I’ve been using this homemade vinegar weed-killer recipe for over three years now and have figured out what works, what doesn’t, and what your expectations should be. Read on for the recipe and the facts.
Like everyone, I am concerned about the proliferation of chemicals in our food and our environment. It only makes sense that the more harmful chemicals we use, the more damage we are doing to our bodies and our environment.
But there’s no denying that spraying tenacious weeds is much easier and more efficient than digging them up.
So, what is an avid gardener to do? I don’t want to spend my precious gardening hours pulling weeds!
This dilemma is what prompted me to investigate the recipes for vinegar weed killers I have seen advertised over the past couple of years. My first try with the original recipe for homemade week killer was unimpressive. Sure, the weeds turned a little brown, but there wasn’t the dramatic ‘weed demise’ that I was looking for and was used to with the commercial weed killers.
But, I really wanted to cut the ties with the broad-spectrum glyphosate-based herbicides, so I did a little more investigation and experimentation into natural weed killer with vinegar and dawn. And I also adjusted my expectations!
What I’ve Learned About Homemade Weed Killers
- No homemade weed-killer recipe will ever be as strong or effective as commercial chemical products, so you must adjust your expectations accordingly.
- The difference I noticed between the commercial and the DIY weed killer is that the commercial product did a more effective job killing the roots of the weed, and thereby the weed, at the first application. To fully kill the weed with a homemade vinegar weed killer, you may need a couple of applications. For instance, I sprayed this mint with my homemade vinegar weed killer, and a week later, while most of what you could see was dead, there was a wee bit of new growth right at the base. So I sprayed more vinegar on those little sprouts and a week after that, I haven’t seen any green growth. But let’s be honest, killing mint is no easy task!
- With that said, sometimes they kill weeds effectively the first time! Other times they may need an additional spray or two.
- The homemade vinegar weed killer will definitely hurt the feelings of whatever you spray it on, accidentally or not! I didn’t realize that my sprayer was still squirting as I walked through our lawn until I noticed this little path two days later. 🙄 (I inadvertently drew pretty good parentheses, if I have to say so myself!)
- A wind-free, dry, and sunny day is the perfect day for killing weeds with this natural weed killer recipe.
- The fumes of vinegar weed killer can damage the leaves of plants around it, even if the actual spray doesn’t contact the leaves. We found this especially true, as would be expected, with tender leaves like tomato leaves, squash leaves, impatient leaves, and blades of grass.
- This spray works on the plant leaves and cell tissues and doesn’t affect weed seeds.
- As with all weed killers, you only want to spray directly onto the leaves of the weed, vine, or plant. Adding too much salt to your soil isn’t a good thing. I am very mindful of not widely broadcasting my vinegar weed spray but instead targeting the specific weed leaves. Using this approach, I have not had any problem growing welcomed plants where I am also using this spray to kill the weeds.
Even with all the caveats I’ve mentioned, I can’t imagine ever going back to the commercial, chemical-laden weed killers. There is just too much information on the cancer risk and environmental damage that commercial weed killers pose. I am more than happy to spray my tenacious weeds two or three times to control them. That’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Precautions When Using Vinegar Weed Killers
Vinegar solutions, particularly those with high acetic acid concentrations, can cause skin irritation, eye damage, and respiratory discomfort if inhaled. So, it’s helpful to wear protective clothing, including gloves, goggles, and a mask.
Be cautious of runoff. Vinegar and any additives, like salt, can contaminate nearby water sources, affecting aquatic life and water quality. Use minimal amounts and avoid application near water bodies.
Vinegar is a broad-spectrum herbicide. Its indiscriminate use can harm or kill plants that serve as food and habitat for beneficial insects.
What Kind of Vinegar Do You Need for Your Homemade Weed Killer
Plain old household vinegar is not strong enough. Household vinegar is typically 5% acetic acid, which might kill a very young or tender weed, but not a serious or tenacious weed or vine. We need to bring the big guns in terms of acetic acid strength to this fight; which means a minimum of 30% or up to 45% acetic acid. I’m a go big or go home girl, so I have been using the 45% vinegar as it is the same price as the 30%.
The 30% vinegar and 45% vinegar will burn your skin! I haven’t noticed that it leaves a mark, you just feel it. I imagine it is awful in your eyes and I’m also sure you don’t want to take a deep breath of it. It is a strong acid! The 30% vinegar and 45% vinegar run about $20/gallon on Amazon; which means that making homemade weed killers with vinegar will not necessarily save you money. It’s fairly comparable in price to the pre-mixed, commercial weed killers.
