7 mistakes everyone makes with lawn mowers

Don't slay sward like a chump

Woman looking sad after her lawn mower breaks
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We're now firmly in the six months of the year where mowing lawns is a regular occurrence for many. However, in our experience, many people regularly make some epic mistakes when slaying their sward. Just as they make awful BBQ grill mistakes, too.

As such, right here, we've listed the top 7 common lawn mower mistakes we see regularly. And the great thing is that they're all easy to fix and cost nothing to implement. Stop making these mistakes and, overnight, you'll have a healthier, better lawn.

Kärcher LMO 18-33 lawn mower being used to cut grass

(Image credit: Kärcher)

1. Mowing the same direction every time

Regardless of what mower you have, from a standard, wired model right up to one of the best petrol lawn mowers on the market, you should always try to alternate and mix up the direction you cut your lawn's grass. This is because grass blades tend to grow in the direction they are mowed, so mixing up and alternating the direction is beneficial in terms of blade straightness and health. And, while everyone likes straight vertical lines back and forth, by sticking to the same pattern you also risk developing wheel indentations. As such, every few mows consider cutting in a different direction. You can maintain your pattern but on a different axis.

2. Bagging grass when it should be mulched

Yes, we know. It's super nice to have a pristine, freshly cut lawn that is free of cut grass and other detritus. But, actually, bagging and removing all cut grass and taking it off your lawn is a mistake as by leaving it (or at least some of it) it acts as mulch, which in turn helps the grass and top-soil retain moisture and nutrients. This in turn leads to easier grass growing and healthier sward. Cut grass works best as mulch when it is cut finely, so consider re-mowing cut grass a few times to bring down the size. Some mowers - including some of the best robot lawn mowers - actually come with a built-in mulcher that makes this easy, so be sure to look out for them.

Stihl RMA 235 lawn mower being used by an adult woman to cut grass

(Image credit: Stihl)

3. Scalping your sward

Another common mistake we see people make with lawn mowers is cutting their grass far too low. Remember, just because your lawn mower can cut stupidly low doesn't mean you should do. In fact, cutting grass too low can have a really bad effect on its health. Cutting grass back super low makes it harder for the sward to retain moisture, which it needs for healthy growth, and also just opens up the top-soil to weeds, which grow easier in the more open environment left by super short grass. You absolutely do want to regularly cut your lawn, sure, as that does promote growth, but make sure you don't cut off more than a third of the total height each time.

4. Mowing with insufficient power

This is probably the number one mistake we see owners of cordless lawn mowers make. Wireless, battery-powered mowers truly are great – they let you cut the cable so you can't, well, accidentally cut the cable. But wireless lawn mower batteries typically don't last awfully long and, despite many people charging their battery at the close of each mowing session, batteries lose charge over time, so by the time a user comes back to them months down the line, they're often far from 100 per cent in capacity. What happens? People start mowing, get half way through the job, then run out of power. The result? A painful wait for the battery to recharge and an unfinished job. The solution? Own multiple batteries for you mower model and/or, if you know you're going to mow your lawn, get those batteries charged to maximum just before you use them.

Gtech Cordless Lawnmower 2.0 being used by an adult human male to cut grass

(Image credit: Gtech)

5. Never cleaning your mower or sharpening its blades

We can't emphasise this enough – clean you lawn mower at least a couple of times per season. And, what's more, at least once a year sharpen the cutting blades on your lawn mower. Seriously, the amount of mowers we see getting used with gunged up internals and dull, rusted cutting blades is just criminal. Both these mistakes lead to grass being cut unevenly and, worse, actually ripped out of the ground, which is a sure fire way to kill your lawn and leave it looking like a wasteland.

Wet grass

(Image credit: Karolina Grabowska)

6. Cutting grass when it is wet

We know it's tempting if you'd got a mow planned in and then it rains just to proceed as if nothing has happened. But, honestly, you should just back away from the mower. Just. Don't. Do it! You should never, ever mow your lawn when it is wet, and this is for multiple reasons.

Firstly, wet grass actually speeds up cutting blades being dulled. Dull lawn mower blades lead to damaged sward, as we detail above. Secondly, wet grass actually tears when cut in a messy, unhealthy way, instead of being a dry, clean cut. And, thirdly, wet grass clumps and gunges up lawn mower internals really, really fast. This not only means the mower has to work harder to cut grass, but also increases the amount of time you need spend cleaning it.

Lawnmower being pushed by adult human male

(Image credit: Bosch)

7. Pulling your mower when you should be pushing

I see this a lot, too. The classic push-then-pull mower action of a person who just wants to get the job done as fast as possible and thinks, wrongly, that going forwards and backwards repeatedly is the best way to do it.

The most obvious problem with this is that when pulling a mower backwards you actually nullify its collection system. Mowers are designed to collect and bag grass from the rear in sync with a forward push, so by pulling a mower backwards you're just going to leave more cut grass on your lawn.

Also, and this is an even bigger reason not to pull a mower, is that by doing so you effectively make the cutting blades hit grass in reverse, which means a messy uneven cut that is unhealthy for the sward.

Finally, on top of this damage and extra time sink, there are also safety concerns with pulling a mower and its razer-sharp, rapid spinning metal blades towards you and, if you have a corded model, its wire. I learned long ago from personal experience that cutting through your own mower cable (which short circuited my home's electricity breaker and lead me to a painful re-wiring job) makes you feel a right chump.

Simply put, mowers are designed to be pushed, so don't make the mistake of pulling them.

Robert Jones

Rob has been writing about computing, gaming, mobile, home entertainment technology, toys (specifically Lego and board games), smart home and more for over 15 years. As the editor of PC Gamer, and former Deputy Editor for T3.com, you can find Rob's work in magazines, bookazines and online, as well as on podcasts and videos, too. Outside of his work Rob is passionate about motorbikes, skiing/snowboarding and team sports, with football and cricket his two favourites.