Excellent Weed Killer

It’s too early to talk about politics because I have a lot to do and don’t want to spend the day pissed off, but I did want to share the greatest homemade weed killer ever.

1 gallon vinegar
2 cups epsom salts
1/4 cup Dawn dish soap

I had all these weeds in my sidewalk that were hurting the cement, and I didn’t want to use Roundup or stuff like that for obvious reasons (not to mention a lot of people walk their dogs by my house and I don’t want them stepping in it), so the guy up the street told me about that. Made it, bought one of those pump sprays, applied it yesterday, and the weeds are deader than Palin’s political career.

*** Update ***

Remember my friend Holly? She’s recovering still and still has a long way to go, but she is one tough chick and here she is hanging out at the beach:


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53 replies
  1. 1
    Jerzy Russian says:

    Interesting. I’ll pass this information along to my wife. We are always looking for organic ways to keep the ants under control. Any ideas?

  2. 2
    c u n d gulag says:

    Great tip, John!

    I suspect the vinegar alone might even do the job!

  3. 3
    Joel says:

    Against the real baddies (quackgrass, blackberry, Japanese bamboo) nothing works short of careful extraction or glyphosate.

  4. 4
    Jane2 says:

    I was just going to go out and steam the sidewalk weeds (kills them, but a lot of fiddling and plugging machines in and such), but instead, I’ll go to Safeway and pick up some Dawn.

  5. 5
    MattF says:

    @Joel: Where, in the case of bamboo, ‘careful extraction’ means ‘bulldozer’. Assuming you don’t have a license to use thermonuclear detonations.

  6. 6
    James K. Polk, Esq. says:

    Don’t forget that epsom is a salt, and salting the earth is a great way to make nothing grow in the soil for a loooooong time.

  7. 7
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    The vinegar will work best on a hot dry day (duh) and the magnesium sulfate is actually pretty good for the soil (as a fertilizer) so you may be treating at cross purposes combining them. I’m assuming dish soap is for adhesion to leaves, but I skip it. I just use straight vinegar (gay vinegar is hard to find).

    I was thinking about your friend Holly the other day. Thanks for the update.

  8. 8
    Penus says:

    Does it kill grass, too?

  9. 9
    BGinCHI says:

    Holly must be like, “Hey, me and weed killer. Thanks John!”

    Seriously, I’m glad she is recovering. That was really scary there for a while.

  10. 10
    jon says:

    1 gallon vinegar
    2 cups epsom salts
    1/4 Dawn dish soap

    1/4 WHAT MEASURE dish soap? Cup? Gallon? Bottle? Of the entire mixture? Tablespoon? Dram? Buttload?

  11. 11
    Paul in KY says:

    @Jerzy Russian: Africans rely on something they call ‘siafu’ to take care of their insect problems.

  12. 12
    Paul in KY says:

    @Joel: I think ‘quackgrass’ would be a great name for some strain of badass marijuana. Also a good band name.

  13. 13
    Olivia says:

    I had a huge ant nest in the back next to the house. They would swarm all over and bite anyone walking across that area. On Google I found a great remedy. Mix 1\4 cup peanut butter with a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of borax. I put it in a small paper cup and set it near the ant nest. I put an old pot over the top and a big rock on top of the pot to keep our puppy from eating it. I had to do it 3 times but in 6 weeks the ant nest was gone. You don’t want to use too much borax because it will kill the worker ants right away. They need to carry it down to the queen so the whole nest wiil die off.

  14. 14
    NotMax says:

    Okay, that was very weird.

    Took the trash down to the street, and on the walk back up the driveway (in slight rain), behind the treeline in the distance were four extremely, almost blindingly bright bluish-white spotlights (or something like that) blinking in odd and even sequence, straight up into the sky. Almost as if some major laser show was underway.

    But this was at 4 in the morning.

  15. 15
    AMinNC says:

    There’s also a commercially available product called “burnout” that is a mixture of vinegar and clove oil. Doesn’t put salts into the ground. Best used on a hot, sunny day, but we’ve had good luck with it. We buy the concentrate and dilute in a spray bottle, but they also sell a ready-to-use spray as well, I believe.

  16. 16
    NotMax says:


    My old-time recommendation (given here many times previously) is quite similar.

    Put out little balls composed of 1/3 non-chunky peanut butter, 1/3 boric acid and 1/3 Nestle Quik powder or Kool-Aid powder (not the sugar-free type).

  17. 17
    The Thin Black Duke says:

    @NotMax: The Truth Is Out There.

  18. 18
    Elizabelle says:


    So true!

    Glad for the Holly update, though. I’m wondering what beach that is.

  19. 19

    The classic method to dealing with an anthill is a big pot of boiling water. I have seen an entomologist use a crucible of molten aluminum, but that seems like overkill.

