Homesteading, Gardening, and Off-Grid Living

Mulching Blades Vs High Lift: Which is Best for Your Mower?

By: Zac Friedman

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There are two different types of lawnmower blades. Standard blades are designed for cutting grass and discharging it out the side of the mower deck or bagging it. These are called high-lift blades or 2-in-1 blades. Mulching blades are designed to keep the grass in the mower deck so they can cut it into tiny pieces. These blades are also known as 3-in-1 blades or all-purpose blades. Different names are used in different regions.

Generally, mulching blades are better for lawn health. The mulch adds nutrients to your lawn and helps retain moisture. You also don’t have to pick up the clippings and dispose of them. High lift blades give your lawn a cleaner cut and more professional look. They also work better on long and wet grass and allow you to mow faster.  

This guide outlines the differences between mulching blades and high lift blades and lists some pros and cons of each. We’ll cover uses, cut quality, lawn health, aesthetics, and more. I’ll also explain how to choose the best blade for your lawn and how to switch to a different type of blade. 

Mulching Vs High Lift Lawnmower Blades

What Are Mulching Blades? (3-in-1 Blades)

Mulching blades are designed to keep the grass in the mower deck longer. They are shaped in a way to create turbulence to recirculate the grass around in the deck. The grass is cut multiple times into tiny particles.

The smaller clippings of grass can settle down to the soil level so they are not visible. There, they quickly decompose. They act as mulch for the soil and add valuable nutrients. 

Mulching blades are curved. This provides more surface area for cutting. Some mulching blades have a “+” design. There are two blades that cross in the center. These provide even more surface area. Mulching blades need more surface area because they must cut each piece of grass multiple times.

Mulching blades are sometimes referred to as 3-in-1 blades or all-purpose blades. This is because they can be used to mulch, side discharge, or bag grass clippings.

What Are High-Lift Blades? (2-in-1 or Blades)

These are standard lawnmower blades. They are designed to cut the grass once and direct it out the side of the mower deck. The grass can be discharged and left on the lawn or it can be bagged for easy disposal. The blades are straight. 

Standard blades are sometimes called high-lift mower blades. This is because they are designed to create airflow that lifts the grass so it stands up straight before it is cut. There is a vacuum effect from the air being blown out of the discharge chute. This allows the individual blades of grass to be cut to the same length. This gives your lawn an even and professional cut. 

Sometimes these blades are referred to as 2-in-1 mower blades. This is because they can be used for both side discharge and bagging. These are regular blades that come with most non-mulching mowers. 

Pros of Mulching Blades

  • Mulching blades are multi-use. You can use them for mulching. You can also remove the mulching plug and discharge the clippings or bag them. They are less efficient at discharging grass clippings but they get the job done. 
  • Less cleanup after mowing. With a mulching blade, you don’t have to bag grass or rake. You can just leave it on the lawn. Because the grass is cut into finer pieces, it just falls to the soil level so you can’t see it. This can save time and effort. You don’t have to stop mowing to empty the bag or rake up clumps after you mow. You never have to carry a heavy bag of grass clippings around.
  • Mulch provides nutrients for the soil. As the mulch breaks down, it releases nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus back into the soil. These nutrients improve the soil fertility. You don’t have to use as much fertilizer. The grass also builds soil mass as it degrades.
  • You don’t have to water as often. The mulch shades the soil to help retain water for longer. The water doesn’t evaporate as quickly. This saves you time and money on your water bill. It’s also better for the environment. 
  • There is less waste when you mulch. You don’t have to haul grass clippings to the landfill. They degrade naturally. This is better for the environment. 
  • Mulching will make your lawn look healthier. It will look greener and fuller. This is because the mulch fertilizes the soil as it breaks down.
  • Mulching can be safer. A mulching blade keeps sticks, rocks, and other debris in the mower deck. It won’t be projected out the side. 

