Make Your Own Natural Weed Killer

Tackle troublesome garden weeds the sustainable way.

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A solution of vinegar, salt, and dish soap can be a cheap and effective tool against some weeds.

A solution of vinegar, salt, and dish soap can be a cheap and effective tool against some weeds.

A solution of vinegar, salt, and dish soap can be a cheap and effective tool against weeds.

A solution of vinegar, salt, and dish soap can be a cheap and effective tool against weeds.

Even in the best of plots, weeds will grow. And why wouldn’t they? You’ve provided inviting soil and the sun shines on even the most reviled plant. If you are fighting the good fight against those unwelcome visitors, there is no shortage of chemical options for clearing the decks, but many are now seeking alternatives to commercial herbicides as we enjoy a long-overdue trend toward "greener" living.

Pulling weeds by hand is always the most reliable solution, but I accept that there are times when herbicides may be the practical choice. For small outbreaks or perimeter weeds, though, I prefer to seek out a response other than the use of synthetic chemicals. Fortunately, a cheap and easy natural alternative using ingredients from the pantry will get the job done. To a point.

When looking for a natural alternative to herbicides, a cocktail of vinegar, salt and liquid dish soap has all of the ingredients needed to quickly kill weeds. Acetic acid in the vinegar and the salt are both very good at drawing moisture from weeds. Dish soap acts as a surfactant, which is an agent that will reduce the surface tension that can cause the weed-killing concoction to bead on the leaves instead of being absorbed by the plant. On a warm, sunny day, the results of this homemade spray will be obvious in a matter of hours as weeds turn brown and wither.

Depending on the weeds and the season, the results can be speedy and effective. But there are downsides. Unlike some chemical solutions, this formula is not built to work its way into the root system, meaning multiple treatments will probably be necessary to keep weeds at bay. Additionally, when looking for a quick fix, sunshine makes a big difference and the 5% acetic acid in most household vinegars may fall short of expectations against hardier weeds.

Shortcomings aside, keeping a spray bottle of this homemade solution on hand is an inexpensive and often effective weapon against weeds that may pop up along walkways, fences or house foundations. Spray the targeted weeds and avoid dousing the soil or nearby plants. This weed killer doesn’t have its Master Gardener certification and can’t tell the difference between weeds and the plants you’d prefer to keep around.

This natural weed killer is great for light weeding, but when it comes to tending to the garden, don’t put away your gloves just yet. Keep pulling.

Natural Weed Killer

  • 1 gallon white vinegar
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and treat weeds at the sunniest time of day for best results.