Tips and Tricks: Homemade Weed Killer That Is Safe for Kids and Pets

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by The Thrifty Couple

Do you hate the weeds?  We do! We have many parts of our yard covered in weed barrier, a project that we have been slowly working on over the years.  It works great for some areas, but some simply cannot be covered, or we get these weeds that seep through the barrier, especially on the sides. Not to mention the pesky weeds that grow between the concrete divides or cracks.

Well, we personally are not a fan of either Weed-B-Gone or Round Up or other similar formulas for a very harsh way to kill weeds.  We have concerns with it in regards to our foods growing in our gardens – we have 6 sq. foot boxes growing hundreds of plants, potato tower, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, strawberries, goji berries, container blueberries, container asparagus, 2 plum trees, 2 apple trees, 1 pear tree, 2 lemon trees and 1 peach tree. And our lot is only 1/4 acre and that 1/4 acre includes the space our house takes up.

So why am I telling you this? It’s because we have a lot in a small space.  If we start spraying chemicals all over our yard, or even in specific spots, it will most likely drift to our food somewhere.  In addition, not only do we want our gardens protected, but our kids! We have a playhouse, sandbox, swingset and trampoline that take up the other spaces in our yard = kids everywhere else where food is not growing. Not to mention the dangers to pets as well.

My aunt is a professor at MIT.  She has become a leading published expert on the dangers of RoundUp and interviewed by many leading health professionals on the topic.  One of her goals is to inform as many as she can about RoundUp.  So just for her sake, she would be very disappointed if we exposed our kids or foods to it. 🙂

Well, we do pull, sweat, tug, fight, sweat some more, wrestle and get down right dirty with the weeds in our yard as a non-harsh chemical way of dealing with them.  But…..we were getting tired of the physical fights with them.  So I hopped online and checked out garden forums that I follow to see what others were doing.

Vinegar in and of itself has been a decent natural response, but not as effective as I was hoping for some weeds.

I needed a concoction that will work a bit hard than just vinegar by itself.

So in the course of my research, I discovered “key” ingredients to get a better job done.

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1. Vinegar – This is the main ingredient and the core and base of any natural weed killing recipe.  What you actually add to your vinegar will determine the amount of increase of performance. The reason why this works is that white distilled vinegar that you can buy at nearly any store for household use contains 3-5% acetic acid.  What is acetic acid? Well, it is a desiccant and this means it removes moisture.  So, when you spray it on weeds and plants, the water in the leaves is drawn and the “above ground” foliage dies off.  In some plants, it may reach the root, but not as often as we would hope.  Also, vinegar may not really work for some weeds and plants that have a waxy coating or other natural barrier on them.   However, it is still your primary and main ingredient – that’s a good thing because it is cheap too!

So now the other ingredients that you add to this base is what is going to take this to the next level.


2. Salt – Salt is another very effective component and compliment to a natural weed killing recipe.  Regular ol’ salt of any kind is based on sodium chloride (most every salt except epsom) is easy to find and cheap. Salt, like vinegar, is also a desiccant, so it too will dry out the leaves, stems and potentially get to the roots of the weed/plant. Basically by combining it with vinegar, you make the solution “extra strength.”


3. Oil – Oil is the secret ingredient. Oil can be used directly or found within soaps containing a high concentration of oil; soap is the most popular oil form used in homemade weed killers. Oils break down the waxy coatings or other natural barriers that many weeds and plants produce to protect their leaves. By breaking this down, you give a straight shot for the vinegar and salt to do it’s job. In addition, oils and soaps break the tension water on surfaces, which allows for the mixture to stay on the plant and not “run off” like just vinegar or vinegar/salt will do, again giving more ability for the vinegar and salt to penetrate and kill the weeds before slipping off the surface.

As mentioned, you can use oil directly or you can use certain soaps as most are oil based.  From my research, the best soap to use is the classic blue Dawn dish soap – the “grease” cutting power in this dish soap is most effective.  Using dish soaps that contain extra ingredients or that are moisturizing will not be very effective as they provide a coating. So it really needs to be the classic blue dawn.  You can also use vegetable/canola oils and even coconut oil. If you choose the coconut oil however, you will need to heat to liquify it and use it immediately.


4. Citrus Based Essential Oils (optional) – If you want to make a super formula that will be even more effective – add several drops of citrus based essential oil – lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit. Essential oils are the highly concentrated drops of oil from a particular plant or food – in this case the oil is extracted from the peel of these fruits.  There are many beneficial therapeautic uses for citrus essential oils at home and for personal use – in fact you can see 17 Helpful Household Uses for Lemon Essential Oil HERE.  One precaution for personal use of essential oils is that you should not be exposed to sunlight for 24 hours; well, that same rule is good for plants and weeds as this will cause the weeds to be exposed to the burning factor or sunlight and burn and die.

So now that I have given you the basis for the ingredients that you can use to make a super effective weed killer, let me share the recipe with you that I created based on these facts.

What you need:

    2 cups vinegar
    1 TBSP salt
    2 TBSP dawn or oils
    Several drops of citrus based essential oil (optional)
    Spray bottle (you will need 20 oz. minimum)

To make:

    Pour about 1 cup of vinegar in your spray bottle


Then add the salt


Add the oil or blue Dawn


    Finally, use the remaining vinegar to also wash out the funnel from the oil/soap to collect it all
    Put the lid back on and shake it well!
    Then use it on the weeds/plants you want to kill. You can really spray it on any part of the weed and the ingredients will do it’s job!
    Depending on the weed, it make take another application or two over a few day period.
    Be careful to not spray near plants that you want to live as this will kill wanted plants too!


That’s it! And this works well! You will want to spray the leaves and even the roots. This is an example of a weed next to our house that I sprayed and came back 18 hours later to snap this picture. It usually takes a couple of days. Now some weeds may need a second treatment as well after 2 days.

(Weeds two hours after application)


(Weeds 12 hours after application)

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