13 Homemade Weed Killers: Natural, Safe, Non-Toxic DIY Weed Killers

Homemade weed killer

Homemade natural weed killers are eco-friendly options to use in place of harmful chemicals. Non-toxic ingredients such as vinegar, salt, and even boiling water can kill off pesky weeds. Using homemade weed control methods means you can avoid using products such as Roundup, which contains potentially harmful glyphosate. In addition to DIY weed killers, using mulch, newspaper, and bio-degradable landscaping fabric can help prevent weeds in the first place.

What are the best natural weed killers? Make a homemade weed killer by mixing vinegar and dish soap and spraying onto unwanted plants to kill them almost instantly. Add salt to the recipe if you need a permanent organic weed killer solution. A borax and water spray can help to destroy creeping plants and also garden pests.

Good quality organic mulch prevents many weeds from emerging. You can make homemade environmentally-friendly mulch with newspaper, pine needles, wood chips, straw or cardboard. Also, landscaping bio-degradable fabric stops weeds and reduces the need for using harmful weed killers.

In this article, you will learn how to make effective, organic weed killers to help keep your garden beautiful. Many of of these natural weedkillers are pet-friendly alternatives to chemicals such as roundup and they are safe to use and effective.

Why Use Homemade Weed Killers?

Natural weed killers are an alternative to using chemicals on your lawn, flower beds, or vegetable patch. Many gardeners prefer using natural ingredients in homemade products to reduce the environmental impact of pesticides and herbicides. Apart from the environmental harm that commercial weed killers can cause, homemade weed killers won’t put kids or pet’s health at risk. Also, they don’t pollute the food chain.

Organic DIY herbicides are an alternative to products containing chemicals such as the controversial glyphosate, which is used in Roundup. Natural weed killers could also replace selective herbicides such as 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) that are used for pre- and post-emergent weed control. Even though these chemicals are deemed “safe for use,” many people prefer to go down the natural route to get rid of weeds.

Homemade Weed Killers vs. Roundup

Roundup is a common weed killer containing glyphosate. This is a systematic weed control product that kills the whole plant down to the roots. Although effective, it will kill any plant—not just weeds—that comes into contact with it. Because glyphosate kills the whole plant you can use it to control perennial weeds. When using roundup, the coverage is less crucial, since it will travel to parts of  the plant that were not sprayed.

The concerns with products such as Roundup are to do with its environmental impact. For example, some studies show that glyphosate negatively impacts on honeybee colonies. Other studies have found that the chemical is still toxic to humans, even when used below the set safety limits. (1, 2)

For many people, it makes sense to use alternatives to potentially dangerous chemicals.

DIY natural weed killers are often offered as a natural alternative to Roundup, but are they as effective as Roundup? The main difference between DIY natural weed killer sprays and roundup is that they are not systematic. This means that they will not kill the plant down to the roots. Natural weedkillers will usually keep the root intact unless they are combined with salt. However salt has its own disadvantages when used as a weed killer. So perennial weeds may still regrow after spraying them and you’ll need to reapply the natural weed killer.

A homemade mixture of vinegar and salt can kill many weeds on contact. Using small doses can prevent a buildup of salts in the soil. Also, homemade vinegar weed sprays can help kill weeds along with other natural weed control methods.

Natural Weed Killers

Let’s look at how you can make natural weed killer sprays for lawns, vegetable gardens, backyards, and flower beds.

Use Vinegar as Natural Homemade Weed Killer

Vinegar contains acetic acid and can be used in DIY organic weed killer recipes. Vinegar needs to be mixed with dish soap—such as Dawn—to help it stick to surfaces and kill plant matter. Adding salt increases the effectiveness of this natural weed killer but needs to be used properly.

A study by the University of Maryland reported that vinegar could be an effective alternative to glyphosate (Roundup). Vinegar containing between 5% and 10% acetic acid was effective in killing young weeds. Commercial vinegar with 20% acetic acid was effective against crabgrass and broadleaf weeds. (3)

Other studies show that vinegar (acetic acid) can control weeds such as chickweed, ground ivy, pale smartweed, tumble pigweed, velvetleaf, and carpetweed.

When using vinegar, especially at higher strengths, it’s important to remember that it’s highly acidic. So, although vinegar is a natural and eco-friendly weed killer, you still have to handle it with care.

Natural Weed Killer Using Vinegar, Salt and Dish Soap

It’s easy to make a homemade weed killer that kills everything. You only need three ingredients: vinegar, dish soap, and salt. Spray this mixture on unwanted plants to kill weeds naturally.

