This Cheap Weed Killer Is The Easy DIY You Need

Kick weeds to the curb with a cheap weed killer spray you can make with everyday household items like vinegar, salt, and liquid dish soap. I’ll show you just how easy this spray is to make in this post, plus I’ll highlight a few other natural weed killers and tips to prevent weeds from growing in the first place.

Photos of a woman spraying a homemade weed killer on weeds, and before and after photos of weeds alive then dead.

Jillee’s Take:

I’ve been looking for a good homemade weed killer for years, but it wasn’t until I tried the recipe in this post that I found one that checked all of my boxes. It’s cheap, effective, and so easy to make!

Know Your Enemy: Understanding Weeds

Why Do Weeds Love Grass And Lawns?

If you have a lawn to care for, you likely consider weeds a nuisance. What I find interesting is that the short, tidy grass lawns we love so much provide weeds with an almost ideal environment in which to thrive!

Weeds, like most plants, need soil, water, and sunshine to grow. Well-kept grass provides easy access to all three, making it an ideal environment for weeds to take root.

Photo of weeds growing in a sidewalk crack before application of the cheap weed killer.
I could not survive the gardening season without my homemade weed killer!

The Many Types Of Weeds

The term “weed” doesn’t apply to any one plant, but rather to unwanted plants that are considered invasive, problematic, or otherwise undesirable. Here are just a few of the perennial weeds that may pop up in your yard:

  • Wild violet
  • Wild onions
  • Wild garlic
  • Dandelions
  • Crabgrass
  • Thistles
  • Bindweed
  • Broadleaf weed
  • Garlic mustard
Cheap weed killer - spraying homemade weed killer on a weed in a sidewalk crack

What’s The Best Way To Get Rid Of Weeds?

There are a few ways to get rid of weeds, starting with manually removing them from the ground. As long as you eliminate the weeds completely — roots and all — this can be an effective option that prevents them from growing back, but it’s easier said than done!

Herbicides are another popular option for killing weeds, and home improvement and gardening stores offer a variety of commercial weed killers that are easy to use. However, since many commercial herbicides (such as Roundup) are toxic and may pose a threat to humans and pets when misused, they’re not an ideal solution.

Lucky for us, there’s a way to enjoy both the convenience of commercial weed killers and the safety and effectiveness of manual weeding: making your own safe weed killer!

How To Make A Cheap Weed Killer

The ingredients for this cheap homemade weed killer are Dawn dish soap, white vinegar, salt, and a spray bottle.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 Tbsp table salt
  • 1 Tbsp liquid dish soap
Photo showing a woman pouring vinegar for a cheap weed killer into a spray bottle

Directions:

Add vinegar and salt to a 16-ounce spray bottle and shake until the salt has dissolved (it can help if you warm up the vinegar). Add the dish soap, replace the sprayer top and shake gently to mix. With this improved recipe, we’ve added more dish soap to make it even more effective.

Spray weeds with homemade weed killer as soon as you notice them - photo of a woman spraying a weed.
Use this homemade weed killer on a warm, sunny day and weeds do not stand a chance!

Spray this homemade weed killer onto weeds as soon as you notice them — it works best on small weeds. Be careful of overspray to avoid singeing any grass around the weed. For best results, spray the weeds on a warm, sunny day. Wait at least three days before re-spraying.

How This Vinegar Weed Killer Works

This spray’s effectiveness comes from its three main ingredients: vinegar, salt, and dish soap.

Photo of pouring vinegar into a cup: in this DIY weed killer, the acid in vinegar burns the weed.
The secret ingredient!

White vinegar (or household vinegar) contains acetic acid that burns weeds on contact and lowers the pH of the surrounding soil. Both factors make it hard for weeds to survive, and since vinegar has an indefinite shelf life, there’s no need to worry about how long the bottle has been sitting in your cupboard.

Photo of pouring salt into a measuring spoon - the salt in this homemade weed killer dries the weed out.

Table salt gives this DIY weed killer a boost by making it more dehydrating. Salt is highly effective at drawing moisture out of plants (particularly on sunny days), and when combined with vinegar, it can help reduce the chances that a weed will grow back.

Photo of Dawn dish soap being measured - dish soap helps this diy weed killer stick to the leaves of the weeds.

Dish soap is a surfactant that plays an important role in this DIY recipe. It helps the spray cling to the leaves of the weeds you apply it to, rather than sliding right off.

Together, these common yet powerful ingredients make a homemade weed killer that is:

  • Cheap to make
  • Easy to use
  • Fast-acting
  • Non-toxic

And yes, this vinegar weed killer really works! OGT reader Colleen even reports having used this week killer to kill poison ivy — after several applications.

“…most people don’t like dandelions in their flower beds, gardens and lawns, and they certainly aren’t pretty to look at! Personally, I can’t wait to make this and get rid of a bunch of weeds, dandelions included!! Thanks for sharing this information Jillee!!”

– OGT reader Luann

Potential Drawbacks

This homemade weed killer spray works best on young weeds, as older weeds with deep roots are often significantly harder to kill. Similarly, weeds with waxy leaves may require several applications to kill.