  20. 20
    Randy P says:

    My wife is a big believer in straight white vinegar for ant control inside the house and she just filled an atomizer to use out on the walk for the weeds popping up between the bricks. Not sure if that will work or not but this thread gives me hope.

  21. 21
    flukebucket says:

    I second the recommendation for the weed killer. It works on everything. My understanding is that the dishwashing liquid allows the other ingredients to adhere to the weed long enough to do the killing. So far it has killed everything I have sprayed it on except poison ivy. How is the best way to get rid of that stuff? Any ideas?

  22. 22
    MattF says:

    @Helmut Monotreme: I suspect that filling an anthill with molten aluminum is a way of mapping out the hill’s tunnels and chambers. Sort of thing an entomologist would want to know.

  23. 23
    Paul in KY says:

    @flukebucket: I just pull it out of the ground & then mow it.

  24. 24
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Jerzy Russian:

    Indoors, we’ve had good luck putting boric acid powder inside all of the kitchen cabinets — keeps both ants and roaches away. But it’s not good for kitties to ingest, so we have to make sure to put it inside the cabinet where they can’t get to it.

  25. 25
    Randy P says:

    @MattF: Distant memories of lost-wax aluminum casting in shop class tell me you’re probably right. Make wax model of thing you want to form, pack sand around it, pour in molten aluminum. Everything not sand is replaced by aluminum. Including, in this case, the poor little ants.

    I’m oddly ambivalent about ants. Hate, hate, hate them indoors and will gladly stomp them or put out poison traps. But outside I’ve always been kind of fond of them and can spend a long time watching an anthill perform a major undertaking (like emergency relocation of the nursery if I lift the rock they had built under).

  26. 26
    cleek says:

    @Paul in KY:
    while wearing head-to-toe disposable clothes, right?

    i hit some kind of allergenic plant (maybe poison ivy) with my weed whacker last weekend, the juices sprayed everywhere, and both my hands blossomed in a bright red rash for a day.

  27. 27
  28. 28

    @MattF: That is exactly the purpose of the aluminum, but it also does a number on the ants.

  29. 29
    Paul in KY says:

    @cleek: I’m not bothered by it. I pull it out with my hands. I don’t rub it on me or eat it, but poison ivy has never made me itch.

    Another anecdote that my family has confirmed: mosquitos rarely bite me. Another person can be sitting right near me & they are getting swarmed & I have 3 or 4 on me (that I quickly kill).

    Unlucky in love, lucky in pest control…

  30. 30
    catclub says:

    @Randy P:

    I’m oddly ambivalent about ants.

    I suspect you have never accidentally stood in a fire ant bed. The ants are not ambivalent.

  31. 31
    cmorenc says:

    @Paul in KY:

    @flukebucket: I just pull it [poison ivy] out of the ground & then mow it.

    The problem I and many people have with this approach, even wearing gloves and protective long-sleeved clothing, is twofold:
    1) it’s difficult to avoid inavertently getting a few spots of the irritating oils from the plant on your arms or hands (either directly through a momentarily exposed seam of skin between glove and shirt, or indirectly via the p.i. oil getting on clothing/glove and from there to your skin during later handling of gloves and clothing).
    2) for many of us, this inadvertent bit of contamination has a considerably delayed fuse of a couple or even three days before perceptible irritation begins to break out, and so we don’t even realize we’ve been contaminated until it’s too late. True, one should always take a vigorous shower immediately after working with poison ivy, but the oil is unfortunately resistant to being easily washed off entirely by ordinary soaps. And so despite best efforts to avoid and mitigate the possibility of skin contamination with the oils, just a small bit we fail to remove is enough to get us and set off a considerable irritating reaction 2-3 days later.

  32. 32
    deep says:

    Isn’t Dawn made from Petroleum? I fail to see how this is more environmentally friendly than RoundUp.

  33. 33
    Origuy says:

    @flukebucket: Goats will eat poison ivy. The parks around the Bay Area bring in a herd of goats to keep the vegetation down and they eat the poison oak. Know any one with a goat?
    @cmorenc: There’s a product called Tecnu that washes off the urushiol. There’s also Zanfel, that does the same thing, but is a lot more expensive.

  34. 34
    CaseyL says:

    I pull weeds out. I’ve also found that covering them with beauty bark does the trick (at least, I can’t see them so I assume they’re dead. Out of sight = out of mind).

    Thanks for updating us on Holly’s recovery! Great to see she’s no longer hospitalized.

  35. 35
    Dixon says:

    @deep: It’s not. He swapped one combination of toxins for an alternate batch of toxins. No such thing as organic weed killers. But if this makes people feel better for some reason.

  36. 36
    Yoodow says:

    @Jerzy Russian: Try Diaotomaceous Earth. It worked for me.

  37. 37
    Paul in KY says:

    @Yoodow: Make sure you don’t inhale that stuff. I used it in a fish filter & that stuff will fuck your lungs up bad if you inhale it.

