Vinegar used as weed killer

Free homemade weed killers: do they work?

In the loved, well-maintained garden weeds control becomes an ongoing battle. While some weeds can be used as homemade medicine remedies, they are not grown for their benefits and certainly not on purpose. Weed’s appearance usually spoils the look of your garden and of all the hard work you have put in it. 


What are weeds? 

Weeds are troublesome plants growing in otherwise cultivated areas. That’s it. There are two basic types of weeds to look out for: 

  • Annual 
  • Perennial 

Annual weeds 

Examples of annual weeds include chickweed, bittercress and annual nettles. Annual weeds usually grow with the purpose to reproduce within one year. While some die down after self-seeding, others can form the seeds several times within one year. Annual weeds only produce new growth from the seeds and not from the previous year’s roots.


Perennial weeds 

Perennial weeds, just like annual weeds or most plants for that matter, also propagate by self-seeding but can regrow from the previous year’s root system if it remains in the ground. Some examples include dandelion, oxalis and bindweed.

Dandelion is a perennial weed
Dandelion is a perennial weed

What is a weed killer?

Weed killer is a chemical substance used to eliminate unwanted plant growth. Selective herbicides kill either broad-leaved plants or a grassy plant, depending on the type you choose, while non-selective herbicides kill all greenery, sometimes except for moss and algae. f you opt for commercial weed killers, please read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before application, especially when dealing with pets and children.


Weed killers are applied to the leaves in the dry weather. New green growth then absorbs the toxins directing them back to the root system, eliminating the entire plant. Find out how do the commercial weed killers compare to homemade weed killers.



Homemade weed killers remedies

  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Boiling water
  • Lemons
  • Alcohol and rubbing alcohol
  • Bin bags and newspapers



Standard dressing vinegar normally contains 5% acid. If applied to the weeds, it will most likely tackle the green part of weed but will not destroy the roots. You can apply vinegar on some annual varieties of weeds such as bittercress before seed formation.


Horticultural vinegar contains 20% acid. It can be a very strong solution when excessively used. While this solution can be effective when applied to weeds, it hardly tackles the roots. Furthermore, 20% acid can cause damage to your drainage or sewage system if used in masses. If you choose to opt for horticultural vinegar, read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and ensure to wear protective clothing goggles to prevent any damage to your skin or eyes.

Vinegar used as weed killer
Vinegar used as weed killer


Salt can be a very effective weed killer but needs to be used wisely. Salt, containing a large amount of sodium, can kill all the fauna in the area chosen for its application. It is also effective as a prevention for the new growth. This needs to be taken into consideration if you are planning on including more plants in the area.


Only use salt in areas such as paths and patios if you want to keep them plant-free for years to come. Once entering your soil the salt will require several years to be washed away. Never use in flower beds and borders. Australian farmers used to call salt “white death” due to devastating effects on all soil organisms.

Salt to kill weeds
We don’t recommend using salt to kill weeds

Boiling water 

Boiling water works very fast and kills weeds almost instantly. Well, the green part only, and will hardly attack the roots of perennial weeds. It can, however, be used on some annual weeds before the seed formation. Tougher perennial weeds will regrow. We recommend its use only on paths and patios. 


Always stand further away when applying boiling water and if possible, ensure to wear trousers. Splashing boiling water can burn your legs. 

Boiling water
Take extra care when pouring boiling water


Lemons are a natural material containing acid, the substance harmful to all plants. It can be applied to annual weeds before they form the seeds and some perennial weeds, and you should see visible results in 3 days. Though weeds such as bindweed or bramble will prevail.  


Furthermore, lemons as natural ingredients release nutrients upon breakdown. However, you should beware of their acidity. Overuse can lower the pH of your soil endangering the existence of other border inhabitants. If you opt for lemons as a natural weed killer, use in the ericaceous borders mainly. Alternatively, paths and patios are a safe bet.

Acidity of lemons can be used to control weeds

Alcohol and rubbing alcohol 

Alcohol and rubbing alcohol can be very effective in weed control as it causes serious damage to all weeds. But alcohol can be harmful to your topsoil as it kills organisms and microorganisms living in it. In return, this will have a negative effect on your soil as the organisms are responsible for soil breakdown, nutrients release and balance. 


You could use alcohol on paths and patios if you are willing to spend money on a few litres of vodka and pour it down the ground, assuming you and your neighbours can tolerate the alcohol’s odour. 



Bin bags and newspapers 

Bin bags and newspapers are often used as layers of material spread over the topsoil. It disallows air and light in and suffocates any plants wanting to grow. While this might seem like a viable option, your garden soil needs air and light to breathe and maintain the warmth, which is especially important to the organisms living in the soil.  


The use of bin bags and newspapers can visually turn your garden into a junkyard. No garden enthusiast wants that, right? 



Are homemade weed killers effective and would we recommend them? 

Based on the facts listed above, homemade weed killer remedies have more limitations than benefits. However, boiling water can be a good alternative when used carefully and appropriately. 


Truthfully, commercial weed killers have more potential in their use. Most of the time they destroy weeds completely, including the root system and are mostly fully degradable in the soil.  You should always apply weed killers in dry weather, to prevent dilution in the water making the toxins ineffective. This could further result in waste of the material, money and your time. Once again, please ensure to read the instructions provided by the manufacturer carefully prior to application. 

Commercial weed killer
Commercial weed killer is a safe option

Weeds in a well-maintained garden can be annoying at times, but their control is not an impossible task. You can control, prevent and suppress their growth using chemical or manual techniques. Whichever method you choose, always remember that safety comes first.

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