Written by Karen C.

As I look out into my backyard gardens, I see knee-high weeds happily seeding themselves as they awaken from a dormant winter. I don’t see anything that resembles my summertime garden… But, I know that it can become the garden of my dreams again.

Although toxic chemicals have been used for decades to get rid of weeds, today’s gardeners, including me, use more eco-friendly and sustainable weed killers.

Did you know that since the mid-20th century, toxic weed killers have been the most popular weed control method? The problem is that even though these chemical weed control methods are effective in controlling unwanted plants, they leave toxic residue on food, pollute the environment, and cause disease.

I’ve been researching DIY non-toxic weed killer recipes for several years in the hopes of finding one that works for my vegetable and flower gardens. I’ve had success with several that use common household products that I’d like to share with you. Hopefully, they’ll help manage weeds and still renew the goodness of the soil, wildlife, and the environment.

P.S. If you’d prefer to buy a pre-made weed killer instead of making your own, check out my recommendations here!

The Organic Approach to Weed Killer

When you start thinking about an organic approach to managing weeds and pests in your gardens, it is not just about switching to non-toxic weed killers. It’s also about getting a better understanding of nature and the decisions you make to grow better plants, improve your family’s health, and keep the environment safe. 

If you’re ready to use a DIY organic weed killer that prevents toxic chemicals from damaging soil organic matter, stimulates living organisms in the soil, and keeps your family and pets safe, give these recipes a try.

1. Basic DIY Weed Killer Recipe

The following natural weed killer recipe is made from common household ingredients. Keep in mind that it’s not for lawns. It’s a non-selective weed killer that kills the foliage of any plant, so it will need to be sprayed directly on the plant you want to get rid of. If you spray it all over your lawn, it will kill the grass.

When you apply the mixture to the weeds, use a spray bottle so that you can direct the spray directly onto the weeds. Try to do it on a calm (non-windy) day so the weed killer doesn’t drift onto other plants or your lawn.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 cup Epsom Salt
  • 1/2 gallon vinegar
  • ⅛  cup dish soap

Just mix all the ingredients together and pour the mixture into your spray bottle. This non-toxic weed killer recipe isn’t waterproof, so you need to reapply after it rains.

2. Boiling Water

This isn’t really a recipe, but it’s an effective DIY weed killer, especially in a pinch. Just as the title suggests, it’s just boiling water.

All you have to do is get a pot of boiling water and pour it over the weeds. This works very well for weeds growing through the cracks of your driveway, walkway, or patio.

It also works for weeds in your garden, as long as the weeds aren’t too close to the plants you want to save. The boiling water travels under the soil, so you might damage the roots of other nearby plants if you’re not careful.

3. Citrus Oil, Soap, and Vinegar

Citric acid is a natural weed killer. You can use citrus essential oil as a substitute for citric acid in this recipe if that’s all you have. When the oil combines with vinegar and soap, it makes a potent weed and pest killer. If you can’t find citrus oil, lemon juice works as a substitute.

  • 1 gallon vinegar
  • 2 ounces dish soap
  • 1 tablespoon citrus oil

Mix the ingredients together and pour the mixture into your spray bottle. Spray the solution directly on the base of the weeds, the tops of the leaves, and the undersides of the leaves. It might take two or three applications before the weeds die. 

4. Full Strength Vinegar

Vinegar (either apple cider or white) is one of the most widely used natural, non-toxic weed killers. You can use it full strength on any type of weeds.

You can also dilute vinegar weed killer with water if you want to use it for weeds on your lawn, but only if you have hardy grass.

I found that vinegar kills most pesky weeds right away. I use household vinegar that’s five percent acetic acid. If you try this and don’t see results, you can find stronger vinegar up to 20 percent acetic acid at garden supply shops. 

If possible, treat the weeds while they’re young. That gives the best results. Spray straight vinegar on any weeds from tip to bottom. Try to keep the vinegar out of the soil because it can damage any nearby roots and live organisms living in the soil.

