How to Use a Strimmer

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How to Use a Strimmer

Strimmers are known by several different names, including grass trimmers, line trimmers, and string trimmers. The actual term “strimmer” was adopted by Black & Decker as a brand name. There are three different types available.

Types of Strimmer


Petrol strimmers are used for heavy-duty work, are cordless, and are powered by a small engine. They are the most powerful of the three.


Battery strimmers are for lighter work, they are cordless, and are powered by battery (lithium ion gives the longest charge). They have to be recharged every twenty minutes or so.


Electric strimmers are also for lighter work, but depend on a convenient electricity supply for power. They require a cable, and the work area is limited to its length.

To see the many different models that are available, eBay is a good place to begin.

How Do Strimmers Work?

Quite simply, a plastic or nylon thread or cord spins at high speed to cut through grass, weeds, or any other relatively soft organic material.

Suitable Tasks for Strimmers

Strimmers can be useful for many different garden tasks, such as cutting grass that a lawnmower can’t reach or is otherwise enable to cut, including lawn edges; long grass and tall weeds; areas of rough vegetation, particularly around trees; grass that meets up with a wall or fence,and sloping areas where it is dangerous to use a lawnmower. It’s important to buy the type of strimmer that suits the work to be done. Prices of strimmers range enormously, and can be checked out on eBay. Many people are tempted to buy the most expensive they can afford, but this can result in a waste of money. For example, if the only task to be performed is lawn edges, then an inexpensive battery or electric model will be perfectly adequate. A petrol-driven one, although more expensive and superior, isn’t necessary, as only a small portion of its power will be used. As a rule of thumb, petrol-driven strimmers are only needed where the vegetation or grass that requires cutting back is long and tough. Battery and electric models are more than adequate for the average suburban garden.

Health and Safety

Whichever type of strimmer is chosen, they are all potentially dangerous unless the operator is extremely careful. Before even picking up a strimmer, the operator must acquaint him or herself with the necessary safety procedures, and be totally aware of any potential hazards and precautions that must be taken for the safe handling of what is a very powerful machine. Health and safety is paramount for the protection of self, others, animals and property.

Potential Hazards

Flying debris

Hidden stones and other detritus can lurk on the most benign-looking lawn, and if struck, spin out and possibly break a nearby window or, even worse, hit someone in the eye.

Animal droppings

It goes without saying that these harbour disease and the last thing anybody wants is to have them spattered to the four corners of the garden, particularly if children are in residence.

Plant sap

If plants or shrubs are accidentally whipped by the strimmer line, that will expose and spread sap, which can cause burns and blisters on the operator’s hands, if unprotected.

Contact with the power cable

The power cable must be kept well away from the strimmer head.

Contact with the strimmer line

The cutting cord should only be touched when absolutely necessary, and only then if the machine is turned off and disconnected. When operating, ensure that the strimmer head never comes close to the body, as the cord can cause severe cuts and injury.

Noise and vibration

The proximity of the operator to the machine puts his or her hearing very much in the line of fire, while the vibrations caused by the machine affect the whole body.


This is only applicable to the petrol-driven machines, but be aware that poisonous fumes are given off.

Loss of footing

This can happen quite easily if concentration is low, the ground is moist, or the operator is working at an awkward angle, such as when strimming a sloping bank.

Tiredness and body stress

Never strim when tired, and if fatigue creeps up, quit for the day or have a rest. The same applies if the operator feels any stress in the back, legs, or arms.


Always wear suitable clothing.

Although the weather may dictate otherwise, it really isn’t worth the risk not to. As a basic standard, the operator should wear eye goggles, ear muffs or plugs, face mask, stout boots or shoes with steel toecaps, and thick or protective full-length trousers. For those who are even more cautious, a full face visor, helmet, and gloves can also be considered.

Wear the shoulder strap.

Some strimmers, particularly the petrol-driven ones, provide a shoulder strap to help alleviate the strain on the back and the operator would be wise to wear it.

Clear the decks.

Before commencing work, remove any garden furniture, ornaments, plant pots, and decorative stones from the immediate area, as well as anything else that may be secreted in the undergrowth.

Trees and shrubs

When strimming around trees and shrubs, take care not to catch them with the cutting line. Apart from the fact that hard bark may cause the line to break, any injury caused to the plants will provide an entry point for disease.

