How Do Manual Lawn Mowers Work?

If you’re in the market for a new mower and you’re trying to keep costs low and make an eco-friendly choice, you’ve probably considered manual mowers.

In this guide, I’ve shared everything you need to know about manual mowers, including what they are, how they work, and whether or not they’re worth it.

✅ Key Takeaways:

  • A manual reel mower is a type of lawn mower that’s pedestrian-powered, rather than powered by electricity or gas.

  • The main parts of a manual mower are the blades, handle, main wheels, and supporting wheels or roller.

  • Manual mowers are cheaper, better for the environment, and much quieter than other mower types, but they also require more work in lawn preparation and cutting.

Table of Contents

❓ How Does A Manual Lawn Mower Work? Quick Overview

A manual lawn mower works by cutting grass as a person pushes the mower forward. Most manual mowers have cylinder-style blades that rotate when the mower is pushed, cutting the grass as the mower moves.

🤔 What Is A Manual Lawn Mower?

A manual mower, also called a push mower, a manual reel mower, or simply a reel mower, is a type of lawn mower that’s powered purely by manual pushing. That means you don’t need to plug a manual mower into an electrical outlet or top it up with petrol – your pushing force is all it takes for the blades to spin.

Manual mowers have a more basic, parred-down design compared to other mower types. They don’t have an electric motor, and they don’t use batteries or fuel, so they’re lighter and hollower than other mowers.


🤷🏼‍♂️ How A Manual Lawn Mower Works

A manual mower operates by pushing power. The mower has a series of blades on a cylinder, and when you push the mower, it causes the blades to rotate, cutting the grass as you walk.


Most manual mowers have two primary wheels, which allow you to move the mower without exerting too much energy.


This mode of operation has a few obvious advantages: the mower can be used anywhere, without the need for gas or electricity, and it’s lighter and quieter than electric and gas-powered motors.


However, there are a few disadvantages of the manual mower operation, which we’ll discuss later in this guide.



Quick Specs:

  • Brand: Bosch

  • Price: £

  • Power source: Manual

  • Cutting width: 38cm

  • Cutting height: 15 – 43mm

  • Weight: 6.9 kilograms

  • Grass box capacity: 25 litres

  • Dimensions (DxWxH): 54 x 49 x 38cm

  • Power: N/A

🏁 How Do You Start A Manual Mower?

To start a manual mower, you simply choose your preferred starting point and push the mower to start cutting the grass. There are no buttons to press or cords to pull.


With a manual reel mower, you’re entirely in control. That means you can push the mower to activate the spinning cylinder blades, and stop the mower at any time to bring the blades to a quick halt.


There’s no motor to power, so you don’t need to switch the mower on to get the reel spinning.

red, cross, though, mower, cord, on, lawn,

✂️ How To Use A Manual Mower

Let’s look at the step-by-step process of using a manual real mower to cut your lawn.


  1. Prepare the mower & your lawn. Remove the mower from storage and place it in a corner of your lawn. If your grass is longer than 4 inches, use a hand trimmer or weed whacker to cut your grass down to a height that can be easily managed by your mower.

  2. Set your desired cutting height. Most reel mowers let you choose between at least two cutting heights. Set your desired cutting height (a good range is between 1 3/4 to 2 inches) using the height adjustment lever.

  3. Start mowing. Push the mower to start mowing your lawn. The blades of a reel mower turn very quickly, cutting your grass as you walk.

  4. Mow your lawn. You don’t need telling how to do this! Whatever routine worked for you with an electric or petrol mower, do the same when cutting your lawn with a reel mower.

  5. Clean the mower. Once you’ve finished, carefully clean the mower and brush away the grass blades.

  6. Collect the grass clippings. If you have a reel mower without a grass box, you’ll need to finish the job by collecting the grass clippings from your lawn.

🧐 Parts Of A Manual Lawn Mower

The most important parts of a manual lawn mower are the handle, the main wheels, the supporting wheels or roller, and the blades.


