There are quite a few homemade weed killers out there, and some certainly work better than others. Below are 14 different ways to get rid of weeds; try them out and see what works best for you. I performed an experiment with most of these, and found the three most effective methods for me were:
- Boiling Water
- Vinegar and Vinegar/Lemon Juice
- Rubbing Alcohol
14 Ways to Kill Weeds
- Boiling Water. This is the fastest and most effective method I have found. Pour boiling water over weeds and they will start wilting within a few hours; they will be dead within a day or two. This is one to use on those tough weeds that just don’t want to die. As resistant as the plant may be to some of the other methods, it’s hard for them to survive boiling water. You can even mix in some salt if you really want to get the job done. Although very effective, it is also time-consuming to boil a lot of water. If you don’t want to boil water just for this purpose, you can also drain the boiling water from pasta or potatoes into another pot and take it right outside to the weeds.
My findings: Boiling water finished well above the others in the weed killer experiment, as the weeds were wilted within hours and nearly all dead the following day. Due to the amount of time it takes to boil the water, this solution works best on small patches of weeds.
- Vinegar. This is my weed killer of choice and it placed second in the weed killer experiment. Vinegar is a good option when it comes to getting rid of weeds because it is cheap, safe-to-use, and does a good job. Vinegar may not always kill the roots, but it works well on the leaves; this causes the weed to use stored energy to stay alive. If you keep spraying and killing off the leaves, the plant will eventually run out of energy and die. I used vinegar as a weed killer for the first time last year with a lot of success, even with only one or two sprayings. If you’ve ever looked at bottle of vinegar, you know the concentration is listed as a percentage. I have heard some recomendations for buying the 10-20% vinegar variety at nurseries instead of the 5% that is commonly found in grocery stores. These higher percentages are more acidic, which would probably work a little better, but are also more expensive and require more preparation. The higher concentration of vinegar can actually burn your skin if it comes in contact with you. I don’t know about you, but that is not something I want to have to worry about when I’m gardening.
My opinion: This is the most practical weed killer if you have more than a few weeds to get rid of. I would stick with your typical grocery store vinegar and not mess with the higher concentration. Vinegar Recipes
- Pure vinegar
- A mixture of up to half vinegar and half water
- 1 gallon vinegar, 1 ounce dish soap.
- 1 quart vinegar with 1/2 cup lemon juice
- Rubbing Alcohol. Spray weeds with rubbing alcohol to dry them out. Coming in at third place, rubbing alcohol had very similar results to vinegar, but with a higher price tag.
My opinion: This is a great weed killer, but save yourself a little money and use vinegar.
- Lemon Juice.
Lemon Juice Recipes
- Pure lemon juice
- 1/2 cup lemon juice to 1 quart vinegar
- Salt. Although my grandpa and great-grandpa both salted asparagus plants, most plants do not like salt. You can sprinkle salt directly on weeds, but I would dissolve the salt in water and spray them. You can pour salt in cracks of your patio or walkways to keep new weeds from growing. Caution: If you continually use this method in the same area or apply a lot of salt, it can prevent anything from growing in that spot for some time.
- 2 parts water to 1 part salt
- Pure salt
- Minimize the risk of harming nearby plants by watering them so the salt soaks into the ground below the roots.
- Salt can erode concrete or at least speed up the process. Try using one of the other solutions, like vinegar or boiling water, when killing weeds on sidewalks or concrete driveways.
- Hands. Pulling weeds is the original and cheapest method of weed control. On the flip side, this activity is likely one of your least favorite parts of having a vegetable garden or flower bed. It’s time-consuming work that can be hard on your back and knees. No matter how much you dislike pulling weeds, it’s going to be required from time-to-time if you don’t want your weeds to get out of control. The good thing is that it doesn’t even have to be your hands! Our 7-year old loves to help us pull weeds, though he’s not quite as good at getting the roots out as we are.
- Teeth. It may sound crazy, but it’s true! Although you should consult a guidebook to confirm the plant is what you think it is, there are a surprising number of edible weeds. Did you know dandelions can be used in salads? They can also be used to make wine or jelly. Some other weeds you probably didn’t know you can eat include bamboo shoots, purslane, water cress, wild garlic, sorrel, chickweed, and lamb’s quarters. What a great way to not only get rid of those weeds, but also do something useful with them!
- Tabasco Sauce . I imagine pure Tabasco Sauce would work well because two of the three main ingredients are salt and vinegar, which are both used in the methods above. I had never tried this before the weed killer experiment, and have no intention of doing so again. With Tabasco sauce being so much more expensive than the individual ingredients, I can’t see any benefits in using this over salt and/or vinegar. I used the Tabasco Sauce mixed with water and dish soap in the weed killer experiment, with no significant results.
- Pure Tabasco Sauce
- 4 tablespoons Tabasco Sauce , 1 quart water, and 1 tsp dish soap
- Newspaper. For all the people who subscribe to a newspaper, or know someone that does, there is no extra cost to using this method. Just like that old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” the same holds true for weeds. No, I don’t mean just look the other way. If you cover the weeds, you are less likely to have as many. This method does take a little more planning than spraying a liquid here or there. Place at least four layers of newspaper over the weeds to block out the sun. This will help prevent new weeds from growing and kill off existing ones. This method is perfect in the spring when you are preparing your flower garden. You can cover the newspaper with a little soil or mulch to keep it in place (and hidden). You will have to replace the newspaper the following year, but that’s a relatively easy thing to do.
- Burn Them. Flamers and blow torches are portable fuel burning tools that can be use to kill weeds. You don’t need to catch the plant on fire for this to work; simply running the flame over the weeds will do the trick. The heat boils the water in the plant, causing it to die. The weed should change from glossy to a matte finish and will start wilting within hours. Similar to vinegar, this method may not kill the roots of tough weeds the first time. If this happens, you can torch them again when the new growth starts so they are forced to use up their stored energy and die. Read more about flamers at The National Gardening Association.
- Corn Gluten Meal. This is not the same thing as corn meal and costs more. Corn gluten meal can be found at feed stores and some garden centers. Though it does not kill weeds already growing, it will help prevent new seeds from germinating.
- Baking Soda. Pour baking soda into cracks of a patio or walkway. This will kill any small weeds that may already be there and prevent new ones from growing.
- Borax. Similar to baking soda, you can sprinkle borax into cracks of patios or walkways to get rid of unwanted weeds.
- Dish soap.
Dish Soap Recipes
- Mix together 10 parts water and 1 part liquid dish soap
- 1 gallon vinegar, 1 ounce dish soap
Suggestions and Precautions
- Weed killers work best in hot, sunny weather when there is no rain in the forecast for a couple days.
- When using any of the methods listed, keep in mind they do not know the difference between weeds and plants or grass you wish to keep. If you accidentally get some weed killer on a plant you didn’t intend to, your best chance to save it is to flush the plant with water to dilute the weed killer as much as possible. An easy way to keep the weed killer from spraying nearby plants is to use a 2-liter bottle. Cut the bottle in half and place the top half, small opening up, over the weed you want to spray. Place your pump’s spray nozzle in the opening and spray the weed. After the spray settles, you can remove the bottle and move on to the next weed. Although this takes more time than simply spraying, it gives you more control where the weed killer ends up.
- Depending on the solution you choose, you may want to rinse the sprayer after each use to help prevent metal parts from corroding.