Mulching Blade vs Regular Blade

Mulching Blade vs Regular Blade On a Lawn Mower (differences explained)

Lawn mower blades are the part of your mower that cuts the grass, so the type of blade you choose is a big decision that impacts your mower’s performance. Mulching and regular blades are the most common types, and there are some key differences between them. Keep scrolling to find my mulching blade vs regular blade comparison.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Horticulturist Arthur Davidson, A.S.

When comparing a mulching blade vs regular blade for your lawn mower, you need to realize that each cuts your grass in different ways.

This difference makes one blade more ideal for certain situations than the other, but they each have their own pros and cons. Many homeowners assume that a mulching blade is an upgraded blade and is almost always better. This can be a mistake – don’t always assume that a mulching blade will be better than a regular one.

Mulching Blade vs Regular Blade On a Lawn Mower

The right blade for you depends on your mower, your goals, and your preferences.

The main difference between a mulching blade and a regular blade is that you can use a mulching blade for more jobs. A mulching blade has three different settings that can accomplish three different jobs all at the same time. Regular blades, on the other hand, can only accomplish two things at once (but in some cases, perform those jobs better than a mulching blade could).

Today, I’ll do a deep dive into the differences between regular blades and mulching blades.

I’ll explain the pros and cons of each blade, how to properly use them, and answer a few common questions in regards to mower blades.

Let’s get started!

Pros and Cons of Mulching Blades

  • Versatile – capable of three different jobs
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Produces a natural fertilizer
  • Doesn’t need much power to run
  • Reduced lift
  • Can’t cut tall grass as well
  • Requires more frequent mowing

Digging In To What Mulching Blades Do Well

All mulching blades are designed to perform three jobs well:

  • mulching,
  • bagging, and
  • discharging.

The 3-in-1 functionality will save you a significant amount of time and energy, and it makes mulching blades ideal for frequent mowing.

Mulching blades are also much more environmentally friendly. They don’t need much power in order to run properly, and the grass clippings they produce are small, break down easily, and act as a natural fertilizer without smothering your grass.

I’ll talk more about each of these advantages in more detail later on.

Some Drawbacks to Note

As for the disadvantages of mulching blades, there are a few to note:

The air that lawn mower blades produce when they are spinning is referred to as “lift”. It’s usually what helps grass clippings into the mower bag or the mower deck, without discharging too much.

Unfortunately, mulching blades often deliver reduced lift and sometimes don’t bag or discharge clippings well. They can still do it, but they can’t do it as well as regular blades.

Mulching blades also cannot cut tall grass as effectively as a traditional mower blade. Tall grass is more likely to clog up the blades, the mower bag, or the mower deck, making the job more difficult. We’ve all had a mower stall out while wading through an area of deep grass, right?

To avoid this, your lawn will require more frequent mowing with a mulching blade in order to keep the grass under control.

If you know you won’t be mowing your lawn often, mulching blades probably aren’t for you.

Which Mower Blade Type is Better for Most Homeowners?

Both the mulching blade and regular blade are good blades for trimming grass, but they are each designed for specific jobs that the other cannot do as effectively.

Which is Better for a Mower – A Mulching Blade or Regular Blade

As the name suggests, the main function of a mulching blade is to mulch the grass. This means that the blade cuts grass blades and breaks them down into smaller pieces.

The pieces are then distributed back into the soil. The soil then breaks down their nutrients, which helps keep the soil and the newer grass healthy.

Mulching blades can also send some of the grass clippings into the mower’s bag so that you don’t have to go back and pick them up, which can help make your lawn look cleaner.

Furthermore, mulching blades can discharge grass clippings out the sides of the mower to prevent the bag from getting too full.

These three jobs can be accomplished very easily with mulching blades, making it sort of your default jack-of-all-trades mower blade. It’ll work well for a lot of people.

More specifically, this combination of strengths and appropriate uses makes the mulching blade ideal to use on lawns that you frequently mow.

The 3-in-1 design is more efficient for many homeowners.

Don’t Use Mulching Blades On Overgrown Grass

It’s better not to use mulching blades on overgrown grass. When grass is too long, your mulching blade can get gummed up or you’ll end up with excessively large piles of clippings on your lawn.

In this instance, regular lawn mower blades will come in handy. Since they mainly cut and discharge grass clippings, regular blades are ideal for cutting overgrown grass that can be easily cleaned up later with a lawn sweeper or a good old fashioned leaf rake.

