Looking for easy ways to get rid of weeds naturally? There are lots of simple ways to suppress or kill weeds without herbicides. This post shares a simple recipe for homemade weed killer with vinegar that works, plus some bonus methods to naturally kill weeds.
Weeds are everywhere. They grow in yards, gardens, parks, roadsides, and even sidewalks. They’re also very difficult to remove completely. So it’s important to keep up with it.
Yes, weeds are totally annoying. But there’s no reason why they have to be so hard to kill.
We have two ponds, two dogs, a family, have a well, and live near a babbling brook, so acting responsibly with pesticides is paramount.
To me, the most effective method of getting rid of weeds is to pull them out by the root. But I have to admit there are times when I just don’t feel like doing that. Particularly when I have a large patio, pathway or paver area to weed out.
If you love a well-manicured garden and perfect lawn but prefer not to use harsh chemicals, there are simple homemade weed killers you can make and methods to use to kill weeds naturally.
Wait until you see how to kill weeds using these everyday household products plus a simple recipe for weed killer that works (and is pet-safe too!).
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How to Manage Weeds Naturally in the Garden
What’s the best method for managing weeds in the garden? For starters, use a combination of pulling weeds and planting smart.
What does planting smart mean? Grow plants slightly closer together to help crowd out weeds or use ground covers to help keep them from popping up. Add lots of mulch and make it a priority to keep plants healthy.
In addition to planting smart, pull weeds as you see them and be sure to get at them from the root.
If you walk your gardens every day, pull what you see when you see them. Don’t wait to remove them because weeds can get out of control pretty quickly. I love to use THIS hand tool and THIS stand-up weeding tool to help get plants out with the root.
Still, even the most prudent weed pullers sometimes need a little extra help. As part of a multifaceted approach to removing, killing, and suppressing weeds, it’s also effective to use homemade weed killers.
When I use this kind of product, I look for a pet-safe homemade weed killer that uses simple ingredients I already have on hand. If this is what you’re looking for in a natural weed solution, then you’ll love my easy recipe. I’ve got two dogs and lots of wildlife and pollinators here, so I want to be careful when using anything in the gardens.
A word of caution about homemade weed killers though. Use these methods sparingly because they are non-selective (which means they will also kill other plants, including your lawn) and they can also kill the good microbes in your soil, too.
Simple Recipe for Homemade Weed Killer That Works
This homemade weed killer with vinegar recipe is my go-to method when I don’t want to pull them or just need a little extra weed management support.
This simple recipe for homemade weed killer is vinegar-based and covers large areas in a reasonable amount of time. And with the size of my patios, pathways, and garden areas, I need to cover more ground.
What I love most about this recipe is there is NO NEED to use synthetic pesticides to get the same effect. So if you are looking for ways to kill weeds organically without having to pull them, try this simple recipe for homemade weed killer instead.
But like I said before, keep in mind it is non-selective and kills both bad and good microbes. For me, I only use this in hardscaped areas and protect my plants if they are nearby.
Ingredients for Homemade Weed Killer
Not much is needed to make your own homemade weed killer recipe and you likely already have the ingredients laying around your house.
Here’s what you need:
- Distilled, apple cider, or cleaning vinegar
- Dish soap
- Spray bottle
The main ingredient is vinegar. While you can use any distilled or apple cider vinegar, vinegars containing more than 11% acetic acid will work best to burn and kill weeds.
While any dish soap will do, I think Dawn dish soap works best. But why do you need dish soap if vinegar is the acting ingredient? Because the dish soap helps the vinegar stay on the surface longer.
Bonus Tip: Be sure to apply this recipe on a sunny day so it does not get washed away.
How to Make Homemade Weed Killer with Vinegar
Making homemade weed killer is very simple. Gather your ingredients and a spray bottle and follow these instructions:
- Start with a gallon of vinegar.
- Add one cup of salt and 1 tablespoon of dish soap.
- Simply pour the ingredients into a spray bottle and shake well.
How to Apply Vinegar Weed Killer
Before applying, wear gloves and protective eyewear. It is best to apply the vinegar method on a dry sunny day with little to no wind, so the rain does not wash it away. The sun helps dry out and kill the weeds so timing is everything.
It’s also best to apply on a non-windy day so the overspray does not hit other plants and vegetation you want to keep!
To apply, spray directly on weeds and the foliage. Try to get all of the plant, including the base so the solution gets to the root as well.
