How Do Rotary Lawn Mowers Work?

Rotary mowers are the most popular mower type for home gardening.


Here, I’ve shared everything you need to know about how rotary mowers work, including how to use a rotary mower, the parts of this mower type, and how rotary mowers compare to cylinder mowers.

✅ Key Takeaways:

  • A rotary mower is a type of mower that uses a horizontally-spinning blade to cut grass with a “smashing” or “chopping” action.

  • Rotary lawn mowers work by chopping through the grass with a single blade, directing the cut grass clippings into the grass box.

  • The main difference between a rotary mower and a cylinder mower is the blade: rotary lawnmowers use a horizontally-spinning blade, while cylinder mowers use multiple vertically-spinning blades.

Table of Contents

❓ How Does A Rotary Lawn Mower Work? Quick Overview

A rotary lawnmower works by chopping grass with a spinning blade on a singular vertical pivot point on the mower’s underside. The mower has a deck around the blade that directs the grass clippings to the grass collection box or bag at the back of the machine.

🤔 What Is A Rotary Lawn Mower?

A rotary lawn mower is a type of mower that chops grass with a rotary blade as you push the mower along your lawn.


The majority of home mowers are rotary lawn mowers because the rotary style cut is good for most lawns, and rotary mowers are cheaper than reel mowers due to their more simplistic design.


Types of Rotary Lawn Mowers

There are a few different types of rotary lawn mowers available today, including:

  • Corded electric mowers

  • Cordless battery-operated mowers

  • Petrol mowers

The most popular mower type using a rotary blade is the corded electric mower. This mower is ideal for small-to-medium gardens and provides a quick, powerful cut.

  • Brand: Bosch
  • Price: ££

  • Power source: Electric corded

  • Cutting width: 34cm

  • Cut height range: 20-70mm

  • Weight: 11.09 kilograms

  • Grass box capacity: 40 litres

  • Dimensions (DxWxH): 61.6 x 37.8 x 40.2cm

  • Power: 1300 W

✂️ How Does A Rotary Mower Work?

A rotary mower works by propelling a horizontally-spinning blade, which cuts grass with a “chopping” or “smashing” cutting action.


Depending on the mower type, a rotary lawnmower might be powered by petrol, mains electricity, or a battery. This engages the motor, which prompts the blade to spin.


As you push the mower over your lawn, the spinning horizontal blade will tear off the ends of the grass, cutting it shorter. The cut blades of grass are funnelled into a grass box or bag, which you will need to empty out periodically once it gets full.


Most rotary lawn mowers have four wheels that allow the mower to travel around your garden. Some mowers also have a rear roller for a striped lawn.


Some hover mowers, which float on a cushion of air rather than having wheels, also use rotary blades. There are also self-propelled rotary lawn mowers, which use motors that allow them to drive independently, so you don’t have to put in the pushing effort.

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🏁 How Do You Start A Rotary Mower?

You start a rotary lawn mower in the same way that you’d start any other mower type.


If you have an electric mower with a rotary blade, start the mower by pressing the start button or engaging the start lever. Keep a firm grip on the safety lever while you’re mowing to keep the motor in operation.


If you have a rotary-style petrol lawnmower, you’ll need to start the mower by putting the mower into start position and pulling the starter cord.

📝How To Use A Rotary Mower: Step-By-Step

To use a conventional corded electric rotary lawn mower, follow these steps:

  1. Do a quick visual inspection of the mower to make sure the blade, cord, and chassis are still in good condition.

  2. Plug the mower into a power outlet and position it in the corner of your lawn.

  3. Start the mower and mow your lawn. I don’t have to tell you how to do that!

  4. When you’ve finished, unplug the cord, then empty the grass cuttings out of the grass box and clean the mower before returning it to storage.

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🧰 Parts Of A Rotary Lawn Mower

The main parts of a rotary mower are:


✂️ Rotary Blade

The rotary blade is the tool that’s used to cut your grass. Rotary lawn mowers have back flaps that prevent your feet or other objects from being able to touch the exposed blades.

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🛵 Motor

The motor drives the blade to spin and is powered by the mower’s power source (electricity or fuel).



📦 Grass Collection Box/Bag

Most rotary lawn mowers have a grass collection bag or box that collects the grass clippings as you mow.

