How To Use A Lawn Aerator

Quick Tips and Different Methods For Aerating Your Lawn The Right Way


Like most homeowners, you might not realize when to aerate a lawn or How to use a Lawn aerator. You may also wonder how much it costs to aerate your lawn or are looking for Lawn aeration tips.

Today, we’ll help you answer all those Lawn Aerator questions (and then some) in our Lawn Aeration Guide below.

Annual Lawn aeration is one of the best ways to achieve a healthy lawn. In addition, if your lawn has too many solid particles or heavy compaction at the surface, the roots will not be able to receive the nutrition they need.

These conditions will prevent the roots from growing deep, healthy roots or provide the lush, thick lawn you hope to achieve.

How to use a lawn aerator | Best Home Gear
Photo of a Lawn after Using a Lawn Aerator

Follow these steps to learn How to Aerate a lawn, and your grassroots will grow easier and deeper into your soil.  You will achieve a much thicker, greener, and healthier lawn than possible without lawn aeration.

What is a Lawn Aerator?

A lawn aerator is a piece of equipment that makes aerating your lawn easier and far more effective when performing your DIY lawn aerator work.  Lawn aerators can be purchased as manual or power equipment options (see types below).

What is Lawn Aeration?

Lawn Aeration involves using a mechanical Lawn Aerator – to perforate your lawn with small holes. The perforation of your soil provides the necessary oxygen, water, and nutrients to reach the roots of your grass and move the nutrients freely throughout the soil.

What are the Different Types of Lawn Aerators?

  • Pull-Behind (riding mower) – Core-plug Aerators like the Agri-Fab

  • Pull-Behind (riding mower) – Motorized Spike Aerators like the Craftsman

  • Electric Motorized “De-thatchers” such as this one from Greenworks

  • Inexpensive Manual plug aeration tools like the Yard Barber

  • Aeration Shoes – Like this model from Punchau

  • Manual rolling drums with spikes (the drum is filled with water for weight) for Yard Tuff SE

  • Liquid Aeration – This is one you’ve probably never heard of – Liquid Aeration

Whatever Lawn Aerator you choose should depend on the size of your lawn – and your budget :)

Ultimately, they all serve a similar function – to loosen up soil and dirt so the grassroots can absorb more air, water, and nutrients.

How To Aerate Your Lawn (3 Steps):

Step 1)    Prepare Lawn for Aeration

So, how do you aerate your lawn?  Before you can aerate your lawn, you must do some simple preparations. Go out into your lawn and see how dry your soil is. Aerating “dry soil” can be troublesome, and it is certainly not optimal if you wish to aerate your lawn properly.

It’s recommended to aerate your lawn the day after it rains, or if you can’t wait, water your lawn the day before and let the water saturate the soil.

Mowing your lawn before aerating also helps the process. The shorter grass height makes it easier to see your progress and clean up the lawn after the aeration.

Step 2)    Select the Best Aeration “Method”:

There are three different methods for aerating lawns: Plug aeration, Spike aeration, and Liquid aeration. Select the method that is best for your lawn size and your budget.

1)  Plug Aeration

Plug aeration involves making a fairly large hole around 1/2-3/4 inches in diameter and up to 6 inches deep. This will remove part of the soil from the roots and is known to improve the overall structure of your soil more than spike aeration.

Plug aeration is ideal if you’re only aerating once a year. One of the downsides to this type of aeration is that it is a reasonably labor-intensive job if you are not using a high-powered automatic plug-aeration device. But worth it.

2)   Spike Aeration

Spike aeration punches small holes into the lawn, approximately 1-2 inches deep. The advantage of spike aeration for your grass is that it is not as labor-intensive as the plug aeration method.

Spike aeration can be done using manual tools or pulling a spike roller behind a riding lawn mower.

Because spike holes are generally not as big or deep as plug aerator holes, your grass will be less impacted and can heal and recover quicker than plug aeration.

