Eye protection is an absolute must when operating a leaf blower, which blows stuff around at high velocity. Use safety goggles or glasses ($10-$15). Also:
- Gas-powered blowers are loud. Try earmuff-type hearing protection ($15-$20) or soft foam plugs ($4 for 3 pairs).
- As with all landscaping chores, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a good pair of gloves will protect you from dirt, cuts, and burns.
- Never point the working end of a leaf blower toward people or pets.
When to use your leaf blower
Wet leaves are a bear to blow, so pick the driest, calmest day possible. Most municipalities limit the operation of power tools to certain hours of the day, so check with your city before using a leaf blower early in the morning or in the evening. Common courtesy calls for a self-imposed ban when next-door neighbors are entertaining or enjoying the outdoors.
What to blow
Leaf blowers work best on flimsy debris like fallen leaves, grass clippings, thin twigs, and raked thatch. But the range of suitable targets doesn’t stop there; you can also:
- Blow light snow off a walkway or car.
- Chase cobwebs from garage rafters.
- Remove lint buildup in a dryer vent exhaust.
- Scatter puddles of water that linger on your driveway.
How to attack a yard
If there’s a breeze, try and work with it rather than against it. Starting at the edges of your yard — especially beneath shrubs, bushes, and trees — blow debris toward the middle of your lawn. Break the yard up into workable sections, herding debris into numerous piles rather than trying to move it all from one end to the other.
Directing the leaves onto an old sheet or tarp makes it a breeze to haul them to the curb for pickup. But if they need to be placed in lawn-and-leaf bags, you’ll have to skip the tarp and stuff bags by hand. Use a hand rake to clean up the stray bits. If your blower has a vacuum mode, use that to speed up the bagging process.
How to attack a hard surface
Grass clippings and leaves on a hard-surface driveway or walkway move much more freely than those on a lawn. If your blower has power settings, ratchet it all the way down to reduce the likelihood that the debris will end up in the wrong place — like your neighbor’s yard.
When not to blow
Let’s face it: Sometimes we home owners are a little quick to reach for the power tools when a good old hand tool will do. For small jobs like stray grass clippings on a walk or a smattering of leaves on the lawn, give the trusty old broom or hand rake some love.
To reduce potentially hazardous dust clouds, leaf blowers should not be used on gravel driveways, bare dirt, and other dusty surfaces. Do not blow soon after applying fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides.