5 Homemade Weed Killers That Really Work

Weeds can be the bane of any gardener’s existence. They pop up uninvited, choking out delicate plants and flowers. While store-bought weed killers may seem like an easy solution, many contain harsh chemicals like glyphosate that can damage the environment.

Luckily, there are homemade alternatives that provide non-toxic methods for targeting tough weeds. These DIY weed killer recipes use ingredients you likely already have around the house, like vinegar, soap, and salt. They are also inexpensive and easy to make.

Below we share 5 effective homemade weed killers that provide natural ways to win the battle against weeds:

Table of Contents

  • Strong Vinegar Weed Killer
  • Boiling Water
  • Rock Salt
  • Soap-Based Herbicide
  • Bleach Herbicide
  • Frequently Asked Questions About Homemade Weed Killers
  • Conclusion

Strong Vinegar Weed Killer

Plain white vinegar is a great mild weed killer for young plants, but once weeds become established, a stronger solution is needed. Strong vinegar weed killers use horticultural vinegar, which contains 20% acetic acid, compared to 5% in typical white vinegar.

Follow this simple recipe for a powerful DIY weed killing solution:

What You Need:

  • 1 gallon horticultural vinegar (20% acetic acid)
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap

How to Make It:

  1. Add 1 cup of salt to 1 gallon of horticultural vinegar and stir to dissolve. The salt acts as an abrasive to help break down weed cuticles.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap and mix well. The soap helps the vinegar stick to the leaves.
  3. Transfer the homemade weed killer to a spray bottle or pump sprayer.
  4. On a hot, sunny day, spray weeds thoroughly on leaves and stems. The vinegar will begin working immediately.

Tips for Best Results:

  • Spot treat weeds or spray weed-infested areas before planting to prevent growth.
  • Avoid spraying near desirable plants. Vinegar can potentially leach into the soil and affect their growth.
  • Wear gloves, eye protection, and cover bare skin. Horticultural vinegar can cause skin and eye irritation.
  • For best results, spray weeds on a hot, dry, sunny day. The heat helps the acetic acid work quickly.
  • Target young weeds under 6 inches for most effective control. Mature weeds may need repeat applications.
  • See results in as little as 24 hours! Damaged weeds will turn brown and crumple.

Repeat applications are likely needed for total weed control. The best part is this DIY vinegar weed killer is non-toxic and won’t harm pets or kids when used properly. Plus you can feel good about avoiding harsh chemicals in your garden.

Boiling Water

For eco-friendly weed control in walkways and patios, boiling water provides a nearly instant treatment. The boiling water kills weeds by damaging plant tissues. It’s also suitable for organic gardening. Follow these steps to use boiling water as an effective DIY weed killer:

What You Need:

  • Water kettle or pot for boiling water
  • Tea kettle for pouring (optional)

How to Use It:

  1. Bring several gallons of water to a rapid boil. Use caution to avoid burns or spills.
  2. For safety, transfer boiling water to a heat-safe watering can, pitcher, or tea kettle for pouring.
  3. Slowly pour the boiling water directly over unwanted weeds in sidewalk cracks, driveways, patios, etc. Douse the entire plant.
  4. Watch plants immediately wilt and die. Boiling water burns and kills growth on contact.
  5. Repeat as needed for any regrowth. This works best on young, non-established weeds.

Tips for Best Results:

  • Works best on seedlings and annual weeds like dandelions. Established perennials may need repeat treatment.
  • Avoid windy days to prevent boiling water from blowing onto desired plants.
  • Apply early in the day to avoid rapid re-growth. Heat from sunlight can allow weeds to recover.
  • Do not pour near the bases of wanted plants. Boiling water can damage their roots.
  • Use caution and wear protective gloves when handling boiling water to avoid burns.

For spot treating nuisance weeds, boiling water provides a safe, natural alternative to toxic chemicals. The only drawback is that it doesn’t leave any residual effects, so re-growth is common. Consistency is key for the best control.

Rock Salt

Want an affordable, non-toxic weed killer that lasts longer than boiling water? Plain old rock salt is a great option for DIY weed control. Here’s how it works:

Why It Works:

  • Salt lowers the freezing point of water, dehydrating plant roots and leaves.
  • Excess salt pulls moisture from weed cells via osmosis, effectively desiccating them.
  • The abrasive salt crystals physically damage plant tissues.

How to Use It:

  1. Use coarse rock salt or table salt. Fine salts may blow away or wash out faster.
  2. Sprinkle a heavy layer of salt directly over weeds. Use at least 1/2 cup per sq. yard area.
  3. Water the salt into the soil to dissolve and reach plant roots.
  4. Salt damage is visible in 1-3 days as leaves wilt and die back.
  5. Reapply salt as needed when weeds start to regrow. Water in to activate.

Tips for Best Results:

  • Avoid windy days so salt does not blow onto wanted plants.
  • Apply before rainfall so water dissolves the salt and carries it into the soil.
  • Use boiling water first on established weeds, then follow up with salt for longer control.
  • Add more salt to persistently damp areas that dissolve the salt quickly.
  • Avoid using excessive salt near lawns and desired plants. It can build up and damage their roots.
  • Use salt cautiously around concrete. Excess may lead to spalling damage over time.

Compared to commercial weed killers, rock salt is extremely budget friendly. A small bag can cover a large area. Just be mindful of overuse and sweep up excess when treatment is complete.

