How to Kill Weeds with Vinegar the Right Way
Vinegar can help get rid of weeds, but there's a catch.
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Everyone hates weeds. If you walk down the gardening aisle at your local nursery or big box store, you will see all sorts of weed killers to choose from. Homemade concoctions for killing weeds are popular too. Natural weed killer made with household vinegar have become especially popular on the internet. But if you just fill a bottle with regular vinegar from under your sink and start spraying weeds, you’re going to be disappointed.
If you’re going to use vinegar as a weed killer, there are a few things you need to know first.
Don’t Use Household Vinegar
The typical household vinegar is great for cleaning, but it’s not strong enough to kill weeds. White vinegar usually contains five percent acetic acid. To kill weeds, you’ll need something stronger. There are horticultural vinegars that are 20 percent acetic acid. Some come premixed and ready to use, which is probably the easiest way to go. However, that’s particularly strong, so if you’re going to use it, you will need to wear gloves and eye protection.
What to Know About Vinegar Weed Killer
While there are other natural, safe options for taking care of those pesky weeds, if you decide to use vinegar, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
- Vinegar does not kill the roots of a plant. Vinegar-based herbicides will only kill annual weeds, not perennials. The later category is the group of weeds that cause the most headaches. Because it’s a contact herbicide, it only kills the parts of the plant it touches. So it might temporarily take care of poison ivy or ragweed, but those plants will be back soon enough. It’s also worth noting that if you purchase horticultural vinegar that isn’t labeled as a weed killer, it’s illegal to use it as a weed killer.
- Vinegar is a chemical, so treat it as such. That means you’ll need safety gear for handling the herbicidal versions with 20 percent or more acetic acid.
- Vinegar can kill the plants you don’t want to harm, so be careful where you spray it. Don’t use it on a windy day either.
- Be careful with strong vinegar around your patio. It can discolor certain kinds of decking materials.
How to Make Your Own Vinegar Weed Killer
If you do want to make your own vinegar weed killer, the main thing to remember is that you’ll have to use vinegar that’s stronger than the household variety. You can buy concentrated vinegar that’s 20 percent acetic acid.
Beyond the vinegar, you’ll also need dish soap, salt and a spray bottle. The acetic acid in vinegar and the salt work to break down the plant’s cell walls causing it to dry up. The dish soap helps break down the outer coat of the plant (cuticle), which helps the vinegar do its thing.
DIY Weed Killer Recipe:
- One gallon vinegar;
- One ounce dish soap;
- One cup of salt;
- Plastic spray bottle.
- Mix the vinegar, salt, and soap together;
- Pour into a spray bottle and spray directly onto weeds.
Apply on a sunny day with no wind. The sun helps the vinegar to dry out the weed. Waiting for a windless day also means your spray won’t inadvertently land on other plants.
Ways to Get Rid of Weeds Naturally
There’s still nothing more effective than pulling them out by hand, root and all. It’s a little easier to do after it rains. And for the really stubborn ones, you can dig them out with a patio knife. You can also dig them out with a garden hoe or other long-handled weed pulling tools. A string trimmer is another tool in your arsenal for fighting weeds.
An ounce of prevention goes a long way toward keeping weeds out too. And while there’s no way to keep weeds out entirely, understanding soil health and planting wisely can prevent a complete takeover.