Hands Down the Best Way to Kill Weeds and It’s Not Roundup

In 1970, John Franz, a chemist for Monsanto, discovered that the chemical glyphosate is a potent herbicide that kills just about every kind of plant material imaginable. In no time, the company gave its miracle weed killer the brand name Roundup.

Farmers, especially, went wild for Roundup. Just one problem: It was nearly impossible to kill the weeds without also killing their crops. So Monsanto sent its chemists back to work to develop glyphosate-resistant, or “Roundup ready crops” that have had their DNA altered (genetically modified or GMO) to allow them to be immune to glyphosate. Now farmers could spray with abandon and not worry about their crops.

photo credit: CreativeGreenLiving.com

photo credit: CreativeGreenLiving.com

To say that glyphosate, Roundup and GMO foods have become a bit controversial would be to put it mildly. There are some who say that glyphosate causes cancer in animals, and most likely humans, too. They insist that the side effects of long-term GMO food consumption is producing serious health risks for all living things. Despite all of this controversy and outcry about issues surrounding Roundup and GMO crops, so far the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found no convincing evidence to force Roundup off the market. It’s a hot button issue, that’s for sure.

There is one provable and very compelling reason to not buy Roundup: It’s too expensive! Even if it were proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Roundup is safe as water, I still wouldn’t shell out the high price for the stuff. I kill weeds like crazy with kitchen pantry items that are really cheap and non toxic: white vinegar, ordinary table salt and dishwashing liquid.

First I will give you the ingredients, followed by two Weed Killer recipes using them:

White vinegar. Ordinary distilled white vinegar with 5% acidity is cheap and works great. If you can find a higher acidity even up to 20%, it is going to work faster, but the end results will be the same.

Table salt. Use the cheapest kind of salt you can find in the supermarket—not sea salt, rock salt, Epsom salts or anything fancy. Just cheap iodized or unionized table salt.

Dishwashing liquid. You will be using only a few drops, so the brand doesn’t matter. The purpose of the soap is to break the surface tension of the vinegar so it sticks to the weeds, forcing them to absorb it more readily.

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WEED KILLER FOR AREAS TO BE REPLANTED. If you have weeds in areas you want to replant, do this: Fill an ordinary garden sprayer with white vinegar and add about one teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap like blue Dawn. Apply sprayer top and follow the instructions on the sprayer to get it ready to spray. That’s it. Seriously, it is that simple. Pick a hot, dry day to spray weeds until saturated, and they will wilt and shrivel up within hours so be careful to not spray anything you want to live. However, do not worry about the vinegar killing anything below the soil. Because vinegar will not harm the soil, you can safely replant the area once the weeds have died.

WEED KILLER FOR AREAS NEVER TO GROW AGAIN. To kill all vegetation in walkways, driveways and other areas where you don’t want any living thing to grow again, mix two cups ordinary table salt with one gallon of white vinegar. Do this in a container that is larger than one gallon capacity so you have room for the salt. Apply the lid and shake to dissolve the salt. Salt dissolves more quickly in vinegar than in water, but it takes a bit of doing. It may not completely dissolve, but that’s okay. Add 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap. Pour into an ordinary garden sprayer. Apply to weeds or grass on a dry, sunny day to areas you don’t want to see vegetation of any kind in the future.

The presence of salt in this recipe is what will eventually bring permanence to your weed killing. The salt will penetrate and leach into the soil. It may take several applications, but in time the presence of salt will “sterilize” the soil in this area so that nothing will grow there. Plan well before you go this permanent route.

These homemade weed killer recipes are not only cheap, both are completely non-toxic to humans and animals. In fact, except for the soap (not toxic, but not very tasty) you could have fun with the family tonight when you tell them you made the salad vinaigrette using 3 parts olive oil to 1 part weed killer!

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Ann

    Sad waste of a nutritious dandelion!

  • JP

    Research online brings up what most internet advice about using vinegar on weeds fails to say: “acetic acid in the vinegar works to kill the leaves on the plant but not the root”. So repeated applications are necessary if using vinegar. It’s not a once-and-done thing.

    • Brett Bostrom

      Probably a good thing for my overspray mistakes.

  • ksmartbl

    I wonder why farmers do not use the vinegar-and-dish soap method?

    • Lotus530

      I’m thinking because it’s much easier to just spray the entire area with Roundup, that’s the whole point of the GMOs, the Roundup won’t kill the crop, just the weeds….

      • Starlink9c

        and everything else. Glyphosate is very effective at killing. Do we really need it in the food chain? I would rather use gasoline or diesel to control weeds.

        • tuffone3

          Diesel is the lesser of the two evils.

          • Jeff F.

