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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.

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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 are 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 not forced Roundup off the market. It’s a hot-button issue, that’s for sure.


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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.

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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 (Epsom salt, chemically, is not even close to table salt, trust me on that) or anything fancy. Just cheap iodized or un-iodized generic salt also known as sodium chloride (NaCl).

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.

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 or Meyer’s Clean Day. 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.

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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 (this is to break the surface tension of the mixture so it will stick to the plant material you’ll be killing). 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, but both are also 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!

MORE: Do-It-Yourself Pest Control for Home and Garden

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320 replies
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  1. Doodonde says:

    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.

    Reply
    • Mark Robinson says:

      nobody said you couldnt ruin your ground with salt, dude….. get ahold of yourself! you must be from Texass.

      Reply
    • Don Fowler says:

      People like you destroy not only their own land and supplies, but all those around them because the stuff runs off. People like you really do need to find another planet to live on. We may own a piece of earth, but if we destroy it, it never belonged to us. And if you ever want something out of the land, including selling it in the future, would you not want a valuable piece of land? Although many folks could care less, and you may very well be one of those.

      Reply
      • Mind says:

        In the north, we put tons and tons and tons of salt on the roads every winter, everything is fine. Where do you get your information?

      • Hannibal Smith says:

        You are wrong. Sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, and calcium chloride are all commonly used as road salts. Sodium chloride is most common because it’s cheapest. All of them should be outlawed for clearing roads. Not just for polluting our waterways, but for the billions in damage to vehicles, roads, and bridges. Plow and sand. If that’s not good enough, stay home.

      • Kate Ryan says:

        I grew up in the Midwest where salt was used all the time. It was corrosive over the long term, particularly to the undersides of cars. But it works, so there’s that.

  2. Terrie Lewis says:

    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 in the Bible it mentions where salt was sowed in the fields of the enemy.

    Judges 9:45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.

    Reply
    • laststand says:

      Salt is an extremely bad idea for general use as a weed killer. It ruins soil tilth and accumulates to toxic levels because plants do not use the salt. Over time salt will render your planter beds or garden areas completely fruitless.

      I’m an all phase landscape contractor with over 30 years on the ground and over 20 years running my own business. Roundup is the best that science has to offer, the active ingredients are all used by plants. The only thing you really should concern yourself with is runoff or working near any watershed or river. I refuse to spray near these places. This irresponsible rhetoric about Roundup causing cancer, or that “you should use salt” are lies spread by organic food growers who are trying to push their vastly overpriced products. In doing so they are damaging the earth, it’s really that simple. If you’re smart, and I think that you are… then you wont use salt to kill weeds.

      Reply
  3. Kathy Meadows-Goodman says:

    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.

    Reply
    • Edward Keating says:

      Actually, salt is a general term and magnesium sulfate, or Epsom salt, is a salt. A salt is any compound formed from the reaction of an acid with a base. But you are correct that it will typically aid plant growth because both magnesium and sulfur are necessary for plants to grow. Sodium chloride works well for this use because not only does the salt absorb large amounts of the water, keeping it from the plants, but the chlorine will separate from the sodium molecule and be absorbed by the roots. The resulting toxicity builds up quickly, killing the affected plants.

      Reply
    • killermouse1974 says:

      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.

      Reply
      • Mark Mauerman says:

        Holy shiest! What an amazing science lesson! Probably learned more right here than I did in my last science class.

    • Beuna Tomalino says:

      Although Epsom salts are used as a fertilizer I have used it with vinegar and the results were very good. I wondered how Epsom salts could help but it did. So maybe there is something about the combination of the two.

      Reply
  4. Robin Lillian says:

    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.

    Reply
    • Jack Snakes says:

      Christ – what a load of drama queens. rain water will eventually leach salt out of the soil just as it leaches out everything else. Here in the UK, that would take about a week in March…

      Reply
      • Sweetie says:

        It’s not “queen” anything. Salinization of soil is a huge global farming problem. Intentionally adding sodium salt to soil is stupid. In fact, it’s my opinion that sodium salt should be illegal for use as an ice melt. Calcium chloride works better (twice the number of ions per gram and effective at lower temps) and is safe for plants.

        “Soil salinization is a serious and difficult to reverse form of soil degradation. Topsoil salts can greatly reduce agricultural productivity, erode infrastructure, and impose long-term limitations on land productivity.”

      • Ann Shaffer says:

        I found the same thing. I used salt and vinegar in driveway cracks but the rainwater washed it away. Still growing weeds in the cracks..

    • fmrRhinoGib says:

      Gatorade might be the answer. In the movie, “Idiocracy”, the government ordered all farmers to irrigate their fields with it instead of water on the count that Gatorade was more nutritious, lol. Ms Lillian, while I respect your intent, I don’t think everyone is bent on sowing their entire yards with salt. What little is suggested here is far from the Biblical proportions you’re referring to.

      Reply
  5. Dee says:

    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?

    Reply
    • Seth says:

      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.

      Reply
      • judeanbob says:

        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.

  6. martymarsh says:

    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.

    Reply
  7. Scott says:

    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.

    Reply
  8. Tami Yeomans says:

    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?

    Reply
    • Scott says:

      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.

      Reply
      • john says:

        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.

      • Kemikulz says:

        And you know this how? One of the make-money-on-misinformation hysteria clickbait websites? Or a peer-reviewed study?

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