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  • Ray Campbell

Sun Joe Dethatcher: Is It Really The Best Lawn Mower For The Money?

If you want to get your lawn in top green shape and you’re looking for an affordable solution, the Sun Joe AJ801E is probably the best you can get for the money. It’s cheap and durable, and reviewers are raving about it.

FYI, Prices and ratings are accurate as of time of writing.


Sun Joe Electric Dethatcher and Scarifier with a Removeable 8-Gallon Collection Bag

Top-rated: 10,910 ratings


Sun Joe Electric Dethatcher and Scarifier with a Removeable 8-Gallon Collection Bag

Highlight: The 12-amp motor rakes a 13" wide path to get the job done faster.

Most helpful review: "Let's start with the challenge I had to solve for. I have an lawn that spans 2000 sq. ft. that has never been dethached in the last 7 years. The lawn health has been steadily decreasing and no amount of chemical fertilizers or weed control have been able to restore the lawn to its early glory. After giving up on the chemical treatment path, I tried aeration. Presumably it helped, but I saw no real improvement in the health of my lawn. Finally, I hit upon dethaching. My lawn has become a patchwork of living and dead grass.
I picked up the Sun Joe AJ801E for three reasons:
1. It had the highest powered motor (amp consumption) on Amazon for dethaching
2. It had a scraper / scarifier, which presumably will allow me to more easily reseed targeted areas of my lawn.
3. My "Mow, Blow, & Go" gardener claimed that all the dethacthers for a lawn my size were rented out to golf courses.
Assembly is super easy, but I had some issues with one of the metal arms not fitting correctly into the main dethatcher. More on that later....
Product performance: I ran the Sun Joe at 0" across a small section of my lawn. In one pass across 10ft of lawn, the catch bag was full of thatch! I was shocked. Looking at the lawn, I could barely tell that the Sun Joe had actually lifted anything out, but the full bag told me otherwise. I ended up covering 200 sq. ft of my lawn, having to run multiple passes to get all the thatch. This little machine is super efficient, but I found the catch bag filling up way faster than expected. I've got another 1600 sq ft of lawn to cover, but will have to attack it one week at a time. Just covering 200 sq ft filled my yard waste bin.
Pros:
- Easy to assemble.
- Efficient in picking up thatch. May need multiple passes if your lawn has been neglected.
- Safety switch makes it impossible for my young children to accidentally turn this on.
- Dethacther and Scarifier rollers are easy to swap
Cons:
- Small catch bag
- Safety switch is a bit of a bear when you need to stop and empty the catch bag often.
- Assembly requires some force to get the bent metal arm into the main dethatcher or the screw holes will not line up.
- Changing the Dethatcher roller for the Scarifier requires a 10mm wrench. Not a big deal if you have a crescent wrench or socket set. It just took me by surprise since I thought they would use sizes a little more common for the American do-it-yourselfer that has minimal tools.
Time will tell if this holds up over the 2-year warranty, but so far I am really happy with the performance.
Regarding customer support:
All too often we hear about poor customer support. I am here to tell you that Sun Joe has top-notch customer support.
When assembling the Sun Joe, you must insert the metal poles / arms into the main unit. If you look at the product picture, I'm referring to the black metal arms that support the power switch and push point. The portion that connects to the actual unit is bent at approximately 135 degrees. You must use a bit of force to get the arms into the main unit or the screw holes will not line up. On the unit I purchased, I was not able to push in the metal rod far enough to line up the screw holes, even after putting my weight into it. I was reluctant to use a rubber mallet for fear of bending the actual metal rod.
When I called Sun Joe, the gentleman listened to my concern. He immediately said they would ship a new one out.
Here is what totally blew me away.... Sun Joe support never questioned my ability to follow instructions, troubleshoot, or even verify that I followed the instructions correctly. I was preparing myself to verbally defend myself, which is exactly what you need to do when calling for support from nearly any other manufacturer. Nope. Not here. Sun Joe sent a brand new unit and provided a pre-paid slip to send the old one back. They didn't even ask for any credit card information to secure a deposit!
Sure, I could have gone through Amazon to do the return process, but I wanted to give the manufacturer a chance to own the problem. No question about it, Sun Joe actually made it easier than Amazon." — DigitalBrad

