Whether it’s your lawn, garden, or cracks in the driveway, there’s nothing quite as unsightly as stubborn weeds. Spraying chemicals on the yard can be inconvenient and dangerous when you have pets or children though.
Which is why I want to share with you is my favorite homemade weed killer. This organic solution uses the natural plant killing power of vinegar.
Best of all because vinegar is non-toxic it is safe to use around pets and family. Plus its also safe to use in vegetable gardens!
Why Vinegar? Facts About Vinegar and What It Can Do
A vinegar spray is one of the best-known and most successful natural solutions to tackling a weed problem.
When sprayed onto a plant vinegar will kill it by draining out the plant’s moisture through its leaves. This is thanks to vinegar’s natural acidic properties.
Vinegar is an organic product made from fruits and grains by fermenting them. The process is a lot like the one used to make alcohol only with a few extra steps involved.
Unlike a glass of brandy though, other than water the main component of vinegar is acetic acid. In household vinegar, this acid is usually 5% of the product. Now, while at that strength it’s too weak to cause us any harm, it’s still plenty strong enough to deal with most weeds.
Natural Homemade Weed Killer Recipe
- 1 Gallon White Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Liquid Dish Soap
Soap helps to improve the absorption of the vinegar by breaking down waxy coatings or fuzzy surfaces that some plants have. Breaking down these waxy surfaces leaves the weeds more vulnerable to the vinegar
How and Where to Use It
Just spray this mixture onto the weeds you want to remove making sure to hit the leaves. You should notice most weeds starting to shrivel up in only a few hours. Tougher weeds may take a bit more time to show signs but should be showing the effects by the next day.
Make sure to spray the mix on a dry day. Otherwise, the vinegar can get washed away before getting the chance to work fully.
Keep in mind that vinegar is a non-selective herbicide. That means our mixture will try to kill any plants it is applied to. Control any overspray to avoid causing damage to our lawn or desirable plants.
While this mixture is potent enough to deal with most weeds, the effectiveness will vary for some tougher to remove weeds like crabgrass.
Vinegar is a contact killer and does not target the root of the plant. The root may still die anyway depending on the kind of weed, but some plants like dandelions have extensive root structures. For those kinds of weeds that household vinegar will not be able to prevent them from re-growing.
A more permanent solution for driveways and sidewalks
There’s a famous story that when the Romans defeated their enemy Carthage, they salted the earth around Carthage so no crops could grow there again. While that story may be a work of fiction, the ability of salt to keep plant life from growing is very real.
- 1 Gallon White Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Liquid Dish Soap
- 1 Cup Salt
Salt kills plants the same way as vinegar does, by drawing out their moisture. What it also does though is permanently damage the fertility of soil making it harder for anything to grow back there again.
This makes this powerful solution useful for spot treating the cracks in your driveway, patios, or paths. It also means it should be used with caution because applied anywhere else it can harm your lawn or prevent desired plants from growing.
Using Higher Concentrations of Vinegar
Household vinegar has a 5% concentration, but higher concentrations of vinegar do exist. They might prove to be harder to find at a grocery store though. Still, you can find 10% and even 20% concentrations of vinegar online or at specialty stores.
Using one of these higher concentrations of vinegar results in a more potent final product able to kill more plants. This is the reason most commercial vinegar-based organic herbicides use a 20% concentration vinegar as their base.
At these higher concentrations, vinegar will also be more effective at preventing weeds from growing back. This is thanks to the increased power, making it simpler for the mix to dry out and kill the roots of the weeds too.
Highly concentrated vinegar is not as safe to handle as the household product. There are some safety precautions I suggest following when handling high concentration vinegar.
Safety Precautions with Concentrated Vinegar
Highly concentrated vinegar is much more acidic than household vinegar. Unlike our recommended mixture, they can pose some health risks when not handled with proper precautions.
- Use gloves for safety whenever handling highly concentrated vinegar. This will help to prevent any mild acid burns that may be caused by direct exposure to skin.
- Avoid any contact with your eyes as it can cause severe eye irritation.
- Avoid breathing in concentrated vinegar fumes; inhaling them can cause nose and throat irritation.
Like most over the counter herbicides, vinegar is a non-selective plant killer. What that means is that our mix will try to kill any vegetation it comes in contact with. So be careful to only spray it on plants you want to remove.
Before using any product in your lawn or garden, even natural ones, you should apply a small test patch first to make sure you are happy with the results.
Like with any weed control products, there are a few concerns that you should consider about the long-term effects of vinegar on the health of your soil.
While it is a naturally derived product vinegar can still negatively impact soil health by making the pH level of soil more acidic. While this mixture uses a low concentration of vinegar, it can still impact soil pH with extended use. This could negatively affect the growth of some plants that prefer more alkaline soil.
The impact on the soil will be more extreme when higher concentrations of vinegar are used. There is also evidence that using high concentrations of vinegar might kill microorganisms in the soil. These microorganisms are beneficial to plant growth.
I also want to reiterate that using salt will drastically lower the fertility of the soil. Think twice before using it anywhere that you may want to grow plants again.
Other Organic methods of DIY weed control
The simplest method of dealing with weeds other than plucking them. You can kill most weeds by pouring boiling water onto them.
If you have a kettle then even better, you can use the spout to direct the flow of water. This is helpful since like vinegar, boiling water will also harm any plant it touches.
Using boiled water is also a very environmentally-friendly choice. Since it’s only water, it won’t have any kind of negative long-term effect on soil health.
That’s not to say that this is the perfect method though. Boiled water will not prevent weeds from growing back. It has severely limited ability to kill the root structure of tough perennial weeds.
Cornmeal gluten works as an organic pre-emergent weed suppressor. What that means is that when you spread it on your lawn or garden, it won’t harm any already existing plants, but it will stop new ones from growing.
What it comes down to is that cornmeal will prevent seeds from forming roots. This allows it to stop weeds before they can even become a problem.
Before using cornmeal gluten in your lawn or garden though consider that it will block all new plants from growing. This includes any seeds you’re trying to plant.
It also won’t block the regrowth of established perennial weeds like dandelions or crabgrass.
How to Use It
- Spread the powdered corn meal gluten over the area.
- Water the area so the gluten seeps into the soil.
For this method to be successful, you need to apply the cornmeal during a dry period. If it rains too soon after application, there’s a chance you won’t get the full benefit of the weed control.
For added effectiveness, find out the time of year the type of weed you’re combating grows. Be sure to apply the cornmeal before this time to ensure maximum effectiveness.
If you’re having trouble finding cornmeal gluten, then you can buy Preen Organic Weed Preventer for Vegetable Gardens. It’s actually 100% cornmeal gluten!
Not only does using mulch in your garden make it look more appealing, but it also helps prevent weeds.
Spreading mulch over the open space in your garden prevents weeds from being able to grow in those spots.
You can also use a mulch to kill already weeds in an area. To do so first cut the weeds, then cover the area with mulch. It may take some time for the weeds to die, but it will kill the weeds by denying them any sunlight. When it’ done, you can clear the mulch from the area and grow other plants right away.
It seems like there’s no shortage of creative approaches to safely dealing with unwanted weeds. From a vinegar mixture to something as simple as boiling water. I’ve chosen some of the methods I’ve had the most success with share.
Have you tried out any of these methods before or are you planning to now? Have any other methods for a homemade weed killer that we didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments. I’m eager to hear your stories!
And of course if you found this article useful, then be sure to share it!