How to Make All-Natural Weed Killer—Super Easy and Better Than Roundup!

I often wonder why is it that weeds have no problem at all with drought-like conditions. They don’t require a thing—not water, fertilizer or protection from pests and predators.


Weeds don’t even need soil. They’re happy to grow in cracks in the sidewalk—even asphalt.

Weeds don’t complain, don’t need to be babied and do their best work under the worst of circumstances—the hotter the better! Weeds never give up. I wish I were more like weeds.

Still, weeds are the bane of every gardener; a problem for every homeowner.

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.

A man riding on the back of a truck

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.

A close up of a rock

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 (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.


 If you have weeds in areas you want to replant, do this: Fill a good quality spray bottle or ordinary garden sprayer with white vinegar and add about one teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap like blue DawnApply 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. 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.


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 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 take this semi-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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8 replies
  1. Maria says:

    Mary, the mix you recommend for cleaning the grime off of bathrooms (one part Dawn to 3 parts vinegar) is great as a weed killer too. It even works great as an insecticide! My ants have disappeared from the exterior of the house. I just make sure that I spray around the areas where they might have their nests and not on areas where we walk (I don’t want anyone slipping and falling). Thanks for the information!

  2. Jackie says:

    Do NOT use this as a weed killer. It kills anything it contacts, does not kill the roots, contains many chemicals (what do you think Dawn is), and leaves behind salts and chemicals that harm the soil and all the beneficial microbes. As Master Gardeners we teach the importance of using the least toxic method and this is NOT it. Glyphosate used correctly is actually safer and more effective. Don’t believe the scare tactics.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Jackie … Have you considered the dilution of 1 teaspoon liquid soap (any brand … you do not have to use Dawn as stated) to 1 gallon vinegar? Salt left behind in the second recipe is by design—to sterilize the soil where one would never want anything to grow such as walkways, driveways, garden paths, the street … ! You prove an important point: The topic of glyphosate is a hot button issue. Thanks for your comment. It makes all of us take notice and weigh the issues. Of course the biggest issue here: The cost! We’re always looking for ways to save time and money … every day. P.S. I have researched the formulation of Dawn and find it has fewer ingredients than many high-end shampoos. Curiously, the main ingredient in Dawn is the same in those that I have compared. -mh

    • RealMath says:

      Ill drink a quarter cup of the vinegar mix above. You drink a quarter cup of round-up. We’ll discuss which is more toxic the following day.

  3. Michele says:

    I think for a small area of weed killing this would definitely get the job done. However for me I could easily weedwhack for 3 hours a week. Who wants to do that every week, or even month? Not me. I found using the extended weed killer with the glyphosate, etc.saves me a ton of work throughout summer. I am careful and use it only where necessary. It’s a time saver in more ways then one.

    • N.D. says:

      This post was intended to share information for people wanting to use a natural non harmful to the environment product. Please do your research about products containing glyphosate .

  4. D. says:

    I am wondering if I can use this weed killer around a chain link fence. I have been very hesitant to use commercial weed killer in this area, due to concens for pets. My concern with the salt would be rust. Any ideas? Thanks!

  5. Falconsoars says:

    Dawn or any other commercial soap is NOT “natural”. Just read the ingredients!! I attended a class last weekend on how to create a natural butterfly garden at the Florida Native Butterfly Society. I asked specifically about using soap on plants and the teacher basically told us the above. I looked at the labels of 4 commercial soap products when I got home. She’s absolutely right – they’re all chemicals, about as far from “natural” as you can get. She emphasized that although not as toxic as glyophosphate (the main ingredient of Roundup), chemicals in soap will kill butterflies and their caterpillar young. I don’t need to be a biologist to figure out that if it kills them it can’t be good for other life either. I eat all natural and organic food; I’m sure not going to be so hypocritical as to toxify plants and animals by using chemicals in my yard. I’m going to move my soap products from my garden supply cupboard to the kitchen where they belong. Then I’m going to use one of the totally natural DIY weed killer recipes available all over the web.

    Update: I posted this on other sites recommending chemical dish soap – Dawn or equivalent, for killing weeds so-called “naturally”. Someone tipped me off about using a vegetable-based soap – Castile Soap to spray on their plants for pests like spider mites and white fly. Another mentioned they had used it successfully in a vinegar recipe to kill weeds too. I’m going to ask my butterfly garden teacher to make sure, but it would be great to come up with an effective totally natural (plant-based, absolutely no chemicals) weed killer.

    The salt might be a no-no for any area like mine where you intend to plant butterfly attracting plants. I do know I can’t use anything with salt or similar minerals in it near palm trees because it’s toxic to them (that includes run-off and underground drainage from the area with weed killer too). That also includes putting in on ground that you might use later to plant palms. I just studied up on palms because I bought a pygmy date palm tonight. Even the planting and care label on it very explicitly warned about salt as a palm killer.


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