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Ask Casa: How to Kill Weeds (Without Herbicides)

TeamSugar member Lafx23 recently wrote in, saying:

I have a lot of unwanted grass and weeds growing around my pool area (especially wild onions), and I really want to get rid of them. Every year it seems like they just come back twice as bad as the year before. Any suggestions on the best ways to kill them off?

To hear my response to Lafx23's weed dilemma, and to offer your own advice,


Hi Lafx23,
That's a great question! I spent many a Spring weekend as a kid on my hands and knees pulling weeds out of the ground, during what my parents lovingly called "family weeding time," so I certainly understand your pain! There are several ways to kill weeds without using herbicides, which I strongly recommend. In some cases, after using these treatments, the weeds will resprout, but if you are persistent, even the most stubborn perennial weeds should eventually die off. Just be sure to avoid letting the treatments reach your nearby plants that are Good to Grow!

Here are several methods for killing that unwanted growth:

  • Douse them with boiling water. Cut off the top of the plant first. Boil up a kettle of water, and take it out to the problem area immediately. Then, pour it over the weed from a low height, so you avoid splashing yourself or nearby plants — it will burn the plant (and your skin). This method should kill off weeds, as well as their seeds. If it resprouts, repeat the treatment. This method is nontoxic, simple, and very inexpensive!
  • Spray them with vinegar. One great organic homemade weed killer is vinegar. Just put some in a spray bottle and coat the weeds evenly with it. Household vinegar (white or cider), which is 5 percent acetic acid, will kill weeds during their first two weeks of life. Older plants require a higher acetic acid concentration to kill off, so look for pickling vinegar which is 9 percent acetic acid. This method was confirmed by the USDA as a potent weedkiller.
  • Spray them with rubbing alcohol. Mix one to five tablespoons of rubbing alcohol (depending on how tough your weeds are) with one quart of water, and put the solution in a spray bottle. Spray the weeds thoroughly, but lightly, and avoid nearby plants. This will basically dehydrate the plant at a high speed, effectively killing it.
  • Hinder seed growth with corn meal. Corn meal gluten prevents weed seeds (or any other seeds) from going into plants — a "garden-variety" contraception. You can scatter it around your lawn so long as you've not recently planted seeds, and it won't kill plants that are already growing. Basically, this method doesn't really kill weeds, but rather prevents them from growing. I'd try this after you've used one of the treatments above.
  • Smother them. Smothering your weeds will kill them from lack of sun, and prevent weed seeds from sprouting (because they need sun). This isn't the most aesthetically pleasing method, but it works. To do this, try layering four sheets of newspaper or a layer of plastic over the weeds, secured down, or use two or three inches of mulch, "shredded bark, wood chips, straw, cocoa bean hulls, gravel or rocks."
  • Salt them. Salting the earth was used as a war tactic as far back as 1290 BC (and is even documented in the Old Testament,) as a method of rendering the land incapable of growing crops. It will not only kill your weeds but it will make the ground unsuitable for future growth for months. I don't recommend this method, but if your weeds are localized on a small scale, where you have no plans to grow other plants (say between cracks in a walkway), you can drop a pinch of table salt at the base of plants. You may have heard of killing weeds with bleach as well. Because bleach (sodium hypochlorite) has sodium in it, it basically has the same effect as salt. Not recommended.

Hope that helps!


lafx23 lafx23 9 years
Thank you so much for the response! Those weeds are the bane of my existence. Every year I'm dealing with them. I am definitely going to try these suggestions. Now that the frost is over down here in the Southeast, I want to plant some things that are a little more pleasing to the eye instead of those stupid weeds. Thanks again!
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Great tips!
hisbeloved2dth hisbeloved2dth 9 years
Great info, and perfect timing. i was planning on doing some spring weeding in my yard this weekend and i was dreading having to buy weed killer. ill try these methods...all 6 if i have to!
ualili ualili 9 years
Thanks so much for these great tips! Living in the desert Southwest, I feel like I'm in a neverending battle with weeds - weeds that have sharp stickers and are incredibly hardy. I'm looking forward to seeing if any of these methods work on them.
ALSW ALSW 9 years
Great idea, casa! I'm having the same problem and I really like the first two solutions. Inexpensive and easy!
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