How to Use an Electric Trimmer

By J.W. Carpenter , last updated December 21, 2011

An electric trimmer, sometimes called a string trimmer or a weed whacker, is an exceptionally handy yard tool to have around the house. Though string trimmers are also available in heavy duty models outfitted with gas-powered engines, electric models are well-suited for most yard maintenance duties. Primarily designed to trim grass along fence lines and around trees, poles, and planters in the yard, electric trimmers are relatively easy to operate.

Electric trimmers are available in a corded variety that must be plugged in to operate and a cordless variety that includes an on-board battery. Before using your electric trimmer, make sure that you have an electric outlet nearby or that you have completely charged the trimmer’s battery, as your model requires. If you have a corded trimmer, be sure to loop your extension cord around the cord hook to prevent unintentional disconnections. Typically, the cord hook and bracket is located on the top of the engine, just next to where the cord emerges from the machine.


First, disconnect the trimmer from its power supply. Then check that the trimming line on your machine is in good shape. If it needs to be replaced, do so. Some trimmers require you to thread a single length of trimming line into the trimmer head. Other trimmers contain a spool of line within the trimmer head. If this is the case, you can generally push a button in the center of the trimmer head which allows you to pull out line to the appropriate length before releasing the button.

Next, inspect the area that you will be trimming. Pick up any debris that may break or damage your trimming line. Also remove any string, wire, or twine that may get caught in your trimmer head.

Though most trimmers are equipped with debris guards around the path of the trimming line, you still need to wear appropriate eye protection. A full face shield is even better. Also wear a pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands.

Finally, adjust the trimmer’s shoulder strap to fit your body. The shoulder strap will lighten the weight so that you can maneuver the trimmer head more precisely.


Make sure your trimmer is set to the off and reconnect it to its power supply. Put on the shoulder strap and carry the trimmer to the area you will be cutting.

Grip the trimmer handles firmly, one hand on the controls and one hand on the loop handle. Assume a balanced stance. Raise the trimmer head off the ground and turn the trimmer on.

Using a slow back-and-forth sweeping motion, begin trimming the grass. To achieve the cleanest cut, only take an inch or two of grass on each pass. As you near an obstacle, move more slowly. If the trimming line makes much contact with the obstacle, it will wear faster and may even break. When cutting especially long grass, raise the trimmer head higher above the ground and take the grass down in increments.

When you have finished trimming, be sure to disconnect the trimmer from its power supply before transporting it back to your garage or shed for storage.

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