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Metal Rake vs Plastic Rake: Which Is Best?

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metal rake raking leaves

You have different types of rakes to choose from, and your choice will depend on a variety of factors.

Before you buy a rake, you’ll need to consider what you want to rake. Some rakes are more suitable for grass, mulch, and sand.

Other rakes are best used on harder surfaces like gravel, flagstone, and concrete patios.

You also have to think about the type of job the rake will be used for.

Are you using the rake to remove debris from your yard like leaves, twigs, acorns, pine needles, or grass clippings?

Or do you need to level out a pile of sand, compost, ground cover, or gravel? Or do you have an area of hard compacted soil that needs to be removed?

Or do you want to skim leaves from your backyard pond? The following sections can help you decide on the right rake for you.

Rakes with Metal Blades

blue metal rake

These types of rakes come with the following handle types:

  • Fiberglass handle with cushioned grip
  • Wood handle with or without cushioned grip
  • Aluminum handle
  • Steel handle with comfort grip

Metal rakes come in different widths ranging from 5 to 24 inches, and vary in lengths from 32 to 60 inches.

The blades are made of steel and are either flexible or rigid. Some rakes come with adjustable blades to allow you to customize them to your needs.

Rakes with metal blades will be heavier than those with plastic blades. Some can weigh as much as 4 pounds.

However, this feature makes them more suitable for tougher jobs such as leveling gravel, moving wet sand, or removing cut brush and tree limbs.

The narrower metal rakes (5 inches) are meant to be used in tight spaces such as small rock gardens, narrow paths, and in between large structures.

You may find the rigid types of metal rakes more suitable for mixing compost and fertilizer into your garden soil.

When readying your yard for spring planting, you may find these types of rakes a better choice than plastic rakes for loosening up compacted soil and removing old vegetation.

If you are thinking about installing a Zen sand garden in your backyard, the best type of rake for this project is a metal rake.

The rigid tines are best for creating the pattern of lines and circles meant to evoke waves and ripples.

If you want to install a flagstone or concrete patio or build a fire pit, you will need some type of tamping tool to compact the base materials and to prevent shifting.

If you don’t have a tamping tool, you can use the base of a rigid metal rake instead.

Rakes with Plastic (Polycarbonate) Blades

plastic rake

These types of rakes come with the following handle types:

  • Wood handle with or without cushioned grip
  • Polycarbonate handle
  • Aluminum handle with or without cushioned grip
  • Steel handle with cushioned grip

Because plastic rakes tend to be lighter in weight, you will find them to be wider and longer than metal rakes.

They range in width from 15 to 30 inches and from 47 to 67 inches in length.

Weighing around 1.5 to 3 pounds, you will find them best suited for moving light weight material such as leaves, pine needles, and mulch.

With a rake of the appropriate width, the plastic blades do a good job at maneuvering around a surface level irrigation system or delicate tree roots.

For those of you with back problems or who don’t want to bend over for extended periods of time, a polycarbonate rake with an ergonomic design is a good choice.

Because they help reduce fatigue and strain, they are considered easier to use than a traditional plastic rake.

In addition to raking leaves, rakes with light weight polycarbonate handles can be used to skim leaves and other debris from ponds or pools.

They are also a good choice for sifting sand, gravel, and garden soil because of the material and design.

Which Type of Rake Is Best For You?

The appropriate rake for you and your job will depend on your fitness level, height, budget, and desired level of comfort.

If you’re tall, you may want a rake that is longer or can be telescoped so you can avoid hunching over and experiencing back pain.

If you’re not used to physical activity, a light weight rake with plastic blades may be better and make your job easier. If young kids are helping out with the yard work, a light weight rake is essential.

One thing to keep in mind when choosing a rake is how the blades are attached to the handles. Some handles are welded to the blades, some are attached with screws, and some are glued.

You may want to splurge on a higher quality rake with either welded or screwed handles to avoid the potential of the handle becoming detached.

Stopping your job to reattach a handle will certainly add frustration to a job you may not have wanted to do in the first place.

Both metal and plastic rakes can be inexpensive depending on the manufacturer, design, and material. Well-known brands will command a higher price, but the lesser known brands can offer unexpected quality and value.

A few minutes of research before heading to the store is time well-spent. Many online reviewers will provide advice on whether or not the more expensive metal rake is worth the cost.

Depending on the time of year, some retailers will have their rakes on sale because they are considered seasonal items. That would be a good time to pick up that higher quality rake that you’ve had your eye on.

With normal use, rakes with metal blades are thought to be more durable and are expected to last longer than those with plastic blades.

The truth behind this widely-held belief depends on the circumstances under which each type of rake is used.

You may be the type of person who uses a plastic rake almost year-round for everything from gathering up wet leaves in the Fall to spreading wildflower seeds in the Spring and only pulls out a metal rake on rare occasions.

In this case, your metal rake will last you a long time.

But if you are the type who prefers to use your metal rake for almost all of your landscaping needs, it may see more wear and not last as long as your plastic rake.

Both metal and plastic rakes will fair well in the rain. The presence of water will not affect the performance of either type of rake.

However, if your project involves moving wet material that is located close to buried utility lines such as gas or electricity, you are safest with a plastic rake.

There is a real and potential risk of puncturing a utility line with a metal rake.

If you store your tools on a wall-mounted tool rack, the rakes are best stored in different manners. You may want to store your metal rake with the handle up and the blade down.