The disadvantage of spike aeration is that it is a short-term solution, and your soil will likely become compacted again in as little as 4-5 months.

3). Liquid Aeration

The third type of lawn aeration, relatively new, is called Liquid Aeration. You apply a chemical treatment to the lawn using the Liquid Aeration method.  

What is the chemical used for Liquid aeration?  The chemical process for liquid aeration involves using two 100% organic compounds applied to the lawn.

The first product in Lawn aeration components is a wetting agent from a South American plant extract that helps water penetrate hard clay soils. The second compound is a microbial package used to eat away at the thatch layer of your lawn.

The liquid method has not been tested as much as the other two aeration methods, but it has been proven to improve water retention more than before this treatment.

Liquid aeration will add helpful substances to your lawn that are entirely safe for use around small children, pets, and other animals.

Do you have birds eating your grass seed? Read our article on deterring birds from eating your grass and making it look its best!

How to Use a Lawn Aerator | Best Home Gear

Step 3)   Select “Type” of Lawn Aeration Equipment:

The Three Types of Lawn Aerators:  Manual Aerators, Lawn Aerator Shoes, and Machine Equipment Aerators.

1)   Manual Lawn Aerators

Manual aerators are aerators with sharp protrusions that you use manually (by hand) to push or poke holes into the lawn.

manual lawn aerator
Manual Lawn Aeration

This can be straightforward, like a pitchfork, or a manual aeration tool like the abovementioned one. Manual aeration is practical for small grass areas, where you can move around the lawn, punching holes into problem areas where the soil needs aeration.

A more recent manual lawn aeration tool is the Agri-Fab spike roller.   With this tool, you Roll the lawn while the spikes punch holes into the turf. 

The spiked roller is 16″ wide and punches 2 1/2″ holes into the turf for an effective and quicker means of aerating large lawn areas.

Another popular tool for manual aeration is the Lawn aeration tool from “Yard Butler.”  This turf plug core device has a handle like a pitchfork that allows you to aerate a small section of lawn that needs attention.

Like a shovel, you stand on the tool and lift turf plugs out of the lawn to provide much-needed oxygen, water, and nutrients to the soil.

This is a much faster and more effective method of aerating your lawn than a pitchfork, which pokes holes in the turf..

2) Lawn Aerator Shoes

Lawn aerator shoes are exactly what they sound like. They are shoes that help aerate your lawn as you walk on top of it.. These spiked shoe adapters have metal spikes on the bottoms, ranging between 1 and 2 inches long.  

Lawn aerator shoes are desirable for those who own and wish to aerate a small lawn but are not ideal for those with medium or large lawns.

Here’s a good tip or method for using this method. When you are mowing your lawn, you can mow the lawn while wearing these shoes—double-tasking.

This method is an excellent economical choice for smaller lawns but one of the least effective means for thorough or lasting lawn aeration.

3) Machine Lawn Aerators

The last type of aeration is considered the best means for lawn aeration.  With machine aeration, you will need powered equipment to achieve it, generally by using a riding mower.

Machine aeration makes the aeration process simpler and quicker. The machine lawn aerators are sold in both spike and plug aeration versions.

You will easily glide over your lawn, whichever type of lawn aeration you choose.

It is always advised with any aeration – to aerate your lawn with moist soil, but with a half-good lawn aerator machine, you won’t need to be as concerned with fully moist soil.

The machines are easy to use and will involve you walking over the lawn in a straight line. Even with a machine, you may need to pass over some lawn areas more than once.

Lawn Treatment after Lawn Aeration (Tips)

If you have a mulching lawnmower, we recommend leaving the aerated spikes or plugs on the lawn when completed and “mowing” the debris as you mow the lawn, sending valuable mulch back into the soil.

If you have areas of the lawn that have gone patchy or even bald, reseeding the lawn after aeration is a perfect time. You should immediately seed your lawn after aerating it, and you should notice that the grass in these areas will grow greener and faster than it usually does.

