Leaf blowers and vacuums are an essential not a luxury if you have a tree-lined garden. I mean, have you ever tried raking a lawn full of leaves? Don’t bother; it’s an exhausting pain in the rear, even if raking is actually good for the grass. Sweeping leaves off paving is almost as tedious and time consuming.
The solution? Blast the crap out of them with a few well-aimed gusts from a garden blower. The great thing about leaf blowers is that they not only blow leaves away in a fraction of the time it takes to sweep, but they also deal with dust, dried mud and other unsightly garden invaders that usually escape the broom. Then, when you’ve finished blowing you can get the revolving chair out into the garden for some good old centrifugal thrust-powered fun. I know I do!
- Best cordless lawnmowers (not for use in autumn but may be going cheap)
- Best cordless electric drills (drill all year round)
- Best manual garden tools
- Other manly things for your shed (nb: also available to women)
What is the best leaf blower?
Our winner is the new mains-powered Bosch UniversalGardenTidy, partly because it’s cheap and partly because is sucks as well as blows, but mostly because it’s damn good, with an excellent leaf-collecting backpack and the ability to muster up a hurricane-like 177mph wind. The even more budget-priced Black & Decker GW303OBP is another great electric suck ’n’ blow model that does the job superbly well.
Finally, if you have a really small garden, consider the handy little cordless Ryobi OBL1820S . The best cordless option is Husqvarna's 436 LiB – an excellent blower with superior battery life, and supreme controllability – but it's somewhat pricier. If you have a huge garden then try the petrol-powered Stihl SH 56 C-E, which runs forever on a single tank.
The best leaf blowers: a buying guide
The first thing you need to know is that leaf blowers are loud – as in 'Jeffing' loud. It’s like listening to a jet aircraft just before takeoff, albeit from a safe distance. This means it’s not an especially pleasant sound for the neighbours either so perhaps refrain from unleashing it first thing on a Sunday morning or while your neighbour’s having a barbecue party (even though he might ask you to fan the flames from over the garden fence). You might also wish to wear some ear defenders – or a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
If you have a huge garden with a lot of trees and hence regular bouts of leaf infestation, consider a petrol-powered model. These beasts are heavy and cumbersome, and the most powerful models come with a 007-style backpack. They're also the noisiest of all, a bit smelly and, because they use two-stroke engines, need topping up from time to time with both petrol and oil.
For most lawns an electric model is the way to go. True, there’s a cable attached which can be annoying if you have trees and other obstacles scattered about, but mains-powered leaf blowers are about as powerful as their petrol counterparts and not nearly as loud. They also run for as long as there is electricity in the world.
If you have a smaller property or simply don’t fancy trailing a cable behind you, cordless models are heavier in the hand thanks to the big battery, and not as powerful. But if all you need is a 10 to 20 minute blast round the abode, they're great.
Some blowers also suck. They’re called vacuum blowers and this variety is well worth the extra outlay since they will not only suck up dry leaves (although wet stuff, not so much), they’ll also mulch them into little bits and deposit them into a bag slung beneath, or on your back.
Changing over from blow to suck isn’t just a case of flicking a switch. In most instances you’ll need to remove the blower pipe, remove or rotate a centre fitting and fit a different vacuum pipe. The effortless gathering capacity does outweigh the hassle of conversion, in my opinion. And now, let's get blowing! And sucking.
The best leaf blowers and vacs, in order
This new 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, according to many of its current users, 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 garden 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 blowers 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 blower very highly, citing its 1,800 watts of power and general low noise as reasons they were attracted to it. Mind, at just four metres in length, the cable is pretty short for a garden product and the main unit itself is quite heavy too, especially when used with the collection bag (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.
When it comes to the annual sweep up and collection of fallen leaves, I’m the one usually tasked with the duty, and it’s not a job I’m that enamoured of. But since strapping on the brand new, mains-powered B&D, I’m wondering how I ever managed without it.
Now, instead of breaking my back using a stupidly inadequate broom, rake, dustpan and brush, I go around blasting everything asunder and when I’ve finally managed to coax the leaves into a pile of sorts, I remove the blow tube, add the suction fitting, pop the suction tube on, attach the brilliant 50-litre collection backpack and watch the leaves disappear up the tube where they’re mulched into little bits and deposited into the bag for easy disposal.
This thing is supremely efficient, and highly noisy – hardly surprising, given its wind speed is allegedly a phenomenal 260mph. The speed is adjustable via a little knob below the handle.
It sucks exceedingly well too, and is faster at collecting leaves than the Bosch and Stihl. 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.
