None of us like weeds in our garden. We want what we planted to be what we planted! It’s easy to want to do whatever it takes to get rid of them. On the other hand, these days we have been enlightened to the positives in cutting out as many chemicals as possible. That’s why we’ve gathered the best natural, home made weed killer recipes to help you get a jump on weed season. We’ll also get just a bit into the “Roundup vs homemade weed killer” debate so you can know exactly why you end up choosing whichever weed solution you do.

Why use homemade weed killer in your home garden

I think the best reason to diy your own natural weed killer is that you know exactly what you’re putting on your soil and you know that it’s safe for you. It’s hard to say which big-brand weed killers out there are safe for your health and what effects they could be having on your surrounding environment. 

Homemade vs store bought weed killer

Though a natural, home made alternative is always an attractive option, there are some ways in which the store bought does outperform. These are some of the pros and cons to consider when deciding which option is right for your needs. 

How they work

How each weed killer works is the first component to understand when deciding which to use. I’m focusing on the recipe for vinegar weed killer since that is the most popular option home gardeners go for when using a home made weed killer. Vinegar is able to kill plants because it contains acetic acid. This acid acts as a dessicant, which means it will dry up the weed’s foliage above ground. However, it will not affect the roots of the weeds you are trying to kill.

How to Make Safe & Natural Homemade Weed Killer

Most vinegar based homemade weed killer recipes also include dish soap. This is because the dish soap helps the vinegar soak into the weeds’ foliage. Dish soap is a surfactant, meaning it will also help the solution to spread out onto the foliage.

dish soap bubbles

Roundup, probably the most popular store bought weed killer, works by targeting an enzyme necessary for plant growth. I won’t get into too much detail here because I’m no scientists, but here’s a helpful article from How Stuff Works if you want to study up on the subject.

roundup in patch of dandelions
photo source: howstuffworks.com

Annual vs perennial weeds 

Because perennial weeds have a hardy, established root system, a homemade weed killer made with vinegar will only temporarily solve your problem. The foliage will die back, but the weed will eventually grow back. This is true for one of the peskiest weeds, dandelions, especially because they have a large, strong taproot. 

Effects on your soil

Most people opt for a homemade weed killer when they are searching for a natural alternative to the most popular store bought weed killer, RoundUp. However, if you’re looking at using salt in your homemade weed killer, you may want to re-consider. While the active ingredient in RoundUp, glyphosate, gets a bad rap for toxicity and posing a risk to pollinators (very valid concern), it does break down relatively quickly once in the soil. Here is a fact sheet for reference. So, that means you at least don’t have to worry about it affecting your ability to plant new plants for years to come.

weeds growing between bricks

Salt, however, will stay in your soil forever. It will continue to make it difficult for new plants to grow for years to come. Here’s a helpful article on SF Gate that goes into more detail on salt’s effect on soil. That said, be sure you are not using a homemade weed killer recipe including salt in any location you may later want to plant new plants. 

Toxicity of home made vs store bought weed killer

This is where most people shy away from stor bought options and seek their own, natural alternative to make at home. Though Glyphosate breaks down quickly in the soil, that does not solve the problem that you, your pets, and pollinators can still be exposed to the chemical directly after spraying. So, if you’re looking for a pet safe weed killer or looking to minimize your own exposure to chemicals, a home made weed killer combined with preventative measures will the answer.

honeybee pollinating flowers

Effectiveness

I could plan out an elaborate, scientific test to compare the two… or I could search for someone else who did. I opted to find someone else who did, and she’s got a great visual (see below) to show the difference. Remember that, as I mentioned above, vinegar is less effective on perennial weeds. So keep that in mind when viewing this experiment carried out by “Garden Myths.”

roundup vs salt vs vinegar effectiveness

As you can see, the plant sprayed with vinegar bounced back pretty well. That’s not to say you should default back to RoundUp, just that you should prepare to use a combination of methods to control weeds. This should include some preventative measures. Though store bought weed killer will most likely always be more effective than natural, homemade alternatives, I still think it’s best to put the extra work in to protect the bees and other pollinators visiting your garden and yard.

Homemade Weed Killer recipes

There are quite a few alternatives out there if you are looking for a safe, natural alternative to store bought weed killers. We’ve got a lot of them listed below, but of course let us know if you’ve heard of an effective trick we don’t have listed here!

How to Make Safe & Natural Homemade Weed Killer

Vinegar Based Homemade Weed Killer

Yep, you can kill weeds with vinegar! I swear you can do anything some vinegar. We first saw this idea on ‘Saving Cent by Cent,’ but it’s pretty well known now that vinegar makes for one of the best homemade weed killers out there.