Does vinegar kill weeds permanently?

Vinegar typically only kills the parts of the weed that it comes into direct contact with, so it may not eliminate the entire root system. For some weeds, especially perennials with deep roots, repeated applications of vinegar may be needed to effectively control them.

diy organic weed killer

5. Table Salt 

Table salt is a strong, natural weed killer. But, it’s important to note that salt can accumulate in the soil over time, so it’s best to use this method sparingly and only in areas where you don’t plan to grow other plants. Additionally, salt can also affect the pH of the soil, so it’s a good idea to test your soil periodically if you use salt as a weed killer regularly.

  • Use an 8/1 mixture of hot water and salt
  • Add one tablespoon of dish detergent

Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray the weeds. Try to do this on a warm, sunny day. That way the mixture dries on the leaves quickly, so it doesn’t get into the soil. Once the weed dies, pull it up right away, so the salt doesn’t wash into the soil when it rains.

6. Borax

You can find Borax at most home goods stores, grocery stores, and hardware stores. It’s most often used as a laundry booster in the wash. Even though this is a natural boron product derived from lake evaporation, it can be harmful if swallowed, so be careful to keep it away from pets and little ones.

After you mix this homemade weed killer recipe, use it right away.

  • 10 ounces Borax
  • 4 ounces of warm water

Mix these two ingredients together in a glass container to dissolve the Borax. Once dissolved, pour it into two gallons of water. Mix well and apply it with a sprayer. This is non-selective, so it will kill lawns and other plants, so take care when using it on weeds.

Alternatives to Spray on Weed Killers

non-toxic weed killer recipe

1. Pull Up the Weeds

Sometimes, I just want to get out in the garden and use my hands. This is a great way to get rid of weeds without having to mix DIY recipes or use chemical weed killers.

Start in the spring before the weeds set their roots too deep. Put on your garden gloves and start pulling up the sprouts of weeds like creeping charlie. If you catch them as young weeds, you don’t need any tools to dig them up. 

Once you pull them up, don’t leave them near your garden. The seeds could blow everywhere, and you’ll have to start all over again in a few weeks.

2. Cover with Mulch

After you plant your garden, pull up or hoe any weeds and dispose of them. Then get your shovel and spread mulch in your flower and vegetable gardens. Spread the mulch about 3-inches deep to stop weeds from germinating and preventing any other future growth.

You can buy mulch at the garden center or save your grass clippings. Using mulch also preserves the nutrients in the soil and holds in moisture.

3. Plant Ground Cover 

Ground cover is an attractive, maintenance-free way to prevent weeds from growing. There are many types of ground covers, such as creeping sedum, curly ivy, California fuchsia, sage, yucca, wild rose, and bush monkeyflower. Some thrive in shady areas while others prefer full sun.  

They’re hardy, drought-resistant, and also repel foraging animals. Once ground cover is established, it blocks sunlight from the weeds and chokes them out.

Talk to your local garden center for more recommendations for groundcover in your area.

4. Restore Soil

One of the best natural weed killers is to restore your soil before you plant your vegetables and flowers. This method is soil solarization. It brings your soil back to its natural state.

You do this by uprooting all the vegetation in the garden area. Use a rototiller or pitchfork to remove all the weeds, plants, and grass. Spread the loam out with a rock rake and remove all the debris.

The next step is to cover the entire area with plastic. Leave it on the garden for a few days. This allows the sun to burn off any seeds or weeds left in the soil. After the soil solarization finishes, all the weeds will be gone, and your garden is ready for your plants.

Of course, one of the biggest downsides to this is that you have to use big pieces of plastic. It’s not eco-friendly and it may lead to microplastics in your soil, too. You’ll definitely want to consider the pros and cons before you use this method.

Want to buy a pre-made weed killer? Here are the best organic weed killers available for purchase:

About Guest Author

This article was written by a guest contributor. We love to welcome content written by fellow writers, researchers, and advocates for safer products!

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