Does Vinegar Kill Weeds? The answer is a resounding “yes.” In this article we discuss in detail how vinegar kills weeds and why, in many instances, it’s actually better than a chemical weed killer. We give you a vinegar weed killer recipe that actually works and we also discuss natural weed killers.
Intro | Does Vinegar Kill Weeds?
When weeds wreak havoc over your lawn or garden it can be difficult to get rid of them. Many commercial herbicides are available but these can get expensive, especially if you have a large area to cover. In search of better cost-effective solutions that were eco-friendly we questioned ‘does vinegar kill weeds’?
There are many articles from gardeners and bloggers claiming that vinegar is a better all-natural solution to commercial weed killers. The only real way to determine this is to determine the effect that vinegar has on plants. Vinegar contains acetic acid. This chemical, although non-toxic to the environment, is lethal for weeds and plants with its herbicidal properties. Acetic acid burns plants by drawing out all of the plant’s moisture.
There are several types of vinegars containing different amounts of acetic acid. The household distilled white vinegar many homeowners have in their pantries contains 5% acetic acid. Stronger concentrations will kill weeds at a faster rate than more diluted concentrations, but they all have the same effect. Vinegar acts as a ‘non-selective’ organic herbicide. This means it will kill any vegetation it comes in contact with.
Why Is Vinegar Better than Commercial Herbicides?
There are numerous commercial herbicides on the market boasting to eradicate your weed problem. This is dependent on several factors. There are many different types and forms of herbicides that all work in their own way. The options alone can be mind boggling for a beginner gardener that is not familiar on how different herbicides work.
Vinegar treats all weeds. Some commercial herbicides are formulated to treat specific types of weeds. Likewise, some types of weeds are not affected by certain types of herbicides. Vinegar’s capabilities work on all types of weeds. This saves you time on researching what types of weeds you have and what products to use where.
Safer for the environment. Commercial herbicides may leave residue behind that remain in the soil for long periods. This might compromise the quality of the soil for planting flowers or gardens in the future. Vinegar is naturally derived from either grain, apples, or grapes. It naturally degrades within a few days making it better for the planet.
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Does Vinegar Kill Weeds For Good?
Most homeowners wanting to rid their lawn or garden of weeds are looking for permanent weed killer solutions. When comparing the long-term effects of vinegar on weeds it depends highly on the type of plants you are dealing with. A vinegar weed killer recipe will serve as a contact herbicide. Contact herbicides kill the parts of the plant it comes in contact with, but will not get absorbed by the roots and foliage beneath the soil. On certain types of weeds, contact herbicides is effective in ridding your lawn of them for good. Larger, deeper weed plants may require repeated applications.
Annual weeds are plants that have a life cycle of just one year; however, these plants can sow seeds for the following year. Contributing factors like the wind, animals and people can pick up and spread the seeds creating a widespread germination of new weeds for the following year. These types of weeds can be eradicated by using a contact herbicide such as a vinegar solution if applied before they’re spread.
Perennial plants are more difficult to kill than annuals on account of their root structures. They have larger roots that will eventually grow back unless they’re dug up entirely. Contact herbicides will kill the surface of the plant, but not the roots; however, the weeds that grow back will be weaker. It is likely with repeated applications, vinegar kills weeds permanently over time.
Adding salt to a vinegar solution offers an added benefit. Salt typically contains sodium chloride which is also damaging to plants. The addition of salt to your organic contact herbicide will get absorbed into the soil and may reach the roots of the plant. This may be an effective permanent weed killer solution in very small, young perennials whose roots are not deep.
Vinegar Weed Killer Recipe
Some recipes call for stronger concentrations of vinegar at 10 or 20 percent, which can be purchased in gardening supply stores. Stronger acidic concentrations of vinegar can burn the skin in people with sensitivities. The acidity in common household white vinegar works just as well, but may take a few days longer to kill the weeds. If you prefer to use a higher concentration for faster results wear protective gloves that are resistant to chemicals and use caution while handling.
For isolated weeds or occasional weeds that pop up in gardens near desirable plants distilled white vinegar can be applied directly to the plant at full strength. This method ensures no overspray reaches the surrounding plants and will yield results in as little as a few hours after the application. Wearing gloves is recommended. Coat the entire surface of the weed’s leaves using your hands with full strength vinegar to saturate the plant.
For a spray bottle solution you will need:
- Bucket or container for mixing
- Empty spray bottle
- Long handled spoon or a stirring stick
- Measuring spoon
- Distilled white vinegar
- Liquid dish soap
Adding dish soap to your vinegar weed killer will assist in the accumulation of droplets on the plant’s surface area for optimal absorption. In fact, many commercial herbicides also contain soaps in their formulas for this reason. They’re generally listed as surfactants.