Recipe For Vinegar Weed Killer

  • 1 Gallon White Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Liquid Dish Soap or Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Cup Salt (only if you don’t want to replant there)

If you would like to try a natural vinegar weed killer without the salt, check out the recipe at ‘Moms 4 Real‘!

One last tip: you’ll most likely not be using all in one go. Store your weed killer in a handy spray bottle for future use. Just don’t forget to label it so you don’t forget what you put in there!

Concrete and Driveway Natural Weed Killer

Using salt has long been known as an effective homemade way to kill weeds in sidewalks. But did you know that using salt and boiling water together is even better? Remember the cautions above about using salt. It stays present in the soil for years, so you won’t want to use this recipe in the garden. Courtenay from ‘The Creek Line House’ used just salt alone in her walkways, and this is her after! Go check out all her tips on killing weeds with salt.

  • 2 Quarts Boiling Tap Water
  • Teaspoon- Tablespoon Salt

Another tip : Using a tea kettle instead of a round pot will make pouring the boiling water on the weeds much easier and safer, thanks to the spout on the kettle.

Borax Homemade Weed Killer Recipe

Borax weed killer can be used in lawns, but use cautiously. Anything overused can cause damage to other plants. Most commonly used for killing “Creeping Charlie” or “Ground Ivy”, the US Department of Agriculture recommends this recipe to cover 1000 square feet of lawn. Check out ‘The Gardening Cook‘ and their take on borax weed killer spray.

How To make Weed Killer with Rubbing Alcohol

Another safe weed killer option. Use this solution on a sunny day for best results.

Mix in a spray bottle and spray directly onto leaves. Photo by ‘Meijer‘.

How to Make Safe Homemade Weed Killer
Photo by Meijer

How to prevent weeds

Preventing weeds is so much better and so much easier than having to treat an out of control weed situation. There are lots of solutions out there to keep weeds from growing in the first place. All it takes is a little planning!

pulling weeds

Use other plants

Strong, healthy plants are great at keeping weeds at bay, especially if they keep the sun from reaching the ground below them. Groundcover plants and plants that naturally tend to spread are ideal for the job. Gardening Know How has a whole list of great plants specifically for weed suppression in any area of your garden. 

Mulch between plants

Mulch is heavy and makes it difficult for new seedlings to make their way to the sunlight. Keeping a good layer of mulch between the plants you actually want to grow is a great way to keep the weeds at bay. 

You can also use mulch to kill weeds, not just prevent them. If you have a lot of weeds, mow them down as short as possible. Cover with mulch 2-3 inches thick. If you have time to wait before growing anyinthing in the area, then you can cover the mowed weeds with plastic as seen in the photo below by ‘lovely Greens‘ and let them die. This  can  take weeks or even months, but it is a good option if you want to lay sod in an area because it kills even the weed seeds and still allows other plants to grow as soon as you remove the mulch.

Pre Emergent Herbicide

If you want to stop weed growth before it happens, you can buy a pre-emergent herbicide such as “Preen“, or simply sprinkle corn meal in the area to stop weed seed germination. Keep in mind, pre-emergent natural weed killers do not kill weeds once they have started, so this is best used in early spring. Photo below by ‘Blair County Lawn‘.

  • Corn Meal
  • That’s It!

Note : If you decide to use the store bought “Preen“, make sure you get the one for vegetable gardens only if you want the pure corn meal. Their other varieties include chemical weed killers.

Prevent weeds from going to seed

This can be a really good control measure, especially with something like dandelions. Once their seeds are allowed to spread, your problem gets much worse. It’s the same concept for any other weeds too, the second you see flowers developing, it’s time to act. If you don’t have time to pull the weeds, at least pinch the flowers off as soon as you can.

dandelion spreading seeds

Use Ground Covers

If you have a large space, use ground cover plants to cover an area to compete with weeds. Remember, if you are trying to crowd out weeds, you have to give  your plants a helping hand at first. The only way that ground cover can win the war is if you hand pull for awhile, giving them time to get the upper hand over the weeds. Check out our post on the subject for a whole list of ground cover options like this beautiful creeping thyme.

Great Groundcovers

Grow Your Lawn Taller

Still want to keep your grass? Consider adjusting your lawn care routine. For lawn weeds, one of the best ways to control them is to let your lawn grow as tall as your mower will allow. This allows the grass plants to shade the soil and help crowd out weed seeds. The lawn will also grow longer roots and therefore a thicker top, allowing it to crowd out new weeds.