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mower, handle, self propelled, lawn,

👊🏻 Handle

The handle is positioned at a comfortable height for pushing and has two grips: one for each hand.


🟢 Wheels

The conventional rotary-style mower has four wheels: two at the front and two at the back, to allow the mower to easily glide across your lawn.

mower, wheel, adjuster,

🤼 Rotary Mowers Vs Cylinder Mowers

Rotary mowers are only one type of mower you can buy today. The other common mower type is the cylinder lawn mower, otherwise known as the reel mower.


The main difference between rotary mowers and reel mowers is the blade. A rotary mower has a single blade that spins horizontally to cut the grass, while a reel mower (cylinder mower) has multiple blades that spin vertically and cut the grass with a scissoring action against a fixed bottom plate.


This difference in cutting style means that reel mowers are better for grass health because they snip the grass blades like a pair of scissors, offering a precise, clean cut for a healthy lawn. Rotary lawn mowers use a “chopping” or “smashing” motion that tears off the ends of the grass blades, which is more likely to tear and damage grass and prevent regrowth.


Because of their benefits to the appearance and health of your lawn, reel lawn mowers are more expensive than comparable mowers that use rotary blades.

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✔️❌  Pros & Cons Of Rotary Mowers

Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of rotary lawn mowers.


✔️ Rotary Mower Pros

🛠 Sturdy, Durable Machines

Rotary lawn mowers are sturdy, with durable blades that are built to last. The average lifespan of this mower type is 8-10 years.


💰 More Affordable Option

If you want to keep your costs low, a rotary mower is the best choice. The average price of a rotary mower for smaller lawns is £75-£120.


🏞 Can Mow On All Terrains

Rotary lawn mowers handle a variety of terrains well thanks to their powerful rotating blades, and they go right over the top of small leaves and twigs. These mowers can also be used to easily cut long grass.


🏁 Quick & Easy To Use

Because of their no-nonsense approach to grass cutting, rotary lawn mowers get the job done quickly and without much effort on your part.


♻️ Require Less Frequent Mowing

Rotary lawn mowers cut grass to a shorter height than reel mowers, so they reduce your mowing frequency during the growing season.


❌ Rotary Mower Cons

🎧 Noisy

Mowers with a rotary blade are typically louder than reel mowers. You also can’t buy manual mowers with a rotary cutting mechanism, so the super-quiet option is out.


✂️ Poorer Cut Quality

Rotary lawn mowers offer a poorer quality of cut than reel mowers, which may affect the health of your lawn. However, as long as the mower has sharp blades (and you sharpen them when necessary), you probably won’t notice a difference in cut quality.

📊 Rotary Mowers Vs Cylinder Mowers Chart

Feature Rotary Mower Cylinder Mower
Cut quality Good for longer grass Best for shorter grass
Speed Faster Slower
Versatility More versatile Less versatile
Ease of use Easier to use More difficult to use
Price Less expensive More expensive
Maintenance Lower maintenance Higher maintenance
Noise Noisier Quieter
Wet grass Not as good in wet grass Better in wet grass

🔧 How To Maintain A Rotary Mower’s Performance

There are a few elements of rotary mower maintenance that will help you to extend the performance of this mower type.


Rotary lawn mower maintenance tasks include:

  • Cleaning the underside of the cutting deck, blade, and wheels.

  • Emptying out and cleaning the grass box.

  • Checking the nuts and bolts and tightening if necessary.

  • Checking the blades for sharpness and sharpening if necessary.

By making sure your mower is maintained correctly, you can enjoy a powerful performance and a good-quality cut throughout the mower’s lifespan.

cleaning, mower, blade,

🤷‍♂️ Are Rotary Mowers Worth It?

Rotary lawn mowers are worth it if you want to spend less on a great-value mower that offers a powerful, no-nonsense cut and gets the job done.


If you’re the everyday gardener who just wants something that will make your grass cutting chores quick and easy, then a rotary mower should suit your needs.


However, if you want the neatest, most manicured lawn, you’re a lawn enthusiast, or you care a lot about your lawn health, you might want to consider upgrading from a rotary mower to a cylinder mower (reel mower), since reel mower blades provide a neater scissor-like cut and prevent damage to your lawn.