The 8 Best Lawn Aerators of 2021

Keep your grass looking healthy

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The Spruce / Chloe Jeong

Our Top Picks
A long-lasting tow-behind aerator that works well for clay or loamy soils, its tines can penetrate the soil up to three inches deep.
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Perfect for large lawns with sandy or loam soils, the spikes provide up to 2.5-inches of aeration depth.
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It hitches easily to your lawn tractor and has heavy-duty gauge steel that breaks apart clay soils.
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Using ingredients that help break apart hardened soil, Simple Lawn Solutions can be used with or without mechanical aeration.
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Easy to push or pull, this compact aerator is easy to store and ideal for smaller lawns with loamy soils.
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Whether you have clay or loamy soil, a Yard Butler handheld aerator improves the condition of the soil.
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This corded machine takes care of dethatching lawns and can aerate at five different depths.
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Perfect for small lawns or grassy areas, these attachments strap easily onto shoes so you can get in your steps and aerate the lawn at the same time.
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A beautiful lawn requires feeding, watering, weeding, and mowing to keep it looking its best. One of the best ways to make sure that your efforts are maximized and to prevent bare patches is to aerate the lawn. Soil, especially clay-based soils, can easily become compacted and prevent water and fertilizer from reaching the roots of the grass. Poor root health equals poor-looking grass.

Compaction happens when the pockets between soil particles collapse in high-traffic areas or if the soil isn’t prepared properly before seeding or laying sod. Matters are made worse if thatch—a mix of dead grass and leaves—is covering the soil and grass. Aeration creates spaces for air, water, and nutrients to reach the roots and restore the health of the grass. When choosing an aeration tool, you should consider the size of the lawn, ease of use, the type of soil, durability, and adjustable aeration depths. 

Aerators work with either plugs or spikes. Plugs (often called cores) are best for clay soils. Plug aerators have hollow tines that penetrate the ground and remove plugs of soil. Choose a plug aerator if your lawn is difficult to dig into or if water pools in the grass after a rainfall. Spike aerators simply puncture the ground with long spikes and work well on sandy or loamy soil. 

Here, the best aeration tools for use on clay and loose soils.

Best Overall: Brinly-Hardy PA-40BH Tow Behind Plug Aerator

Brinly-Hardy PA-40BH Tow Behind Plug Aerator

Aeration Method: Rolling tow-behind | Type: Plug | Spike Length: 3 inches | Width: 40 inches | Power Source: Manual | Dimensions: 37 x 51 x 28 inches | Weight Capacity: 150 pounds | Plug Size: 16 gauge

What We Like
  • Heavy-duty construction

  • Large width and 24 plugs

  • Can be used on clay and sandy soils

What We Don't Like
  • Requires lawn tractor for use

  • Weights not included

With a universal hitch that can attach to any type of lawn tractor, UTV, or ATV, this Brinly-Hardy plug aerator is the best choice for anyone with a large lawn. Since plug aerators are a must for clay soils and can be used on looser soils as well, this durable, all-steel construction aerator with “no-flat” tires is our best overall choice. 

The 40-inch width and 24 3-inch plugs help cover large areas quickly. To assure proper penetration, there is a weight tray that will hold up to 150 pounds of concrete blocks. An easy-to-use transport lever allows you to disengage the plugs quickly to avoid sidewalks or sprinkler components.

Best Tow-Behind Spike: Agri-Fab 40-in Spike Lawn Aerator

Agri-Fab 40-in Spike Lawn Aerator

Aeration Method: Rolling tow-behind | Type: Spike | Spike Length: 2.5 inches | Width: 40 inches | Power Source: Manual | Dimensions: 31 x 48 x 18 inches | Weight Capacity: 140 pounds | Plug Size: 12 gauge

What We Like
  • 40-inch width with 10 spikes

  • Heavy-duty construction

  • Best for sandy soils

What We Don't Like
  • Requires lawn tractor for use

  • Weights not included

  • Requires large storage space

Since sandy soils are much easier to aerate than clay soils, the Agri-Fab Spike Aerator is a great choice. With 10 spikes and a weight tray that can hold 140-pounds of balance weight, it has a universal hitch that will work with any lawn tractor or UTV. The hitch folds up for easier storage.

The galvanized spikes can penetrate to a depth of 2.5-inches and there is a lever for height adjustment. The flat-free tires roll smoothly and will never need to be filled. With a three-year limited warranty, this solid steel aerator will last through many years of lawn care.

