Homemade Weed Killer

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If weeds are getting you down, this homemade weed killer recipe may be just the thing you need. Plant growth is a wonderful thing but sometimes we want to do a bit of maintenance. Using a vinegar based weed killer instead of a toxic commercial spray, is a more pollinator friendly option.

Can of homemade weed killer with vinegar and a blooming weed.

No one loves spraying toxic weed killer on their lawn. And for a beekeeper (like myself), there is concern anytime I spray chemicals. Hence, the need for bee safe weed killers and methods of controlling plant growth.

DIY Weed Killer with Vinegar

As a more natural solution, does the use of vinegar fit into our gardening management? Is the use of vinegar effective and safe?

But remember, try to move away from the idea of killing every piece of vegetation in sight. Consider leaving some of the plants that you consider weeds. They provide food and shelter for many important insects.

Materials Needed

This most common recipe for homemade weed killer contains only 3 ingredients that are added to water and used as a spray. You will find variations of the amounts used in the spray.

  • vinegar
  • dawn dishwashing liquid
  • salt (optional)

Best Vinegar to Use

There are several types of store bought vinegar available. This substance does not occur naturally but is most often produced from the fermentation of grain alcohol (ethanol). In times past, molasses, sugar beets or potatoes were fermented to produce vinegar.

Vinegar is generally safe to use with caution. It is used in cooking, cleaning and some health regimes. White Vinegar is the one that is most often used in homemade weed killer recipes.

The 2 common types of vinegar that are widely available are:

  • White Distilled Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar.

White Distilled Vinegar

White Vinegar, also called distilled vinegar, has many uses around the house. It contains between 4 – 7 % acetic acid and 93-96% water .

The acetic acid is what makes it useful as a plant killer. It draws all the moisture out of the plant and results in plant death.

Higher concentrations are available and these are more effective as weed killers. If you can’t find it locally, look online for stronger vinegar. However, it must be handled with extreme care to avoid injury.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is the most popular type we see on the grocery shelves. This is a mixture of ACV and water to create a slightly lower acidity for table use. In its raw form, it is made by letting the natural sugars of apples ferment and form ethanol.

Pickling strength ACV can go up to 18% acidity – but in general it is less acidic than the White variety. It may work in your weed killing recipe but is not as effective.

Dishwashing Liquid

A small amount of dishwashing liquid is added to the homemade weed killer recipe. Any mild liquid dish soap is fine to use – most people opt to use Dawn.

Soap kills bugs – even ones that we like – so use this with care. The soap helps the weed killer attach to the plant surface.

Using Epsom Salt (Optional)

Salt is well known for drawing water from plant material and will aid in the drying up process. You can use regular table salt. But, some gardeners prefer to use Epsom salt instead.

Regular table salt is sodium chloride and can unbalance your soil when used too often. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate that is good for some plants in moderation.

However, many gardeners report that the use of Epsom salt instead of table salt caused the weed to just grow better! It’s your call on which one is best for your yard.

Recipe for Homemade Vinegar Weed Killer

You will need :

  • 1 gallon of Vinegar
  • 1 cup of Salt
  • 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap

Mix ingredients together in a bucket – shake well and pour into spray container.

**This mixture can kill ANY PLANT – not just weeds. Be careful where you spray it! ** Before mixing or using read the Caution Section of this post for warnings and safety.

Weed killer spray being applied to unwanted vegetation.

How to Use

Mix the ingredients well and pour into a spray bottle or hand-help sprayer. Spray a light coat of your recipe on the weeds/grass you want to kill. It is best to do this on a warm, sunny day with no threat of immediate rain.

Can beekeepers use it to manage aggressive weeds in their bee yards? I say yes, when it is used correctly.

Use as a Drench

While the most popular way to use this natural weed killer is by spraying, it can be used as a drench.

If you use it in larger quantities to kill undesirable plants in a problem area, add Lime afterwards to bring the soil pH back up to normal levels.

Tips Safe Application

  • Test on a small area first. Results are variable and unpredictable depending on the climate and weeds present.
  • Spray later in the day after foraging bees have stopped working
  • Vinegar can kill grass and plants we want to keep. Be careful with spray drift.
  • Vinegar can kill good bacteria in our soil if over-used -only use as much as you need.
  • Choose your soap component wisely. I use Dawn dish-washing liquid most often. Avoid strong cleaners that contain bleach or phosphates.
  • Vinegar is an acid. Take all the necessary precautions to avoid any health risks. Wear gloves and goggles to prevent accidents.
  • Beware of internet recipes advising the use strong concentrations of vinegar. Treat it with respect as you would any caustic substance.
image of pollinator ebook to help grow your bee garden
Dead weeds pulled for garden in bucket

Realistic Expectations

Homemade vinegar weed killers can be a part of your effort to reduce weeds around your home. However, it is not a quick fix.

Even tender plants may require spraying more than once to kill the root. Not all weeds die easily. Some of them will only have damaged leaves but continue to grow.

This more “natural” way of spraying weeds is good. But, it is not going to work with the same efficiency as well know commercial chemical sprays that are fast and easy.


Does vinegar weed killer really work?

Yes, homemade vinegar weed killers do work but not as efficiently as commercial sprays. They will need repeated more often.

How does vinegar weed killer kill plants?

Vinegar damages plants by stripping off the wax cuticle of the plant leaf. With no protection to prevent drying out, the plant loses water and dries up.

The root system of the weed will put out new growth that must be sprayed again. If you continue to apply the spray, eventually the plant root will be striped of food reserves and the plant will die.

Will vinegar spray kill grass?

Yes, vinegar will kill grass and other desirable foliage. It will damage and possibly other desirable plants that are sprayed. When using any type of weed killer, use caution and do not spray on windy days.

Is vinegar weed killer safe for pets?

Areas sprayed with vinegar are safe after a short period of time. The vinegar used will evaporate and should not pose a hazard to pets or foot traffic.

Of course, it is always best to let any area dry after your apply any type of spray or fertilizer and then let the pets back inside the area.

Final Thoughts

Many chemicals used for weed control end up in our soil and ground water. If you must- use a natural weed killer like this one with vinegar.

They are much less expensive and no toxic residues are left behind. Also, adopting a practice of leaving a few natural areas is a good idea – weeds feed bees and other pollinators.

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