  • The handle is attached to the main body of the mower and extends up to a comfortable holding height. You should hold on to either side of the handle to push the mower in a straight line.

  • The main wheels are what allow the mower to glide along your lawn. These wheels support the body of the mower and allow for an even cut across the mower’s diameter.

  • The supporting or secondary wheels, or roller, are found at the back of the mower and make sure that the blade is consistently at the highest point of the mower’s cutting width, so you get a good-quality, even cut.

  • The blades are attached to a cylinder and spin as you push the mower. These blades are sharp enough to provide a clean cut as the mower moves over the grass.

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✅Advantage Of Manual Mowers Vs Other Mower Types

There are a few reasons to consider push reel mowers instead of gas-powered mowers or rotary mowers:


🎧 They’re Quiet

Unlike gas mowers and electric mowers, push reel mowers don’t have a noisy engine. That means you can mow as early or as late in the day as suits you, without worrying about distributing your neighbors. Reel mowers are also a win if you have sensitive hearing.

💰 They’re Cheaper To Buy And Maintain

The average cost of a manual reel mower is £50 to £70 – that’s between one-third and half the price of the average electric mower, and less than a quarter of the price of a petrol mower. Maintenance costs for push reel mowers are virtually non-existent, too, since your only required task is to sharpen the blades.


🏋🏻‍♂️ They Help you Keep Fit

The extra effort that goes into using a push reel mower means you can keep fit while mowing your lawn. Pushing a manual mower is a great form of cardiovascular exercise, so reel mowers are a great way to take care of your physical health while also taking care of your garden.


♻️ They’re Environmentally Friendly

Unlike rotary mowers and petrol mowers, manual mowers don’t make noise pollution, they don’t use energy (apart from your own physical pushing energy!), and they don’t release toxic gases, so they’re a great choice for folks who are keen to reduce their carbon footprints.


🥰 They’re Better For Your Grass

The clean, scissor-like cut of a cylinder spinning reel in a manual mower is better for your grass than the “smashing” action of a rotary mower’s blades. Manual reel mowers give a neater cut than most electric mowers and help your grass to heal faster, leaving it less vulnerable to disease.

lawn mower, mow, cut the lawn-2385925.jpg

❌Disadvantages Of Manual Mowers

You should also be aware of the disadvantages of manual reel lawn mowers before you spend your money:


😮‍💨 They Take Extra Effort

A reel mower requires extra effort to use. Not only is it more difficult to push the mower, but you may also need to prep your lawn by cutting the grass to a manageable height before you start mowing. Plus, most reel mowers don’t have a grass bag or box, so you’ll need to collect the grass clippings when you’re finished.


📏 They’re Not Ideal For Cutting Long Grass

While the best electric or gas mower will work in virtually any situation, a push reel mower has its limitations. For instance, you’ll struggle to use this mower type to cut grass that’s longer than 4 inches. Manual mowers also don’t handle stones and twigs well, and they’re not ideal for uneven surfaces.


🛠 The Blade Needs Sharpening Regularly

You’ll need to keep the cylinder blade sharpened to enjoy a consistent lawn mowing experience. You might have to pay for the blades to be professionally sharpened, which costs more than getting rotary blades sharpened.


🟩 🟢 They’re Not Ideal For Medium Or Large Lawns

The average push reel mower has a maximum cutting width of 30cm, and the extra work that goes into using this mower type means it’s not the most efficient choice for cutting a medium-to-large garden. I only recommend a reel mower if you have a small lawn.

✂️ How To Maintain A Manual Mower’s Performance

The only maintenance job for a reel mower is to sharpen the blades 1-2 times per year.

I recommend buying an at-home blade sharpening kit to do a good job, but you could also pay for professional blade sharpening if you don’t want the responsibility of this maintenance task. It costs as little as £5 per blade to get your mower blades sharpened by a mower maintenance company.

setting, cylinder, mower, blade, cut,

📊 Are Manual Mowers Worth It?