Some gardeners or homeowners prefer to bag their own lawn clippings to use them as compost. This also allows homeowners to spend more time in their yard, and pick up other lawn debris along the way.

To put it simply, regular blades are good for lawns that aren’t mowed often, and mulching blades are good for lawns that are mowed often.

But overall, because of its versatility and efficiency, mulching blades are a more popular choice (that’s what I use on my mowers).

When Should You Use a Mulching Blade?

You should use a mulching blade if you mow your lawn weekly (or more frequently than that). Mulching blades are much more efficient since they can complete three jobs at once, they create a natural fertilizer, and they’re more environmentally friendly in this way (though if you collect clippings to use them as compost, it all comes out in the wash).

When Should I Use a Mulching Blade on a Lawn Mower

Since mulching blades complete multiple jobs at one time, they help you complete mowing your lawn at a much faster pace.

However, if you’re so busy that you only cut the grass when it gets overgrown, you shouldn’t use a mulching blade.

As I touched on earlier, the overgrown grass can clog up your mulching blade and mower, and you may have to take two passes over your yard to double-cut the grass and make the clippings smaller to effectively serve as mulch in your lawn.

Outside of this technique, mowing taller grass often leaves too much cut grass on your lawn, which can smother it.

Mulching Fertilizes Your Lawn

Mulching blades can also serve as a natural fertilizer. When the smaller clippings of grass fall onto the soil, the enzymes and organic compounds in the soil break down the clippings naturally.

Mulching Fertilizes Lawn

The soil then disperses the nutrients from the clippings throughout the soil when it gets watered.

This can save you time, and money as you’re effectively grass-cycling the nitrogen back into the soil. This is another great benefit of using mulching blades.

Finally, mulching blades are (in my view at least) more environmentally friendly than regular blades. Regular blades tend to need more power in order to run properly.

This causes the mower to use more gas, which produces more fumes, which is more harmful to the environment.

Mulching blades don’t need as much power, so you can lessen your carbon footprint while still taking care of your lawn. And if you go electric with your mower, even better!

Furthermore, mulching blades help to recycle old grass clippings and put them to a better use. This means you won’t have to send as many bags of clippings off to the landfill, which can further decrease your carbon footprint.

As long as your grass isn’t too long or unruly, I recommended most homeowners use mulching blades on their mower.

Are Mulching Blades With Teeth Better?

Some mulching blades come with teeth, which are small indentations in the blades that help to create extra lift underneath the blades.

The extra lift then helps to send the grass clippings higher into the mower deck, which can help decrease the chances of clippings clogging up the lower part of the deck.

Are Mulching Blades With Teeth Better for a Lawn Mower

While the blades have an increased lift, toothed mulching blades don’t have as much of a cutting edge. This means the grass probably won’t be trimmed as cleanly.

  • If you want to keep your grass at a consistent height, you probably shouldn’t use mulching blades with teeth.
  • If you efficiency is your top priority, then toothed mulching blades are a good choice.

Do Mulching Blades Work on Leaves?

Mulching blades can certainly handle mulching a few stray leaves scattered on your lawn. The blades will cut them up the same as they do your grass clippings.

But remember that there will be problems if you try to mulch more than just a few leaves at a time.

Do Mulching Blades Work on Leaves

If there are many leaves you need to mulch, you should bag them or blow them away with a high quality leaf blower before you mow your lawn.

If you miss a few here and there, the blades will be able to pick it up and mulch it.

Secondly, avoid mulching wet leaves as much as possible. Similar to wet grass, wet leaves can cause the blades or the mower deck to get gummed up more easily.

Wait a day or two after it rains to mow and mulch your lawn again.

Leaves can help return essential nutrients to your lawn when they are mulched, the same as grass clippings.

As long as they aren’t left on your lawn for too long, mulching up leaves can be a great way to keep your lawn healthy.

The Technique I Use and Recommend to Remove Leaves Every Fall

I have some big maple trees on my lot, and experience has taught me to use my mulching mower to combat them. I use it to mulch and bag in consecutive trips over my yard. This leaves some mulched bits in the yard to feed my soil. The rest are removed so I don’t risk smothering my lawn.

To do this I use my versatile Honda mulching mower in several ways.