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Sun Joe Electric Dethatcher and Scarifier with a Removeable 8-Gallon Collection Bag

"I was a little wary about this product since it looks like so much plastic and I've never had much luck with plug-in lawn equipment. Of course I am going back 20-30 years for that statement! When I got the Sun Joe, it was packed very neatly in the box and everything came out easily.
When assembling it, I found it very easy. I read that some people complained about the cheap phillips screws that screwed into the handle. I had only a slight problem with one so I screwed it into the handle first to start the threads and then removed it, put the handle together and then screwed the phillips screw back in. Worked like a charm! The cable clamps work okay but the cable seems to be much longer than needed so it sticks out in a loop and it did get caught once on something I was going around. I fixed that by moving the cable to the inside of the handle.
The real test was going over my very rough lawn the first time. I didn't really think it would do much because of the 4 year drought we've had here in California. The ground was not super dried out since our very wet winter but I just wasn't sure. I started it up and ran my first line down the yard. WOW! It cut right through that old grass like nothing. The motor felt very powerful and went through it like butter. I was amazed at just how much the scarifier pulled up! I was only going to test it but then got carried away and did the whole yard. It is about 550 square feet so it didn't take too long. I didn't want to rake all the thatch up so I used my blower to blow it all into a big pile. Then I threw it over the fence for the cows to munch on.
Then I decided "what the heck" and put the dethatching tool on and went at it again. This time I put the bag on to see if what people have been saying was true about it holding very little. They were right! I could only make 1 pass on each strip and then had to dump the bag or thatch would accumulate in front of the Sun Joe. In my case, I can just walk over the the fence and dump it over for the cows so it wasn't that big of a deal. It took a little longer but I ended up with a huge amount of thatch that the dethatcher pulled out even after the scarifier did its job. Then I did another quick pass with the blower and was done.
After not dethatching my lawn for the last 10 years, I was quite pleased with the results. The machine was quick, light and efficient. It comes with a two year warranty but if you think about it, how often would you use this machine? Once every year at most so you may only get 2 uses out of it before the warranty is up. If it breaks down on the 3rd use, well, your warranty is already up but I don't think that would happen after listening to it and feeling it cut through the mess I had. It handled it easily. I would highly recommend this product!" — frodoboy

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Sun Joe Electric Dethatcher and Scarifier with a Removeable 8-Gallon Collection Bag

"I'm a woman who takes care of her own lawn. This spring however, I ran into a few issues. It was after researching the internet that I discovered that my yard was dying; had weeds and was beginning to become plagued with fungus in some spots because thatch was suffocating my grass.
Thus, I had too much thatch which wouldn't allow proper oxygen, water and nutrients to hit down into my lawn's soil.... I'm not going to lie... Your yard will look disgusting and embarrassing for the first two weeks after using this Sun Joe.... I first tried two passes on a close to highest setting but soon realized that wasn't enough... I said 'the heck with it's and took my Sun Joe down to the lowest setting and eradicated my entire yard in order to get rid of the thatch...
I followed behind it and overseeded with commercial grade seed and sprinkled granulated sugar in my yard to encourage the photosynthesis process and promote self-repair.... I wouldn't hesitate buying this... I live in Ohio and I too wonder if some or all reviews are from paid users, but I am not. And, I feel great about this Sun Joe joining the arsenal of my lawn care equipment..... But, as mentioned your grass will look rather raggedy after using. Just have some patience because a 2 weeks turnaround was more than worth it!!" — Meganificent1

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Sun Joe Electric Dethatcher and Scarifier with a Removeable 8-Gallon Collection Bag

"My lawn has been looking progressively worse each year and I though I'd give this a try. I prefer gas powered equipment but those are cost prohibitive for these tools and this was the best rated electrical. Used the scarifying tool on the shallowest setting, then the rake on the deepest. Worked so well I used the raking tool again the next week. I used it a third time because I like to overdo things, but that was a bit too much and was thinning some spots out too much. The catch bag is too small to be convenient. Best to forget the bag and just use a hand rake to collect everything when you're done. Took me 4 months to take the last picture because I was lazy, but the lawn looked that good after 2 months." — CudaRavage

