Why you're wasting your time pouring boiling water over weeds – and what to do instead

Garden full of weeds? Don't bother pouring boiling water over them; gardening experts explain why and give their top tips for what to do to tackle weeds instead

English garden with wooden bench and wildflowers
(Image credit: Lorenza Marzocchi / Getty)

Pouring boiling water over weeds – does it actually work? You've probably read about this weed-killing hack online, or heard from someone that it's a good way to tackle weeds when you don't want to resort to store-bought weed killers. But is this an effective way to get rid of weeds in your garden?

While the best weed killer is guaranteed to eradicate weeds in your yard, it can be a bit too effective, harming the ecosystem in the process. Besides, boiled water hardly costs you anything, so why not try it, right? Actually, we've consulted gardening experts and they all told us the same thing: don't bother. Here's why, and what they recommend you do to get rid of weeds instead. 

Pouring boiling water over weeds: why you shouldn't do it

The idea is that pouring boiling water over weeds will instantly kill them, eliminating the need for time-consuming weed pulling. It is true that the effect of boiling water on a plant is dramatic: you will see it wilt instantly. But does this actually kill the plant? Kate Russell, a gardening blogger at The Daily Garden and author of Stop Wasting Your Yard! (available from Amazon), explains that 'weeds are very tenacious and they have evolved many ways of coming back to life from near-death. Because of this, boiling water is only marginally effective. While boiling water can kill the above-ground portion of the plant, many weeds are able to recover by pulling resources from the root system.'

So, it will seem like you've killed the weed, but you actually have just temporarily damaged it. Of course, 'repeated applications of boiling water will, over time, deplete the root system's resources to the point that the plant dies.' If you persevere with boiling water, you may well finally kill the weed. But there is another problem.

An overgrown garden with flowers, weeds, and watering can

(Image credit: L Feddes / Getty)

Gardener and blogger at AhGrow! NIkita Legall tells us that repeatedly pouring boiling water over your weeds 'will damage the roots of the surrounding plants and also kill off the microbes in your soil.' Weakened roots encourage plant diseases as does imbalanced soil, so you could end up seriously messing up your garden. 

To say nothing of the fact that you could end up scalding yourself with the boiling water.

Dandelions in a bucket after being pulled

(Image credit: DavidPrahl / Getty)

What to do instead of pouring boiling water over weeds

So, what do you do instead if you want to get rid of weeds naturally? As is true of many situations, the best solution is also the simplest. Just pull them. Legall advises to 'grab the weed at its base and give it a good tug. it should come up from the roots with that technique.' 

Pulling weeds is by far the most effective and safest way to tackle weeds. So, invest in a pair of the best gardening gloves and get to it. Unless, of course, you're dealing with some particularly dangerous weeds like Giant Hogweed, in which case you may be better off calling in professional environmental controllers.

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

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