Step 1

First, I use my mower on the mulching setting and chop up the leaves with my mower. As you can see, it can handle even a dense coating of leaves as long as they’re dry:

Lawn with Heavy Coating of Leaves

Usually one pass over the lawn will do the trick here and get the volume of the leaves reduced:

I photographed just part of the lawn having been mulch-mowed so it’s easy to compare to the un-mowed sections.

Some people would probably be happy with this and leave things as-is after mulching their entire yard. But for my taste there’s still a bit too heavy of a coating on the grass.

Step 2

Next, I switch to the bagging setting, and run the mower over the areas where I’ve mulched the leaves:

Lawn After Bagging Mulched Leaves with a Mulching Mower

On this setting the mower basically becomes a vacuum cleaner, sucking up most (but not all) of the mulched leaf pieces. This only required two trips over the lawn, and no rakes were used!

What’s left behind is small, great for the soil, and won’t smother my lawn.

Step 3

As the mower’s bag fills up I dump those mulched leaves into a paper leaf bag or onto a tarp. And as you can see, what’s bagged has been reduced in volume:

Mulched Leaves in a Paper Leaf Bag

I’ve bagged leaves the traditional way, and this method lets me use about 5 times fewer leaf bags than I normally would need.

These leaf bags (or a tarp) are used to transport the leaves to our town’s brush dump, where they’re composted.

Mulching Blades vs High Lift Blades vs Bagging Blades

In addition to mulching blades and regular blades, some other common lawn mower blades that are sold are marketed as high lift blades and bagging blades.

High lift blades are unable to offer the mulching function, but are marketed as blades that bag and discharge grass clippings more effectively.

But are they actually different? Yes.

Mulching Blades vs High Lift Blades vs Bagging Blades

These blades have a higher upward curve than most other blades, which creates more lift for the grass clippings to ride on and get into the mowing bag or get discharged out the side.

Bagging blades is another name for a regular blade, and they are designed to cut grass and bag grass clippings. They also don’t offer a mulching function, and don’t provide as much lift as high lift blades.

But they are solid blades for the standard mower. They’ll get the job done if you bag clippings every time you mow.

In my view and experience, mulching blades are the best blades out of the three. They offer homeowners the most bang for their buck.

Can You Use Mulching Blades With Side Discharge?

Side discharge and mulching are fairly similar, and both can be very healthy for your lawn.

Yes, you can use mulching blades with a side discharge. But you won’t get the full effect of the blades in this way (i.e. the grass pieces left behind will be larger).

Can I Use Mulching Blades With Side Discharge

That said, you can double-cut your grass. Use your side discharge on the first mow, and then do a straight mulch-mow afterward.

This technique can be really effective, but if you’re mowing regularly, it’s probably unnecessary.

However, collecting side discharge clippings to use in a compost system might be a better option if you have a larger lawn.

The drawback here is that this extra step can take a significant amount of time.

A Tip From Our Expert

Arthur Davidson

Arthur Davidson is a horticulturist with over five decades of experience that serves on our expert panel.

He shared that: “With some types of grass, the grass blades can dull a lawnmower blade much quicker. Bermuda grass has another name, wire grass. The grass stems can dull blades in a hurry!”

This is why Arthur recommends that homeowners keep their blades sharp, whether you use mulching or regular blades on your mower. You can learn more about this and other DIY lawn mower service projects in our mower tune-up guide.

My Final Take on When to Use a Mulching Blade vs Regular Blade on Your Mower

You can find lawn mower blades (both mulching and traditional blades) at:

Both types of blades easily attach to the majority of lawn mowers. That said, it’s always a good idea to double check with an expert just in case.

Sharpening or replacing a mower blade is one of the most dangerous DIY jobs you can do with your mower. So pay attention, wear gloves, brace the blade before you attempt to loosen the nut, and go slow.

Both regular and mulching mower blades provide significant advantages in certain situations, and each has its disadvantages.

Overall, most experts (including me) say that mulching blades are the best, most versatile mower blades for most lawns.

At Lawn Chick, I am committed to publishing accurate, useful, and trustworthy resources for my readers. As part of this commitment, I’ve invited subject matter experts to review our articles for accuracy. I invite you to read our editorial policy and publishing standards which outlines in detail how every article on this site is sourced, edited, fact-checked, and vetted.



Sarah Jameson’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

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