Manual reel mowers are worth it for you if you have a small lawn or a small budget and you’re happy to sacrifice the few perks of electric or gas-powered mowers (such as a more powerful operation and better results when mowing long grass or uneven surfaces) for a mower that’s quiet, affordable, and good for the environment.


When deciding whether or not a manual mower is worth it, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I like the idea of staying fit while I mow my lawn, or would I rather get the job done as quickly as possible?

  • Would I prefer a quiet model that’s better for my lawn, or do I prefer the speed and convenience of a more powerful mower that might damage my grass?

  • Do I have any constraints that might make a mower more or less suitable for me? For instance, if your budget is tight, a manual mower is a great choice, but if you have a big garden, another mower type will be more suitable.

Regardless of whether or not you choose a manual mower for your garden, make sure you find a mower that’s sold by a reputable brand and positively rated by customers and industry professionals alike.


You want to make sure you get the best value for money from your purchase, whether you spend £50 on a reel mower or £150+ on a more high-tech alternative.

Mower Pros and Cons
Electric Mowers Petrol Mowers Manual Mowers
Pros ✅ Quiet operation, lightweight, and easy to maneuver. ✅ Simple to use, no need for fuel or electricity.
Environmental Impact ✅ No emissions during operation, eco-friendly. ✅ Zero emissions, environmentally friendly.
Maintenance ✅ Low maintenance, no need for oil changes or spark plug replacements. ✅ Powerful cutting performance, suitable for large lawns. ✅ Minimal maintenance required.
Cutting Quality ✅ Consistent cutting performance, suitable for small to medium-sized lawns. ✅ Effective on various grass types, can handle tall or thick grass. ❌ Requires more effort and precision, may result in uneven cuts.
Noise Level ✅ Quieter operation, less disruptive to neighbors. ❌ Noisier compared to electric mowers. ✅ Silent operation.
Power Dependency ❌ Limited runtime, requires access to electrical outlets or battery recharging. ✅ Continuous operation with fuel availability. ❌ Relies solely on human power.
Fuel Dependency ❌ Requires a power source, either electricity or battery charge. ✅ Requires gasoline or petrol. ❌ No fuel required.
Cost ❌ Initial cost may be higher, but lower long-term operating costs. ✅ Lower initial cost, but higher long-term operating costs (fuel, oil changes, etc.). ✅ Lower initial cost and operating cost.
Mobility ✅ Lightweight and easy to move around. ✅ Suitable for large lawns, no cord limitations. ✅ Portable and can be used anywhere.
Pollution ✅ No emissions during operation, reduces air pollution. ❌ Emissions contribute to air pollution. ✅ Zero emissions, reduces air pollution.

👨‍💻 How Do Manual Reel Mowers Work? FAQ

Is a manual lawn mower better?

A manual mower is considered better than an electric or petrol mower because it’s quicker and easier to set up, it provides a silent, pollution-free operation, and it’s lighter and more space-saving while in storage. However, manual mowers still have their setbacks, including that they’re not good at mowing over twigs and stones, and they take a lot of work to push – especially when mowing overgrown lawns.


💪 Is it hard to use a manual lawn mower?

No, it’s not hard to use a manual lawn mower, and most people – including older people – should be able to comfortably use this mower type. However, there are certain circumstances that make manual mowers harder to use than other mowers, including long grass, uneven or rocky terrain, and weedy lawns. If you have mobility restrictions, you may find a manual mower difficult to use in these circumstances.


📐 Can manual lawn mower cut long grass?

No, manual mowers aren’t the best solution for cutting grass that’s more than 4 inches long. While you could still use a manual reel mower to cut overgrown grass, it’ll require extra time and energy. If you’re cutting your grass for the first time in months, you might need to use a hand trimmer or weed whacker to cut the grass shorter before going in with a manual mower.


🏁 What is the fastest way to cut grass with a push mower?

The fastest and most efficient way to cut grass with a push mower is to mow in rows. Do laps of the widest part of the garden. So, if your garden is wider than it is long, mow horizontally to your house so you finish the job with fewer laps. There are no cheats or shortcuts to fast mowing – just common sense.