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Sun Joe Electric Dethatcher and Scarifier with a Removeable 8-Gallon Collection Bag

"The dethatcher prongs wore out. The scarifier blades wore out. And the cylinder stopped turning. So why am I giving this 5 stars?
Two reasons: First because it is the most effective tool I've ever used for preparing a lawn for new seeding or renovation. Secondly, because SunJoe customer Service is fantastic.
This is not a commercial machine. And, it is not a tiller. But it is a must-have for the resident who wants to make a drastic improvement to his ugly yard. It costs $115. I figure it can handle about an acre of heavy use before blades need replacing. What do you spend on seed and fertilizer per acre? A small fortune, if you have repeated failures like me.
The SunJoe scarifier can allow you to "slit-seed." No raking required. That saves time (money) and gives better germination results. With SunJoe, I can prepare a strip of ground in less than 1/10th of the time I spent with a manual garden rake.
For detailed videos, search YouTube for SunJoe Scarifier/Dethatcher by David Deutscher.
Basically, I used SunJoe to bring my ugly yard down to bare ground. It yanked up my poisoned crabgrass/moss/thatch.
Then I used the scarifier to cut slits in the exposed ground. Used a rotary spreader to sow fertilizer and new seed. Afterwards I did use a rake to cover the seed. But, later discovered that raking was not necessary. I accomplished the same thing by turning on my water sprinklers. It was quick, easy, and fun. It resulted in the fastest and most lush new lawn I've ever seen. Is that worth $115?
I don't know how it performs on an already established lawn. (I used the deepest settings for everything.) My advice would be to start with shallow settings and go deep only if necessary.
Obviously, the deepest settings will create the most wear&tear on blades and prongs. Your SunJoe may last for many acres. On the second day, I broke my SunJoe. Maybe I hit a rock or a root. Perhaps my compacted soil was too hard for this tool. The cylinder stopped turning.
I contacted SunJoe and they sent me a brand new replacement which arrived only a few hours after I had taken the broken one to Kohls for free return. Now, that's customer service.
SunJoe has knowledgeable and courteous reps to handle your inquiry. However, you might have to first make contact with a seller's rep who will have no clue about the problem you are describing. Just roll with the punches and ask him to connect you with a SunJoe representative.
If you want to see the results of my SunJoe renovation project, search YouTube for Jonathan Green Ultra grass seed by David Deutscher. SunJoe gave me a yard in two weeks that previously took a month or more.
My recommendation is to purchase both the SunJoes Dethatcher/Scarifier and the SunJoe Tiller.
The tiller is useful when dealing with extremely compacted ground or when penetration deeper than a half inch is required." — David D.

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Sun Joe Electric Dethatcher and Scarifier with a Removeable 8-Gallon Collection Bag

"I used this for the first time a few weeks ago to dethatch and scarify the front left section of my property. This was an awesome purchase and saved a lot of time and muscle. It did what it's expected to do. I raked up the dead grass into a 6' x 4' x 3' pile after dethatching and then scarified the same section of lawn to churn the dirt up a bit. The changing of the spindle underneath from the dethatcher to the scarifier entails removing two bolts. It couldn't be easier. Two weeks later after spreading seed and new seed fertilzer (and watering every day) the new grass is coming in. The one suggestion I have since this is corded is to start as close to the cord outlet and work your way outwards away from it to avoid having to constantly move the electrical cord around." — AD in NJ

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Sun Joe Electric Dethatcher and Scarifier with a Removeable 8-Gallon Collection Bag