Keenly priced, well specced and easy to use, this model is pretty much all you need for efficient autumnal garden clearance. Top buy.
The top prize for best looking leaf blower goes to Gtech for this strikingly designed cordless option. Mind, this compact blower doesn’t just look Aston Martin snazzy, it’s a genuinely impressive and highly efficient blower that’s superbly balanced and a breeze to use.
Top wind speed is about 85mph; not the fastest here by a long shot but more than enough to clear an urban lawn or a leaf-strewn driveway in short shrift. And because it has a variable speed control trigger, you can easily adjust the force from full speed for damp leaves to a gentle breeze for spring petals. Expect about 20 minutes of use on a full charge. And speaking of charging…
This blower uses the same large 36v Li-Ion battery as the Gtech Falcon lawnmower which, it must be said, is not one of our favourite battery systems. It’s large and weighty for a start and it’s difficult to tell how much charge is left because the LEDs are so dim. It also takes a relatively lengthy five hours to charge. I recommend buying the optional fast charger if you're expecting to use this a lot, although that is a further £100. It does the same job in an hour.
Design and looks are only part of the equation, but minor battery quibbles aside, I know which blower I’d want in my shed.
Like all garden blowers, this Which? Best Buy model is the embodiment of phallic manliness. Grab your 36v Lithium-Ion battery, shove it up the rear and click it into place Kalashnikov style, adjust the length of the blow tube for comfort and effect, pull the trigger and feel like an invincible warrior of the lawn as you watch those meek, namby-pamby leaves scatter in panic.
The BGA 56 allegedly ‘clears a sidewalk seven football fields long on a single charge’ and produces a top wind speed of 120mph; more than enough airy oomph for all but the craftiest of leaves. It’s also quiet enough in operation not to require ear defenders.
Another neat feature is the battery connection system which is comprised of two stages: the first locks it roughly into place so the blower doesn’t go off while being transported (it happens); a second push engages the contacts, making it ready for use. You can buy the BGA 56 either with or without a battery – the latter is an attractive option if you already own other Stihl cordless products. It's not so useful if you don't, as you can imagine.
Variable speed would have been a handy addition at this price – especially when it’s used on loose gravel areas – but that’s hardly a sticking point. As you can tell by its 90/100 score from the Good Housekeeping Institute, this an excellent blowing machine.
If you have a small garden and/or low budget, consider this fairly lightweight but adequately powerful, cordless wonder. 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 boy can it blow, with a narrow, curved, clip-on nozzle creating a more focused gale.
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 lot more, leaving ones hands tingling after use.
At least on Amazon, this blower doesn’t come with a battery or charger – that’ll be an extra £60, if you don't already have Ryobi batteries for your other Ryobi tools.
Owners of larger suburban gardens will be better off with a petrol-powered model like this blower-and-vacuum option from Germany's Stihl.
It’s a heavier brute than its battery-powered cousin, 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, pressing a fuel bleed nipple a few times, adjusting the choke lever and pulling on the starter rope a number of times.
Once up and running, this superbly built garden blaster deals with leaves and other unsightly detritus with aplomb, albeit while impersonating a Harrier jump jet taking off. Vacuuming is also pretty good, though you will need to change the configuration of the plastic tubes and add the 45-litre collection bag and integral shoulder strap.
The variable air speed trigger makes it easy to control the power and, despite the weight, it’s not too tiring to use. The tank lasts for ages and ages between refills, too.
Stihl garden tools are widely considered to be among the very best and many users report decades-long reliability, so consider one of these carefully, especially if you have a garden the size of Hampstead Heath.
Swedish brand Husqvarna is perhaps best known for its chainsaws but it’s also a lead player in the blowing arena.
This large cordless model is on the heavy side and could be a bit better balanced so you don’t have to swivel the wrist to make the nozzle sit higher; a shoulder strap would be an advantage. Nevertheless, this thing will blow the head off a scarecrow from ten feet away and because it has a perfectly configured variable speed trigger, the air speed is easily controllable.
When you pull the trigger in gently, it starts with a light breeze – perfect for petal clearance. The more trigger you apply the higher the air speed, until it reaches seemingly gale-force proportions (actually around 103mph). When you come across an obstreperous leaf that simply refuses to budge, hold in the temporary boost button for some serious tornado-style obliteration.
The Husky’s large 36v Lithium Ion battery provides a very decent 15 to 20 minutes of use at near full power. Although loud, its sound frequency isn’t overly annoying while the addition of variable air-speed control can be considered a major bonus.
Again, this model doesn’t always come with a battery (Bli20) or charger, so be aware there may be additional outlay required.