How to kill weeds without weed killer: get a great-looking garden naturally

Here's how to kill weeds without the use of commercial herbicides

How to kill weeds without weed killer
(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

There are all sorts of reasons you may wish to kill weeds in your garden without the use of shop-bought weed killers. It may be that you want the most environmentally safe way to battle weeds, or you are concerned about the health and safety of your children and/or pets who use the garden regularly. The wellbeing of bees, hedgehogs, and aquatic life is also affected by the use of herbicides, and you may wish to try a natural remedy for weeds before resorting to commercial strength products.

Whatever your reason, this is how to kill stubborn weeds such as horsetail or goutweed in your garden, using only what you already have in your kitchen.

How to kill weeds with vinegar, salt and washing up liquid

The most effecive method to kill weeds in the garden is to mix equal parts salt, vinegar, and washing-up liquid in a spray bottle and spray the solution liberally over the weeds, until they are soaking wet. Always use this method when the weather is dry, or it won't work. A sunny day is even better as this accelerates the process.

Ideally, let the solution sit on the weeds for at least 24 hours. Also take care not to spray the plants you don't want to kill: this mixture may be less strong than an industrial weed killer, but it still will kill whatever plant you spray it on.

'Why washing up liquid?' you ask? While the salt and vinegar do the killing, the washing up liquid helps the mixture stick on the plant and work more effectively. Any brand will do.

How to kill weeds with boiling water

Some people also like the boiling water method: simply pour boiling water from the kettle over your weed. This wilts the foliage, preventing it from doing what it needs to survive. It works best of paving where you can then scrape the wilted weed from between the flags with a patio brush. This may not eradicate them permanently, but you will have some respite from the weeds for at least a couple of months. 

You have more chance of eradicating weeds while the plants are young and not yet well established, so do this as soon as you see the weeds coming up in your garden.