It’s also important to note that this weed killer will kill (or at least harm) any plant you spray it on! Apply the spray carefully to avoid brown spots in your grass or garden.

Photo of a dead weed killed overnight by a cheap weed killer made with vinegar.
Later that same day…..bye bye noxious weeds!

More Cheap Ways To Kill And Prevent Weeds

1. Burn Weeds With A Propane Torch

You can instantly kill weeds with a propane torch made just for this. It’s great for weeds in rocks and on driveways and sidewalks. All you have to do is walk around and pull the trigger to burn weeds away completely. They may come back because you probably won’t kill the roots, and it works better on some weeds than others.

You can get a propane torch at Home Depot for around $25, and a bottle of propane lasts quite a long time. Just be careful not to scorch your shoes!

2. Kill Weeds Quickly With Boiling Water

If weeds are a problem in the cracks of your sideways or driveway, boiling water makes a quick and easy solution! Boil a kettle of water, then take it outside and pour it directly (and carefully) onto them to kill weeds. This is probably the cheapest way to kill grass and weeds quickly.

Note: This method won’t kill deeply rooted weeds, but it’s a quick and easy way to buy yourself a fair amount of weed-free time before they bounce back!

3. Use Corn Gluten Meal To Prevent Weed Growth

Corn gluten meal, a byproduct of wet corn milling processes, is a non-toxic substance that can prevent weed seeds from germinating in your garden. Wait until the soil is dry, then sprinkle corn gluten meal around established plants and water it in. Keep the soil dry for two or three days before watering again.

Note: Corn gluten meal can prevent any seed from sprouting, so don’t use it until your plants are well-established!

4. Cut Down And Smother Weeds

Weeds need sunlight and oxygen to grow; depriving them of both can help eliminate weeds from larger areas. Use a weed trimmer or mower to level them off, then cover the ground with newspaper, landscaping fabric, cardboard, or organic mulch. Without access to sun and air, weeds will eventually die off.

5. Keep Your Lawn Healthy

Weeds can’t grow as easily in a dense, healthy lawn as they can in sparse grass, so keep your lawn healthy to discourage weed growth. If there are areas of your lawn where grass is sparse or weeds tend to thrive, sending a soil sample to a local extension program can help you get to the root of the problem (pun intended!)

Frequently Asked Questions

What Kind Of Vinegar Should I Use?

I recommend using white vinegar, cleaning vinegar, or apple cider vinegar with a concentration of 6-10 percent. This will maximize the effectiveness of your spray without risking eye or throat irritation.

How Do I Use This Weed Killer Safely?

For the sake of your other plants (not to mention your own face), avoid using weed killers on windy days. When you do use it, apply only as much as needed and keep pets out of the area until the spray dries.

Where Should I Not Use This Weed Killer?

Avoid using this spray near your vegetable garden or around porous stone surfaces to avoid unnecessary damage.

How Can I Avoid Overspray?

Use the “stream” setting on your spray bottle to make the spray easier to aim. A tall, cylindrical object (like a large can of beans with the lid and bottom removed) can also help you apply the spray more accurately.

Can I Use This Weed Killer In A Sprayer?

Yes! To make a larger batch, adjust the amounts to 1 gallon of vinegar, 1 cup of table salt, and 1 cup of dish soap. After applying the spray with your sprayer, transfer any leftover weed killer to an airtight container and clean your sprayer thoroughly.

Will This Weed Killer Harm My Soil?

While too much salt can be bad for your soil, the small amount of salt in this homemade weed killer isn’t enough to cause concern.

How Do I Store This Weed Killer?

Pour it into an airtight container and store it in a cool, dry place. You can use it all season long, just like my natural garden bug spray.

Before and after photos of weeds sprayed with a homemade weed killer -- live weed, then dead weed.
This Before & After photo almost brings a tear to my eye! ;-)

Conclusion

The fight against weeds in your lawn or garden never truly ends, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the upper hand! My advice for controlling weeds in your yard is to check for them often and address them ASAP. As I mentioned earlier, the sooner you apply this cheap weed killer, the better!

Do you have a recipe for a homemade weed killer that you like? Let us know in the comments below!

Photos of a woman spraying a homemade weed killer on weeds, and before and after photos of weeds alive then dead.

DIY Cheap Weed Killer Spray (Step by Step)

Jill Nystul
This homemade weed killer is cheap, effective, and easy to make with a few simple ingredients!
3.73 from 43 votes
Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Cost $2
Yield 16 ounces

Equipment

  • spray bottle

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp table salt
  • 1 Tbsp dish soap

Instructions
 

  • Add the vinegar and salt to a 16-ounce spray bottle, then replace the top and shake to combine.
    Photo showing a woman pouring vinegar for a cheap weed killer into a spray bottle
  • Remove the spray top, add the dish soap, then replace the top and tip the bottle gently side to side.
  • To use, spray onto weeds as soon as you notice them, ideally on a warm, sunny day. (Avoid overspray to protect nearby grass and plants!)
    Spray weeds with homemade weed killer as soon as you notice them - photo of a woman spraying a weed.

