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Mary Hunt

There are a number of effective ways to kill weeds.

I say we look to nonchemical, cheap and relatively easy ways to kill weeds that really work.

Before we get going here, let me make clear that these weed-killing options are generally nonselective. That means they will kill whatever vegetation they touch, including lawn grass. Depending on the area and what you are trying to accomplish, that might not sound so bad. Be wise; use these options carefully. Make sure to always label homemade solutions and keep them out of the reach of children and pets.VINEGAR

A vinegar solution is one of the most common homemade weed killers. All you need is vinegar — distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar or cleaning vinegar — and a bit of dishwashing liquid like Blue Dawn.

U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers confirmed that acetic acid in vinegar is effective at killing some common weed species, including Canada thistle, lamb’s quarters, giant foxtail, velvetleaf and smooth pigweed.

Add about 1 tablespoon Blue Dawn per gallon of vinegar (you can eyeball it) and shake to mix. Pour undiluted vinegar into a large spray bottle or garden sprayer. Apply when the weather report says you’ll be getting a few continuous days of sunshine. Rain will wash the vinegar off the weeds too soon. Most of the damage happens when the sun hits the weeds’ leaves. Spray directly onto the weeds, being careful to keep the solution away from other plants.


Dawn dish soap weed killer is a popular choice for many gardeners because it is effective and safe. It works by breaking down the plant’s cell walls, causing the plant to dehydrate and die. It is especially effective as a moss killer.

For a general weed killer, mix 1 cup of Ultra Blue Dawn dish soap with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray on weeds, being careful to avoid overspraying onto plants you want to live. Be sure to spray on a sunny day so that the weeds will dry out quickly. Reapply as necessary.


Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol works to kill weeds as it removes moisture from the weed’s foliage, causing it to die. Use 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol for every 1 quart of water. Mix the solution in a spray bottle for ease of use. As with vinegar, apply on a sunny day and spray directly onto the weeds, being careful to avoid vegetation, plants and flowers that you want to live.


Here is the cheapest of all nontoxic, effective weed killers. And it’s easy to prepare and use — no mixing required, and it works on a sunny day as well as in the middle of the night — even in the pouring rain.

Carefully pour enough boiling water so it seeps deep into the roots. For this to be effective, the water needs to be boiling hot.


While not a home brew recipe, hitting weeds with a torch is certainly effective and similar to boiling water for killing weeds — roots and all. If you have large areas of weeds, this is much more efficient than heating up multiple kettles of water, making a big job more doable in a short period of time. The long handle means you can kill weeds without stooping. A word to the wise: Use extreme caution when using this tool on windy days, in dry conditions or in brushy areas.

Mary invites you to go to EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived.

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