“A weed is but an unloved flower.” – Ella Wheeler
As lovely as this thought may be, visualizing your beautiful garden covered up with tufts of wild grass and other weeds evokes zero emotions of love.
Plus, weeds growing in the cracks of walkways, patios, and driveways are nothing less than a nuisance and make your yard look unkempt. Moreover, weeds steal nutrition from your soil that would otherwise be available for your plants.
While weeds can easily be taken care of with strong chemical herbicides, the chemicals can leach into your soil and also pollute your drinking water over time.
However, there are safe and environmentally friendly alternatives that can tackle weeds without using toxic chemicals. In fact, you can make some pretty affordable DIY weed killers with stuff already in your pantry.
Here are 8 homemade weed killer recipes and tricks that work.
- Method 1: Vinegar, Salt & Dish Soap
- Method 2: Salt
- Method 3: Boiling Water
- Method 4: Borax
- Method 5: Newspaper
- Method 6: Bleach & Water
- Method 7: Cornmeal
- Method 8: Lemon Juice & Dish Soap
- Tips to keep in mind
Method 1: Vinegar, Salt & Dish Soap
The best DIY weed killer you can make is a concoction of common white vinegar, Epsom salt (or table salt) and dish soap. The vinegar and Epsom salt help draw moisture out of the weeds. The dish soap helps reduce the surface tension of the vinegar, allowing it to be readily absorbed by the leaves of the weeds, effectively killing them. In fact, you can also use Epsom salt in the garden to improve plant growth.
Things you’ll need:
- White vinegar – 1 cup
- Dawn dish soap – 2 teaspoons
- Epsom salt – 2 tablespoons
Step 1. Blend vinegar, dish soap, and salt
- Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into a pitcher.
- Add 2 teaspoons of Dawn dish soap to it.
- Add 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt. If you don’t have any, you can use table salt.
- Stir well to blend the three ingredients.
Step 2. Store the solution in a spray bottle & spritz it on the weeds
- Use a small funnel to pour the solution into a spray bottle.
- Secure the nozzle on the bottle and your weed spray is ready to use.
Choose a bright and sunny day to use this DIY weed killer. Make sure that there is no rain in the forecast for the next 2 days.
Spray the solution only on the leaves and stems of the weeds, not the soil. A single spray should be enough to dry out the weeds in a week. If needed, respray the solution to kill any remaining wildlings.
Store the leftover weed killer in a dark and cool place.
Method 2: Salt
Salt works by dehydrating the weeds and eventually causing their death. It not only kills existing weeds but also ensures that nothing new grows in the treated area. So, while it is a nontoxic weed killer, use it with caution around your garden. However, you can use it generously on your walkways and driveways to keep them weed-free.
Single-Step Method: Prepare a saline solution & spray it on the weeds
- Add ⅓ cup of table salt to 1 cup of water in a spray bottle.
- Attach the nozzle and shake the bottle well to dissolve the salt completely in the water.
- Spritz the saline spray on your walkways and driveways. Use it carefully to treat weeds in your garden.
The salt solution needs to be sprayed just once, and the weeds will wither off in about 2 weeks.
Method 3: Boiling Water
It couldn’t get easier than this. Scalding water can be poured over unwanted weeds to cook and kill them instantly. It is a much safer way to clear your concrete driveways in one go rather than using commercial chemical herbicides. However, make sure that there is no plant in the vicinity, as the hot water can reach the roots of healthy plants and kill them, too.
Single-Step Method: Pour boiling water on the weeds in your driveway
- Pour enough boiling water over the weeds in your driveway to drench them completely.
- Wait a few days to see the weeds turn brown and die. If needed, repeat the process.
Method 4: Borax
Borax is a highly versatile ingredient and can also be used as a weed killer, as it is toxic to plants when used in the right quantities. However, don’t use higher concentrations for it to act faster. Borax in higher concentrations can also kill off nearby plants and render the soil unfavorable for plant growth.
Step 1. Prepare a paste of borax and water
- Put 1¼ tablespoons of borax in a mixing bowl.
- Add 1 tablespoon of warm water to it.
- Mix the two well to form a thick paste.