The Ingredients in this Homemade Weed Killer Recipe & Their Purpose
- 30 – 45% Vinegar As we mentioned, it is the acetic acid in vinegar that is the ingredient we need. Acetic acid dissolves plant cell membranes, which results in the drying out of the plant tissues and the ultimate death of the plant.
- Salt draws water from the plant cells, causing them to dry out and die.
- Liquid Dish Soap acts as a surfactant, which breaks the surface tension between the vinegar/salt solution and the leaf surface so the vinegar/salt can access the plant tissues.
The Drawbacks of a Vinegar & Salt Weedkiller as Weed Control
As grandma always said, ‘There’s no free lunch.’ Any homemade weed-killer recipe that includes vinegar and salt does have its drawbacks. Too much salt in your soil will harm beneficial bacteria and earthworms, as well as have the effect of reducing roots’ ability to pull moisture from the soil.
Regular use of vinegar can lower the pH of the soil, making it more acidic. However, because vinegar breaks down quickly in the environment, occasional use is unlikely to have a significant long-term impact on soil pH.
But, if you are aware of the risks and, once again, target your spray on the leaves of the weeds, you can avoid the damaging effects of the salt and vinegar.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers About Vinegar Weed Killer
Vinegar contains acetic acid, which works by drawing moisture out of plant tissues. When sprayed on the leaves of weeds, it causes them to dry out and die. The effectiveness depends on the concentration of acetic acid; household vinegar is typically around 5% acetic acid, but for weed killing, a higher concentration (30% to 40%) is usually recommended.
In its diluted form, vinegar is safer than many chemical herbicides for use around pets and children. However, higher concentrations of acetic acid can be harmful if ingested or if they come into contact with skin and eyes. It’s important to use the same precautions as with any garden treatment and keep pets and children away until the area dries completely.
Regular use of vinegar can lower the pH of the soil, making it more acidic. However, because vinegar breaks down quickly in the environment, occasional use is unlikely to have a significant long-term impact on soil pH. Still, it’s best used sparingly and targeted directly on the weeds to minimize any potential soil impact.
Vinegar is most effective on young, annual weeds. Perennial weeds, which have deeper root systems, may require multiple applications to fully kill them. Vinegar is a non-selective herbicide, meaning it will damage or kill any plant it comes into contact with, so it’s important to apply it carefully.
For best results, apply vinegar directly to the leaves of weeds on a sunny, calm day. The sun helps to accelerate the drying process, increasing the herbicide’s effectiveness. Use a spray bottle for precision and to avoid overspray on desirable plants.
Apply vinegar weed killer during the warmest part of the day when the sun is out. The heat helps the vinegar to work more effectively by causing the weeds to absorb it more readily and speeding up the drying process.
Vinegar is less effective on large, established weeds with deep root systems or those with waxy or hairy leaf surfaces that resist absorption. Repeated applications may be necessary, and even then, some weeds may only be suppressed, not completely eradicated.
Mint is notoriously hard to kill; I found that repeated spraying on the leaves ultimately will kill the plant.
To be honest, I haven’t found a good way to kill weeds around my veggies without damaging the leaves of the plants. I haven’t killed a plant, but I did kill several leaves. I’ve tried shielding the vegetable plants and even using a brush to paint the vinegar onto the weeds but still damaged the leaves. I’ve concluded that it is the fumes that damage the leaves and not the actual spray.
I don’t have a concrete answer to that question. I use it as sparingly as possible and target the leaves of weeds and not the soil around the weeds.
Homemade Weed Killer
- 1 gallon of 30% vinegar or 45% vinegar
- 1 cup of table salt
- 1 good squirt about 1 tablespoon of Dishwashing Liquid
- Pour the salt into the vinegar container so that it dissolves prior to pouring it into your garden sprayer. Shake it to dissolve the salt or let it sit for more than 20 minutes. You want the salt fully dissolved so that it doesn't clog the uptake hose of your sprayer.
- Add the salt/vinegar mixture to the sprayer tank
- Add 1 tablespoon or 1 good squirt of dishwashing liquid.
- Spray the solution on the leaves of the weeds you want to kill. Be very careful to minimize contact with the surrounding soil. You may need multiple applications to fully kill some weeds without harming the soil.
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