Best Tow Behind Plug: Agri-Fab 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator

Agri-Fab 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator

Aeration Method: Rolling tow-behind | Type: Plug | Spike Length: 3 inches | Width: 48 inches | Power Source: Manual | Dimensions: 35 x 60 x 36 inches | Weight Capacity: 140 pounds | Plug Size: 48 inches

What We Like
  • 48-inch width with 32 spikes

  • Heavy-duty construction

  • Best for large lawns with clay soil

What We Don't Like
  • Requires lawn tractor for use

  • Weights not included

  • Requires large storage space

When you have heavy soil, you need a heavy-duty lawn aerator. The Agri-Fab plug aerator has 32 galvanized plugs that will penetrate to a depth of three inches.

Able to hold 140 pounds of weight (3-4 concrete blocks), the steel construction will withstand years of use. For best results, secure the blocks with bungee cords to prevent shifting during use. With a universal hitch that fits all lawn tractors and UTVs, the cantilever transport handle makes raising and lowering the plugs an easy task. The ten-inch tires will not deflate and roll smoothly over even rutted terrain.

Best Liquid: Simple Lawn Solutions Liquid Aerating Soil Loosener

Simple Lawn Solutions Liquid Aerating Soil Loosener

Aeration Method: Liquid | Type: Not applicable | Spike Length: Not applicable | Width: Not applicable | Power Source: Not applicable | Dimensions: 5 x 2.25 x 8 inches | Weight Capacity: Not applicable | Plug Size: Not applicable

What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Can be used for clay or sandy soil

  • Aids in mechanical or manual aeration

What We Don't Like
  • Does not penetrate soil as deeply as mechanical or manual aeration

Large aerators just aren’t practical if you have a small lawn or strip of grass that needs help. Fortunately, you can still loosen the soil by using a liquid aerator like the one from Simple Lawn Solutions. The proprietary mixture of surfactants (Ammonium Laurel Sulfate) and other ingredients break apart soil colloids to improve water and nutrient absorption.

The product is mixed with water and used at a rate of one ounce per 1,000-square-feet of grass. The soil loosener is recommended for use before seeding a lawn or even before manual aeration to make the task easier.

Best Push: Agri-Fab Push Spike Aerator

Agri-Fab Push Spike Aerator

Aeration Method: Handheld | Type: Plug | Spike Length: 2.5 inches | Width: 8.75 inches | Power Source: Manual | Dimensions: 18 x 12 x 36 inches | Weight Capacity: Not applicable | Plug Size: Not applicable

What We Like
  • Less expensive than larger models

  • Small storage footprint

  • Works in small spaces

What We Don't Like
  • Requires physical effort

  • Covers only a small area at a time

If you don’t have a lawn tractor, you can still aerate the lawn with the Agri-Fab push aerator. Outfitted with spikes, it is best used on small lawns with loamy soils. Just 16-inches wide, it can accommodate one concrete block to help push the five spiked discs into the soil to a depth of 2.5-inches.

The aerator can be pushed or pulled. It is 38-inches high, weighs about 27 pounds, and has a small footprint for storage.

Best Handheld: Yard Butler Lawn Coring Aerator

Yard Butler Lawn Coring Aerator

Aeration Method: Handheld | Type: Plug | Spike Length: 3.5 inches | Width: 8.75 inches | Power Source: Manual | Dimensions: 1.75 x 8.75 x 36.5 inches | Weight Capacity: Not applicable | Plug Size: .50 x 3.50 inches

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Small storage footprint

  • Works in small spaces

What We Don't Like
  • Requires physical effort

  • Covers only a small area at a time

A handheld aerator is much easier to store and can get into tight places where a tow-behind aerator just cannot go. Yard Butler offers both plug (core) and spike handheld aerators. The plug type has two tines that will penetrate up to 3.5-inches. The spike aerator has four 3-inch spikes.

Both aerators are made of steel, around 37-inch high, and weigh around six pounds. Each has rubber padded handles and a footrest for ease in pushing the aerator into the soil.

Best Electric: VonHaus Electric Lawn Dethatcher and Aerator

VonHaus 12.5 Amp Corded 15" Electric 2 in 1 Lawn Dethatcher Scarifier and Aerator

Aeration Method: Electric pushing | Type: Disc scarifier | Spike Length: .5 inches | Width: 15 inches | Power Source: Electric, Motor | Dimensions: 23 x 55 x 40 inches | Weight Capacity: 45 L | Plug Size: Not applicable

What We Like
  • Easy to use, no manual effort

  • Dethatches and scarifies the ground

  • Catch bag for clippings

  • Electric, no other fuel required

What We Don't Like
  • Corded; not good for large lawns

  • Does not aerate deeply

If you don't have a lawn tractor and don’t want to aerate by hand, check out this option from VonHaus, which also dethatches and bags the clippings in a removable catch box. With a 15-inch width, the corded aerator works well for small or mid-sized lawns with sandy soils. 