Soap-Based Herbicide

For a milder, kid-safe DIY weed killer, try this simple soap-based spray. The natural salt and acids in dish soap weaken plants. Adding vinegar helps the solution stick to weed leaves. Follow these steps:

What You Need:

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup liquid dish soap
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil (vegetable, olive, etc.)
  • 1 gallon water

How to Make It:

  1. Add 2 cups vinegar, 1/4 cup soap, and 1 tablespoon oil to 1 gallon of water. Shake or mix well.
  2. Transfer mixture to a pump spray bottle or sprayer.
  3. On a sunny day above 60°F, spray weeds thoroughly including the stems and undersides of leaves.
  4. Young plants will start wilting in 2-6 hours. Mature weeds may take several applications.
  5. Reapply weekly as needed until weeds are eliminated. Shake well before each use.

Tips for Best Results:

  • Spray weeds in the morning or evening when the sun is low to avoid leaf burn.
  • Mist gently to coat all leaves, avoiding heavy runoff into the soil.
  • Combine with mowing or removal by hand for best control of deep-rooted perennials.
  • Avoid spraying desired plants. Vinegar and salt residue can potentially leach into soil.
  • Monitor for new weed growth and respray affected patches as needed.

This DIY soap-based weed spray is safe for vegetables, shrubs, pet areas, and play areas when applied carefully. The soap breaks down quickly in sunlight so there is no long term toxicity.

Bleach Herbicide

For the toughest weeds growing in gravel, sidewalk cracks, and driveways, bleach provides an affordable and effective treatment option. The active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, disrupts plant cell processes when applied directly. Here is how to mix up this homemade weed killer:

What You Need:

  • 1 gallon regular bleach (5-6% sodium hypochlorite)
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 1 teaspoon mild dishwashing liquid (optional)

How to Mix:

  1. Measure 1 gallon of regular bleach and pour into an empty garden sprayer.
  2. Add 1/2 gallon of water to dilute the bleach solution.
  3. Optionally, add 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid which helps the bleach stick and penetrate.
  4. Replace spray nozzle and shake or mix thoroughly before use.

How to Apply:

  1. On a calm day above 60°F, spray unwanted weeds until their leaves are thoroughly wet including undersides.
  2. Ensure the bleach contacts every part of the weeds, but avoid excessive runoff into soils.
  3. Repeat applications weekly as needed for total control. Bleach breaks down quickly in sunlight.

Tips for Best Results:

  • Works best on young annual weeds under 6 inches tall.
  • Perennial weeds and deep taproots may need repeat applications.
  • Avoid drift onto nearby plants. Bleach can damage or kill desired vegetation.
  • Wear proper safety gear like gloves, goggles, pants, and closed shoes.
  • Rinse off overspray on patios, fencing, or other surfaces. Bleach can discolor materials.
  • Work in calm conditions to prevent drift. Bleach can harm skin, eyes, and lungs if inhaled.

Bleach weed killer is most suitable for use in gravel beds or cracks in driveways and walkways. It should be applied carefully and kept away from lawns and garden beds. Proper safety precautions are essential when handling bleach.

Frequently Asked Questions About Homemade Weed Killers

Are homemade weed killers really effective?

Yes, homemade DIY weed killers can be very effective at controlling weeds! Ingredients like vinegar, soap, and salt destroy weeds through dehydration, plant tissue damage, and other effects. However, results depend on several factors like proper application, weather conditions, and timing. Selecting the right treatment for the weed type and growth stage is also key for the best success.

How long do homemade weed killers last?

Most DIY weed sprays are fast-acting, but provide short-term vegetation control. Ingredients like vinegar, soap, and bleach quickly break down in sunlight and through watering/rainfall. Repeat applications are usually needed 2-4 weeks for sustained results. An exception is rock salt, which can provide months of weed prevention when applied heavily.

Is vinegar or bleach better for killing weeds?

Vinegar is the safer choice for use near lawns and garden plants. Bleach can kill or harm surrounding vegetation if allowed to contact foliage. However, bleach provides more thorough destruction of tougher weeds. Vinegar works best on seedlings, while mature weeds often recover. For gravel areas and deep taproots, bleach is the more effective option when applied carefully.

What strength of vinegar kills weeds permanently?

For permanent weed destruction, high strength horticultural vinegar at 20% acetic acid concentration is most effective. Normal 5% household vinegar provides inconsistent weed control, especially on established plants. The stronger acetic acid in horticultural vinegar ensures weeds do not recover. Repeat spot treatment 2-3 times per year will maintain weed-free zones.

What homemade weed killer is pet safe?

The soap-based spray weed killer is safest for use in pet areas. The small amount of dish soap and vinegar breaks down rapidly in sunlight. Avoid applying high concentrations near sensitive grass or garden plants. Also test salt and bleach weed killers in low traffic areas first, as excess buildup over time may become unsafe for prolonged skin and paw contact.

What is the fastest homemade weed killer?

For speedy weed control, boiling water provides the quickest results. Weeds start wilting immediately on contact and die within hours. Bleach is also very fast acting when applied to young plants and small weeds. Vinegar weed killers work within a day, while DIY salt treatments take 2-3 days but offer long lasting effects.


These homemade weed killers provide cost-effective, non-toxic alternatives to commercial herbicide products. Whether you choose boiling water for fast control, rock salt for lasting prevention, or vinegar for safe application, the options work with ingredients you likely already have at home.

The key is selecting the right DIY weed killer for the species, growth stage, and location. Test solutions in small areas first, wearing appropriate protection. Avoid excessive use near lawns or desired plantings. Consistency is essential, as homemade treatments must be reapplied every 2-4 weeks in most cases for sustained results.

With some strategic mixing and spot-spraying, these natural homemade weed killers can help win the battle against weeds invading your garden and landscaping. The formulas provide safe, economical, eco-friendly control options. Your yard and flowerbeds will look lush and weed-free all season long.