Step 2. Add the borax paste to water in a spray bottle & use it to kill the weeds
- Spoon the borax paste into a spray bottle containing 2½ cups of water.
- Attach the nozzle and shake the bottle well to mix the paste into the water.
- Choose a day when the wind isn’t blowing, and no rain is expected for the next 2 days. Spray the solution on the unwanted weeds.
If required, repeat application after 1 week to eliminate any remaining weeds completely.
Method 5: Newspaper
Apart from shooing away your neighborhood dog, a newspaper can also come in handy to do away with weeds for good. Covering the weeds with a newspaper will cut off sunlight and air, causing the weeds to suffocate and die. Cruel enough? It’s worth a try if you wish to save your prized greens.
Single-Step Method: Cover the planting beds with newspapers
- Start by watering the planting bed.
- Spread out sheets of newspaper over the weeds and around your ornamental plants.
- Spray the newspaper sheets with water to prevent them from being blown away by the wind.
- Optionally, to make your garden look better, cover the papers with mulch. The mulch will also help improve the quality of the soil impoverished by the weeds.
The newspapers will eventually decompose, mix into the soil and invite earthworms to feed on them. This will help increase the fertility of your planting beds.
You can repeat the process after a few months when you spot new weeds cropping up.
Method 6: Bleach & Water
If you’re in a pinch, common chlorine bleach can be employed to kill weeds on your concrete walkways. However, since bleach is a chemical, you should use it sparingly and stick to other more eco-friendly options.
Single-Step Method: Mix bleach in water & spray it on the weeds
- Add ½ cup of chlorine bleach to 1¼ cups of water in a spray bottle.
- Attach the spray nozzle and shake the bottle well to dissolve the bleach in the water.
- Spray the solution over the weeds. The leaves will turn brown and wither in 2 to 3 days.
Method 7: Cornmeal
Cornmeal will not kill weeds, but it will stop the growth of new weeds. If you are just starting your garden, you can use cornmeal to prevent weeds from developing. Cornmeal will also welcome earthworms to your planting bed, which in turn will churn the soil and ready it for planting.
Single-Step Method: Sprinkle cornmeal over planting beds
- Sprinkle an even layer of cornmeal over the planting beds. Use 20 pounds of cornmeal per 1,000 square feet of planting area.
- Once you have covered the entire area, water the planting bed lightly to activate the gluten in the cornmeal, which is what stalls the weed growth.
The cornmeal will suppress weed growth for 5 to 6 weeks. Use cornmeal in the late spring and again in late summer to deal with both annual and perennial weeds.
Method 8: Lemon Juice & Dish Soap
Lemon's acidic nature is not just useful for getting rid of acne; it can also be used to make a highly effective DIY weed killer. Combine it with some dish soap to enable the lemon juice to soak into the leaves. The weeds will wilt away in a day or two.
Things you’ll need:
- Lemon – ½
- Dawn liquid dish soap – 1½ tablespoons
- Water – 1 cup in a spray bottle
Single-Step Method: Add lemon juice and liquid dish soap to water & use it as weed spray
- Add 1½ tablespoons of liquid dish soap to 1 cup of water in a spray bottle.
- Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the bottle.
- Put the nozzle on the spray bottle and shake it well to mix the ingredients.
Spray the solution generously over the weeds. A single application should be enough to kill the weeds in 1 or 2 days.
Tips to keep in mind
- Always wear gloves when working with chemicals, such as bleach or even vinegar. These ingredients can cause skin irritation in some people.
- Store your DIY weed killers in a safe place, out of the reach of children and pets, to avoid any accidents.
- Use multiple applications of weed killers at regular intervals rather than heavy concentrations that can leach into the soil and spoil your healthy plants.
- Do not reuse the same spray bottles to spray fertilizers into your planting beds, unless you have cleaned the bottles thoroughly. The residue of even DIY herbicides can be enough to kill your healthy plants.
- Do not overuse these methods, and be very careful when spraying anything in areas that you want plants to grow in the future! While these can be great shortcuts or helpful for major weed problems, pulling small weeds in the garden before they get out of control should be your first option.