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Everyday Cheapskate: 5 Nontoxic Methods for Killing Weeds That Really Work

Mary Hunt on

Weeds are everywhere -- lawns, parks, roadsides, driveways, my garden, even busting their way through asphalt and cracks in sidewalks. Weeds thrive without fertilizer, love arid conditions and require no care or attention. If you don't want weeds to take over your garden, yard or neighborhood, you need a reliable and inexpensive way to take them out.

There are a number of effective ways to kill weeds. Some involve chemicals or require digging. The problem with chemical weed killers is they aren't always effective, and they can be expensive and cause health problems. Sure, digging is always an option, but now we're talking heavy tools and a lot of sweat. I say we look to nonchemical, cheap and relatively easy ways to kill weeds that really work.

Before we get going here, let me make clear that these weed-killing options are generally nonselective. That means they will kill whatever vegetation they touch, including lawn grass. Depending on the area and what you are trying to accomplish -- say walking paths, driveways or sidewalks -- that may not sound so bad. Be wise; use these options carefully. Make sure to always label homemade solutions and keep them out of the reach of children and pets.


A vinegar solution is one of the most common homemade weed killers. All you need is vinegar -- distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar or cleaning vinegar -- and a bit of dishwashing liquid like Blue Dawn.

U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers confirmed that acetic acid in vinegar is effective at killing some common weed species, including Canada thistle, lamb's quarters, giant foxtail, velvetleaf and smooth pigweed.


To be the most effective, the acetic acid concentration in the vinegar should be above 11% to burn and kill the plant. The dishwashing liquid acts as a surfactant to help the vinegar cling to the weed's surface longer.

Distilled white vinegar found in supermarkets is weak at 5% acidity, and while it will work to kill weeds, it takes longer and may require re-treating. "Cleaning vinegar" is typically 30% acidity, depending on the brand, and assures your weed-killing labor is not in vain. You can find cleaning vinegar in home improvement stores and also online.

Add about 1 tablespoon Blue Dawn per gallon of vinegar (you can eyeball it) and shake to mix. Pour undiluted vinegar into a large spray bottle or garden sprayer. Apply when the weather report says you'll be getting a few continuous days of sunshine. Rain will wash the vinegar off the weeds too soon. Most of the damage happens when the sun hits the weeds' leaves. Spray directly onto the weeds, being careful to keep the solution away from other plants.



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