These All-Natural, Homemade Weed Killers Actually Work

Learn how to kill pesky weeds as safely as possible with homemade weed killers made of natural ingredients you probably already have on hand.

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Picture of a lawn nicely edged with a spade, to incorporate a rose bed.
Picture of a lawn nicely edged with a spade, to incorporate a rose bed. Photo: David Beaulieu

A manicured lawn and a lawn care regimen polished to perfection can actually make the grass more susceptible to weeds! Dandelion, crabgrass, and basically anything with a seed, love to work their way into neatly clipped grass and Pinterest-worthy gardens.

One natural weed killer to keep those unsightly greens at bay?

"Keep the lawn long, so it takes longer for seeds to work their way down the ground," says Leslie Reichert, founder of Green Cleaning Coach. Or try the old-fashioned, labor-intensive method: "Sometimes you can't control exactly where the weed killer disseminates when sprayed. If you're afraid of brown spots in your lawn, a weed puller and a bucket can be your best bet."

For something a little stronger than old-school weed pulling, but still natural and toxin-free, try these DIY, homemade weed killers to wage the war on weeds with ingredients that are most likely lying around your house. Your beautiful lawn and outdoor plants will thank you.

Homemade Weed Killer

Try this homemade weed killer as part of your spring lawn care.

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon of vinegar
  • 1 cup of salt or Borax
  • 1 tablespoon of dish soap

To Apply:

  1. Combine ingredients in a spray bottle that lets you toggle the nozzle between a spray or a stream.
  2. If it's a small area, shoot a stream. If it's an all-over weed situation, go for the spray.

Don't go crazy, though: "Be careful with it," Reichert advises. "It doesn't know the difference between a weed and a flower." Especially when using the more potent Borax (a naturally occurring substance that doesn't cause lingering harm to an ecosystem or absorb through the skin), the solution can also kill the soil so that nothing else will grow around it.

This method works best on a sunny day, as the natural acid will burn the plant, and the salt will shrivel it up by sundown. (The dish soap helps the solution stick to the weeds.) For a quick curb appeal fix, it's also lasting.

Newspaper

Even professional landscapers are known to use this simple, natural weed killer. If your garden is infested, use a weed whacker to address the culprits, then lay down yesterday's newspaper. Newspaper blocks beginning weeds from growing and new seeds from forming by shutting out sun and air. Top it off with mulch and the weeds won't show up, Reichert says. The newspaper will break down eventually, too, so there's no clean-up.

Boiling Water

Talk about a DIY weed killer: This one is inexpensive, simple, effective, and completely free of chemicals. For areas like cracks in sidewalks and driveways, take a pot of boiling water and pour it on the weeds. It will kill them right away, Reichert says. Be sure to get close to the plant and pour slowly, to avoid being splashed. If the weeds re-grow, repeat the process until the area is free and clear.

Note that boiling water won't kill the weeds at their roots, according to Chris McGeary, chief marketing officer at Lawn Doctor, a lawn care company. This option isn't a permanent one, as the plants can grow back, so use it only as needed. And, of course, take safety precautions to avoid burns.

Lemon Juice

This pretty fruit not only grows in the garden; it also helps keep it pristine, since lemon juice serves as a natural acid to kill weeds.

Fill a spray bottle with real lemon juice and saturate any perpetrators—the natural solution will dry up and kill the leaves within one or two days. If you don't have an abundance of lemon trees in the backyard, a bottle of ReaLemon ($4; amazon.com) also does the trick.

For an extra-strong formula, mix the lemon juice with acidic vinegar. The kind of vinegar sold at garden stores or nurseries is stronger than supermarket options, so there are ways to make this homemade weed killer more potent, if needed.

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