May 15, 2019

A DIY Weed Killer That Actually Works

Spring seems to have arrived overnight, and with it comes the explosion of green as everything wakes up from its winter nap. First up? Time to fend off the weeds. . . and please don’t reach for that toxic stuff. It’s nasty for you, your yard, and everything around it. Instead, try this safer and super effective recipe.   


A targeted weed killer is a great way to get a handle on those weed that popped up since you last looked. Seriously, they weren't there yesterday and now it's an overgrown jungle. This simple spray helps to wilt the plants, and makes them easy to pull out and remove. As a huge bonus, you don't have to worry about keeping pets or small kids away from the area until it's no longer a Round-Up hazmat zone. Wait for a good day of dry weather to be sure the mix can sit on the plant for a bit without getting rinsed off.

What You need:

Mix the ingredients together thoroughly and soak the leaves and body of the weeds with an even application. Let the spray sit on the weeds until they are good and dead, then pull them out and tune up the area with a bit of mulch. I've found about 6 hours to 1 day is good enough for most, but a second application might be needed for the stubborn ones.


Keep in mind, that this spray is not selective. It will kill anything green you apply it to so protect the plants you want to keep. This also means that a weed killer like this shouldn’t be used on your lawn. Go for some standard spring weed and feed mix to tackle the crabgrass and dandelions.


Now that you have that yard all tuned up, let’s build something to enjoy on it. Take a look at this project to make a great lawn game in an afternoon.







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David on May 19, 2019:

Hi @Jeff, thanks for the info. The study was very thorough and had some great points.

The conclusion "Both the homemade vinegar + salt mixture and Roundup are safe when used properly, they’re both relatively inexpensive, and both can provide effective weed control in the appropriate situation." Was a good summary. I agree even vinegar and salt can be toxic if orally consumed, the impacts to neighboring plants and dermal touch from animals and kids is the main concern for the alternative. As we said in a previous comment, knowing what's in the mixture instead of "96% other ingredients" is a benefit.
I fully agree that pulling them is free and we should always put a bit of work into that option first for sure!

Thanks for reading and the well thought-out comments!!


Jeff on May 19, 2019:


Here is some university research on this homemade herbicide compared to commercial products. The research has been completed at multiple universities and yielded the same results.

Acetic Acid, the herbicidal chemical ingredient in the vinegar, is very weak compared to the strength in commercial (horticultural) vinegar. Also, the toxicity level of Acetic Acid is higher than Glyphosate. Salt is also more toxic than glyphosate in oral tests on rats.

The linked study does suggest where use of this off-the-shelf recipe would be desirable over a systemic herbicide such as glyphosate. For example, in a flower bed that has grasses. The homemade recipe adheres to the grasses rather than the commercial herbicide that moves throughout the entire plant it comes in contact with. The weakness of the recipe would not harm the flowers unless the homemade recipe is applied repeatedly.

Finally, when it comes to cost, the homemade recipe is more expensive to create 1 gallon of herbicide than the commercial product.

So, for cost, effectiveness, and toxicity, research shows that you're better off with the commercial herbicide. If you happen to have the homemade ingredients on hand and have sporadic weed issues around your home, small amounts can assist.

Ironically, pulling those weeds is free and all concerns about chemical use (including glyphosate, salt, and acetic acid) go away.

In the U.S., your state's Cooperative Extension Service (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative_State_Research,_Education,_and_Extension_Service) university can provide you research-based, least toxic methods for controlling weeds and pests, as well as best practices for gardening and home landscaping.

Jennifer on May 19, 2019:

We use a variation of this with 30% horticultural vinegar (Amazon) and rock salt. Works really well!

David on May 31, 2018:

@Bill, I understand what you're saying about everything being chemical, but keep in mind we're talking about a DIY alternative that is cheaper and much less toxic. The active ingredient in Roundup is Glyphpsate, isoproplamine salt (2%) and Pelargonic acid (2%). The other 96% is just called "other ingredients"... I agree that salt is the really effective ingredient, but at least with our simple three ingredients you know what "other ingredients" we're spraying all over your yard. My kids play out there. I like to know (and limit as much as possible) what they're being exposed to.

Bill on May 31, 2018:

Literally everything in this is a chemical. You are made of chemicals. We all are. The problem with this one is that it contains salt. Nothing will grow where you spray it. Google ‘Andrew Kniss salt vinegar soap’ and see what that weed scientist had to say. This idea is ridiculous.

JoelSelby on May 17, 2018:

I'm really trying to avoid chemicals of all kinds, since pretty much all of yard waste goes into my garden. Definitely going to do this! Thanks!