The tool is powered by a 12.5 amp motor and has two changeable drums. One is for dethatching and the other is a scarifier with blades that help loosen the soil. There are no plugs or spikes but it can penetrate up to a depth of nearly one-half inch. The handle is padded for comfort and folds for easy storage.

Best Shoes: Ohuhu Lawn Aerator Shoes with Hook & Loop Straps

Ohuhu Lawn Aerator Shoes

Aeration Method: Spikes attach to shoes | Type: Spikes | Spike Length: 2 inches | Width: 5 inches | Power Source: Not applicable | Dimensions: 12.6 x 5.55 x 4.33 inches | Weight Capacity: 300 pounds | Plug Size: Not applicable

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Easy to store

What We Don't Like
  • Requires physical dexterity

While you might be tempted to try aerating a lawn with golf shoes or cleats, actual aerator shoes are needed to get the job done. With 13 solid steel spikes in each shoe that penetrate up to two inches, the Ohuhu Lawn Aerator Shoes will actually aerate a lawn properly.

The spikes strap onto sturdy shoes with adjustable hook and loop fasteners. With a length of 12 inches and 5-inch width, the shoes will fit most men and women. It takes a bit of practice to find your rhythm so start with small steps and use a walking stick or tool handle for support until you get the hang of it all. To make the task easier, lightly water the lawn for easier penetration.

Final Verdict

Our top pick is the Brinly-Hardy 40-inch Tow Behind Plug Aerator (view at Amazon), which works well on both clay and sandy soils, and has a heavy-duty steel construction that will last for years. If you're specifically looking for a tow-behind spike aerator, the Agri-Fab Spike Aerator (view at Amazon) is a great choice. It has galvanized spikes that can penetrate to a depth of 2.5 inches and will last through many years of use.

What to Look for in a Lawn Aerator

Type of Soil

If you have hard, clay soil or water puddles in the grass after rain, then you should choose a plug aerator. By removing larger pieces or plugs of soil, nutrients can penetrate more easily to the roots of the grass. If the soil is sandy or loamy, then the more narrow puncture of a spike aerator will give you the aeration needed.

Not sure what type of soil you have? Grab a handful of the soil and squeeze. If it forms a hard lump in your hand, you have clay. If the soil does not stick together and falls away easily, you have sandy or loamy soil.


Size of Your Lawn

Tow-behind aerators are rather large pieces of garden equipment and won’t perform well on small lots or narrow spaces. Tow-behind aerators are best used on lawns larger than one-half acre and regular in shape. Consider the width of the aerator and your turn radius as you shop.

For smaller lawns and irregularly-shaped grass spaces, choose a push aerator, handheld model, or aerator shoes.

Additional Equipment and Storage Space

A tow-behind aerator is going to require something to pull it along. You must have a lawn tractor, ATV, or small utility vehicle. Tow-behind models and push models also require some type of weights (usually several concrete blocks) to help them penetrate the soil. Consider the storage space required for all of these items.

FAQs

How do lawn aerators work?

Every type of lawn aerator creates small holes in the ground so that water, fertilizer, and air can reach the roots of the grass and improve growth and health. The holes can be created by a manual or mechanical aerator.

  • Plug aerators can be handheld or towed behind a lawn tractor and use hollow tines to remove plugs of soil. They are best for clay soils.
  • Spike aerators can be handheld, pushed, worn on shoes, or towed to puncture the soil with long spikes. They work well on loose loam or sandy soils.

When is the best time to aerate your lawn?

The best time to aerate the lawn is dependent on the type of lawn grass. Cool-season grasses (Kentucky bluegrass) should be aerated in the fall. The growing season is still active but weeds are under control and temperatures are cooler. Warm-season grasses (Bermuda, centipede) should be aerated in the spring. Most lawns only need to be aerated once per year.

Of course, there are exceptions. If the lawn is part of new construction and the ground has been compacted by all of the equipment used during building, aeration may be needed to ensure water is reaching the roots of freshly laid sod. 

While it is fine to aerate when the ground is damp, it should never be done after especially heavy rains. You’ll end up with a muddy mess that makes it hard for the lawn to recover.

Why Trust The Spruce?

Mary Marlowe Leverette researched and wrote this roundup. She is a Master Gardener and has extensive personal and professional experience testing, reviewing, and writing about home and garden products. You can find more of her work on The Spruce.

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