Homemade Weed Killer That Really Works (And Is Safe For Pets): Ingredients, Recipes, & More

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Person holding weeds

Weeds are super annoying and they show up every Spring without fail (and doesn’t it seem like there’s more of the buggers every year?). Whether it’s between cracks in your driveway, in the middle of your yard, or in your vegetable garden or flower beds, weeds can pop up just about anywhere.

There are easy ways to get rid of them (think Roundup), but are chemicals such as these in the best long-term interest of your health, and the health of your kids and pets that love to play in your yard?

Fortunately with a little time and effort it’s not impossible to stay on top of weeds with an organic line of defense. But if pulling them out manually takes too much time or using mulch or a ground covering is too resource or cost-prohibitive, you can consider a natural weed killing solution that is easy to make in the comfort of your own home.

I will say I recommend using this only for pesky, hard to get at weeds since the spray will kill your other plants too, so not ideal for your flower beds or vegetable patch.

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

A Cautionary Note About Soil Salinity

The reason I don’t encourage using this spray as your only line of defense, is that over time it can adversely affect the overall levels of salinity (salt) in your soil. That can make it difficult to grow plants down the road, and it may take several seasons and lots of rainfall to reduce saline levels back to normal. Therefore I really recommend using this solution sparingly and in areas where you’re not counting on other plants to grow.

Ground Cover Or Mulch Solutions

A thick layer of mulch can not only look aesthetically pleasing, but it can also keep weeds at bay. How is this possible? A thick layer of mulch, or a ground covering (such as this one by Dewitt) will keep out sunlight. Weeds are just like any other plant – they need sunshine and water (think photosynthesis) to grow.

Organic Weed Killer Supplies

Here’s a list of supplies you’ll need to make your homegrown weed killing solution. If you don’t already have these lying around, you can obtain most of these at your local grocery or general store, as well as online.

Is Horticultural Vinegar Safe?

Horticultural vinegar contains a higher concentration of acetic acid (20% typically) compared to household vinegar (5%). The levels are high enough to classify it as an herbicide (vs a food product).

Unfortunately there’s plenty of hype around using horticultural vinegar on your weeds, because it is very successful at killing them. But it can also cause harm to animals and the environment when used in large quantities or concentrations (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).

Non-Toxic Weed Killer Recipes

Get your supplies ready, here’s some easy recipes you can use as a base for your home-made weed killing solution.

For optimal results, you’ll want to apply these solutions during the sunniest time of day, and spray directly onto the weed, trying best to avoid the areas around the weed.

Vinegar, Dawn And Salt

This is weed killing in its simplest form, with salt, vinegar, and dish soap. Combine the following ingredients in a spray bottle:

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

If you want to buy a ready made solution of this, check out our review of the Avenger Organic Weed Killer.

This solution works particularly well on dandelions. When applying, set your spray bottle to the “stream” (direct shot, not mist) setting if possible and spray directly onto the dandelion heads. This should help take out the dandelions without affecting the grass too much.

Before you spray them all down, especially if it’s early Spring, note that dandelions are an important food source for pollinators.

“Flowers are an important food source for pollinators — especially bees,” John Mulseed wrote in his Greenspace column. Dandelions are one of the first flowing plants and provide both pollen and nectar. By late May, more flowering plants are available as food sources for bees and other insects, so they don’t have to rely as much on dandelions.

Apple Cider Vinegar And Epsom Salt (With Video)

Don’t have white vinegar but have some apple cider vinegar (ACV) laying around? Good news, this recipe uses ACV instead of white vinegar, and doesn’t need dish soap.

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

First fill your spray bottle with the ACV, then sprinkle the salt in (we recommend using a funnel to avoid spillage) and shake it up well before using.

See this recipe in action in the video below by Home Talk:

For Younger Weeds And Sidewalk Cracks

For weed treatment on larger surface areas like your patio, a bed of mulch, driveway, etc. we recommend using a diluted solution. It works just as well but won’t be as corrosive to the environment you’re spraying in.

  • 1 pot of water
  • 1 Tablespoon of salt

Get the water up to a boil in a pot, then add the tablespoon of salt. You’ll want to pour this on your offending weeds while the solution is still hot, and should see results almost immediately.

Is There Homemade Weed Killer That’s Safe For Grass?

As we noted the vinegar and salt in the recipes above can affect soil salinity and can be tough on grass. So if you’re already struggling to get your lawn to turn nice and green, here are some modified recipes optimized for weeds in lawns.

Corn Gluten Meal

For this to work, you’ll first need to remove existing weeds by manually pulling them. Next, sprinkle corn gluten meal on your lawn. Why does this work? It suppresses the development of feeder roots in weeds such as dandelions, crabgrass, plantain, curly dock, pigweed, knotweed, lamb’s quarters, and more.

Soap And Water

This method dries out the weeds. Create a water/soap mixture with a 10:1 water/soap ratio (10 parts water, one part soap). In the middle of the day when the temperature is the highest, spray this mixture on the weeds. How does it work? The soap helps the solution stick to the weeds, and when the water evaporate in the heat, it will dry the weeds out.

Chemicals Aren’t Just In Your Weed Killer

As you’re probably already painfully aware, harmful chemicals are present in many common household cleaning and body care products. But fear not, we’ve got natural solutions for you for these as well!

Our team has natural, animal-cruelty free and organic product recommendations (along with more DIY recipes) for shampoomosquito repellent, baby food, helping you get to sleep, and depression and anxiety, just to name a few. Enjoy, ask any questions you have, and here’s to your health and happiness!

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