            Using gasoline/diesel is one of the worst possible things you could use as a herbicide. I know it is standard practice in many places and is even recommended by agricultural “experts”, but come on! You are pouring refined hydrocarbon oils, napthalene, toluene and alkylbenzenes onto your soil. Not to mention that gasoline has benzene in it which is utterly carcinogenic. Diesel is very persistent in the soil and can also move into the water table. I am not a huge fan of glyphosphate, but please use it and not gasolene/diesel.

            Oh and one more thing, don’t ever use salt as a herbicide. That is just as wrong headed as using hydrocarbons.

    • Ann

      Because vinegar isn’t very effective, and salt is VERY bad for the soil.

  • Sojourner

    I have used cornmeal with great success. This is a great site on how to use cornmeal effectively as a natural weed killer; http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/organic/cornmeal-in-the-garden.htm

    • Brett Bostrom

      Probably a good thing for my overspray mistakes.

  • Lotus530

    I’m in SE Texas. I’ve never found household vinegar to be effective in killing weeds! But I’ve sworn off Roundup. The higher percentage agricultural type vinegar seems to work….it’s an ongoing battle….had a Chinese Tallow tree removed but not the stump. It’s grown back over 6 feet now. /sigh/

    • Ksmartbl33

      Pound a copper nail into the trunk and watch it wither

      & die

      • Freckles

        I’m gonna try it. Thanks.

    • Freckles

      Those things are the devil! I got one and can’t afford a tree chopper. SMH Dadgummit! Who thought them things were a good idea?

  • Patricia

    In Europe they have used salt to kill grass in the sidewalks. I remember my mother pouring salt in all the cracks where grass was growing. When the ground was wet we used to pull up the weeds and then put salt down. Worked every time.

  • Andrea W

    Happy Thursday!!!
    I have been singing the praises of the formula since March 3rd of this year & telling all of my friends!!! I finally got in my backyard to tackle the weeds growing in the alley alongside my fence. My husband doesn’t like for me to go into the alley, so I used the formula from my side of the fence. All of those weeds died & are still gone!!! The city if LA is extremely lousy on taking care of the alleys. I plan on giving the city councilman in my area the formula so that whatever city dept handles alleys in the city can use this formula to control the weed growth. My mind tells me this attempt will be futile, but I am going to do this anyway. I will continue to use this formula & tell people about it. I have a lot more to do my the backyard, but nothing pleases me more than to do this process myself. I also take time to dig up the roots of weeds then apply the solution. That has been effective for me. My husband still is NOT a believer in this process although he has seen spectacular results! I believe what I believe! N- joy HIS day!!

  • Terrie Lewis

    We tried this concoction this Spring on our front yard. We used Epsom salt instead of table salt from a recipe I found on Facebook. We sprayed it on dandelions in the front yard and it killed the leaves and the grass around the plant. However the dandelions quickly went to seed and the seeds blew away. I don’t recommend this method.

    • Sue in MN

      This is not an appropriate, research-based solution! You won’t see this recommended by trained personnel – it is not an ecologically sound sustainable gardening practice. (The University Extension Service trained Master Gardeners around the country are not paid or supported in any way by the chemical companies.) Keep in mind that just because something is “natural” or edible by humans that it is harmless. (For example, chocolate is great for humans, but a couple of ounces can kill your dog.) You are altering the chemical makeup of the soil with vinegar & salt. Vinegar must be used repeatedly to be effective (doesn’t kill the roots outright.) So you re adding acid to your soil, upsetting the natural balance, and perhaps killing or stunting beneficial bugs and bacteria that live there. Salt, as noted above, is a KILLER. In South Texas, the ground water already contains too much dissolved salt from fertilizers and salt water infiltration. This limits its use to a few salt-tolerant crops. If you live up North, look at what winter road salt does to the ditches & boulevards – only salt-tolerant plants will grow there, and many of those are weeds. Don’t assume because you don’t want anything to grow there, that the next tenant or homeowner will feel the same way.
      So, before you embrace this as a weed control, look at the full ramifications. And maybe, just maybe, spend some time pulling those weeds – it’s great exercise.

      • AH

        haha, you’re welcome to come hand-pull the weeds on my 1/2 mile long driveway! 🙂

    • Kathy Meadows-Goodman

      The reason it didn’t work for you is most likely because you used Epsom salt instead of table salt. Epsom ‘salt’ is not true Salt; true salt is Sodium. Sodium/Salt acts as a drying agent, which is why Sodium Chloride, aka table salt kills plants. Epsom ‘salt’ is actually a pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate in crystal form. It looks like salt crystals so it’s labeled ‘salt’, but it has no sodium chloride. In fact Epsom salt is used as a fertilizer or plant booster for many plants including roses and tomatoes. The vinegar alone would have done a much better job, probably, although they say vinegar will only kill the leaves or parts above ground and not a root. Sodium chloride or true salt will kill the entire plant, leaves stem, & root, BUT it will also sterilize the soil and nothing else will ever grow in that spot where true salt has been put.