The weight of the blade could pose a falling hazard if not properly placed. In the interest of saving space, the plastic rake is one of the few tools that should be stored with the blade up.

Choosing a rake can be a little overwhelming. Not only do they come in different sizes, but they also come in many different types. Each shape or type of tines is made to suit a different usage of the rake. 

Rakes are also made from different materials, such as wood, bamboo, metal, and plastic. Each of these can have its pros and cons. 

In this post, we’ll be shedding light on the differences between metal and plastic rakes. We’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of each, to help you pick the rake that best suits your needs. 

Metal Rakes

Metal rakes have many advantages over plastic rakes, but they have their shortcomings too.

Lifespan 

Durability is the biggest advantage of a metal rake. Although the tines could bend, metal rakes are still more durable than their plastic counterparts. This general fact is true for normal use but is still majorly relative from one person to another. 

For instance, person A constantly uses their metal rake and utilizes it for tough gardening activities. On the other hand, person B only uses their plastic rake for simple jobs like raking fallen leaves.

Obviously, given the circumstances, the plastic rake will actually live longer. It all depends on how much you use your rake and what you use it for.

Metal Handle

The sturdiness of a metal rake increases if the rake has a metal handle in addition to the metal tines. However, the metal handle could be a little annoying during extreme weather conditions.

The metal becomes slippery during summer and too cold to hold during winter. Wearing gloves will get you through. 

Some metal handles have a telescopic feature. This can make them more comfortable to use. Adjusting the length of the handle to suit your height will enable you to navigate the rake better. It’ll also help you dodge back pain.

Weight
Metal rakes are definitely heavier than plastic ones. This isn’t particularly a grave problem. However, if raking leaves is on your kids’ chore list, they may find it hard to use a metal rake. If your rake has a telescopic handle, you can always adjust it to its height to make things a bit easier.

Price and Sustainability

The longer lifespan of metal rakes translates into more expensive prices. The extra money can be worth it, though, if it means protecting the environment from the hazards of plastic.

Plastic Rakes

Although metal rakes have many upsides, many people still prefer plastic rakes. 

Lifespan

In spite of their perks, plastic rakes are in no way as durable as metal ones. 

The tines and the handle are more likely to crack and break. The rake becomes even more brittle over time and especially during winter. Therefore, you may have to buy a new one more often than if you had a rake with metal tines. 

Weight 

Plastic rakes are lightweight and hence easier to maneuver. This requires less physical effort on your part to get the job done. You can even let your children help with garden chores! 

Price and Sustainability

Plastic rakes are also more budget-friendly than metal rakes.

If raking is something you don’t do very often, a plastic rake might be the better choice for you. It’ll survive your infrequent usage for longer and you’ll be saving some money. 

Different Rakes for Different Purposes

As mentioned earlier, rakes also come in different types. t’s important to identify why exactly you need the rake and what you’ll be using it for.

This’ll play a huge role in determining whether you should get a metal rake or a plastic one. Each shape of tines is more effective for a certain purpose.

So far, we’ve mostly focused on the most common type: leaf rakes. 

A plastic leaf rake is actually more effective for removing large amounts of fallen leaves. They’re also suitable for lighter jobs like sifting soil. 

Meanwhile, metal rakes are better for more hardcore gardening chores. These include moving gravel and branches of trees, as well as mixing fertilizers into the soil.

Other Options

While metal and plastic rakes are the most common choices, they’re not the only ones. You can always consider buying a wooden or bamboo rake instead. These options are also sustainable and can be recycled. 

While bamboo is weak in comparison to the other materials, this makes it very gentle and suitable for certain gardening jobs. A wooden handle is also great because it can be re-used multiple times with different tools. 

Don’t limit yourself and feel free to explore your options before buying a rake.

To Rake or Not to Rake

For a long time, raking was believed to be the right thing to do. This stemmed from the belief that accumulating leaves smother the grass.

It’s true that huge piles of fallen leaves will actually become harmful, yes. They prevent light and oxygen from reaching the grass.

This can hinder the grass’s ability to survive the winter and grow back when spring shows up again.

There’s also the beauty factor and social pressure. You’re tempted to remove those dead leaves to keep your lawn or yard looking sleek and groomed.

And you don’t want your fallen leaves flying next door and making the neighbors furious, right?

Regardless of these truths, researchers and professionals have been shedding light on other important facts. It’s now actually debatable whether or not raking is the wise choice to make.

First off, by removing fallen leaves, we essentially remove the habitat of some useful insects. 

The fallen leaves are also said to hinder the growth of weeds. Very similar to the benefits of mulch. Above and beyond, they provide natural nutrients that can actually benefit your grass.

Why turn down free fertilizers for your soil? 

Instead of raking the leaves, you can mow them. 

This is one great way to find a balance between raking and letting the leaves pile up. Shredding them into tiny pieces will help them decompose faster to nourish the grass and will ensure they don’t suffocate it.

To Wrap Up 

At the end of the day, some people prefer to use metal rakes while others wouldn’t trade the plastic ones for anything. There are multiple factors that’ll help you determine whether to buy a metal or plastic rake.

If you only rake occasionally or plan on letting your kids handle this task, a plastic rake would be ideal for you. However, if you’re more interested in a durable rake and have the environment’s best interest in mind, definitely opt for a metal rake.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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