This solution is non-selective so be careful not to spray other plants. Use a piece of cardboard or something to keep the overspray from hitting other plants if need be.
Why Homemade Weed Killer Works
While vinegar is the active ingredient in this homemade weed killer, all three of the ingredients play an important role.
Vinegar contains acetic acid, which is a desiccant. This means that when sprayed on the surface of a plant, it draws moisture out of the leaves and kills the top growth. It’s also a good choice for a natural weed killer because acetic acid breaks down quickly in the soil, so any negative impact from the vinegar is short-lived.
Salt is also a desiccant and helps kill some plants that vinegar won’t kill. It’s important to make sure the salt dissolves fully in the vinegar so it is applied evenly to weeds (and doesn’t clog up your spray bottle).
Unlike vinegar and salt, dish soap is a surfactant. This is a fancy way of saying it helps the vinegar and salt attach to the surface of the weed. It can also help break down the waxy protective layers of some leaves, allowing the desiccants to work more effectively.
How Many Days Does It Take Vinegar to Kill Weeds?
Vinegar can start to kill the top growth of weeds in as little as a few hours. Some browning is typically seen almost immediately. You can see in the image above that after 12 hours the weed I sprayed is starting to die. It can take up to a few days for the weed to be fully suppressed.
How long does vinegar keep weeds from growing?
This homemade weed killer with vinegar is not a permanent solution, and weeds will likely grow back in a few weeks. You can apply the solution again when you start to notice growth returning, or combine with other, longer-lasting weed management techniques.
4 More Ways to Kill Weeds Naturally in Your Garden
If you want to try killing or suppressing weeds without having to pull or hoe them out, give one of these methods a try.
While these are all pet-safe weed killers, each method is non-selective meaning it will kill anything around it so be mindful with the application of each.
They are easy to do and you likely have the products on hand in your home.
- Boiling Water
- Propane Torch
- Rubbing Alcohol Solution
- Corn Gluten
Boiling Water Method to Kill Weeds
If you have a few weeds to remove, boiling water is an easy way to kill them. I tend to use this method on small pathways and patio areas because there isn’t vegetation I want to protect around it.
It’s not as easy to use when you have more weeds to get at or larger areas to weed because you have to keep going in and out to boil water. But it is a very effective method that works quickly.
Simply boil water and pour it on the weeds on a warm, dry sunny day. That’s it!
Propane Torch Method to Killing Weeds
I’ve tried this method before and it takes a little more doing so it’s my least favorite. And to be honest, I prefer not to do it.
If you want to try it though, you’ll need a propane torch like THIS that is specifically made for killing weeds. The idea behind it, is you burn the weed down to the root.
Last year, I tried this in my driveway where lots of weeds were sprouting, and found the process to be a bit laborious.
It took a while to burn each weed, I had a lot of weeds to deal with, and you go through the propane pretty quickly. Plus, it took some doing to get the torch going.
Now it could have been the amount and/or type of weeds I had, but to me, it was more work standing there holding the torch and waiting for each weed to burn and die before moving on to the next one.
This method just wasn’t for me.
The Rubbing Alcohol Method
If you’d rather go with another homemade weed-killer solution, a rubbing alcohol mix is pretty straightforward to make. To prepare it, simply mix one quart of water to dilute two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol.
Note: Before applying this method to weeds, wear gloves and protective eyewear.
Simply apply the rubbing alcohol mixture on a dry sunny day without wind. Saturate the foliage, stem, and plant base to get at the roots. I don’t typically use this method but it does work.
How to Use Corn Gluten to Suppress Weeds
Unlike the aforementioned approaches to weed control, corn gluten does not kill weeds but rather helps suppress them when applied at the right time.
It is most commonly used to keep crabgrass at bay in the lawn, but can also be applied in garden beds between plants to help keep weed seeds from germinating. For this method to be effective though, it must be applied with crabgrass seed germination.
How do you know when that is?
In spring when the forsythia starts blooming in your area until the last bloom drops, is the right time to apply it. Simply spread it over the soil and water it in well after.
Although it’s important to water it in after applying it, you’ll want to apply corn gluten on a dry day with a few dry days in the forecast so it has a chance to work without getting washed out by inclement weather.
How to Kill Weeds Without Killing Grass and Plants
You may have noticed while reading through the information about my homemade weed killer with vinegar and the other weed management strategies, that these can all kill the plants you want to keep as well.
So are there ways to kill weeds without killing grass and plants? While you can certainly do it with an herbicide, if you want to go the more natural route your best bet is to stay on top of pulling weeds in the garden.