Cons of Mulching Blades

  • You have to mow more slowly when you mulch. With a mulching blade, you have to move at a walking pace. This is because the blade has to cut each piece of grass multiple times to make it small enough. If you mow too fast, the grass won’t get cut small enough. If you have a big yard, it can take too long to mow when you mulch.
  • You have to mow more frequently. This is necessary so the clippings are small enough to reach the soil level. If the grass gets too long, it can clump up. It won’t get cut into small enough pieces.
  • If you mulch too often, clippings can build up and smother the grass. This happens when the mulch doesn’t have enough time to degrade between cuttings. This is called thatch buildup. If too much thatch builds up, you’ll have to rake to remove it.
  • Mulching can spread weed seeds. The seeds get scattered all over your lawn instead of getting picked up. More weeds will sprout.
  • The quality of the cut is lower when you use a mulching blade. This is because the mulching blade doesn’t make the blades of grass stand up straight before cutting them. The vacuum effect isn’t as strong because there is no hole in the mower deck for air to be pushed out. Mulching blades also move slower than high-lift blades. This results in a less even cut. 
  • You can’t mulch tall grass or wet grass. It will stick in the mower deck and clump. If you live in a wet climate or you don’t mow frequently, a mulching blade isn’t the best choice. 

For more in-depth info, check out my guide to the pros and cons of mulching with grass clippings.

Lawn mower close up

Pros of High Lift Blades

  • You can mow faster with high-lift blades. This is because the blade only has to cut each blade of grass once. After it’s cut, it’s immediately discharged. This allows you to mow fast. This is great for large yards. 
  • The cut is of higher quality. This is because the blade creates suction which forces the grass to stand up straight before it’s cut. Every blade is cut at the same length. High-lift blades also have a faster blade speed. This makes for a cleaner cut. Your lawn looks more even as a result. This makes for a clean cut.
  • You can mow tall or wet grass. The mower deck doesn’t get clogged as easily with a high-lift blade. You can mow in the morning when there is dew on the lawn.
  • You can mow the grass shorter. High lift blades can be set close to the ground to give you a short cut. This is desirable for some types of grass. 
  • You don’t have to mow as frequently. With a high-lift blade, you can let the grass grow a little longer before you cut. Maybe you can mow once every 10 days instead of once per week. This saves you some time.
  • Fewer weeds are spread. If you bag the clippings, the weed seeds are picked up. They aren’t left on the grass. 

Cons of High Lift Blades

  • You have to clean up after you mow. A high-lift blade will discharge clippings several feet out of the mower deck. You can throw grass clippings on your sidewalk, walkways, flower beds, and driveway. After you mow, you might have to take a broom and sweep off the grass clippings. To avoid this, you could bag the clippings.
  • High-lift blades can also be more dangerous. This is because they could throw pebbles, sticks, or other objects out the side of the mower. These objects could hit another person or a pet. They could also hit your car and scratch it. Bagging the clippings solves this issue. 
  • High-lift blades can leave clumps. This is a common problem if your mower isn’t powerful enough or if your grass is too long. If there are clumps, you’ll have to rake after you mow.
  • If you bag the clippings, you have to dispose of them. You’ll have to put them in your yard waste bin or haul them to a yard waste disposal center. This is less environmentally friendly.
A lawn mower in the middle of a yard

Low-Lift Blades

There is another type of blade called the low-lift blade. These are specifically designed for cutting grass in dry or dusty conditions. 

Low-lift mower blades have an inward curve, kind of like a wing. This design limits the amount of dust that is raised when mowing in dry conditions. At the same time, it lifts the grass to make a clean and even cut. Dust and sand flow over the wing-like blade. You can side discharge or bag the clippings.

Low-lift blades are ideal if you live in a dry, sandy, or dusty environment, like a desert. They make mowing much more pleasant because you won’t have to breathe so much dust. They also work well for cutting grass extremely short.  