To know why this spray can be a safe alternative to Roundup and other synthetic herbicides, you need to know how the ingredients work together.

Vinegar—Acetic acid in vinegar kills plant-life on contact. Using 5-, 10-, or 20-percent acetic acid concentrations can help to zap weeds for good. Some weeds may require repeated applications, but you can use this natural product for weed control.

Dish soap—Using dish soap such as Dawn acts as a surfactant that helps spread vinegar onto weeds’ leaves. A few drops of dish soap in this homemade weed spray also allows the vinegar to penetrate easier and work more effectively.

Salt—Cheap table salt or sodium chloride (NaCI) is toxic to plants when sprayed on leaves and will also kill plants through root absorption. The downside of using salt is that it can render soil unfertile so that nothing grows. So, only add salt to the recipe if you’re treating driveways, paths, or areas where you never want any plant or grass to grow.

Recipe to make natural weed killer spray using vinegar, dish soap, and salt

For this homemade herbicide spray, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Half a gallon (2 l) of vinegar (preferably with high acetic acid content).
  • One tablespoon of liquid dish soap (use Dawn or any other brand).
  • Half a cup of salt. (only if you never want any plant or grass to grow there)

To make the natural herbicide, mix all the ingredients in a large container until they are all incorporated. Fill a spray bottle with the liquid and spray directly on weeds until they are saturated.

If you are planning on planting anything in that patch of ground in your yard, leave out the salt. Salt can build up in the soil and make soil unfertile. However, vinegar will only kill your weeds without harming the soil.

Use Boiling Water or Steam as an Eco-Friendly Weed Killer for Driveways

Boiling water is great for getting rid of weeds without causing any environmental damage. Water at 212°F (100°C) destroys plants growing through paving, edging, or through driveways. All you need to do is boil water in a kettle and pour it on unwanted weeds.

Another type of thermal weed control is using a steam cleaner to kill weeds. The hot steam will quickly kill any weeds that are spoiling the appearance of your yard, path, or driveway. Of course, when using boiling water or hot steam, take proper precautions to protect yourself from burns.

You can make weed control even more effective by adding a tablespoon of table salt to two quarts (2 l) of boiling water.

Natural Weed Control with Borax

A natural weed killer spray containing borax and water can destroy some types of weeds in your garden. The weed-killing property in borax is sodium borate—a naturally occurring compound. Spraying the eco-friendly weed killer can be effective against ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea).

Before using borax for targeted post-emergent weed control, there are a few things to remember:

  • Although borax is natural, it can be toxic to animals, including cats and dogs. So, borax can’t be classed as a pet-safe weed killer. (4)
  • Borax is only effective as a homemade weed killer on a limited number of plants.
  • A borax weed killer spray will also kill beneficial plants and turfgrass.

How to make a natural weed killer (herbicide) spray with borax

If you want to get rid of ground ivy with borax, here is the recipe to make the spray:

  • Mix 3 oz. (85 g) of borax in 2 fl. oz. (60 ml) of warm water and mix until dissolved.
  • Add the borax mixture to 1 gallon (4 l) of water and thoroughly mix.
  • Transfer the natural weed killer into a spray bottle.
  • Spray directly on the weeds you want to eliminate.

Salt is a Safe Way to Get Rid of Weeds

Salt is a naturally-occurring product that can also kill weeds. One of the advantages of using salt to kill weeds is also its greatest problem. Salt kills all plants—not just weeds—permanently. When there is too much salt in the soil, nothing will ever grow in that patch again.

So, salt can have an environmental impact if you don’t use it carefully. Rainwater could allow the salt to affect the roots of nearby plants if there is too much in the ground. However, salt has limited use in getting rid of weeds as a non-toxic, pet-safe method.

For example, mixing salt with boiling water can treat problematic areas of your garden where you don’t want anything to grow. Pour a salt solution in cracks on your driveway, between decorative bricks in pathways, or other areas where you want to kill plants for good.

Other Safe, Environmentally Friendly Weed Killers

It is much easier to prevent weeds from emerging than to treat your garden with homemade weed killers. Many eco-friendly weed control methods will also enhance the beauty of your yard to make it a garden to be proud of.

Bio-degradable Landscape Fabric

Landscape fabric creates a physical barrier that prevents weeds from germinating and sprouting. Many weed control barriers are eco-friendly and biodegradable, such as ones made of linen or wool. So, you don’t have to worry about its environmental impact. A weed fabric can be used together with mulch to keep unsightly annual and perennial weeds at bay.