  • Gehugh

    As an alternative to ridding your property of every possible unsightly weed: consider consuming the dandelion greens and picking the yellow flower heads before they blow out. You might want to find out what kind of ‘weeds’ you have and act accordingly. After many years of DDE (Daily Dandelion Elimination) every spring we had it with that method and made peace with the greens and just pulled the tops. Our Fiskars weed popper was great then. We have thistle, spotted knapweed, oxeye daisy and several other noxious and invasive weeds that we work on eliminating every year. Hand pulling is the most successful we’ve found.
    There is a website, urbanfoodgarden.org, that may be of interest to those who don’t have to live with manicured lawns.

  • Maggie

    I have used a teakettle of boiling water for most areas. I don’t concern myself much with lawn weeds. Works like a charm.

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  • Tami Yeomans

    I have concrete blocks with pansies growing in them along the edge of our patio. If I spray the permanent killer on the lawn side of them, will it effect the pansies?

    • Scott

      If it leaches through the porous concrete blocks – bingo death to the pansies. I assume you are talking about the salt because it’s the permanent killer, Roundup / glyphosate break down in the soil and it’s unlikely to leach through the concrete before it breaks down.

      • john

        glyphosate (roundup) is banned in many countries because it is highly cancerous and causes birth defects.
        It doesn’t just disappear! regardless of what Monsanto would have you believe.

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  • Scott

    Sure fell in love with the ‘natural’ home remedy herbicide…Until I read about the toxicity of each and not to mention the permanent soil sterilization that salt does. As to price – Still not a winner. White Vinegar is between $2.50 to $3.50 a gallon, disregard the price of an oz of dishwashing liquid and skip the salt and you are going to use that straight no dilution. Eliminator (A glyphosate only weed killer is currently $34.99/gallon) in a gallon container using at the strongest recommended concentration is going to cost you just under $.70/gallon that’s bout 25% the price of just white vinegar and with white vinegar you get a top only kill of everything and with glyphosate you get a systemic kill. BOTH break down in the soil – that is unless you add salt to the ‘home remedy’ mix and then the price goes some more and you render that soil sterile for a lengthy period of time. And lest we forget, that salt will leach into the surrounding soil with affects determined by how high that concentration rises over time.
    I’m not pro-roundup or any other chemical. BUT given that the EPA still has not found a reason to ban or provide any cancer-causing connection to glyphosate. Further at least one other report gives salt and acetic acid (the active ingredient in white vinegar) a higher toxicity rating to humans than glyphosate. I have to say – I’ll save my money and stay with Roundup or other glyphosate containing products.
    One last point – in ancient times the conquering armies that wanted to infllict the most long lasting damage on their enemies – would salt their fields to prevent any crops from growing for years. Once dissolved into the soil the soil was rendered useless for crops.

  • martymarsh

    I have a pile of dirt that keeps growing weeds and so far this process is taking along time, I have hit it like 3 times now and a lot of it is still green.

  • Dee

    I have killed weeds in my backyard that grow around my pool area, by using the salt/vinegar method. However, the soil composition has changed, and now there are ant colonies throughout the whole area. To get rid of the ants, I pour boiling water on them, but it is a large area, and not a permanent solution. Any advice?

    • Seth

      Hi Dee, have you tired the ‘Borax solution’ we had a problem with ants once and I tried all the ant sand, ant powder, commercial insecticides etc and the ants just kept coming back! I found the borax recipe in one my Dad’s old gardening books, so I mixed it up and used it around the ants, after a few days it works wonders. I couldn’t find the book but I did find the recipe for you on the internet: ”Mix one cup warm water with ½ cup sugar and 3 tablespoons borax. Soak it up with cotton balls and place them in shallow dishes near ant trails” I found it best to place the balls near where the ants nest. It doesn’t kill straight away as they carry it back (the solution, not the cotton ball!) to the nest. Try not to disturb or kill any ants you see as you want them to keep coming for the solution.
      I bought the Borax from the supermarket in the laundry section. Hope this works for you.
      Seth.

      • judeanbob

        Another way is to use Borax powder mixed with icing sugar in equal parts, the ants love sugar and will transport both the icing sugar and borax deep into the nest for all to enjoy. If you can’t find any Borax, use baking soda mixed with the icing sugar instead. Ants have no way to expel gas from their body generated by the baking soda once they eat it with the icing sugar. They will swell up and rupture causing death.

  • MM

    Anyone ever find an effective solution to be used over a large area using an Ortho sprayer, (thru a garden hose)?