Other Safe & Natural Weed Killers

How to Make Safe Homemade Weed Killer

Some of the best natural weed killers are often forgotten, not to mention definitely safe!

  • Torching – Use a torch to kill weeds in pathways or areas where you don’t want plants to grow. Use caution, right folks?
  • Pulling – The much hated but old fashioned method of weed control. Just pull ’em! Don’t forget to get the roots, especially on perennial weeds that come back every year. Here is a whole bunch of weed pullers on Amazon to choose from.

So learn how to make natural homemade weed killer, and have another tool in your gardening know-how arsenal. You are on your way to a kid safe, pet safe garden! Remember, if a spray will kill weeds, it might kill other plants too, so be careful, even with safe weed killer!

We think you would also enjoy our posts on 12 Brilliant Container Vegetable Garden Ideas and DIY Greenhouse Ideas & Projects. Also, check out our post Stunning Planter Box Ideas & Projects on our sister site, OhMeOhMy!

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19 Comments

  1. Lesley Lindley April 23, 2021 at 11:47 am

    Will this kill Spanish bluebells which are taking over my garden

    Reply
    1. Kathy Bates May 3, 2021 at 2:02 pm

      Most of these should kill all or most of any vegetation…

      Reply
  2. Carly April 20, 2021 at 10:11 am

    Hi Garden Glove, thanks for sharing ways to conquer weeds safely! Ratios on borax solution seem to vary….not enough research on long term saturation in the soil have been done…maybe less is more? https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/1997/8-22-1997/borax.html Garden on!! Your site is really nice

    Reply
  3. Bill Lear April 12, 2021 at 10:35 am

    Good info on weed killers! How do I stop crawdads in my yard? My yard is alive with them everywhere.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Bates April 14, 2021 at 4:12 pm

      Thats above our pay grade! Maybe talk to a local nursery?

      Reply
  4. Karen January 6, 2021 at 8:56 pm

    How does cornmeal stop weed germination? If I make your weed killer w/o salt, how many applications will I need?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Bates January 24, 2021 at 11:49 am

      It inhibits seed germination by drying out a seed as soon as it cracks open to sprout. Keep in mind, cornmeal is a pre-emergent and won’t kill weeds once they have started, so this is best used in early spring.

      Reply
  5. Mason M July 27, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    The vinegar, soap,and salt solution works great and faster than any commercial product I’ve ever used.

    Reply
  6. Alberto Bernardoni May 30, 2020 at 8:02 am

    Will the alcohol and water or the white vinegar and dish soap damage big trees?. I have weeds growing around palm trees and oaks

    Reply
  7. DIY Weed Killer April 14, 2020 at 8:08 am

    The DIY weed killer with vinegar works best for me and it’s so easy to use! It’s true it doesn’t kill the weed at its root, but at least it’s safer than other commercial weed killing products.

    Reply
  8. Groot March 27, 2020 at 11:09 am

    What if you want 2 gallons worth? Would you just double it, or not?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Bates May 3, 2021 at 2:14 pm

      Yes!

      Reply
  9. Me January 30, 2020 at 4:42 am

    Remember that Boric acid isn’t harmless…and many of the products that contain it will also contain a sweetener that children or pets could be attracted to.

    Reply
  10. LEZLIE L DEGRIS September 5, 2019 at 11:19 am

    We, have weeds, and climbing what ever UNDER our Pine trees
    That have grown to the Ground, and DO NOT WANT TO KILL
    THE TREE’S, WE were going to mix the “White Vinegar, Dish Soap,and Salt” Mixture BUT DO NOT WANT TO HARM THE TREE BRANCHES. DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS ON HOW WE SHOULD PREPARE THE MIXTURE. THANK YOU.

    Reply
  11. Charles Smith September 3, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    I have a weed called Pennsylvania,how do i kill it?

    Thank You
    Charles S

    Reply
    1. Janet June 21, 2020 at 2:35 pm

      Does the vinegar, salt , and dish soap weed killer kill trees if you spray in wood chips around the tree?

      Reply
  12. Weyland May 7, 2018 at 11:21 am

    I need to know if the Homemade Weed Killer or the other suggested treatments will kill the good grass too. And if can be applied close to other plants you don’t want destroyed. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard May 22, 2018 at 3:51 pm

      Yes, it will kill any grass…

      Reply
      1. Gary July 9, 2020 at 4:33 pm

        Only if you add the salt will it kill the other. Leave the salt out of the recipe!

        Reply

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