Finally, we suggest adding a seasonal (Spring or Fall) fertilizer to the turf after aerating the lawn.  This will easily penetrate the lawn down to the root level at the opportune time.

Basic Lawn “Core Aeration” Demonstration Video


(FAQ) How To Use a Lawn Aerator:

Q:  How can I tell if my Lawn needs to be Aerated?

A: The frequency of lawn aeration depends on a few factors. The first one is how much activity your lawn gets. Are you and others, such as family members, neighbors, or friends, constantly using the lawn?

For heavy-traffic lawns or yards with lots of clay, your lawn is the perfect candidate for aeration if your soil is compacted by clay or is overly dry.

If your grass is not growing as full and green as it has in the past, this could be an early sign that it’s in desperate need of aeration. Aeration is also great for building turf, which keeps weeds from taking over.

Q:  How Do You Use a Lawn Aerator?

A: How to use a lawn aerator depends on which type of aerator you choose.  As the article above describes, you can aerate lawns with a lawn dethatcher, plug aerator, manual core aerator, spike shoes, or liquid aerator. 

See the manufacturer’s suggestions and step-by-step instructions for each method.

If you use a lawn detacher, aerating a lawn is similar to using a lawnmower.

Q:  What Is the Best Way to Aerate Lawn?

A:  Considering everything, including the initial Cost, Ease of Use, and Storage, we believe an electric aerator is probably the most practical option for most residential lawns.

However, If you have a larger budget, a large yard, and the room to store one, you should seriously consider investing in a pull-behind core aerator. Plug (Core) aerators are widely considered the best aerators.

Q:  When is the best time of year to aerate a lawn?

A: The optimal time to aerate your lawn will be whatever time of year most things can grow and rebuild. Aeration can damage the roots of the grass, and the grass needs to be at the right time of year to recover and grow back properly.

This can depend on your location, but early spring or fall is the optimal time for lawn aeration. Aerating in the colder months or the heat of the summer is not advised, as it is hard for the grass to heal and recover in these weather conditions.

Most fruits and vegetables will not grow in the winter. Likewise, it is harder for grass to combat these weather conditions, and it is certainly not ideal for aerating. 

How can you tell if your lawnmower spark plug is bad? Read our article here on how to tell and where to replace them!


You must decide what type of aeration is right for your lawn and lifestyle, as everyone’s lawn and lifestyle differ.

What type of aerating device is right for you can depend on how much labor and time you would like to spend aerating your lawn and how much money you would like to spend on an aerating tool.

The size of your lawn will also be a huge factor in the type of aeration that is practical. If you have a large lawn, aeration by pitchfork is impractical and could take you more than a day to properly aerate it!

The time of year and weather conditions should also be taken into consideration.

You wouldn’t want to aerate your lawn at a sub-optimal time of year and have your aeration process not so much benefit your hard work outside!

If the weather is very hot outside, you might aerate your lawn once and think, I’ll never do that again! If you find aerating your lawn too labor-intensive, you might also get discouraged from aerating the lawn again.

You should also decide and know if your lawn truly needs to be aerated or not. Chances are, if you are reading about aeration, there is a good chance your lawn is in desperate need of aeration!

But if your grass is full, thick, and green, you can probably wait until you need to aerate it.

Consistent mowing and watering of your lawn can be just as important as aerating and can make or break having your lawn look fresh, lush, and green!

Additional Reading & References:

Kevin Carroll
Kevin Carroll
Kevin is the author and editor for Best Home Gear, and uses his 25+ years experience in Commercial and Residential Construction Management to author and publish the work for this website. In addition to publishing Best Home Gear; Kevin enjoys the outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, hiking, cycling, fishing, golf, and completing DIY projects at his Home and Garden.

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Author and Publisher for Best Home Gear

Kevin is the Author, and Publisher @ Best Home Gear, which he began In 2018.

As a Professional in Construction, Real Estate and Property Management, Kevin uses that experience to publish Useful Articles, and help homeowners improve (DIY) their own homes, lawns, and outdoor spaces.

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