10 Weed Killers Made From Stuff Around the House

Photo (cc) by dvs

It’s great to get out in the garden again, but what about the weeds that beat you to it? Before picking up a synthetic herbicide, try one of these inexpensive, safe techniques.

Of course, you’ll stay a step ahead of weeds by pulling them as soon as they appear. Pounce after a rain, when the ground is soft and it’s easy to pull out the entire root. Weeding tools help pry out deep roots.

To supplement hand weeding, here are 10 weed killers you’ll find around the house. Depending on the weed and the method, you may need to treat weeds more than once.

1. Scalding

Pour boiling water directly on weeds. This kills many within a few days. It’s an especially good technique for hard-to-extract weeds growing in cracks and between pavers.

“When I boil potatoes or pasta during the gardening season, I repurpose the boiling water by draining the pot directly onto the weeds that like to invade my backyard herb garden and patio,” writes Jeff Yeager at Good Housekeeping.

2. Mowing

Crabgrass is the sworn enemy of many homeowners. It infests lawns and, even if you are willing to use a chemical treatment, often what kills the crabgrass also kills the lawn. Lawn fertilizers encourage crabgrass. The way to push it out is to keep your lawn healthy, lush and a bit longer than usual, says the Yard MD blog:

There are no expensive products or chemicals needed to do this; simple common sense will do. This means to keep your grass at least three to four inches high and change your attitude about the “need” for a short or scalped lawn. Those conditions invite crabgrass and allow it to thrive because they allow light to reach the unsprouted seeds.

3. Smothering and mulching

Covering the ground with heavy black or opaque plastic kills weeds by depriving them of light and moisture. Use old tarps, shower curtains and heavy plastic used to package electronics. Plastic is a type of inorganic mulch. Others include stones, gravel and landscape fabric.

Organic mulches don’t usually kill weeds; they prevent them from germinating. You have to pre-weed and then apply a thick layer of weed-seed-free mulch like shredded bark, wood chips, straw, compost, leaves, pine needles and lawn clippings. The mulch breaks down, enriching the soil and helping reduce evaporation.

Only with really heavy organic materials can you dispense with weeding. Some gardeners place layers of wet newspaper, flattened wet cardboard, carpet scraps and even old jeans on top of weeds and cover everything with a layer of mulch. It all eventually breaks down and becomes soil.

4. Solarizing

Clear plastic works faster than other types of plastic by using the sun’s heat to cook weeds. The Christian Science Monitor tells how:

The process, which is called solarization, uses the heat of the sun’s rays to literally cook plants, weed seeds, nematodes, insects, and soil pathogens (the “bad guy” fungi, bacteria, etc. that bring diseases to plants) in the uppermost layers of soil. It also makes nutrients more available to plants later grown in solarized soil.

5. Vinegar

Spray distilled white household vinegar (with 5 percent acidity) directly on weeds. If necessary, a stronger concentration can be purchased at garden stores. Vinegar kills any plant you spray, so be careful.

Treat weeds in the middle of a warm day for a boost from the sun’s heat. Use a spray bottle with a nozzle that has a pinpoint setting. Spray on windless days to avoid contaminating other plants. HGTV suggests adding a tablespoon of dish detergent and two tablespoons of vegetable oil per gallon of vinegar to help it stick to plants.

MSN Real Estate says a 50-50 vinegar-water solution works too: “This is a good method for attacking unwanted plants with long taproots, such as dandelions, dock and plantain.” About.com has more on using vinegar in the garden.

Vinegar’s acetic acid breaks down in water, so it won’t harm soil. Treat weeds when the ground is dry for the best effect.

6. Burning

You can use a light-duty household propane torch to kill weeds. “You don’t need to actually set weeds on fire to kill them; quickly running a flame over them will usually cause them to wilt and die within days,” says Good Housekeeping.

Butane kitchen torches have a wimpier flame, but eHow says gardening author Sharon Lovejoy, in “Trowel and Error,” describes using her kitchen torch to kill weeds by passing it over them for a few seconds.

7. Eating

“One person’s weed-filled lawn is another person’s salad bar,” says Organic Gardening magazine, explaining how to identify and eat eight weeds. I’m not suggesting eating as your only eradication technique. But when the garden gives you free food that’s full of antioxidant vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, why not say, “Pass the purslane, please?”

Among the many edible weeds, Good Housekeeping and Organic Gardening recommend dandelion greens, purslane, bamboo shoots, Japanese knotweed, lamb’s quarters, kudzu, red clover, garlic grass, plantain, sorrel, chickweed and burdock. Pick greens when they’re young, tender and mild tasting.

Wild watercress is edible but it can be associated with the dangerous liver fluke parasite, so it’s best avoided.

At HGTV Gardens, forager Steve Brill explains how to pick and eat chickweed. Mother Nature Network has harvesting information and recipes for purslane, Japanese knotweed, dandelion, kudzu and curly dock.

8. Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) kills weeds by sucking moisture from the leaves. SFGate says to use 2 tablespoons of alcohol to 1 quart of water. Spray it on, taking care to avoid other plants. “If the leaves haven’t withered after a couple hours, spray the plant again,” the article says.

9. Salt

Salt is an effective weed killer that’s a last-ditch solution for limited areas. Rock salt is the most economic form to use. Look for it on sale after winter.

Salt ruins soil for growing anything else. “This is a permanent solution for areas you never want anything else to grow in again,” says another SFGate article. The article tells how to make a salt solution for weed killing, adding:

If you’re interested in improving soil condition, don’t apply any rock salt to the area. Salt serves to weaken the integrity of the soil, and may damage it permanently. The only antidote is to remove the tainted dirt and replace it with new soil, and even that may not restore the area.

Spread a thin layer of salt where you want no plants to grow. Keep in mind that rain will dissolve salt and might leach it into nearby garden beds. Also, make sure when using liquid salt solution that it doesn’t seep or run downhill into beds.

10. Baking soda

Baking soda is another weed killer to treat very carefully. It contains sodium and, like salt (sodium chloride), it makes soil inhospitable to all plants, so use it only where you intend nothing to grow again.

Moisten weeds with water and sprinkle a teaspoon of baking soda onto the foliage. SFGate says, “Test the baking soda method with one or two weeds first to determine if this is the right weed management solution for your landscape, especially if the weeds are growing near desired plants and grass.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
12 Easy Ways To Make Make Money Online Without Leaving Home
12 Easy Ways To Make Make Money Online Without Leaving Home

If you’re hanging around the house a lot these days — and who isn’t? — use your time to make some extra cash.

9 Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Look Expensive
9 Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Look Expensive

These products from Amazon add elegance to your home without the expense.

7 Reasons You Should Not Claim Social Security Early
7 Reasons You Should Not Claim Social Security Early

The sooner you claim your Social Security retirement benefits, the more you — and perhaps also your spouse — stand to lose. Here are the stakes.

These 5 States Are the Most Expensive Places to Retire
These 5 States Are the Most Expensive Places to Retire

If you expect to have modest retirement income, you may want to avoid spending your golden years here.

21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On
21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On

With some items, it makes sense to pay a little more rather than hopping on the lowest price.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon
36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon

The writing is on the wall for dozens of things we have grown up with.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners
8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Some of these deductions and credits are available to a wide swath of homeowners.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money
17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money

You probably don’t realize these items are worth decent cash.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable
10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable

There are lots of things Uncle Sam can’t touch — so long as you play by the rules.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.