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Natural Weed Killer With Vinegar and Dawn

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Are you looking for an environmentally friendly, non-toxic natural weed killer that is safe but effective? You might be surprised to find out the combination of ingredients to stop these pesky plants is something you probably already have in your home right now – Vinegar, Salt, and Dawn. However, there is a caveat to this working which is that the normal vinegar you usually buy in the store is probably NOT the right vinegar to use.

These ingredients might seem to be simple – and they are, but there are a few tricks to getting this to work right – read on for how to make this combination of seemingly harmless ingredients kick some green, weedy, plant-butt.

Why Use Natural Weed Killer?

It’s fairly terrifying how dangerous commercial weed killers are – many have been linked to cancer and other disturbing health issues.

If it’s a chemical formulated to kill living things, it makes sense this might include animals and humans as well.

In our house our garden is downstream of our grass (where the weeds grow) so it became increasingly disturbing that we were using a toxic, known to cause cancer, brand-name weed killer.

I looked for an alternative and found this as a natural and safe solution.

If you have kids or pets that play in the yard, think about making the switch away from toxic products.

It’s a little more work, but in my opinion, well worth the effort.

Obligatory Warnings

  • The recommended vinegar is VERY strong. It has the potential to burn skin, eyes, and the fumes will make you choke. If you take this on, make sure you do this in a well-ventilated area (outside preferably).
  • Wear rubber safety gloves! Otherwise, you stand a chance of burning your skin.
  • Wear goggles to prevent your eyes from burning while mixing the concoction.
  • You can easily destroy plants you want to keep with this recipe – apply it carefully and only to things you want gone for good.
  • The soil will be damaged from the salt content for a long time – do not use this in areas you plan on planting other items in. For areas you plan on replanting, I would only advise you to only use boiling water to kill the weeds – and hand plucking of the weed roots. Otherwise, these ingredients WILL prevent the new growth of anything.

The Recipe

  • 2 cups 30% vinegar (or 4 cups of regular distilled vinegar)
  • 2 cups water (if using regular distilled vinegar omit this)
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • A few squeezes of dish soap (Dawn works great here)

Optional Ingredient(s): Orange or Lemon juice or Citrus Oil concentrate.


  1. Spray your weeds topically during times when they have direct sunlight on them.
  2. After a few hours they will die and you can remove the dead weeds (with your foot or anything else)
  3. Pull the roots out OR spray another application on the roots during sunny hours again.

The way I prefer to do this is to spray them once, the leaves die – then after a few hours I kick all the dead leaves off and spray the roots again.

The Ingredient List

  • 20% or 30% Vinegar Solution – This is hard to find, pricier, and you might need to order it online – but the stronger concentrate works a lot better than your normal distilled vinegar for killing weeds. You should be able to find plenty of other ways to use it as well, so it won’t go to waste and will serve as an excellent cleaner for other areas around the house.

If you buy the vinegar below – most people use this as-is (or dilute with 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar) and find that it works by itself without anything else added to it.

  • Dish Detergent – It does not have to be Dawn specifically, any dishwashing liquid should work fine – this is just to give the mixture a better adhesion to the plant and allow the vinegar to penetrate.
  • Salt – This is optional, but I do add some salt. It doesn’t have to be any special type, and I don’t recommend Epsom as this is actually good for a lot of plants.
  • Lemon – Also optional, I add some fresh lemon juice to my mixture to ensure that the weeds burn – lemon juice will help accelerate the sun’s bleaching power. Alternatively, people swear by adding orange oil concentrate to the vinegar/dawn mixture. You can read reviews on that here.
  • Water – IF you use the stronger vinegar, use a ratio of half vinegar to half water (for 20%) or 2 parts water 1 part vinegar (for 30%) – this doesn’t need to be special water, tap is fine. If you are using the regular distilled one, don’t dilute this at all.

Applicator Tools

Any of these will work – which kind you want to use is up to you:

  • Spray bottle (you probably already have one like this)
  • Handheld pump & spray bottle – a combination of the regular spray bottle and the hard core pump – convenient and comes in at a good price
  • Pump & Spray – this is a bad daddy of sprayers for the hardcore weeders – it’s definitely nice to have but will cost a chunk of change

Safety Tools

How This Natural Weed Killer Works

The acidity in the vinegar (and lemon or orange juice if used) combined with the salt basically is burning your weeds until they die.

The dish soap is a surfactant that takes the outer, protective, layer of film off of the plant so that the vinegar and salt can adhere better.

The sunlight is a key ingredient as well, as this is what does the burning and ultimately killing of the weed.

Some of the vinegar/citrus will make its way down into the root of the plant, which might aid in damaging the roots (but a second application on the roots is probably needed to guarantee weeds don’t come back).

The Cons of Natural Weed Killer

I’m not going to tell you this will solve all your weed problems – it may not.

Chances are, you’ll still have to pull the roots of the weeds out to kill those as this is more topical than anything else.

If you don’t have strong sunlight, spraying this on your weeds won’t have much effect.

If you don’t use a strong enough vinegar solution, you may not see any results on tougher weeds.

The Right Combination of Factors

Some people say natural weed killer like this doesn’t work but I would argue that they’re probably using too weak of a vinegar or aren’t doing this in the sun.

Make sure you’re following these tips to guarantee success:

  • The weed has to have direct sunlight on it, otherwise it will probably not die. Part of the equation is that the weed has to burn.
  •  Rainy weather will wash the plant clean, rendering this mixture ineffective.
  •  Sometimes, you have to do this more than once, especially to get the roots saturated after the top dies.
  •  Don’t get this on your lawn or other plants you want to keep alive. It will kill those too. For reducing weeds in your garden or other areas you might want to grow things in, get mulch, or even try making your own mulch from sticks in your yard.

Optional: Say threatening things to your weeds as you spray them like, “Hasta la vista, baby…  Sayonara sucker!”. It may not make the weed killer more effective, but damn, it feels good.

a dead weed

Please give this a try – for the safety of your entire family! 

  1. I use a solution of 1 1/2 parts 30% vinegar plus 1 part water for my nasty Texas weeds. It’s so important to apply this solution in mid-day sunshine, otherwise it’s worthless. For poison ivy, I use full strength 30% vinegar.

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