This becomes a lot easier if you carefully apply some vinegar weed killer to get rid of the bulk of the weeds, then weed regularly to get rid of any new growth as it pops up.
The only other way to protect anything around them is to use a sheet of cardboard as a barrier to protect whatever is behind it. This is why I tend to only use this kind of thing in hardscaped areas so there is no risk to my garden plants or grass.
Long-Term Weed Management
The key to long-term weed management isn’t one perfect solution. Instead, the best way to control weeds naturally is by using a multifaceted approach. Combine pulling weeds by hand, natural weed killers, smart planting and ground covers like mulch to help keep weeds at bay on your property long term.
In short, homemade weed killers kill whatever plants they touch, which includes the lawn so be particularly careful if you choose to use them.
It’s also important to note that when used repeatedly, they change the soil composition, so use them sparingly in the garden or the lawn.
Always wear gloves and protective eye wear when working with herbicides.
And if you have any questions about how to use homemade weed killers, consult your local cooperative extension or master gardener helpline because they are very knowledgeable and can share what works best in your area.
While there are many ways to manage weeds in garden beds, the best approach is to pull them out from the root.
It’s organic, it’s therapeutic, is very effective, and you don’t risk damaging surrounding plants with something that is non-selective.
Yes, it is a little more work, but it’s better for the garden. I walk the gardens every day and pull them as I see them so it’s less work long term.
Simple Recipe for Homemade Weed Killer That Works
- Mix vinegar, salt and dish soap in gallon container.
- On a bright sunny day with no wind, saturate weed plant, foliage, stem, and base well.
More About Making Homemade Weedkillers
Have you ever made your own homemade weedkillers before? If so, what have you used? I would love to know more in the comments below.
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- I like to use a good-quality, potting soil, garden soil, compost, and perlite when planting. While I make my own compost, you can easily buy it ready-made for use.
- I have used this deer repellent with great success. But now, I’m all about this deer repellent that is systemic instead of topical. This means the plant takes it in as opposed to it just smelling bad. If you want to minimize the work and not use repellents, choose plants that are deer-resistant from this list.
- Hands down this is my favorite hand-weeding tool. You can use it to get underneath roots and loosen soil, and it cuts down on the weeding time because you work much faster.
- But I also love this long, stand-up weeding tool to really get around roses from afar.
- I use this organic fertilizer for roses because the blooms are more prolific and it’s organic.
- And I use this organic fertilizer for my vegetables and herbs in the potager garden.
- You’ll need a sharp set of pruners when working with plants and flowers. I buy a few so I can stash them around.
- I use these garden snips to deadhead and cut flowers from my gardens.
- Where pest and disease problems are concerned, if I need to, I generally use this insecticidal soap or neem oil to help control infestations depending on the issue. When using, only apply when pollinators are less active.
- This is my go-to bait for slug and snail problems with my hostas and dahlias.
- This is my favorite set-and-forget slow-release fertilizer for houseplants, annuals, and container gardens.
- Whenever I stake my peonies or other plants, I generally use these grow-through garden supports because they work really well and keep the blooms upright.
- I use this collapsible bin ALL THE TIME. It is invaluable when working in the beds as it’s light to carry around and folds flat for easy storage.
- Drip irrigation set on a timer is your friend! I love these for my planters, window boxes, and hanging baskets.
- And this four way hose bib allows you to split one spicket into four!
Click here to shop my favorite garden supplies!
If you’ve always dreamed of bringing country charm to your home while creating a beautiful, relaxing space, I got you! Learn how to grow flowers in even the smallest of spaces with my easy-care, low-maintenance approach.
Looking for Ways to Grow a Healthy Garden?
If you want to grow a garden that is beautiful, healthy and full of plants and flowers, it starts with good healthy soil.
In addition to managing weeds, it is so important to improve your garden soil both when you start a new garden, as well as over time.
One of the best ways to improve your soil is to make compost. It’s very easy to do and I’ve got a great recipe for it.
Plus, it’s much less expensive to make your own than to purchase from the garden nursery.
In addition to making your own compost, gather all those leaves in fall and early spring to make leaf mold to improve the health of your garden soil too.
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I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years and author of the best-selling book, The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy-Care Flower Garden. With a deep passion for gardening, I enjoy helping others find their inner green thumb with all things plants and flowers, as well as finding ways to bring the outdoors inside their homes.
Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging here.