Plug vs. Spike Aerators: Which is Better for Your Lawn?

Spike vs Plug lawn aerator

A common question on what type of lawn aerator to use is whether a plug aerator or a spike aerator. However, the answer is not as straightforward as many people think. 

Most landscapers will recommend that homeowners go with a plug aerator because they are the most effective at removing compacted soil around roots and promote healthy root growth. Spike aerators carry more risk for damaging underground cables and pipes because these types of machines stay in one place while they work.

Aeration is an important part of a healthy lawn. One popular option for aerating your lawn is the plug vs. spike aerator. The plug aerator plugs small holes in the ground and lets grass grow through it, while the spike aerator lifts up the surface of your lawn with spikes that have been bent to keep them from scratching your lawn.

The decision between plug and spike aerators can be difficult, but they each have their benefits. For those with a small yard, the plug aerator is best because it doesn’t leave behind the bent and twisted spikes that would otherwise poke holes in your lawn. If you’re looking for a more thorough job of aeration, the spike aerator is the better choice because it leaves large holes in your lawn to let air and moisture through.

This blog will also talk about how you can distinguish which is better for your lawn.

Plug vs. Spike Aerator (Overview)

A plug aerator is very different from a spike aerator because it removes rag plugs  from the soil. This makes it a very effective tool for long-term soil compaction reduction.

The spike aerator creates holes in the ground to loosen the soil. Unlike plug-in aerators, pointed aerators do not remove any particles from the soil. They simply drill holes in the ground to get rid of the compaction. 

Spike aeration is great, but it removes soil compaction in the short term. Instead of removing dirt from the bed of your lawn, the aerator’s spikes push the soil down and to the sides. 

Some mechanical tip aerators are curved and can penetrate very deeply – sometimes as deep as 9 inches  without causing a blockage in your lawn.

Plug Aerator vs. Spike Aerator (How do they work?)

Plug aerators have hollow tips that remove about an inch of that layer of leaves from the core when pushed into the soil, allowing the soil to aerate. 

They are much more effective at removing soil compaction, even in  clay soils, and the effect is long-lasting than in cases of abrupt aeration.

The best plug-in aerators are mechanical. Here’s how they reduce core compaction: 

  •  Plug-in aerators have hollow grooves that rotate as they roll across the lawn. 
  •  Tines remove earth’s nuclei about an inch long and about a cent in diameter. 
  •  Plug-in aerators are much more successful in loosening  compacted soil and removing compaction.

Spike aeration only works for a short time, because when you push the aerator into the soil, it pushes the soil down and to the sides rather than eliminating the heavy thatch that is causing compaction. The earth will adjust and close the little holes you dug in the ground over time.

Compaction deep in the ground is actually increased by the little holes, which do not lessen core compaction.

Shoes for lawn aerators with spikes are simply too slow for the job. You may picture employing aeration shoes to aerate a 1000-square-foot grass with spikes. To complete the task, you’ll need a lot of time and energy.

Why should you use a lawn aerator?

To grow thick, deep, and healthy, grass roots require air, water, and nutrients. When soil becomes compacted, even slightly, the critical nutrients that sustain thicker, stronger turf development are impeded. A thin layer of compacted soil, just 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, can make a big impact on your lawn’s health and appearance. Aeration works by drilling holes in the soil to allow air, water, and nutrients to reach the grass roots.

Compressed soils lose their basic needs, forage grasses struggle in stressful situations, such as heat and low rainfall, and lose their healthy, bright color. The grass thins and eventually dies completely due to the lack of available oxygen, water and nutrients within a few centimeters. Even just one aeration  can set the stage for these essentials to achieve their purpose and get your lawn back on track.

Which is better, Plug or Spike?

The differences between plug and spike aerators are summarized in this table.

Plug Aerator

Spike Aerator

Plugging in the aerator removes grass cores or plugs and soil from the lawn. For long-term aeration, use a plug-in aerator to remove soil plugs. The spike aerator makes holes in the ground with its sharp teeth to loosen the soil  without removing soil from the ground.
When driven into the ground, plug aerators contain hollow tines that remove thatch plugs. Spike aerators are a type of aerator with sharp spikes that puncture the ground.
Provides long-lasting loosening when earth plugs  are removed from the core to create clearance. Create absorbency for the soil in a short time because there is no need to remove the soil.
Mechanical plug aerators are most commonly available and are suitable for decompaction of small, medium, and large portions of yard soil. Most manual  aerators are available and are suitable for removing soil compaction on small yards.

As you can see from the differences above, you can use a spiked aerator if you have a small yard. It is also a suitable choice when you want to remove the small layer of debris that causes compaction. 

Plug-in aerators are mostly mechanical, unlike pointed aerators, which are mostly manual (except for those you attach to your lawn mower). In this sense, the use of a plug-in aerator is one of the best ways to facilitate soil compaction because the plugs are removed from the core to loosen the soil.


In conclusion, there is not a clear cut answer as to which aerator is the best option for your yard. 

However, it is beneficial to consider your lawn and what type of aerator will be most effective for it. If you have a normal lawn, then a plug aerator may be the best option to provide the adequate water and air that grass needs. However, if you have a large lawn or one that has been neglected for some time, then a spike aerator would be more effective.

This blog article is intended to help you decide which one is best for your lawn. We highly recommend using either one, but you’ll want to consider the differences in how they work in order to make the best choice for your lawn.