Pour 1 gallon of vinegar in a bucket. Measure 2 tablespoons of dish soap to add to the vinegar and stir slowly using a long-handled stirrer. Once the dish soap is completely incorporated use a funnel to pour solution into your spray bottle. Store the remaining solution in a container for future use.
If you have more surface area of your lawn or yard to cover you can use the same recipe listed above in a pressure sprayer for efficiency. Use a soft spray pattern directly to the weed plants. Rinse the sprayer thoroughly after each use to prevent metal parts from corrosion over time.
For areas where you want to kill weeds permanently with little to no soil such as gravel driveways, sidewalks and concrete, adding salt to vinegar will do the trick. Salt lowers the pH level of soil and takes much longer to dissipate so it’s not recommended near vegetation. Adding salt to your vinegar weed killer recipe will ensure nothing grows in the area of application. You will need:
- 1 gallon distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup table salt
- 2 tablespoons dish-washing soap
Pour the vinegar into a clean bucket and add salt. Stir the solution until the salt is completely dissolved. Add in the dish-washing soap and stir slowly until combined. Funnel the solution into a spray bottle and apply directly to the weeds.
Tips for Vinegar Weed Killer
The right time to apply any type of herbicide including this organic recipe is before weeds begin to sow their seeds. A vinegar remedy will have maximum effect in warmer weather such as spring.
Watch the forecast. Use this weed killer when there will be no chance of rain for at least 2 days after application. For best results, apply during warm sunny weather. The hotter and brighter the sun, the faster the solution will take effect.
Be a smart shopper. White vinegar is relatively cheap and available in nearly all grocery retailers. Stronger acidic vinegars are not as readily available as they aren’t typically found in domestic retailers. Users opting for a stronger concentration vinegar will have to look at specialized retailers in gardening supplies. Many suppliers will label a stronger concentration vinegar as Horticultural Vinegar with a higher price tag for marketing. Opting for a general 10% or 20% acetic acid vinegar is sufficient.
Natural Weed Killers
If you have widespread weeds around your lawn or near delicate plants a vinegar weed killer solution is not practical. The truth is most natural weed killer recipes are non-selective. Unless you are selective in applying this solution directly to the weed itself, there is always a chance of damaging delicate plants or vegetation nearby. Here are some effective homemade weed killer alternatives to vinegar you can prepare to keep the weeds at bay.
Borax is a versatile, naturally occurring substance that consists of sodium borate. It is low in toxicity providing a great alternative to commercial herbicides for certain areas. In established lawns, borax is generally safe to use with care in mind. It is not recommended as an all around herbicide and shouldn’t be used near vegetable gardens or flower beds. Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy, is a common lawn nuisance that is especially susceptible to borax.
- 1 ¼ cup of Borax powder
- ½ cup warm water
- 2 ½ gallons water
- Container for mixing
Borax can cause irritation in individuals with skin sensitivities; therefore, wearing gloves is strongly recommended. Dissolve the borax powder in warm water thoroughly then dd to 2 ½ gallons of water. Pour solution into a sprayer for a more uniform application to plants. Borax weed killer should be used immediately after being prepared.
This borax weed killer should be applied when weeds are actively growing, typically in early spring. The recommended application of borax is once a year and no more than 2 years in a row. Apply directly to the weeds on a day when the wind isn’t blowing.
This isn’t a very cost-effective solution, however, if you have Gin or Bourbon lying around you can booze out those pesky weeds. Many sources suggest using alcohol as an additive to a homemade weed killer recipe. Rubbing alcohol may also be just as effective, albeit cheaper than booze.
While water is essential for the growth of any plant, temperature can play a vital factor in survival. Boiling hot water has the capability of killing any plant it touches by scalding it. Because boiling water is quickly absorbed it will reach the roots of the plant as well. Boiling water is an effective, simple, non-toxic solution to get rid of annual and some perennial weeds.
Boil a kettle or pot of water on the stove until it comes to a continuous rolling boil. The temperature will drop considerably once removed from the heat so an established boil is recommended to ensure the temperature is hot enough to scald the plant. Pour the hot water slowly and carefully over the crown of the plant.
The use of a kettle for application is ideal for effectiveness due to the slow stream while pouring. Pour the water just inches above the plant to minimize splashing. For safety, wear closed toe shoes and pants for application and a pot holder or towel to grasp the kettle/pot while pouring.
There are natural organic weed killers that can be purchased in retailers as well if you wish to forego the process of making one yourself. Considerations to keep in mind with commercially bought organic herbicides:
- Most natural weed killers, homemade or readily purchased, are non-selective. They carry the potential to kill any vegetation on contact.
- Retail natural weed killers will save you time over preparing your own but not money.
- Concentrations and quantities of active ingredients that are effective can vary.
How does vinegar kill weeds over the commercial remedies? In short, it’s superior for a number of reasons. It is much cheaper by comparison providing a clearly more economical option. Natural weed killer solutions also help simplify the task of ridding weeds as most recipes are not limited to specific types of weeds.