"I watched a bunch of lawn guys on YouTube and want to make my front lawn better so I bought this Sun Joe dethatcher. Just finished three passes on the lawn and this thing totally exceeded my expectations.
The first one I received had an issue so I contacted Customer Support and they got back to me in like 15 minutes which was awesome. Two emails later and the issue was getting resolved. Had to wait on a shipment but overall the support experience was stellar and I couldn't ask for anything more.
I unboxed the dethatcher and put it together which was easy. To put the handle on you'll need a phillips head screwdriver for two screws and then the rest of the assembly is by hand using the included knob screws. The scarifier blade comes factory installed so if you want to change it out for the dethatching cartridge you'll need a 10mm wrench or socket to remove two bolts.
I used my heaviest extension cord for the job so this thing could get all the juice it needed, set the level of the blade to 0 and pulled the handle to start. Right away it's easy to see how well it works. I felt like the 0 level was perfect. It cut into the dirt just enough for me who overseeded after the process. I did three passes in different directions and then used my gas mower to pickup the thatch. I had to empty my mower bag a bunch of times. Neighbors must have thought I was crazy mowing the lawn over and over again.
Great results. Totally worth it. Every bit of the process was enjoyable because you see the difference immediately. Sure it's going to take a while for everything to fill in properly but it looks way better with the thatch gone." — W. K.

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Sun Joe Electric Dethatcher and Scarifier with a Removeable 8-Gallon Collection Bag
"So, I purchased this item after my boss told me about it. He showed me pics of his usage, and I figured, why not? It was relatively inexpensive, costing about the same as a one-time rental of a dethatcher from the local rental place. I figured if I get 2 uses out of it and destroy it, I'm ahead of the game. Plus, I could use it at my convenience and not have to worry about returning it.
We take pretty good care of our lawn/yard (it's not perfect, especially in the area that used to have an above ground pool, but we try). It's a larger lot (about 1/4 acre) in our neighborhood, and we mow every week with a push mower. We alternate weeks of mulching and bagging, so we really didn't think there would be very much thatch coming up. Boy were we wrong.
We started off with my husband cutting and bagging the grass in one direction, and, as he moved to a different section of the yard, I started with the Sun Joe going in the opposite direction, using the dethatching attachment. I followed him around the entire yard doing this. Because we didn't use the bag on the Sun Joe (see "cons" below), he then went OVER the thatched material with the lawnmower to bag it up - first in one direction, and then he did the entire yard AGAIN in the other direction to ensure that it was all picked up. We were going to use our Billy Goat blower, but figured that would make an absolute mess, so we opted for the mowing route. Total time for about 9000sf - 4 hours. And well worth every minute.
I should have taken photos, but rest assured that I was completely and utterly dumbfounded at the amount of dead grass and compost-like material that we raised, and it takes quite a bit for me to be impressed by a yard machine.
Pros:
- easy to assemble - only tool needed was a Philips head screwdriver (also, make sure you push the angled handle portions of the metal tubes ALL THE WAY into the body of the machine - many review complain about this, but I can see where the issue is not pushing in all the way). The rest of the handle is assembled using large, easy to turn plastic thumbscrews. Very convenient.
- the height/depth settings are easy to change. Simply push the green t-handle in and move it to the setting you choose. I tried the "0" setting first so as not to damage any grass, and found that moving it to the "-5" setting worked even better and caused no damage. On the areas where we had moss, I moved it to the "-10" setting. Moss no more.
- works exactly as described and as needed - they're not inflating the value of this machine, I can safely say.
Cons:
- the bag. As most other reviews stated, the bag is a joke. True, but we just left it off. See above for how we picked it up without breaking our backs raking.
Notes: seriously - make sure you're using the right size extension cord. I used a 12 gauge cord at 100 feet and had ZERO problems. Machine didn't shut off, overheat, or otherwise explode. Also, you can use a tiny bungee cord to wrap around the handle to keep it powered as you move through your yard. The angle of the power switch can get a little uncomfortable over time.
Overall - 5 out of 5. I wouldn't change a thing - even the bag. It would take a REALLY big bag for it to be convenient, and the only other option would be a giant vacuum, so I can't count that against them." — E. Woodside

