Using a leaf blower isn’t rocket science. But believe it or not, there’s a right and a wrong way in terms of efficiently blowing leaves.
There are 3 basic types of leaf blowers and each has its most effective technique. Each works a little differently, so it’s important to understand these differences, as well as read up on safe practices before using them.
Using your blower incorrectly can be frustrating as you feel like you’re doing nothing but chasing leaves around your yard.
Here are some tips and tricks to get you started. As always consult your owner’s manual for the best practices from the manufacturer of your product.
The Right Equipment: Handheld or Backpack?
Leaf blowers come in many different varieties. There are small handheld leaf blowers, medium backpack leaf blowers, and large commercial push leaf blowers. Each has benefits and specific intended uses.
A handheld leaf blower is ideally suited for someone who has a small yard or uses a leaf blower very sparingly. It doesn’t offer as much power as the others, but it can clear leaves and grass clippings from sidewalks, driveways, and patios with no problem. Its weight is supported by your hands and arms, so they’re not easy to use for long periods of time.
A backpack leaf blower is (obviously) worn on your back and is generally used for bigger jobs. These products are bigger and heavier, but because of this, they also provide better ergonomics for easier use. They can tackle larger properties and are much easier to carry.
Some backpack leaf blowers are even strong enough for light commercial use and are super convenient if you own your own lawn care business, like to help out your neighbors, or own a lot of property.
Push Leaf Blowers
Push leaf blowers are mostly for heavy commercial use because they’re expensive and provide TONS of blowing power. It’s unlikely that as a residential user you’ll need a leaf blower with that moves this much air, but if you own acres upon acres of land or you own a landscaping business, this is probably the solution for you.
Choose Your Strategy
First, before you use your leaf blower, consider a few safety tips.
- ALWAYS wear safety goggles (trust me on this one)
- ear plugs (and this one, extended use WILL impact your hearing)
- work gloves (reduces vibration and helps with calluses)
- wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt
Never point the leaf blower at people or pets—only at the ground where you want to move leaves and other debris. Unless you specifically need to move dirt, don’t point it at big piles of dirt, as this will result in dust clouds. Also try to avoid using your leaf blower on gravel driveways, so you don’t blow hazardous items into the air.
Next, you should create a strategy for moving your leaves and other debris.
- Scan your cleanup area for the easiest way to tackle the job;
- have a target area in mind so you’re always moving leaves in the same direction, making it easier on you and avoiding duplicate work.
- Map out how and in what direction you will move leaves and debris;
- make sure to find a landing place for these piles that’s near your disposal area.
This ensures that when you’re done blowing, you can easily clean up the piles without having to walk back and forth between the leaf piles and your disposal area.
Timing is Everything
Always consider the time of year and the weather. Dry leaves are easy to blow, but wet leaves aren’t, so don’t plan your yard work for the day after it rains. Ideally, you should wait, and let everything dry first.
It’s also difficult—not to mention very inefficient—to try and blow leaves where you want them when it’s extremely windy out—because you’ll be fighting against opposing forces.
An important note: Don’t ever use your leaf blower after treating your yard with pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizer. This can pose a risk to your health or the health of others by contaminating the air with potentially dangerous chemicals.
Noise & Neighbors
While you might be an early riser and look to tackle your yard work first thing in the morning, you MIGHT want to consider more than just your own convenience when deciding to head out and fire up your new yard toy. This can save you some grief from neighbors who might like to sleep in.
Also consider city noise ordinances. You can check with the local authorities to find out if there are specific times of the day when you’re not allowed to make noise or operate power tools—and there most probably are. Typically these quiet times are early in the morning and/or late at night, but this can vary by city.
Use Consistent Technique
The technique you should use for blowing leaves will ultimately depend on the type of leaf blower you purchase. Handheld leaf blowers are different than backpack leaf blowers, and each manufacturer’s suggested usage varies, too.
Following some generic guidelines will help you solidify good technique and keep it consistent. As we mentioned before, working in the same direction as the wind (or avoiding doing this sort of yard work altogether on windy days) can help you achieve the best results without fighting against nature.
Divide your yard into small areas that you can tackle easily without getting overwhelmed. You’ll get the job done faster if you develop a system first. Start at one end of the section and blow everything into the middle. Make a pile for each small area you sectioned off instead of blowing everything into one giant pile; this also makes cleanup easier when you’re done because you’re not tackling a massive pile of leaves.
Adjust your power settings for what material you’re blowing. Grass clippings don’t require as much power as wet leaves, so turn your settings down so you don’t blow things all over the place, making your job even harder.
How to use a leaf blower depends on what you’re trying to move, but these few tips should help get you started. Your power settings will vary based on the weather and the size of your yard, but you can experiment with proper technique, read your owner’s manual, and come up with your own system for your yard as you get used to your own tools.