Although weeds are different things to different people, one thing is universal: if it’s a weed, you probably don’t want it around. I’m not super concerned about eliminating every weed, especially since many of them are actually beneficial. But I prefer that they stay out of the garden and out of the patio cracks.
Unfortunately, commercial herbicides are quite nasty. Glysophate (Roundup) is a particularly hot-button topic, as you’ve no doubt heard since all of these Roundup lawsuits started popping up. And while others aren’t getting the recent press, they’re no less worrisome. So if I can find a natural weed killer that works, and I can spray it while the kids are right next to me, I’m all in.
There’s no doubt that commercial herbicides are effective. Even that, however, is changing. In many areas, Roundup-resistant weeds are popping up due to herbicide overuse. Of course, that means even stronger chemicals, likely just as bad (if not worse) than the original. Not good.
Which is why there’s room for a more natural weed killer. There are lots of ways to kill weeds. Pull them out. Burn them. Pour boiling water over them. Train your dog to pee in the exact same spot.
Of course, you probably want something that’s on the quick side, which is why herbicide sprays are so popular. So instead of Roundup, let’s throw something different into the spray tank.
All-Natural Weed Killer With Only Three Ingredients
The key to this natural weed killer is pH, specifically acid. Now I’m not suggesting you go around dumping muriatic acid on your plant pests. No doubt that it’ll work, but the EPA will probably come after you.
We simply use that versatile household ingredient: vinegar. The basic vinegar comes in 5% acidity, but you can also find stronger stuff, from 6% (cleaning vinegar) all the way up to 30% acidity. Obviously, the stronger it is, the faster it’ll work, but you’ll need to exercise more caution when using it. Regular vinegar works great as a natural weed killer, and really, you could just use it straight.
To make it even more effective, I like to add a couple more ingredients: salt and dish soap. The salt helps dry out the plant and, depending on how much salt you add, it can prevent anything else from growing in that spot. Note that salt will accumulate in the soil, so don’t use it heavily where you may be trying to grow in the near future. I usually add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of plain old iodized or pickling salt (nothing fancy), but you can use more if desired.
The dish soap acts as a surfactant, meaning it helps the solution stick to the leaves of the plant (so it works better).
To make your natural weed killer, add a gallon of vinegar (Costco sells jugs that are a little over a gallon; I use the whole thing) to a sprayer. Add about 1/2 cup of salt, and a good squirt of dish soap. I never actually measure anything, since exact proportions are unnecessary. Sometimes I’ll add a few tablespoons of citric acid to bump up the burn.
Shake everything up, pressurize the sprayer, and go to town. Ideal conditions are hot and sunny, as the sun helps kill the plants faster, but as long as it’s dry, it should work fine.
Some plants may require a repeat spray from the natural weed killer. Most broadleaf weeds like dandelions shrivel up very quickly, but grassy weeds, or those with thick or waxy leaves may take a bit more. Clover has always been one for me that needs additional treatments.
Keep in mind that since this is a natural weed killer, you may need to spot treat every few weeks, as new weeds may show up to replace the old. We’re not going scorched-earth with a toxic herbicide, but an extra half-hour once a month is a reasonable trade-off for my health.