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"We live in the PNW (Washington State) we have a lot of clouds, rain, wet soggy, moss most of the year. I’ve thatched every year either paying or renting. Half my back yard is on a hill and it’s impossible to safely get the commercial thatcher up the hill, the landscaper failed with two people 😂 My yard probably needs to be thatched at least twice a year or more, but that’s cost prohibitive, not to mention even on a flat lawn the commercial thatcher it labor intensive and not able to get in tight spots.
Ok enough context, what I read in the positive reviews has been my experience so far. However only one use on about 3000 sq feet of grass.
Positives:
Light weight
nimble
Well powered
Easy to clean (hose it down dry it out)
Two options the thatching drum and a scrapper drum interchangeable and easy to replace if needed (still looking into the how and why on the scrapper).
The price point is good, the rental cost is $57+tax+insurance $65ish then there is the pick up return cleaning the beast and it’s heavy and a pain to run. Even if this thing last me a year with 3 uses I’m money ahead. Not to mention the cost to pay to have it done is 75-100.
I think listing negatives at this point is not fair. It’s $129.00. You can not expect something not made of plastic and light metals, but hey they even throw in a cord holder!
The bag it’s a nice thought but it’s like mirrors on a Ducati super bike, worthless 😂, the commercial ones don’t have them for the same reason this one should not, too much output (that’s a good thing) just grab the mower and suck it up. And make sure you mow before you thatch so you actually you will be mowing twice 😭 I’d rather see the price drop 30 bucks with no bag.
The cord… you have to put this in context, what you get with an electric motor far out ways needing to learn cord management. Batteries are not going to work technology isn’t there yet.
I’ll update if something changes." — Tyler

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"Our yard where it's grass-covered is less than 1/4 acre. Last year I started to read up on caring for our lawn in our new home. I knew about thatch but knew nothing about, well, everything else other than watering.
One thing that strongly drew me into this product reading the reviews are the great customer service. I'll pay extra to have a better service and know I can call to get help if need be. So fingers crossed I don't have to call them of course but it's an extra assurance.
With that said, our yard has a ridiculous amount of thatch. What looked like a thin patch after pulling revealed another layer. While the last homeowner seemed to maintain it well with barely any weeds, I noticed looking at some old photos the grass didn't seem as green.
So I decided I'll try dethatching first. I've never heard of scarifying until I bought this unit. With our yard, the thick dead grass that was laying on its side found to be the best option over the spring tines. I did mow the lawn first as low as possible and started with the spring tines. It worked great. But in our backyard compared to the front, the thatch was so thick it was barely making a dent. So I switched to scarifying blades which were also easy to swap just loosening two 10mm bolts (IF YOU CAN FIND THAT 10mm!).
Scarifying not only cut through the dead layers of thatch but also lifted them up. What I quickly realized is that not only you have to mow first (otherwise you're cutting into good grass if there are any), but afterward, you'll end up mowing at the lowest setting again.
Low and behold I can see tiny new grass growing underneath EVERYWHERE.
Like everyone else said, don't bother with the bag BUT make sure you wear either pair of boots or at least with pants as if you kick up something like a small rock, I did have one hit my ankle (and I was wearing shorts...).
As for picking up the mounds of what looks like giant cat hairballs laying around everywhere, raking sucks, leaf blower did okay but the best is just simply go over back and forth with the lawnmower. Yes, you'll fill up the bag quick but it'll save you time and your back.
On the second day when I was dethatching my yard for about four hours straight, I found the lawnmower pickup to be the quickest. My legs were just sore from all the walking but the yard looks great just from dethatching. The surface feels very soft.
And sure, I should probably plug aerate my lawn at this point (ohhh I'm using big technical words now!) but want to see how I do by over-seeding some of the bare spots and filling some depressions with the suggest potting soil with plays and (don't use topsoil as it has too much junk including regular sand).
My fiancée is delighted at the yard already but there's a lot of work to be done. I'll be spraying the yard with pre-emergent herbicide with nonionic detergent to control the weed. Speaking of weeds, the scarifying will also shred them to pieces even though it's likely their roots are still intact.
Also VERY important. When the manufacturer says don't use 14 gauge extension cord for anything longer 50 feet is true. I wanted to reach a spot I couldn't with my 50-foot 12 gauge and tried to attach the 14 gauge I can tell just by the sound it was starting to bog down. So I stopped the unit immediately and moved the 12 gauge extension cord where I can reach the spot. Problem solved. Can't mess around with voltage drops!
It's a learning process that I hope to be a better healthy looking lawn. Time will tell but I absolutely recommend this product!" — Amazon Customer