This type of weed control is best used where you grow perennial garden plants. Not only will landscape fabric cut down on the amount of weed killer spray you have to make, but you will also have less work to do in your yard.


Mulch is one of the best weed control methods that doesn’t involve weed killers. Organic mulch, such as bark chips or wood shavings, creates a protective layer on the soil. Mulch helps to block out light and thus suppresses weed growth. You can also mulch around landscape trees to enhance their appearance.

Mulch also benefits soil health and protects plants during winter. For example, organic mulch, such as cedar mulch, breaks down and slowly releases nutrients into the soil. Additionally, mulching flower beds prevents moisture from evaporating on hot summer days. In winter, mulch insulates the soil and protects perennial plants from cold and frost.

Please read our article on some great mulch options (including free ones).


For some types of persistent weeds—think dandelions, dock, and other taproot weeds—digging them out by hand is an effective method. Rooting out annoying weeds means you get rid of the unwanted weeds permanently. Of course, this involves a bit of work, but you will have the satisfaction of enjoying a weed-free garden landscape.

To make weeding easier, thoroughly water the area of garden or lawn where you want to remove weeds. The damp ground is easier to work and dig. Then dig around the weed and gently ease it from the ground, taking care not to break the roots. If some root snaps off, make sure and dig it out; otherwise the weed will return.


Create a physical barrier to help keep weeds from spreading and sprouting. Wood, stone or recycled plastic edging that is at least 6” (15 cm) deep stops weed roots from spreading underground. If the edging is a few inches above the ground, it also helps prevent weeds from spilling over the top.

Edging also has another benefit to your yard. Use edging around flower beds, along pathways, or to separate parts of your garden to enhance its appearance. Because edging reduces the need for weeding, you have more time to enjoy your garden landscape.

Ground cover plants

Planting ground cover plants is one of the best environmentally-friendly ways to keep weeds away for good. Many creeping ground plants are perfect for full sun, and there are groundcover plants for shaded areas. Perennial ground covers prevent light, which means that weeds can’t sprout and grow.

Another benefit of planting ground cover plants to get rid of weeds permanently is that they are low-maintenance. So, you get beautiful flowering plants that create a blanket of color without any weeds or hard work.

Let lawn grass grow taller

Let grass grow taller to help prevent crabgrass, dandelions, or any other type of pesky weeds from taking root in your lush, green lawn. Mowing your turfgrass too short will allow annoying weeds to grow, spoiling the appearance of your lawn. Although you may want your lawn to look like a golf course green, you’ll only encourage weeds.

The ideal height for grass growth depends on the type of lawn grass. This could be anywhere from 1” to 3” (2.5 – 7.5 cm) in length. You may also have to physically remove dandelions or crabgrass first of all for mowing techniques to be effective for controlling weeds naturally.

Plant robust plants densely

A garden landscape is all about “survival of the fittest.” Very often, the best way of getting rid of weeds in a non-toxic and natural way is to grow robust, hardy plants. Plants that have a bushy nature can block out sunlight to prevent weeds from growing. Or, you could use dense planting techniques so that weeds have no room to sprout.


Using newspaper or cardboard is an eco-friendly way to kill off weeds. You can apply a layer of newspaper over low-growing weeds like crabgrass or clover as a DIY weed killer method. The newspaper is made from organic materials, and it will cut out light and eventually will kill the weeds.

You can also use newspaper or cardboard as a safe and environmentally-friendly landscape fabric.

One word of caution—only use newspaper that is black and white, without any colors. The same is true for cardboard. Don’t use cardboard that has been treated with chemicals.

Corn gluten meal as a non-toxic pre-emergent weed killer

Use corn gluten meal on lawns to prevent weeds from popping up and spoiling its appearance. Corn gluten works by preventing weed seeds from rooting after germination. When applied correctly, corn gluten meal can stop crabgrass from taking over your beautiful lawn.

The other benefit of corn gluten is that it contains nitrogen. This beneficial nutrient feeds your lawn to encourage healthy growth.

Homemade Weed Killers: A Takeaway

Knowing how to make and use homemade, natural weed killers can help care for an organic garden. Safe, non-toxic, and eco-friendly weed killers eliminate the need for using potentially harmful chemicals. Also, using environmentally-friendly weed control methods can significantly reduce the number of weeds in your yard.

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