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Best leaf blower 2021: Keep your garden tidy

Introduction

The downside of having a beautiful-looking garden is that autumn can bring with it a deluge of leaves to clean up. Rather than getting the rake out, a quality leaf blower will make it easier to clean up everything, even wet leaves.

Whether you want to use your leaves for compost (or leaf mould), or you just want to tidy them up, I’ve got a selection of the best cordless leaf blowers to help make your job easier.

I’ve put all of our choices through a range of identical tests, measuring both the air output (power) of each one, and then testing how they perform on a range of leaves and other debris.

How we test

How we test leaf blowers

We put all of our leaf blowers through their paces at our dedicated home appliance test facility. It’s important to us that we measure both raw power (how well each blower can push air) and real-world (how well each blower can shift leaves), letting us tell the good ones apart from the bad ones.

You can find out more in our our dedicated how we test leaf blowers article.

Stihl BGA 86

The finest handheld leaf blower we’ve tested
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Pros

  • Variable speed controls
  • Naturally points downwards
  • Extremely powerful

Cons

  • A little heavy
  • Fiddly to adjust nozzle length

The Stihl BGA 86 is a welcome improvement over our previous top choice. This tool is fantastically well built, designed to naturally point downwards in your hand, making clearing your garden easy. This tool uses Stihl’s professional line of AP batteries, and you can buy this tool bare or with batteries and a charger.

Air flow, at a maximum speed of 69m/s, works out at a massive 902.11m3/hour, which is huge. How huge? Well, you can feel the leaf blower push back in your hand has you use it, and it quickly clears even the toughest of debris, including large twigs and leaves trapped in grass blades.
Yet, the fine trigger control, means you can loosen your grip and dial the engine speed down to just a gentle whir, giving you power to finely tidy up a load of leaves or even blow down a workshop.

The weight, particularly because of the battery, is quite high, so longer jobs with this model can get a bit tiring. However, with the recommended AP300 battery, you get around 21 minutes of use, which is more than enough to tidy up everything, even the largest of gardens.

At 82.9dB, the BGA 87 is quiet for a leaf blower, especially one this powerful: it’s about as loud as a cordless vacuum cleaner on maximum power.

Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full review: Stihl BGA 86 review

Makita DUB183Z

A compact leaf blower that’s handy for anyone with a set of Makita cordless tools
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Pros

  • Uses same batteries as other Makita products
  • Compact and powerful for its size
  • Can vacuum dust

Cons

  • Lack of air volume

If you’ve got a set of Makita 18V power tools, the Makita DUB183Z is an attractive leaf blower for you, and great value, too. This very small leaf blower is very low noise and isn’t just handy for the garden but for cleaning up the workshop floor after you’ve finished a job.

The downside is that outside, this leaf blower is quite slow at cleaning leaves and doesn’t have the force of other more powerful cleaners. It’s still capable of cleaning up, blowing wet leaves over a 4-inch kerb, but the Makita DUB183Z takes a bit longer than other leaf blowers on this list. As such, this is a leaf blower that’s better suited for smaller areas and you’ll need a bigger blower for larger gardens.

That all said, for those with existing batteries that they can use, the Makita DUB183Z makes for a handy extra tool.

Reviewer: Ian Bowden
Full review: Makita DUB183Z review

Stihl BGA 57

A great choice for any size garden
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Pros

  • Powerful
  • Easy to use
  • Fairly quiet

Cons

  • On/off control only
  • Fiddly to extend

Although the BGA 57 is more of an entry level product for the garden manufacturer, it’s a far better quality product than that statement might suggest. Small, relatively light and well balanced, this is a quality tool that’s great for anyone with a mid-sized garden with a lot of leaves to clear.
This model runs on Stihl’s AK series of batteries, and you can buy this model with or without a battery and charger; the former is particularly useful if you have other Stihl tools already.

Ergonomically, the BGA 57 is brilliant, naturally pointing down so that it’s effortless to clean leaves. This model has a simple on/off trigger, with a maximum burst of air coming out at 46m/s. This gives enough power to clean even stubborn wet leaves, although you’ll find the job is a little slower than with the larger BGA 86.

That all said, the balance of quality, price and performance makes this a great leaf blower for most jobs.

Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full review: Stihl BGA 57 review

Honda HHB 36 AXB

A beast of a leaf blower with a clever battery belt.
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Pros

  • Variable speed control
  • Hugely powerful
  • Battery belt helps distribute weight

Cons

  • Needs to be angled down
  • No safety lock on the trigger

A super-powerful leaf blower, the Honda HHB 36 AXB is also quite a beast. With a 6Ah battery installed, it weighs more than 5kg; however, this model has a clever trick: it has a battery belt. Rather than the battery slipping into the end of the blower, you wear it around your waist. This cuts the blower down to just 3.28kg: little more than a budget blower.

Thanks to the powerful motor, this is the most powerful leaf blower that we have tested, capable of a maximum air speed of 66m/s. That’s enough to blow large debris over kerbs, and tackle tough, wet leaves. With a variable-speed trigger, you can dial the power down when you need, too.

It’s an impressive bit of kit, and the 18-minute runtime from the 6Ah battery is more than enough to clear large areas quickly. There are alternative batteries available, and you’ll need to buy a charger, too.

Our one minor complaint is that this model doesn’t tilt downwards automatically, so it can be a bit tiring pushing down as you clean.
Arguably, the Stihl products on this list have greater appeal, thanks to the wider range of tools their batteries can be used in. However, if you’re looking for the most powerful leaf blower that we’ve tested, this is it.

Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full review: Honda HHB 36 AXB review

Bosch ALB 36 LI

Simple, light-weight blowing with plenty of power for such a compact machine
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Pros

  • Slender and light
  • Simple thumbwheel control
  • Powerful for its size

Cons

  • Comparatively expensive

Bosch ALB 36 LI is one of the smallest leaf blowers that you can get, but although it’s compact, it’s comparatively powerful. It was strong enough to shift wet leaves over a 4-inch kerb without too much trouble and moved leaves a metre in front of us.

The thumbwheel controls make it easy to adjust the power of the leaf blower, with the maximum setting producing a strong air current to shift leaves. One of this unit’s main benefits is that it is very compact, so you can use it in more confined spaces without any problems.

The only real downside is that the Bosch ALB 36 LI is quite expensive. Still, if you need something small with a good amount of power, then this is the model to buy.

Reviewer: Ian Bowden
Full review: Bosch ALB 36 LI review

FAQs

How many leaves will you be clearing up?

This sounds obvious (and it is), but it’s important. If you have a small garden then a smaller, lower-power blower or vac should suffice. Most people will be better off with a blower or combi blower and vac, but if you have a large amount of leaves then you’ll need a more powerful, longer-lasting machine to get the job done. If you have a large area to cover, don’t skimp on the machinery, as you’ll regret it later.

Do you want to pick up litter too?

If so, a straight garden vac without shredding is what you need. They’re not as good at picking up and storing wet leaves, but they’re a hugely versatile time-saver.

Mains, battery or petrol, which is best?

Most battery-powered models will last inside 30 minutes. The powerful models will clear quite a lot in that time, but if your garden is large, and you’re looking to work for several hours,  you may need extra batteries. Petrol models gives you range, but they tend to be more expensive and are generally something we’d only recommend if absolutely needed. Plug-in models run forever, but you may be restricted by the cable length. For most households, cordless gives you the most flexibility.

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