Let’s get one thing straight at the beginning.
You should always try to avoid mowing a wet lawn.
However, in reality, we all know there are moments in which cutting wet grass is unavoidable.
Instead of being able to wait for perfect conditions, most of us live lives that follow a tight schedule.
And sometimes the weather is not that schedule’s friend.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some tried and tested tips and tricks for mowing wet grass. How to do it safely, how to do it effectively, and how not to damage your turf in the process.
- Should You Mow Wet Grass?
- How to Mow Wet Grass
- Extra Tips
- What is the Best Lawnmower for Cutting Wet Grass?
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Should You Mow Wet Grass?
Mowing a wet lawn is not ideal, and it’s always best to allow the ground to dry out before firing up the mower.
There are several reasons why you want to avoid mowing moist grass unless there is no other option.
Your first concern when it comes to cutting wet grass is your personal safety.
Operating any type of lawnmower can be hazardous at the best of times, but in wet conditions, you’re seriously increasing the risk of injury.
Wet grass can be incredibly slippy, and there are already plenty of annual lawnmower-related accidents as it is. Adding a lethal spinning blade to already tricky conditions can be a recipe for disaster.
If you’re using a ride-on mower, it also might slip, skid, or possibly even tip – especially if you’re negotiating hills and slopes in your yard.
It might help if you’re using one of these special riding lawnmowers for rough terrain – but even then it’s still more dangerous than if the grass was bone dry.
And electric mowers should never be used in wet conditions – under any circumstances.
Mixing electricity and water is always a safety hazard – especially when you have your feet on the wet ground.
The Quality of the Cut
From an aesthetic point of view, the most significant problem with mowing right after it rains is the unsightly result. The cut may not be as clean and uniform as you would like it to be. This happens for a few reasons.
Water-saturated grass can end up unevenly distributed because the water weighs down on some blades more than on others. As a consequence, these blades – especially the taller ones – will bend.
This can result in them escaping the clutches of the lawnmower, and the machine is only able to cut the grass that manages to stay straight.
Also, because of water’s surface tension properties, wet grass blades tend to stick and clump together.
This makes it difficult to achieve an even cut, and when the mower goes over grass in this condition, you can expect an uneven, patchy, and unsightly finish.
Additionally, the soaked ground is much more prone to damage from the mower’s wheels and blades – and that means lawn ruts, damage to root systems, and lasting problems with the overall structure of the lawn.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Since the moisture makes grass clump together in a thick, gooey mess, you can’t simply mulch the clippings, or allow them to blow away and disperse naturally.
You will have to manually remove them from the lawn to avoid mold and uneven growth resulting from parts of the surface being covered with sodden grass clumps.
Besides giving you a tough time on the lawn itself, the clumps will also cause mechanical issues with the mower as they can seriously clog your machine.
Mowing wet grass can take two or even three times as long as you’re always stopping and starting to clear the rotor blades and bagging chute.
And having to repeatedly put your hands near the mower’s blade to pull out this grass-cutting ‘dough’ is an obvious safety hazard.
Furthermore – when you’re all done, make sure you clean your mower thoroughly. Flush the washout port, and don’t allow wet grass to build up as mold will cause damage to your machine.
How to Mow Wet Grass
All that said, we all know there are moments in which cutting wet grass is unavoidable. C’est la vie, as the French say.
Your region might have had rain for days on end, and the only time you’ve set aside for mowing is plagued with a monsoon.
Additionally, if you live in a humid area with prolonged rain spells – the more the rain falls, the faster the grass grows; and the taller the grass gets, the harder it is to cut.
It is one vicious green cycle.
When faced with this problem, many questions arise. What happens when you mow a wet lawn? Is there a way to move a wet lawn without trouble? Can I safely mow wet grass?
Thankfully, there are a few techniques you can employ to avoid or minimize the damage and get a better overall result. Here are your seven steps to mowing heaven (or at least to stay out of mowing hell).
Step One – Evaluate the Conditions
How soon after it rains can you mow the lawn? How do you know if the grass is too wet for mowing?
Obviously, it’s best if you don’t whip out the lawnmower the second the last drop has fallen.
Take a stroll onto your lawn. If you find yourself in a quagmire and your feet are soaking wet – go back inside, make yourself a hot beverage, and put your feet up.
The morning dew will also cause you problems, so try to avoid getting out there too early.
If it rains in the morning or before noon and the rest of the day is dry and warm, you can safely mow in the late afternoon. If you have to, always try to mow during the warmest part of the day.
The lawn will generally keep the moisture through the night, so if you get late afternoon rain, postpone the mowing for about 20 to 24 hours instead of doing it in the morning.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast, and do your best to aim for optimum conditions.
And although it might be raining now, the blazing sun will surely be on the way, so take a look at this article on how to keep your lawn healthy and green in the summer heat.
Step Two – Sharpen Those Blades
A mower with an extra sharp blade produces neat clean cuts, which is very important both for the look and health of your lawn.
While this is important at any time, it is critical for mowing in wet weather because mowers tend to shred and chew the wet blades rather than slicing them.
Razor-sharp blades will “cut” down your work time, and offer the best chance of getting a clean finish in challenging conditions.
Try using one of these excellent lawnmower blade sharpeners, or if you think you need a new tool altogether, check out this review on the best lawnmower blades.
Step Three – Use the Right Gear
In order to minimize the risks of slips and falls as much as possible, you should wear a pair of work boots with a grippy lug for extra traction in the wet.
Heavy-duty footwear will also keep your feet protected in case of an accident. Whatever you do, don’t wear open-toed shoes or sandals. That’s just asking for trouble.
Make sure you are using a pair of quality gloves to maintain a firm grip on the mower, and use a putty knife or other tool to help you clean and unclog the system when the grass gets backed up.
Step Four – Raise the Mower Deck
A good way to minimize damage when mowing a wet lawn is to raise your mower’s deck.
If the blade is set low and the soil is wet, you risk damaging the roots and literally stripping away parts of your lawn – especially if the ground is uneven.
You may end up tilling your lawn instead of mowing it. Chunks and divots can be hard to repair.
Also, if you set the deck low, achieving a clean cut can be challenging, and your mower may end up shredding rather than cutting the grass.
Many homeowners set their mowers too low anyway – in an attempt to get the job done faster, or so they increase the time between necessary cuts.
According to the latest lawn science (lawn care is actually studied in universities), the ideal height of the cut is 2 to 3.75 inches. This way, the turf will remain lush and resilient enough to withstand foot traffic, downpours, drought – and even wet mowing.
Step Five – Go Slow in Multiple Directions
The best way to mow wet grass is to do it slowly. Take your time, be sure of your footing, and keep a steady pace.
This will help minimize the mower undercarriage from getting clogged, as well as allowing those nice, sharp blades plenty of chance to slice and dice.
And don’t stick to simply going back and forth in your usual pattern. In order to make sure you cut every blade, mix up your directions to be extra thorough.
It’s not rocket science – slow and steady wins the race.
Step Six – Clean with Care
You’re going to be stopping and starting regularly in order to clean out your mowers system, the deck and the blade, so you might as well get used to it.
Make sure you do it often, and try not to allow the machine to get too gummed up in between cleans.
And I must stress that you should always – ALWAYS – do so with the lawnmower completely shut off. Don’t even try to save time by cleaning the mower with the engine running.
If there’s a starter key – remove it, and wait until it’s come to a complete stop before attempting anything.
Clean with an appropriate tool, rather than your hands. Mowers can still hold a bit of energy even when switched off, and a sudden turn of the blade can easily occur.
Step Seven – Mow More Frequently
If you allow the grass to get real tall, it will be harder to mow neatly, especially if it is wet. Particularly long, damp grass blades will be a lawnmower’s worst nightmare.
The general rule for achieving neat cuts is to always cut the grass by one third. That usually means mowing once a week.
However, if you’re expecting a rainy period, the grass will grow quickly, and you may have to move to a twice-per-week schedule to keep up with it. Otherwise, you’ll be breaking the one-third rule.
The mower will cope a lot better with grass that is not overgrown, and you will be much more satisfied with the result. In short, it is worth the extra effort.
Try adding a non-stick lubricant spray to the underside of your mower and blade – which just might help keep the grass from bunging up the system.
Some gardeners recommend trying to “wipe off” as much water as possible from the lawn. This can be done by dragging a hose across the turf, or even using a large, flat floor mop if you have one.
If you’re particularly concerned with the appearance, this article will show you how to stripe a lawn like a pro.
Check out the video below for some more advice for mowing a wet lawn.
Alternatively, you could always remove the grass and turn your yard into a produce garden instead. If that sounds like something you’d like to try, you’ll need a quality tiller to get you started.
What is the Best Lawnmower for Cutting Wet Grass?
Not all machines are equally suitable for wet mowing, and you can check out this link for different types of lawnmowers, complete with their advantages and disadvantages.
Because of the safety issues associated with tractor and zero-turn mowers, the best option is to use a walk-behind mower for wet grass.
If you are lucky enough to have the land that demands a ride-on mower, then you need to take extra care when mowing in the wet. It’s highly advisable you don’t mow the lawn at all.
But if you have no other options but to use a tractor mower, take things easy. If there is an incline, make sure you are always traveling (and mowing), uphill or downhill, and never side to side.
Battery-powered options are only good if the battery compartment is water-tight by design.
The safest bet for damp conditions is the good ole’ gas mower – but make sure you only use enough fuel for the job, and check and replace the filters if required.
If you have a smaller yard, try using a push mower, and you can find some good examples in this review of the best budget-friendly lawnmowers.
Whatever you do, make sure you steer clear of corded electric models, and wait for a drier day if that’s the only option you have.
Mowing wet grass is best avoided if it can be helped, but sometimes that’s just not possible.
But by following a few rules, taking things easy, and with care, you should be able to get the job done if you have no other choice.
Let me know if you have any tips for cutting the grass in tricky conditions.
Stay safe, folks – and happy mowing!