Video

YouTube video

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Homekeeping Tips

  • Please consider not spraying weeds that are not noxious, like dandelions, violets, clover or other early blooming plants. Our bees need these plants to survive until other plants blossom. And we need our bees. One other thing to consider for driveways is boiling water. Just pour it over the grasses/weeds and that will kill them.

  • This method takes a couple of days to work. I use a flamer — a small propane bottle on one end and flame on the other – Red Devil makes it. It burns the weed on top and goes into the soil to kill the root. You obviously should not use it on mulch, pine straw or anything that would be flammable.

  • Be careful where you put any type of weed killers. The build-up of salt and other ingredients, in the soil will make growing anything difficult. Mulching not only does not hurt the soil but also makes pulling the few weeds that come up easier to pull.

    I agree Carol, I love my weeds for a variety of uses.

  • We have a vacation home right on a lake, and herbicides (and pesticides) are strictly forbidden as they would pollute the lake. I have used this ‘natural’ herbicide and, while it’s not as long-lasting perhaps as a commercial herbicide, it does work!

  • I have used this a lot over the years. It is effective, but most likely needs to be done more than once a growing season. I mostly use it to keep fence lines clear. To make a gallon to use in a sprayer just mix one gallon of vinegar, 1 cup of salt, and a good squirt of dish soap. A slightly stronger version (not to be used around pets) is using borax in place of the salt.

  • I would add something to this post. While this is a very effective weed killer, if used a lot, it can actually sterilize the soil over time. I learned this from our local garden center. Now this might take years, but it’s something to consider. We use this concoction on our gravel driveway. Over the years we have seen fewer and fewer weeds even come up. If you’re using it in flower beds or around plants you want to keep, it would be prudent to limit your usage.

    • I live in the desert. My front “lawn” is stones. Thanks for the information about sterilizing the soil. I too have been using this method for a few years with fewer weeds noted.

  • I’m all about not using pesticides whenever possible. The only exception is killing dandelions especially when young. We put them in salad. They are good for reducing blood pressure. My Gram was Italian and they lived on dandelion greens.
    Great post, Jill! Thanks

  • Good Post Jillee – Many of the plants that people consider weeds are actually volunteer herbs, edible and nutritious, including Dandelion.. I love my weeds / herbs. For the last three years I have had volunteer lactuca Canendensis (wild lettuce) volunteering in my front flower bed. It might make the neighbors a little crazy (they get 9 – 10 feet tall before they bloom), but I love them

  • This is very interesting. My mom and my nieces busted their rears off recently weeding a patch in between our house and our neighbors house . I had wondered about the effectiveness of the salt. When I first started my job this old lady would come in and buy at least 5-6 containers of salt . She said it helped with the weeds. I can’t remember all the details. I think she lived out in the country and using these huge amounts of salt would have killed any grass. That’s why I had wondered about the salt.

  • Thank you! Your hints are so helpful. I’ll try this today and let you know. I have some pretty bad ones, so this will be a good test.

  • Just so you know, Dandelions are not weeds. They are the first food that Bees and Butterflies go to for nourishment when Spring arrives and they migrate north. Please, leave the Dandelions. Help our Bees and Butterflies~!

    • Bees are feeding on tree flowers (found on any early seeding deciduous trees) which are typically far more abundant than anything blooming in the ground

  • Oh my God…..what you presented right on that picture above as a ”weed” it actually belongs to the family of DANDELION !!!!Dont kill them just cut them and boil them and drink the tea or have them as a salad!!!

  • Dandelions are not good for you if they have been sprayed with herbicide, our neighbors spray their entire lawn with the stuff so I am not going to eat anything from the lawn! Maybe if you live away from town where weeds etc are truly wild, not in the city however.

    • Your neighbor’s spraying shouldn’t affect your yard. Note that unless you eat only organic food, you are eating food that has either directly or indirectly been “contaminated” with herbicides and pesticides. Food from your yard is likely cleaner.

  • Another great and nontoxic weed killer is boiling water. Works quite well on weeds in sidewalk and driveway cracks. I’ve even taken the pot of water used to boil corn and reused it as a weed eradicator. Might take two applications of boiling water but it works quite well.

      • When I was a child, there was a great deal of poison ivy at edge of yard. My grandmother spread the area with the rock salt after we had made ice cream and it was eradicated without hurting the trees that were also at the edge of the property.

      • Yes It works eventually. Every time I saw the poison ivy leaves starting to come out again I’d spray it again and again all summer long. I just used straight vinegar though. It may work faster with the soap in it.

    • I wouldn’t say it’s a fantastic plant….that’s going a bit far. It CAN help with some health issues like liver detox, however if you don’t know exactly what you are doing, you can damage your liver and kidneys. And really, whether you see it as a good plant or not, most people don’t like dandelions in their flower beds, gardens and lawns, they certainly aren’t pretty to look at! Personally, I can’t wait until tomorrow to make this and get rid of a bunch of weeds, dandelions included!! Thanks for sharing this information Jillee!!

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