I hope you’ll forgive me for banging on about gardening related activities for the third post in a row but given my experiences with tidying up the garden, I thought it was worth us all meditating once more¬†about the classic Mr Money Mustache post Muscle Over Motor.

A nice summary of the article is:

You should always choose human muscle power over motorized power where it makes sense to do so


The key point for me is the “where it makes sense to do so”¬†part (that is why I put it in bold, see?). Some quick examples of the top of my head:

  1. I need to get to Aberdeen from London – Options: Walk/Run (Muscle), Cycle (Muscle), Hop (Muscle) etc…, Train (Motor), Bus (Motor), Car¬†(Motor).
  2. I need to tidy up some leaves in my garden –¬†Options: Leaf Vacuum¬†(Motor), Broom (Muscle)

For example 1 it clearly makes sense to use Motor, as there really is no other way to get to Aberdeen unless you have days or weeks to spare. Hopefully you will choose a Train or Bus to reduce the carbon footprint further, or are at least not travelling alone in the car!

For example 2 however we have to question whether the Leaf Vacuum is really worth the extra money (and therefore time spent at work to earn money to buy that blower) and also the energy usage, that has most likely come from millions of years of carbon deposit build up. It would probably make sense to use the broom and manual bagging option here!

The Benefits of Muscle Over Motor

Why would we want to use our muscle power over motorized power?

  • Many contraptions¬†are marketed at us as time saving devices, yet when you actually time both methods, the gains are very marginal
  • Unless the job you are facing is of industrial sized proportions, the likelihood is that Muscle will do over Motor most of the time!
  • They are also seen as effort saving devices. However for most small tasks¬†the effort of muscle power¬†should¬†be seen as a positive thing – You are getting a free workout! If you do enough of this manual labour stuff you can cancel the gym subscription and/or spend less time doing scheduled in workouts!
  • To summarise the above point – Have a better physique, feel good, and get your shit done all at the same time! Life hacking at it’s best, non?
  • It is the greener¬†option for obvious reasons
  • It is also the most energy efficient option –¬†this Pressure¬†Washer¬†(affiliate link 1) runs at a power of 1400W whereas even when running the body only runs at¬†about ~800W of power, so for doing less continuously strenuous tasks such as scrubbing, mowing, sawing, hammering and so on I’d imagine it runs at¬†much less than that!


The TFS Muscle vs Motor Showdown

This all seems very simple¬†in theory but it is very easy to be tempted by the promises of quick and effortless task completion from the increasing array of motorized¬†contraptions on offer down your local Home and Garden store. I am also a flawed human being and will therefore have a tendency to keep getting tricked by marketing and my in built nature of wanting to expend as little energy as possible to secure¬†food, love, shelter and any other “wants” on top of that. So we must keep our wits about us!

My Dad has recently been espousing the greatness of his pressure washer (affiliate link) and I needed to clean some bits in the garden which it seemed perfect for the job. So in the interest of furthering our collective knowledge on the science of muscled appendages vs motorized contraptions, I borrowed it and put it to use. Here are the results!


Muscle vs Motor Round One: Deck Cleaning… ding ding!

After spending literally minutes, and using, I presume thousands of gallons of water and kilowatt-hours of electricity 2, the decking looked, well a bit “meh” still. I then decided to get out a stiff bristled broom and manually scrubbed it for about 1 minute. The results were surprisingly good! I didn’t even use any deck cleaner liquid for this either! I imagine that with a little of that (or washing up liquid) it will look even better 3

For the purpose of deck washing, Muscle Over Motor definitely wins the day! I actually cleaned a larger area to a better clean with a simple broom and a bit of water compared to the motorized device.

Muscle Wins


Muscle vs Motor Round Two: Fence Cleaningding ding!

The main task was to actually paint the fences with treatment to get them looking new again. However we did notice that there was that horrible green gunk that sometimes appears on old wooden fixtures in your garden. I figured it was best to at least try to get¬†some of this off before putting on the treatment! Enter once more the jet washer. I have to admit, it was pretty good at getting off the green gunk and cleaning the fence. However, it still took ages! You had to get right up close and so the jet stream would only cover a small area. Think of using a 3×3 cm rubber to rub out the whole of a pencilled in 3m squared piece of paper! I dropped back to Muscle power and found two neat tricks as demonstrated in the following pictures.

muscle over motor

Trick one: Use a wall paper scraper to scrape off anything that might be stuck to the fence hard (Like these climbing plant “roots” that are stuck all over our fences. This is the before picture in case you were wondering.

muscle over motor

And this is the after! Good eh!?

muscle over motor

Trick two: Find a stiff bristled brush 4 and scrub that green stuff off with Muscle Power!

muscle over motor

This is a picture before scrubbing with my muscle powered golf club brush, green gunk everywhere!

muscle over motor

And this is the after!

I’ll be perfectly honest with you and admit that the results of Muscle Power weren’t¬†quite¬†as good as Motor on this one, but it was definitely good enough and it gave me a vigorous free work out! The time to complete the task was roughly the same as well and I am certain it used less water (and definitely less electricity).

Another tip, if you think your fence isn’t covered so bad in green gunk, try chucking a bit of water on it. It will show up how green and gunky it really is!

Muscle Wins

Muscle vs Motor Round Three: Garden Furniture Cleaningding ding!

As mentioned here we bagged a table and chairs set with parasol for ¬£100 off eBay, which needed cleaning up before oiling to protect them from the elements. Once again… I tried out the jet washer first.

On this occasion Motor actually worked very¬†well, seemed very quick and I couldn’t really think of an alternative at the time so I just ploughed on with it and got it done. I hadn’t found my golf club cleaning brush as mentioned in task two, but next year (or whenever they need doing again) I will definitely try my trusty old brush ūüôā

muscle over motor

I forgot to take a proper before picture but you can trust me that they looked a lot worse than this! The one on the right is after cleaning and the one on the left has been stained with oil.

Conceded Motor Win


I think we can draw a strong conclusion here: Consider all of the options carefully before committing to purchasing an expensive motorized gadget, and if you are unsure it’s probably easiest and safest to opt for Muscle Power every time.

What riles you up about unnecessary motorized gadgets? Have you had times where Motor power was really worth paying for over your own Muscles?


  1. This¬†page contains affiliate links to¬†amazon, each one is brought to your attention¬†with the cryptic denotation ‚Äė(affiliate link)’. You know what one of those is right!? No…!?! OK well it’s fairly basic…¬†If you click through and then subsequently buy anything (not just the originally linked product) on amazon I may receive a small fee, which will help to support theFIREstarter blog. The key thing is that it¬†will¬†not cost you anything¬†extra to use these links, although don‚Äôt go clicking on them willy nilly just because it may help me! If you think you will find the product/service useful and do click¬†through, then a sincere “thank¬†you” for your support.
  2. I may be slightly off in my estimates here but you get the picture
  3. I am putting off fully cleaning it until the rest of the gardening jobs are done, otherwise it will just end up getting covered in mud again!
  4. This is actually a brush to clean my golf clubs that I hardly ever use, finally it has come in useful!