  38. 38
    James K. Polk, Esq. says:

    @MattF: Methinks this might interest you and anyone else who likes the idea of Aluminum + insects…


  39. 39
    Cervantes says:


    No such thing as organic weed killers.

    I don’t know from “organic” but citrus oil can work. And solarization was used for thousands of years in India — and can work, often without killing grass, etc.

  40. 40
    AdamK says:

    @NotMax: Phone home.

  41. 41
    gogol's wife says:

    Yay Holly!

  42. 42
    WereBear says:

    So happy about Holly’s progress!

  43. 43
    Jerzy Russian says:

    @Yoodow: Thanks for the suggestion. This must might be what we need.

  44. 44
    Bill Arnold says:


    the juices sprayed everywhere,

    Always wear protective eye-wear when weed-whacking. (Not saying you don’t, just general advice.) Plants have been evolving defenses against animals for hundreds of millions of years, and some plant juices are nasty to humans, e..g. Giant Hogweed sap contains a phytotoxin(?s) that can cause blindness. (Also weed whackers launch up rocks to eye level.)

  45. 45
    Mandalay says:

    bought one of those pump sprays, applied it yesterday, and the weeds are deader than Palin’s political career.

    I don’t mean to be a party pooper, but if you only did it yesterday you really don’t know how dead those weeds are. They may appear dead at the moment, but let’s see how things stand a month from now.

    And all vinegars are definitely not created equal. The vinegar you buy in a gallon bottle at the supermarket may not get the job done (since it is probably only a 5% concentration):

    Household vinegar will not kill weeds, even if you add Dawn dish soap. It will cause the weeds to shrivel some, but that’s about it. Noxious weeds need something stronger.

    There is good news. A stronger solution of vinegar mixed with orange oil will kill weeds and kill them for good. But, it has to be done correctly or the weeds will come back.

    You need a vinegar that has AT LEAST 10% acidity PLUS a horticultural citrus oil. There is some controversy within the organic gardening community regarding vinegar strength. Very respected gardeners say that 10% acidity mixed with citrus oil will kill weeds…

    WARNING: This 10% – 20% vinegar is potent. You need to wear goggles, rubber gloves, long sleeves, and shoes when working with 20% vinegar. It will burn your skin if any splashes. I have experienced this first hand ~ it can be very painful.

    While the vinegar alone will work well at getting rid of weeds, it’s the orange oil that nails the coffin shut on weeds.

    All that said, if your weeds really are dead (a month from now) it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.

  46. 46
    Dave Cooper says:

    Sorry to be off-topic but I can’t decipher your email contact thingie.

    I use Chromium under Ubuntu and Balloon Juice no longer works as expected. For these past few days I can only read this site using Firefox (still Ubuntu).

  47. 47
    KBS says:

    If you just want to kill the ones in the cracks of the sidewalks & driveway, all you need is boiling water. Just pour on weeds & they’ll die–no need to worry about salt or acid runoff onto your soil, and it’s even cheaper than your remedy. :) I’ve been doing this for years and it doesn’t seem to have caused any damage to the paving at all.

  48. 48
    Mandalay says:

    @Mandalay: More info on vinegar strength:

    The United State Department of Agriculture is currently researching the use of vinegar as an organic herbicide at their research facility in Beltsville, Maryland. Results so far are very promising and have shown that using vinegars with 10, 15, or 20% acetic acid concentrations have had an 80 to 100% kill-rate with many common weeds. Common household vinegar (with a 5% acetic acid concentration) has successfully killed the top-growth of Canada Thistle, one of North America’s most noxious and widely spread weeds. However, regrowth from the roots did occur…
    Young weeds will be killed by spraying with plain household vinegar (5%), older weeds may require some additional spraying for effective control.

  49. 49
    Mandalay says:


    If you just want to kill the ones in the cracks of the sidewalks & driveway, all you need is boiling water.

    Yes indeed. I prefer to manually pull out weeds if possible, but boiling water is my second choice, and essential for some tenacious plants (especially grass) which resist being yanked out. And boiling water always kills.

  50. 50
    brendancalling says:

    When it comes to weeds growing between sidewalk and patio cracks, I prefer the terrifying power of the flame weeder.

  51. 51
    brendancalling says:

    When it comes to weeds growing between sidewalk and patio cracks, I prefer the terrifying power of the flame weeder.

  52. 52
    Gravenstone says:

    @James K. Polk, Esq.: Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate heptahydrate. Magnesium and sulfur are both useful minerals for plants, Epsom salts can even be used as fertilizer supplements in some situations. I suspect the vinegar is the active ingredient in John’s concoction. The Dawn simply lets it adhere longer to the plants.

  53. 53
    Gravenstone says:

    @Helmut Monotreme: Fuck that piddly stuff, mix yourself up a batch of thermite!

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