Best Homemade Weed Killer (With Ingredients You Already Have)

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Person holding weedsWeeds are quite possibly the most annoying thing in your yard, especially in the warmer months. They make their way through cracks in the driveway, find their way into flower beds, grow proudly pop up in the garden and sprout just about everywhere imaginable.

If you have kids or pets around, you probably don’t want to spray your yard with harmful chemicals. Your best “organic” line of defense against weeds is pulling them out manually or using mulch or ground cover to keep on top of them at the start of the Spring season (this may vary, or be all year round, depending on your location). But for those hard to reach spots or pesky weeds we bring you the best natural weed killer using these organic weed control recipes.

Too busy to make your own? See our reco for these pre-made weed killers.

Article Overview

A Cautionary Note About Soil Salinity

Most organic/natural weed killing solutions contain some level of salt (saline). Note that areas in which you spray weed killers containing salt will have the saline content of the soil increase to levels that won’t be sustainable to some plants. It takes time and lots of water to reduce saline levels back to normal levels. Please take this into account before spraying areas of your yard where you wish to maintain plant growth.

Ground Cover Or Mulch Solutions

You may also consider a ground covering (such as this one by Dewitt) or a thick (2-3 inches at least) layer of mulch. Why do these work? You are blocking their access to sunlight, and without photosynthesis happening, plants can’t grow – that includes weeds.

Organic Weed Killer Supplies

Listed below are some items you may need to mix up the best organic weed killer. Hopefully you already have these things around the house, but if not we’ve linked to where you can order them online.

Is Horticultural Vinegar Safe?

You may hear that horticultural vinegar can be more effective on your weeds than household (distilled) vinegar. This is definitely true, but the product should be applied with caution, if at all. Horticultural vinegar is modified vinegar produced in labs at a much higher concentration of acetic acid. This means it’s technically an herbicide and no longer a food product. Some things to note about horticultural vinegar:

  • Horticultural vinegar is many times stronger than regular vinegar, typically at concentrations of 20% acetic acid vs 5% in household/distilled vinegar (we recommend that if you do use horticultural vinegar on pesky weeds, you dilute it and wear googles and protective clothing).
  • In concentrations above 11% acetic acid, vinegar can burn skin and cause damage to your eyes. Concentrations above 20% are corrosive to tin, aluminum, iron, and concrete and can even cause blindness. Such herbicides should be applied while wearing goggles and protective clothing.1
  • High concentrations of acetic acid can also cause harm to animals and be corrosive to the environment.

Non-Toxic Weed Killer Recipes

Now that you have the supplies ready you’ll need to mix up a batch.

Salt And Vinegar

This is a natural weed killer with salt, vinegar and liquid dish soap (e.g. Dawn). Combine the following ingredients in a spray bottle:

  • 1 gallon white vinegar (household/distilled)
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 Tablespoon liquid dish soap

Spray weeds with this vinegar weed killer during the sunniest time of day for optimum results. If you want to buy a ready made solution, check out our review of the Avenger Organic Weed Killer.

If dandelions are covering your lawn, this is a good one to use. Pour some of the mixture into a spray bottle that has a “stream” setting that will give you a direct shot (not mist). Spray the mixture onto the dandelion heads. The spray will kill the dandelions without killing the grass, as long as you don’t get the mixture onto the lawn.

On that note, like other toxic weed killers this recipe will not only destroy your weeds, the acetic acid in the vinegar might also harm other plants and grass that come into contact with the spray. So no matter the type of weed, use with caution and squirt directly to the weed itself versus applying to the area around it more liberally.

Apple Cider Vinegar Epsom Salt Weed Killer

Another similar recipe uses apple cider instead of white vinegar and no dish soap.

  • 2 cups of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of Epsom salt

Fill a spray bottle with the apple cider vinegar. Place a funnel into the mouth of the bottle and add salt. Shake the bottle well to mix the ingredients. Then, spray the weed and they should crumble away within a day.

Check out the video below to see how easy it is (and before and after).

Does vinegar and Epsom salt weed killer work? As you can see in the video above, yes it does. But like the spray above, the vinegar is highly effective so don’t overdo it.

For Younger Weeds And Sidewalk Cracks

Try this concoction if you have larger surface areas like a patio or mulch bed instead of concentrated spots in your yard. It’s less harsh than the recipes that include vinegar so works well for new growth weeds that are easier to kill.

  • 1 pot of water
  • 1 Tablespoon of salt

Boil a pot of water and add one tablespoon of salt. Pour over the weeds immediately while the water is still hot. You should see results almost instantly.

Homemade Weed Killer Safe For Grass

The recipes above work well but can hurt your grass (see my cautionary statement about soil salinity above). So if you’re looking for some safer ways to kill weeds without ruining your yard, here are three homemade weed killers we suggest for lawns. Be sure to read each carefully, so you get the results you’re looking for.

Corn Gluten Meal

To prevent weed growth in your lawn, remove all existing weeds first. Sprinkle corn gluten meal on your lawn. It suppresses the development of small feeder roots and is effective at preventing crabgrass, dandelions, curly dock, knotweed, lamb’s quarters, pigweed and plantain. It will not hurt the grass in your yard or any other plants.