Medium Lift Blades

There are medium lift blades as well. These are shaped to lift the grass a little more than low-lift blades by creating more airflow. They don’t create as much lift as high-lift blades. Mid-lift blades work well for cutting broad-leafed types of grass. 

How to Choose Mower Blades

The best mower blade depends on how you prefer to mow. If you usually bag your grass clippings or discharge them out the side of the mower, a high-lift blade is best. If you prefer to mulch and use the grass clippings as a natural fertilizer, a mulching blade is best. 

It’s also important to consider how often you mow, the type of grass you have, and the climate you live in. If you like to mow less frequently, high-lift blades are best because they cut long grass more efficiently. If you live in a wet climate, you will also be better off with high-lift blades. They don’t get clogged up as easily. If you have a really lush lawn with dense grass, high-lift blades are also better. If you have a type of grass with wide leaves, medium-lift blades may be the better option. 

Of course, you’ll also want to consider your personal preference. If you want a perfectly manicured lawn like a golf course, you’re better off with high-lift blades. They will make your lawn look more even. Mulching blades can make your lawn look a little messier. Sometimes the mulch is visible for a couple of days after you mow.

A lawn mower mowing over weeds
A mulching mower won’t handle long grass very well

Switching Between Mulching and High-Lift Blades

On most mowers, it is possible to switch to a different blade type. There are lots of different aftermarket blades available.

You can convert a non-mulching mower to a mulching mower. To do this, you will have to install a mulching blade and install a mulching plug or plate. The mulching plate blocks the discharge chute so the grass stays in the deck longer so it can be cut into smaller pieces.

You can buy a mulch kit for most modern mowers. The kit includes a new blade and mulch plug as well as any hardware that is needed for installation. 

It is also possible to install a high-lift blade or a 2-in-1 blade on a mulching mower. You can only do this if your mower has a discharge chute. Most modern mulching mowers do have one. You may want to do this if you usually discharge or bag your clippings or if the cutting performance is poor. 

Before you switch to a different type of blade, make sure it’s compatible with your mower. Not all replacement lawn mower blades are compatible with all mowers. There are different sizes and attachment systems available. They are fairly standard but not completely. 

If you’re unsure, look at your mower’s owner’s manual. It will have information about the blade size. You can also look at the blade. Most have part numbers stamped on them. You can look up the part number to find the size and attachment type. You can also call and ask the manufacturer. 

Once you know the size and attachment type, you can select a replacement blade that is compatible with your mower. It’s best to use OEM blades that are made by the same manufacturer as your mower to ensure they are compatible. 

A mulching mower mowing

My Experience

I prefer mulching blades. The main reason is that I never have to stop to empty the bag. I can mow the entire yard without stopping. I also never have to deal with hauling grass clippings. They just naturally degrade. 

I also appreciate the fact that mulching is more environmentally friendly. When I mulch, the grass clippings add nutrients to my lawn, naturally fertilizing it. They don’t end up taking up space in a landfill somewhere. Mulching also saves me a bit of water. 

It’s also nice having the option to bag my grass clippings. Sometimes the mulch starts to build up a little bit. When this happens, I use the bag attachment. I don’t have to do this often. 

Sometimes mowing with a mulching blade is a little bit of a hassle. If I let my grass grow too long between mowings, my mower can get clogged up. When this happens, I have to turn it off and clear it out. I’ve had the same problem If I try to mow too early when there is still dew on the lawn. I try to mow in the evening when the grass is dry. 

If I had a bigger yard, I would probably switch to a high-lift blade so I could mow faster. For me, a mulching blade is best. Both blades can provide a great cut. 

There are different types of blades with different shapes available as well. High-lift and mulching blades are the most common. The best blades for you depend on how you cut your grass, the climate, and your personal preference. Hopefully, this guide helps you choose the right mower blade for your mower so you get the best cut possible.

Do you prefer using a high-lift or mulching blade on your mower? Share your experience in the comments below!

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Mulching Vs High Lift Lawnmower Blades

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