The Difference Between Mulching and High-Lift Cutting Blades

Find out which lawn mower blades are right for your machine

Lawn mower blade terminology can be a little confusing, especially when you start to consider mulch kits and choosing the proper mulching lawn mower blades. Local colloquialisms and engineering terminology (such as 3-in-1 or high-lift) have also contributed to this confusion.  Essentially there ar TWO basic styles of mowing blades used or approved for use on our current products, each with unique benefits to consider.  Learn more about lawn mower blades to ensure you order the right ones for your lawn care needs.


1) Standard lawn mower blades

The standard lawn mower blade is essentially designed to cut grass sharply and cleanly.  It then effectively discharges the clippings out from the deck onto the lawn or into a grass collection system like a mower bag. Standard blades may be referred to as 2-in-1 lawn mower blades becuase they simply cut and discharge to the lawn or a bag.  When you hear the term high-lift blades, it's also referring to the standard blade.  This is because they are designed to create a high-lifting airflow to maintain a sharp cut and shoot clippings out faster.  These blades may require a bit more engine power and they can't be used on a mulching lawn mower or with a mulching kit as the grass clippings are more likely to get clogged.


2) Mulching lawn mower blades

These will work with a mulch kit on a riding mower or on a mulching lawn mower.  They generally have a more curved surface style and frequently include extra cutting surfaces along the blade edges.  These lawn mower blades may also come in a "+" design (which is actually two individual blades arranged in a perpendicular fashion to enhance mulching).  The "+" blades are usually found on older style mowers.  Newer mulching lawn mowers utilize blades with more advanced technology.

Mulching blades may also be referred to as 3-in-1 or all-purpose blades because they cut, mulch and discharge your grass onto the lawn or into a bag.  Mulching lawn mower blades are designed to circulate the grass longer so it can be cut into smaller pieces.  This makes your grass clippings better as mulch since the smaller clippings will decompose more quickly, releasing their nutrients into the soil.


Compare lawn mower blade styles to choose the right one for your machine


Bear in mind that the re-circulating airflow design of 3-in-1 blades makes them less efficient at discharging grass clippings than a standard 2-in-1 blade. As with most all-purpose tools, there is some give and take as opposed to using a tool designed for a more specific purpose.

If you're experiencing less-than-desired power, cutting or discharge performance with a 3-in-1 blade, you may want to try using a 2-in-1 blade. Conversely, if you're using a 2-in-1 blade and want to use leaves or grass clippings as mulch, you should consider purchasing mulching blades or a mulching kit.*

When retailers decide what style lawn mower blade to install on new mowers, they consider what works best for each model of mower.  This is based on data from past use and the expected needs of most customers.  If you're unsure which blade is on a particular model, inspect the blade.  MTD Genuine Factory Parts blades have part numbers stamped into them.  Compare these part numbers with the unit's operators manual or parts list to determine if you have a standard or mulching lawn mower blade.

NOTE: Customers using non-OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) blades do so at their own risk. The use of unapproved (non-OEM) blades may void any or all of the mower and engine factory warranties.

* MULCHING KITS - These generally consist of mulching blades and a mulching plug, plus any necessary hardware for installation.  Mulching plugs close off the discharge opening to keep the grass clippings contained under the deck for re-cutting. Please check with your parts distributor regarding the contents of a particular mulching kit.

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