Soap And Water

Combine ten parts water and one part liquid dish detergent in a spray bottle. Spray the weeds in the mixture until soaked during the hottest part of the day. The water will evaporate due to the heat and the soap in the mixture will get sticky on the weeds drying them out.

Chemicals Aren’t Just In Your Weed Killer

Weeds can be a pain in the grass but they are inevitable without a watchful eye and active yard maintenance plan. We hope some of these recommendations can help you get your weed situation under control.

Once you do, you may want to consider addressing some of the other chemicals you are exposed to in every day life. We’ve got natural solutions for shampoomosquito repellent, baby food, helping you get to sleep, and depression and anxiety, just to name a few. Thanks and here’s to your health and happiness!

What difficulties are you experiencing getting rid of a particular weed?

Sources: [1] Good House Keeping

About The Author:

One of Kimberly’s favorite things to do is cook. She is trying her best to be more conscious about the nutrients she puts into her body and enjoys trying new recipes. Kimberly grew up helping her dad with the family garden and hopes to have her own garden some day. She enjoys brightening up her dishes with the food mother nature can provide and enjoys composting her produce scraps.

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Vera
Can distilled white vinegar be used in the soap/salt/vinegar recipe?
Alex Schenker (Admin)
Yes, that’s actually what our initial recipe recommends using (cooking/distilled vinegar, which comes at a 5-8% concentration typically). This is safer and less harsh than horticultural vinegar.
Mark Mance
I use regular table salt ground up in spice/coffee grinder it mixes really well with the vinegar and add the Dawn detergent last. It has killed all my weeds. It must be reapplied once a month. This is one of the best and cheapest remedies I’ve used
Sadie Cornelius (Admin)
Mark, glad to hear that works for you, thanks for sharing!
Joe
Article on Southern Living web site says the weed killer mixture is unsafe and doesn’t kill weeds. Causes the structure of the soil to change with the epsom salt. I coulldn’t find anything in their article that indicates any safety issues, just a general comment that is unsubstantiated.
The statement in the Southern Living article that concerned me is the mixture advocated for in the Earth Friends article is that the mixture doesn’t actually kill the weeds, but kills the leaves because of the acidic nature of the vinegar. Because the mixture doesn’t get into the weeds roots the weeds never die.

My experience shows the weeds do come back. What does your experience / research show? Are there any safety issues to consider?

Alex Schenker (Admin)
Hi Joe,

Excellent question. Repeated use can affect the sodium levels in the soil over a period of time (i.e. excess saline content) and prevent plants from growing in that area. As far as killing the entire weed and not just the leaves, the salt will penetrate the roots and kill the entire plant if applied correctly. Your level of success will also depend on the type of weed, growth stage, etc. That being said, the first and best “organic” line of defense is removing them manually and keeping on top of them. If you’re vigilant about this in the Spring, it’s a manageable task. You could also consider a ground cover, and certain types of mulch may help as well. Thanks for your question, I’ll update the article with some of these thoughts.