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"First impressions unboxing and assembling were that there was no way this thing was going to last. But it did, to the tune of 22 bags of grass clippings. In fact, it was still going strong when I had enough. 22 30 gallon bags of old grass clippings in my grass completely transformed my yard. After removing all the thatch, I over seeded my lawn and my expectation is for a beautiful thick green lawn this year. The past two summers, my lawn hasn't been healthy and was retaining too much moisture.
It comes with two attachments (scarifier and power rake) and a 2 gallon bag. I installed the power rake attachment and made 2 passes over my yard raking between each pass. Within minutes, it was obvious that the bag attachment was pointless. Considering I filled up 22 30 gallon bags of grass clippings, I would have had to change the bag 30+ times. Two of us working, one power raking and one raking and bagging was able to finish the lawn in about 5 hours -- yes, 5 hours. In most places in my yard, you can now see dirt under the grass whereas before, it was just a thick carpet of thatch and grass.
I used a 50 foot 10 gauge extension cord and never experienced any issues with the Sun Joe. It never bogged down, never got hot, never smoked, it just chewed through the thatch spitting out huge piles of dead grass.
The Sun Joe has a depth adjustment from 10mm to -10mm (10, 5, 0, -5, -10). I marked all my sprinkler heads the day before with flags and set off at 10mm being very careful not to run over sprinkler heads. By the end of the day, I was running -5mm and pulled up the flags, no damage to sprinkler heads with the power rake attachment, but would still recommend being careful, replacing sprinkler heads will just add to your work. I didn't use the scarifier and judging by the weight of its blades, it would make short work of sprinkler heads." — Robert

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"So I started with the Greenworks dethatcher because it was cheaper, a neighbor said it was good enough, and others gave it great reviews. Had a problem with the assembly and availability issues led me to try the Sun Joe instead. While the SJ is a bit more money, the materials and design issue I had with the other unit were not an issue with the SJ.
In both cases, I wish the machine had a on/off switch and then a deadman lever that I could hold with either/both hands (like a mower). Between futzing with the cord and such, I'd let go of the handle with my right hand. So I'd have to hold in the button and pull the trigger to get going. It'd be safer and easier to operate to have both hands on the handle and use a pull lever to engage the unit. Not a show stopper, but something to consider.
This unit did a great job (!) chewing up the thatch and many others have offered nice reviews. Didn't have to run over anything twice or three times. So I won't discuss that. I will add that dethatching the whole yard was finished in maybe 30 minutes versus the raking I've done in the past (many hours). It also did a great job of pulling up thatch. In some places, perhaps too good of a job. I didn't use the scarifier.
What remains a pain is cleaning up the thatch. The unit doesn't really save any time there. The bag that comes with the unit is awfully small. I'm not sure why they even bother with it.
Some other reviewers mentioned running over the refuse with the mover. I found the mower gets filled pretty fast in the past when I raked the thatch. I tended to prefer the rake to a tarp method unless the thatch is really fluffy. The SJ got up even more material (esp. dried out moss), so the mower filled too fast. Worse, the mower made a LOT of dust in the air, making a mess along with some breathing concerns (fortunately it was breezy). And, the mower didn't do a good job of picking up bonus items like acorns. You have to set the mower somewhat lower than I like to use on the grass to pick up the detritus. So, the grass ended up being extra short, which is its own thing. So after a good test, I decided to bag the mower approach.
Instead, I used a lawn sweeper that I got to avoid bending over to pick up leaves. It didn't have much more capacity than the mower, but it didn't create a huge dust storm. It also tended to pick up the twigs, acorns and other heavier items the mower whiffed on. It proved a better choice than the mower.
My two cents..." — Michael W.

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