This post may contain affiliate links – read our full disclosure
DIY Vinegar Weed Killer Spray
Are weeds getting you down? Perhaps you are suffering from green plants in all the wrong places? Plant growth is a wonderful thing but sometimes we want to do a bit of maintenance. Some gardeners opt to use a DIY vinegar weed killer instead of a toxic commercial spray. If you need to reduce some vegetation in your yard, a natural weed killer is one option. It is good to leave some weeds because many pollinators use them for food and shelter. But even the most bee friendly garden may have a few areas that need weed control.
No one loves spraying toxic weed killers on their lawn. At least, I certainly hope you do not. Many of these chemicals end up in our soil and ground water.
For those of us who are very sensitive to the needs of bees, we try to let some of the weeds grow. Adopting a practice of leaving a few natural areas benefits all pollinators.
In fact, some homeowners become so passionate about inviting pollinators to their landscape that they set aside an area just for the bees.
Consider putting up a Pollinator friendly sign – it may just inspire your neighbors to take part too. But there is nothing wrong with wanting to do a bit of a lawn manicure either.
What is a weed?
Though there may be a technical definition of what exactly constitutes a weed. In practice, it depends on the opinion of the gardener. Weeds are something growing somewhere that we don’t want it to grow!
Not all weeds are bad. Weeds such as dandelions provide much needed food for our bees and other pollinators. This is especially true early in the season, before other food producing plants are growing.
While a “weed” here and there is not a bad thing, some plants are very aggressive and will take over given the chance. It makes sense to “thin the herd” occasionally – even organic gardeners often do a bit of weeding in their bee friendly garden space.
Still, this wild forms of plant life can be very useful to our foraging honey bees. Bees use nectar to make honey by collecting it from millions of blooming plants.
Stored honey helps the bee colony survive during the cold Winter months. Pollen is important too. Bees need pollen as a protein source to raise new bees.
Many types of weeds provide nectar and/or pollen for hungry pollinators so keep that in mind when landscaping.
If you choose to let some of those weeds grow, that means less work for you too! It’s a win-win for all.
Using Vinegar as a Weed Killer
Realistically, we know that there are some places that you may want to keep weed or grass free. Weeding by hand is hard work and not something everyone has time to do. As you get a bit older, bending to weed by hand is no picnic either.
Over the years, we have seen many commercial products developed to battle the weeds and other vegetative matter around your home. Unfortunately, we are also beginning to see the harmful results of using the easy to apply products.
Chemical residues are showing up in our soil, water and plant tissue. And yes, even in our food!
Some scientists feel that herbicides are responsible in part for increased bee deaths. We can debate how bad the problem is but it is clear that a problem does exist.
The hunt continues for a way to combat weeds that is less harmful to the environment. Unfortunately, almost any substance that we apply to living plants will affect the environment in some way.
As a more natural solution, does the use of vinegar fit into our gardening management?
In addition to practicing other methods of weed control, the use of a plant deterrent spray can help in your gardening efforts.
Is the use of vinegar effective and safe? Can beekeepers use it to manage weeds in their bee yards? I say yes, when it is used correctly.
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. At least for a time so they can feed our bees.
Best Vinegar to Use as a Weed Killer
There are several types of store bought vinegar available. It 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.
The 2 common types that are widely available are: White Distilled Vinegar and 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 this 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. You can also buy prepared natural weed killers that are ready to use.
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.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is the most popular type. It is a mixture of ACV and water to create a slightly lower acidity for table use.
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.
Does Vinegar Weed Killer Really Work?
Okay, this is the big question. Sure its great that the recipe uses common household items that you will find in almost anyone cupboard. But, does it really kill weeds?
Well, yes and no. You were afraid I was going to say that – weren’t you?
Vinegar does not move through the plant like some weed killer sprays do. It can kill some weeds and other plant material that it touches.
But, before you cast your garden weeding woes aside, you need to understand the limitations of natural weed killer recipes.
How Vinegar Kills 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. This will NOT however, kill most weeds initially.
The root system of the weed will put out new growth that must be sprayed again. If this happens continually, eventually the plant root will be striped of food reserves and the plant will die.
Will Vinegar Kill Grass?
Yes, it will kill grass and other desirable foliage. Just because it is natural does not mean it is not powerful.
While it works best on the tender green weeds. It will damage and possibly kill grass and 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 Dogs?
Most sources agree that 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.
Recipe for Vinegar Weed Killer
You will need :
- Vinegar – 1 gallon
- Salt – 1 cup
- dish-washing liquid – 1 tablespoon
Mix together and apply.
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.
Using Epsom Salt in the Recipe
Some gardeners and homeowners prefer to use epsom salt in the recipe rather than regular table salt.
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.
How to Use Vinegar Weed Killer
Vinegar can be used alone as a spray. However, the most popular recipe for making a vinegar based weed killer includes 2 other ingredients.
Mix the ingredients well and pour into a spray bottle or hand-help sprayer. Spray a light coat of your recipes 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.
Adding a small amount of dish-washing liquid to the mixture is common. Soap kills bugs – even ones that we like – so use this with care. The soap helps the weed killer attach to the plant surface.
Any type of salt can be used. Salt is well known for drawing water from plant material and will aid in the drying up process.
Vinegar Used as a Drench for Killing Vegetation
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 to kill undesirable plants in a problem area, add Lime afterwards to bring the soil pH back up to normal levels.
Realistic Expectations When Using Vinegar to Kill Vegetation
Vinegar 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. 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. It may be one alternative for beekeepers to use instead of the more toxic chemical sprays.
Tips for Using any Vinegar Weed Killer
- 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 week killer can kill bacteria -but, our soil contains good bacteria too – only use as much as you must.
- 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 how-tos that tell you to use strong concentrations of vinegar. Treat it with respect as you would any caustic substance.
Finally a Note in Support of Weeds
Please remember that everything we do in the environment – affects every other living thing. Leave some weeds for the insects when you can.
And, if you must do some weed control – use a natural based weed killer like this one with vinegar.