to a substantial 177mph which is more than enough oomph to shift even the wettest leaves, even when they’re attached limpet-like to paving stones.
Once you’ve blown the leaves into some semblance of order, simply change the narrow blower tube to the wide suction tube and attach the 45-litre collection bag to turn the whole shebang into a powerful vac. As the leaves are sucked though the spinning impeller, they’re shredded into little bits and blown into the collection bag ready for the garden bin, compost heap or the flowerbeds.
Leaf blower vacs are notoriously noisy but this one is much quieter than most (as low as 99dB in low-speed mode) and that can be considered a major plus, especially if you have a grouchy neighbour.
Users rate this 2-in-1 blower vac very highly, citing its 1,800 watts of power and general low noise as reasons they were attracted to it. That said, there have been a few niggles, namely the plastic-coated cable that is too stiff to wind up and the weight of the main unit itself which is on the heavy side, especially when the smaller-than-average collection bag is full (thankfully, the addition of a padded shoulder strap helps take the strain).
Despite an anomaly or two, this powerful electric blower vac is an efficient, keenly-priced choice for those who don’t require the freedom of a cordless model.
Owners of larger suburban gardens will be much better off with a petrol-powered model like this bona fide vacuum-only option from Stihl. At 5.4kgs, it’s a heavier brute than its mains- and battery-powered competitors, and setting it up from new is a bit of a palaver that involves filling the two-stroke engine with a mixture of petrol and oil (or better still Aspen 2), pressing the manual fuel pump nipple and pulling on the starter rope. Actually the starter cord is one of the best things about it because it’s linked to Stihl’s ErgoStart system which reduces the effort required to start it by two thirds.
Once up and running, this superbly built garden sucker deals with leaves and other unsightly detritus with aplomb, albeit while impersonating a Harrier jump jet taking off. However, the 45-litre collection bag is on the smaller side which is odd given that it’s a petrol-powered beast.
Stihl garden tools are widely considered to be among the very best and many users report decades-long reliability, so perhaps consider this model if you have a garden the size of Hampstead Heath.
The best ways to clear leaves from lawns and paving
Your first line of defence is a leaf blower because, though they have all the subtlety of a nuclear strike on a window box, they are very good at blowing leaves into some kind of manageable pile. Thankfully some leaf blowers today can be converted into leaf suckers simply by swapping over a few parts.
Leaf blowers with vacuum attachments – like those we are looking at in this guide – are worth the extra outlay since they will not only suck up dry leaves (with the emphasis on dry) but they’ll also mulch them into little bits and deposit them into a large soft bag slung beneath the armpit or over the back. However, you're advised to never use a leaf vac on wet leaves or they will clog the impeller and refuse to mulch them down into tiny flakes.
It should be noted that leaf vacs are quite heavy and very cumbersome to put on, as it were, and no domestic model on the market is capable of efficiently dealing with extra large piles of leaves – bear this in mind if you have serious New England levels of foliage shedding. Leaf vacs are ostensibly designed for collecting average domestic levels of leafage and nothing on an industrial scale. They are also ideal for tidying up after a spot of hedge trimming.
The upshot is that if you have one medium-sized beech tree that drops leaves on your paths and driveway, a leaf vac will suffice and perform the task with ease. But if you have several large trees, a leaf vac may not make as much impact you hoped and it may be better to simply blow them into a pile with a standard leaf blower and use something like the Gardena Combisystem Shovel Rake (opens in new tab) to collect them into a garden waste bag.
When it comes to clearing leaves off the lawn, the task is a lot more time intensive simply because leaves, especially large leaves, have a knack of hooking themselves onto the grass. A standard leaf rake is worth a go if your lawn is relatively small but if it’s on the large side then a standard leaf blower is your first line of defence – after you’ve created a pile in a corner, convert it to the vacuum function and suck ’em up.
However, there is another great way to remove most leaves from lawns – use the lawnmower on the top cutting height setting. The average lawnmower’s spinning blade not only cuts the grass but the air vortex it creates through spinning at colossal speed has the ability to suck grass – and yes, leaves – off the lawn and into its grass collector. Some larger mowers like the excellent cordless Cobra MX51S80V and its petrol-powered sibling the Cobra MX534SPH are also equipped with a fan-like device above the blade that sucks even more grass cuttings – and leaves – off the ground before forcing them into the back of the grass collector.
Finally, another system worth investigating is the push-along sweeper. Push sweepers like the patio, path and driveway-specific Kärcher Push Sweeper S 4 Twin and the lawn-specific Gardena Leaf and Grass Collector we review above may seem like gimmicks – especially since they have no motorised parts – but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how efficient they are in the field of leaf collection and general outdoor sweeping.