A broom beside a pile of leaves on a patio - from Pixabay
Sweeping paths and patios is a regular outdoor activity. It helps keeps your garden clear and safe.

One of the most common times to sweep is in autumn as leaves fall. After you’ve weeded can also be a good time.

Helpful information

Timing: All year around (especially autumn when leaves fall)

Where to do it: Outdoors

Garden space: Small garden, large garden , balcony

  • Sweeping offers a physical workout. You use your arms, shoulder and back to clear leaves and other debris. Some people also enjoy the swishing noise of a broom!
  • Keeping paved areas of your garden clear allows you to keep them slip free. You can soon enjoy the difference you’ve made to the appearance of your outdoor space
  • Spend time outside at your pace. You could do a little sweep, then simply pause to enjoy your surroundings

Essential items

  • Sweeping tools (see below)

Optional items

  • Gardening gloves
  • Bucket or container for debris
  • Compost bin

Tools to make it easier

  • Gripping aid
  • Add on handles
  • Back saving tool grip
  • Kneeler seat with handles
  • Two-wheeled wheelbarrow
  • Wheeled garden caddy
Leo B with broom Janine S weeding Charlie Garner 2019
A client gardener at Thrive takes a short break from sweeping

Sweeping requires very little in the way of tools and equipment. The right size and weight items will reduce any strain when you do it.

Lightweight garden broom

A broom is a delightfully low-tech piece of equipment.

If you have challenges with energy, mobility, or garden with one hand choose a lightweight version. A broom with an aluminium handle and nylon bristles may be easier to handle.

If you love the idea of a wooden broom, a ‘witches’ style besom broom tends to be lighter than a traditional broom.

If you are in a wheelchair, or sit when you garden, look for a short-handled outdoor broom. Adding a slip-resistant band to the handle will make it easier and more comfortable to hold.

You can also find brooms with multi-change handles, giving greater choice on how long the broom is.

Search for lightweight garden brooms online

Leaf blower

A leaf blower is an alternative to a broom. You can use it to clear small amounts of debris, like leaves on your patio. It reduces bending and you can use it in a seated position. A leaf blower is heavier than a broom, though, so you may only want to use one for a few minutes at a time.

Search for leaf blowers online

Long-handled leaf grabber

Alongside sweeping comes clearing debris. A long-handled leaf grabber uses a scissor action to collect fallen leaves and other items. This reduces bending. It does need two hands to operate.

You may also see these called ‘grab and lift’ rakes or leaf collectors.

Search for long-handled leaf grabbers online

Dustpan and brush

A dustpan and brush can be helpful for sweeping if you have any sight loss (see below).

For clearing debris, a long-handled dustpan and brush is a good option if you want to reduce bending. You can also use it if you garden in a wheelchair or from a seated position.

Search for a dustpan and brush online

Litter picker

A litter picker allows you to collect debris without bending via the push of a button. It is suitable for use with one hand, if you have enough strength to keep pressing the gripping button. It may take a long time to clear debris using a litter picker.

Search for litter pickers online

Top tip

Replace your broom regularly to ensure it has good strong bristles. Or, buy a broom with plastic or nylon bristles which take a lot longer to wear out.

A person uses a wooden broom to sweep hard garden paths
A person uses a wooden broom to sweep hard garden paths


The basic act of sweeping is straightforward. Brush debris into bigger piles. Once you’ve finished sweeping, clear these piles (see below).

It may help to move objects such as chairs out of the way first, so you can do a more thorough sweep.

Make it easier

There are ways you can reduce the risk of strain while sweeping, along with techniques to make it easier and more comfortable to do.

Saving energy
Avoid sweeping on very windy days. Otherwise, you will have to put in extra effort gathering piles of debris that simply blow away again!

If you have a large patio or paved area, sweeping thoroughly can take time. Take regular breaks. You can always finish another day.
Reducing strain
Before you begin sweeping, warm up with a few gentle stretches.

If you have a weak grip or arthritis, a gripping aid may help you hold on to your sweeping tool better. Another option is add-on handles. These allow you to use tools without twisting and bending your arm, keeping hands and wrists at a natural angle.

If you sweep standing, a back saving tool grip can help you bend your back less.
Safety tips
If you are sweeping a dusty surface, pour water on first. This stops the dust rising as much, so you breathe in less of it. Avoid this on potentially slippy surfaces, such as marble.
When seated or in a wheelchair
If you are sweeping from a chair or wheelchair, it will be easier to do if you sweep towards you instead of away from you.
Sight loss
If you have sight loss, sweeping will be easier if you kneel to do it and use a dustpan and brush. This allows you to sweep and feel as you go. Choose a brightly coloured version with a good size collection pan.

Use a kneeler seat with handles to protect your knees.

For large areas, you may find a right-angle guide useful to keep track of where you have been working.

Clearing debris

A yellow bucket containing garden debris
A yellow bucket containing garden debris

Once you have swept leaves and other debris into piles, you will need to pick it up and dispose of it. This could be via your compost or the garden waste collection. Having a container or bucket near where you are working will allow you to collect more in one go.

Make it easier

Some council garden waste bins are on wheels. If this is the case and it is easily accessible, you could put debris straight into it.

If your garden waste bin is not on wheels, you could use a wheeled garden waste caddy instead. Or, use a two wheeled wheelbarrow. You can put the debris in and push to the compost heap, avoiding some bending.

If you are sweeping next to a flower bed or border, you could sweep the last of the debris straight into the bed. It will then rot down over time. This saves you picking up the last few bits, which might be small and fiddly.

Help us continue to make gardening accessible for all. Make a donation to Thrive today. Thank you.

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