Walls and fences

When grass grows right up to a wall or fence, extra care must be taken not to strike them with the cutting cord, as that could damage the cord and leave unsightly marks, or worse, on the fence or wall.

Body talk

Pay attention to body signals. Any aches, pains, or signs of tiredness should be acted upon immediately, and a short rest be taken. Strimming can be hard work and cause dehydration, so remember to drink plenty of water.


Work comfortably, maintaining the machine near to the ground surface.

Grip the strimmer firmly and give the task full concentration.


Keep the engine on the right-hand side of the body.


Don’t use the strimmer above waist height.


Never stretch or overreach.


Don’t use a strimmer when it’s raining, or it has been raining and the ground is soaking wet.


The strimmer should be held away from the body as far as is comfortably possible to avoid the operator’s feet and legs, although many models come equipped with a protection guard.



If it’s necessary, allow the engine to cool down before attempting to introduce any liquid, as there is a high possibility of some fuel spilling onto the hot area.

Residual Current Device (RCD)

If using electricity, plug the strimmer into an RCD to minimise any fallout should the cable get cut accidentally.

Operating a Strimmer

Read the instruction manual.

This familiarises the operator with the machine’s characteristics, as well as how to assemble it, maintain it, and change the cutting cord.

Inspect the machine.

All parts should be clean and working, and the machine fit for action. If using the petrol type, ensure there is sufficient fuel and that the petrol/oil mix is correct. If it’s likely that refuelling will be required, it’s a good idea to premix some before starting, so the work won’t get held up later on.

Put on the safety gear.


Start the machine.

With an electrically-powered or battery-powered strimmer, it’s just a simple matter of engaging the switch or button. However, with a petrol-driven machine, the operator needs to be standing securely on solid ground, with the strimmer placed on the ground and held firmly with one hand. The free hand can then be used to start the motor. This way the operator gets maximum pull while maintaining maximum safety.

Successful strimming

With the strimmer whirring around nineteen to the dozen, the operator should make a steady sweeping motion, going from left to right, in swathes of about two metres, as he or she slowly and steadily moves forward. The operator’s movement should be steady and smooth, allowing the strimmer to work at its own speed. Waggling or waving the strimmer around doesn’t make it cut any faster or better. The operator should always walk forwards to avoid trampling and flattening the area that has to be cut. Like all learned skills, it takes time to become proficient, so the job should never be hurried if the best results are to be produced.

Cord length

Many strimmers come with an autofeed which continually feeds out the correct length of cord required whenever it breaks off during operation. However, if that particular feature is not present, it has to be done manually. If the cord is too long, the engine loses revs and struggles, and if it is too short, it over-revs. In both cases it’s bad for the motor and results in a poor cut. Check that the correct length is in play by listening to the whipping sound that the line makes when it is held just above the ground with the throttle full on. If it sounds normal, it’s correct, otherwise, it needs adjusting.

Cleaning the strimmer

When the task is complete, the strimmer should always be cleaned before being put away. When it’s been turned off and unplugged, the casing should be wiped down with a clean damp rag or sponge, and a soft brush used to clean out any debris from the air vents. A stiffer brush can be used to remove any grass or dirt from under the plastic cover and line feed.

Finding Strimmers on eBay

Starting on the eBay homepage, locate the Home & Garden link that can be found in the left-hand menu. Hover the cursor over it and a further sub-menu will show. Choose the Home & Garden link and click. On the next page to appear, go to the Garden tab and hover the cursor. That produces another short sub-menu. Click on the link for Power Tools & Equipment, and on the next page that comes up, look down the menu to the left and click on Strimmers. That generates the next page, which is the first of all the strimmer listings on eBay. If required, the search can be refined by choosing options from the menu in the left-hand column. Another way to find the desired item is to type the specific details, such as "battery-powered strimmers", into the search box at the top of the page and click on the Search tab. If you're looking for a particular brand like Black & Decker just type that in too.


Using a strimmer properly means that the work is done efficiently and well, which translates into good results in the minimum time possible. Improper use of a strimmer usually results in a poor finish which has to be redone, so follow the guidelines and enjoy the experience. Whichever type of strimmer is chosen, remember that it cannot only perform an excellent piece of work, but can also cause a lot of damage if mishandled. As such, health and safety considerations are paramount for anyone who uses one. An awareness of the hazards that lurk, as well as the precautions that must be taken when working with a strimmer, will lead to a very pleasant gardening experience, with the satisfaction of a job well done.

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