  • Robin Lillian

    Salt poisons the soil. It makes it barren for generations. In the past, when a conquering nation wanted to destroy a land/people, they would sow the water and soil with salt. (The Bible has examples.) Not all pollutants are new inventions.

    PLEASE stick to vinegar and dish soap, etc. Even if you never want ANYTHING to grow in that spot EVER again, what if you sell the house? What about future generations?

    Remember, we do not own the world. We merely borrow it from our children.

    This is not a criticism of anyone. Just please understand that the consequences of salting the earth last a very long time.

  • Kathy Meadows-Goodman

    I’ve noticed several new ‘recipes’ online that suggest using Epsom salt instead of table salt. Please note Epsom ‘salt’ is NOT in any sense of the word actually salt. It will do nothing except possibly help the weeds revive. Epsom ‘salt’ is not true Salt; true salt is Sodium. Sodium/Salt acts as a drying agent, which is why Sodium Chloride, aka table salt kills plants. Epsom ‘salt’ is actually a pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate in crystal form. It looks like salt crystals so it’s labeled ‘salt’, but it has no sodium chloride. In fact Epsom salt is used as a FERTILIZER or plant booster for many plants including roses and tomatoes. The vinegar alone will do a much better job, probably, although the vinegar will only kill the parts above ground and not a root. Sodium chloride or true salt will kill the entire plant, leaves stem, & root, BUT it will also sterilize the soil and nothing else will ever grow in that spot where true salt has been put. Epsom ‘salt’ will not harm the plant nor the soil.

    • Edward Keating

      Actually

    • killermouse1974

      to reinforce comments by edward keating…..

      epsom salt aka magnesium sulfate is, without any doubt whatsoever, a salt.

      sodium chloride aka table salt is but only one of many many many many many salts, and all are “true salt” using your term. “salt is an ionic compound that results from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base”.

      salt can be categorised in different ways eg component ions can be inorganic or organic, and can be monatomic or polyatomic, and there are varieties of salts dissolved in water eg salts that hydrolyze to produce hydroxide ions are basic salts, whilst those that hydrolyze to produce hydronium ions are acidic salts, and neutral salts are those that are neither acid nor basic salts.

      many fertilisers used in agricultural are salts and/or derived from salts eg potassium sulphate, potassium nitrate, potassium chloride, monocalcium phosphate aka single superphosphate, monoammonium phosphate. micronutrients like molybdenum, zinc, and copper are provided as water-soluble salts. these are all salts, or as you put it “true salts”.

      salt can absorb water that would otherwise be available to the roots and effectively dehydrate them causing plant stress, which can kill the plant.

      but sodium chloride aka table salt is toxic because it is made up of sodium and chloride and both are toxic to plants when present in high concentration. sodium ions in the salt
      replace other nutrients in the soil that plants need eg potassium calcium and magnesium, so these nutrients become unavailable to the plant. roots absorb the chloride ions and transport them to the leaves, where they accumulate and interfere with chlorophyll
      production and photosynthesis.

      although i did an agricultural degree, it was a long time ago and i have forgotten a lot of what i learnt, so i had to do some reading to be able to write this response, and i might not have explained it perfectly compared to a soil and/or plant specialist, or someone willing to do more reading than i did, it is more or less accurate and based on science, rather than uninformed and inaccurate opinion.

  • Terrie Lewis

    Thank you for telling me about Epsom salt. I have read of it being used as a soil supplement. I have seen a recipe for weed killer calling for epsom salt, but it didn’t work for us. I know that there are places mentioned in the Bible where salt was sowed in the fields of the enemy.

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  • Madison Hedge

    Solizarization with plastic would kill seeds and sterilize the ground

  • Doodonde

    As for all you yahoos yelling about salt . . it’s MY land. Not borrowed. I’m not a tenant. I OWN it. If I want to put salt in the soil and sterilize it, then I will. If you don’t like it, find another planet to live on you tree hugging a-holes.

    • JF

      Geez… Take it easy.

  • anthonyjohnson114@gmail.com

    Hey it’s great you are trying to avoid Roundup but most vinegar, including the white vinegar you are using, is made from corn which is a GMO product grown using the exact
    Roundup you are trying to avoid. So you are still contributing to
    damaging the environment by purchasing that product, and you are still
    supporting Monsanto the creator of Roundup by purchasing a product that
    is made using Roundup. Use an organic or non-GMO vinegar instead,
    otherwise what you are doing is pointless.

  • Leo Russell

    Lrussell067

  • Leo Russell

    One question please. I plan to use this formula but am wondering if it will kill the grass as well. I am seeding a new area but would like to spray first. Will it have a negative effect on new seeds? thanks

  • Jessica Lambert

    I tried this weed killer but can’t get the salt to dissolve any ideas on how to do this.