Give your lawn a manicured look with a string trimmer.
The size of your yard and the kind of trimming you need to do determine the best type of string trimmer for you. Corded trimmers work well for light trimming on small lawns with few obstacles. Cordless models give you more mobility. Gasoline-powered trimmers combine mobility and power for heavier cutting around large landscapes. To learn more about choosing a string trimmer, see our String Trimmer Buying Guide.
Some cordless string trimmers use batteries that can also power other equipment, such as mowers, blowers, hedge trimmers, chain saws and pole saws.
First, get familiar with the controls and safety features. Make sure that guards and attachments are properly secured. Check the area you'll be trimming. Remove objects that the trimmer line could throw or that could become entangled with the trimmer head. Make sure there are no people or animals in the work area.
Wear protective gear — eye and hearing protection, gloves, closed-toe shoes, long pants and long sleeves — to protect you from debris, including any toxic plant (such as poison oak) fragments the trimmer might throw toward you. You may also need a dust mask, depending on conditions.
Corded string trimmers require a suitable extension cord. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for compatible cords and see Power Cord Safety Tips.
If you're using a gasoline-powered string trimmer, check your manual for compatible fuel and fuel additives. Use gasoline that's less than 30 days old. Gas from the pump degrades over time and can lead to corrosion and the formation of varnish in the engine and fuel system. Some trimmer manufacturers recommend using a fuel stabilizer that prevents engine corrosion and keeps gasoline fresh for longer periods. Ethanol-free, premixed fuel stays fresh for longer periods than pump gasoline. Premixed fuel is available for 2-cycle and 4-cycle engines.
You can purchase an optional, electric starter to quickly and easily crank the engine on some gas-powered string trimmers. You can also buy a drill bit that allows you to start this type of trimmer with a power drill.
Starting and operating procedures vary by trimmer, so follow the manufacturer's instructions for use and safety. Here are ways to make your work more efficient:
Let the tip of the trimmer line do the cutting. Cut thick, tall grass in small sections to keep from stalling the trimmer or tangling the line. Forcing the trimmer to make heavy cuts strains the machine.
Trimmer line spinning at full throttle can damage decorative plants, trees and items such as wood fences and sprinkler heads. Look ahead as you work and run the trimmer at low power near these obstacles.
Know how to advance the line as it wears. An automatic-feed spool releases line as needed. A bump spool feeds out new line when you tap it on the ground. Eventually you'll need to replace the trimmer line. Have extra on hand so you don't have to stop in the middle of a job for a trip to the store. You may have to remove the spool and wind new line, or you may be able to buy a pre-wound spool that replaces the empty one. A fast-load cutting head allows you to wind new line without removing the spool. Another type of cutting head uses precut pieces of line that don't require winding. For many trimmers, you can wind line in only one direction around the spool. Consult the instructions for the correct method.
Some string trimmers accept optional attachments for other jobs. Look for edger, cultivator, blower, brush cutter, pole saw and hedge trimmer attachments that work with these trimmers.
When you finish trimming, use a brush to clean off clippings and dirt. Don't spray the unit with water or use chemical cleaners, as they may cause damage. Let the trimmer cool down before storing it in a dry area out of reach of children.
Check the owner's manual for a maintenance schedule, maintenance procedures and pre-maintenance safety precautions. See String Trimmer Maintenance for general practices.