Tommy
Hi Joe…I’m so glad you posted this. For so long I have felt like I was the only one this mixture (vinegar/Salt/Dawn) hasn’t worked for. I have made huge batches and even purposely went all out on the salt adding double the amounts trying do deaden the soil where patches of weeds grow. The weeds wither but eventually come back (and they come back stronger it seems). Also I have found that afterwards, some new breed of weeds begin to cover the ground where I’ve sprayed and carpet the whole ground. Happens everytime and anywhere I use this mix. And I’ve experimented for about 3 consecutive summers spraying all season spring to fall each time trying to make stronger batches and spray more. I’ve even made gallons of salt and vinegar and actually poured it all over the soil. Within a few months the carpet of super weeds appear….grass too! But when I say this I get attacked…lol No one wants to hear it but, I haven’t had any luck. As you’ve stated; it doesn’t get to the root. It just wilts the leaves.
Diane
Don’t use Epsom salt. It’s a fertilizer for plants.
Michelle Schenker (Admin)
In small quantities, that can be true since it provides magnesium and sulfur but in larger quantities, like we have recommended, it will deter growth. Epsom salt is especially helpful in deterring insects and other pests while the vinegar we combine it with in our recipe is highly effective for killing weeds.
Britt
Is the soap, salt, and vinegar mix ok to put into your garden soil along the pathways?
We will do a big till at the end of the season so I’m wondering if mixing the sprayed soil in will effect anything next year?! Thanks
Alex Schenker (Admin)
There’s pros and cons to everything. In this case, if you use the vinegar/salt mix regularly, you will increase the sodium content of your soil over time. Ideally, pick as many weeds by hand as you can, and use the homemade weed killer for tough to get weeds. The best thing you can do is “stay ahead of the weeds.” If you tend to them regularly, the chances of them growing out of control and requiring more intense solutions lessens.
Sandi Morrison
How to kill violets in the lawn?
Alex Schenker (Admin)
You could modify the recipe above to use diluted horticultural vinegar (as opposed to traditional vinegar), but please use caution and apply appropriately. It carries a larger amount of acetic acid that can be effective on your violets, but it can also cause damage to you and the environment.
Joe
Correct me if I’m wrong, horticultural vinegar is many times stronger than regular vinegar and should be handled with care.
Alex Schenker (Admin)
You’re absolutely right Joe, thanks for pointing this out. I’ve modified the article and my response above accordingly.
Kathy
Even though called a “salt”, Epsom Salts are a naturally occurring mineral. Magnesium sulfate. It’s largest use around the world is in agriculture. In fact, a couple years ago I was having a problem with a fungus on my cucumber plants. The recommendation? Mix epsom salt with water & spray on plants & soil. Took care of the problem because cucumbers thrive on magnesium. I just sprayed the weeds in my garden with the white vinegar, epsom salt solution because a friend highly recommended it. Roundup causes cancer and it’s ingredients are banned in other countries.
Stella Lang
Will the salt and vinegar soap recipe work on picker weeds. They seem to grow in a trailing vine under the soil.
Alex Schenker (Admin)
Hi Stella, should work on picker weeds – make sure to get the roots, and obviously be careful you’re not spraying plants you want to live.
David & Paula Sitch
what about tumble weeds at the beginning stage-not full grown-the ones you find in NM
Alex Schenker (Admin)
Hi guys, thanks for your question. Tumbleweed, or Russian Thistle – if the plants are young, try pulling them up by their roots before they seed. This is actually the most effective control method. You can also try mowing over them (with a lawnmower) if you do it just as they bloom (tumbleweeds disperse their seeds when they “tumble”). Lastly, note that if you have a healthy collection of surrounding crops, the odds that Russian Thistle will thrive are lower. Good luck, let us know how your tumbleweed problem evolves.
Tina
how does this work on very prolific poison ivy?
Alex Schenker (Admin)
Hi Tina, I did hear from a friend that the salt/vinegar/dish soap combo we mention above worked for her on poison ivy. Spray straight onto the ivy leaves as they’re growing, and try to apply during dry conditions. Wait a week and then re-apply on any stubborn ivy that you didn’t get the first time. Curious to hear if this works for you!
Bob Barker
“Does vinegar and Epsom salt weed killer work? You bet it does!” Um, no, not it does not. Salting your ground over and over again will lead to dead soil. And vinegar – especially the kitchen kind – may kill some plant leaves, but not the roots. Stop poisoning your soil (salt NEVER goes away; maybe with enough rain it will someday wash away. This is why invading army’s would salt enemy fields – it virtually permanently ruined them). Because – science!
Sheryl
So this weedkiller used occasionally in large areas with just weeds is not a good option?
Would roundup be a better option? Seems conflicting information, as everything now is carcinogenic, so dont use in your garden, and vinigar and Epsom salts are dangerous too?
Kathy
Epsom salt is not salt but a naturally occurring mineral magnesium sulfate.
Niall
Only suitable for drives and patios. Don’t use salt in growing areas of your garden
Janet
Herbicides like roundup and pesticides are also problematic for soil, especially soil microbial life. While it may be true that regrowth with tough weeds can occur with this natural product. perhaps spraying 2-3 times with an inexpensive natural product to eradicate a weed is worth the trade off of the damage and danger of roundup. The shift in soil from excess acid (would take a lot of vinegar and bad aim) can be mitigated by adding limestone or other natural alkaline products to soil. And salt, oh dear. There are many kinds of salts. They all behave differently. Epsom salts are beneficial for many plants because the provide elemental magnesium and sulfur. Not all salts burn soil. I would use epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) instead of table salt (sodium chloride). There are some weeds that may be profoundly affected by this recipe and other less so, as with any product. The old wisdom still true, pull when possible, mulch when possible, spray when necessary. I have had good luck with this vinegar epsom soap mixture but have had to reapply when I don’t plant something in its place immediately. Has not worked for poison ivy for me. Also, if you get rid of a weed somewhere in your yard, plant something there that you WANT to be there. Bare soil will grow something eventually, so find ground covers that you like to act as a natural mulch and weed suppressor.
Michelle Schenker (Admin)
Thanks Janet! This is great advice and will be very helpful for our readers. Thank you for sharing.
Christy Dawson
I have been fighting Bind Weed for years and it never gives up. I have it in my landscaped areas which are very large. This year it is coming up everywhere again. I have spent countless hours digging it up, pulled it out, put down weed fabric, sprayed with Poison Ivy vine killer by ortho and still its back. Without nuking the whole yards what can I do?
Me Too
Bind weed is extremely hard to manage, I don’t know if you’ll ever truly get rid of it. (seeds can remain dormant for 75 years?). Extension office suggested regular burning and not allowing it to reseed. Bind weed is parasitic, it starts as any other plant, but eventually feeds off of whatever surrounding plants. Burning will kill the feeder plants, which starves the bind weed, and it’ll destroy seeds.
A.J.
Will this mixture kill “puncture vine” (aka goats head) weeds?
Jerry
Our weeds are out of control! I’ve tried everything and they still keep popping up – mostly in the mulch beds. We have a tree that sheds like crazy so I think that’s part of the problem. Will try these and hopefully it helps!