What Is a String Trimmer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A string trimmer is a piece of gardening and landscaping equipment which is used to cut grass, weeds, and small shrubs. String trimmers are known by a variety of alternatives name including strimmer, weed whacker, weed eater, weed whip, or grass trimmer. These tools are commonly sold at gardening supply stores, and they can be very useful in gardens of all sizes. In a small garden, a string trimmer may in fact be preferable to a lawn mower.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

The design of a string trimmer includes a string mounted to a rotating head and partially covered with a protective shield. When the device is turned on, the string rotates at very high speed, becoming extremely stiff, while the shield keeps the user's body away from the rapidly moving string. The stiff string can cut through a wide variety of materials. As it wears away, more string comes out of a spool, or the user can manually advance the string. Other varieties have clips which snap onto short strings, allowing people to change the string when it becomes too short or worn.

String trimmers are much easier to handle than lawn mowers, and they can be more suitable than mowers for close quarters tasks. They safely handle heavier materials, including tall grass which cannot be cut with a mower, and they work especially well over rough ground and in tight corners where a mower will not fit. String trimmers are also used as edgers along pathways, fences, and flower beds to create crisp, clean edges which will be visually attractive.

There are several different power sources available for string trimmers. Some run on an internal combustion engine. These tend to be the most powerful, although they are also noisy, and it is important to wear ear protection with them. Other models are electric, designed to be plugged into an extension cord. Electric models can also be cordless, with batteries which charge while the device is plugged in or placed in a cradle. Electric string trimmers are weaker, but less polluting and quieter.

When using a string trimmer, people should be aware that the string comes in different weights and designs. Heavier string is more suitable to heavy tasks. It is also important to watch out for the safety risk posed when the string wraps around a sturdy tree or shrub instead of cutting. It is a good idea to wear heavy pants and protective boots when using a string trimmer, to reduce the risk of injury from the string. The shield should also be properly maintained to avoid injuries.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


After years of putting up with an electric string trimmer, I decided to replace it with a gas string trimmer. I just got tired of dragging an extension cord behind me every time I wanted to trim along the sidewalk and driveway. I looked at a cordless string trimmer, but I thought it was more of an investment than I was willing to make at the time. The battery life was much shorter than the ones they sell today, too.

With my gas-powered string trimmer, I can do all of my weed eating and edging on one tank of gasoline. It may be a little heavier than most electric string trimmers, but when I'm done with it, I don't have to wind up a 100 foot extension cord. I just give it a quick tap on the ground and new string is released, too.


The first time I used a string trimmer, I was surprised at how much cutting power it had. It pulverized everything I pointed it at, including some of my mother's favorite flowers. That one thing I'd consider a drawback with string trimmers; you need to stay focused on the task at hand or you'll cut down some things you didn't want to cut down.

Once I got the hang of it, though, I actually enjoyed running around the outside of the house cutting down weeds. I also used it around trees and along the fencing. It made the regular mowing go much faster, since the outer edges were already cut.

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