It’s likely since the concept of gardening began, we’ve been trying to rid our gardens of these pesky plants known as weeds. They come in all shapes and sizes, typically grow very rapidly, and suck nutrients out of your soil quicker than more desirable plant species – such as grass.
Furthermore, weeds can make your lawn or driveway look ugly, unkempt, and they spring up overnight if not appropriately controlled.
If you’re looking for a simple home remedy to rid your garden of weeds – both bleach and vinegar can be useful. But each substance has its downsides, and its best uses are more specific.
Bleach or Vinegar – Which is Better to Kill Weeds?
The straight answer is that bleach will be more efficient at outright killing weeds over vinegar. The vinegar you have at home, at least, isn’t going to be strong enough on its own to deal with a large weed infestation. However, there are vinegar-based herbicides out there that can be very effective at this.
Will Bleach Kill Weeds Permanently?
If you are going to apply bleach to an area in the garden, it won’t just kill the weeds but everything else there too! It’s also harmful to humans, and it can leave lasting damage to your soil.
Yet, bleach is very useful for particular weed-killing purposes…
For example, if you have a paved driveway, it’s common to see weeds growing in the cracks in between the paving. As well, in many graveled areas, weeds can start to spring up through the stones and make the space look untidy.
In both cases, bleach is a clear winner for killing the weeds and everything else between the cracks – making your driveway or graveled area look clear and well kept again.
Wherever you intend to apply ordinary domestic bleach to your weeds, it’s important to leave it on for a period of at least two to four days. If you don’t leave the bleach on long enough, it won’t penetrate deep enough into each plant’s root system, which means they could later remerge.
Bear in mind, if you are going to use bleach, make sure to take the necessary safety precautions due to its harmful nature to humans. If you have children or pets, they need to be kept away from any areas where you apply bleach.
Therefore, an excellent time to bleach weeds is when you leave home for a holiday or out-of-town family visit. Just spray the weeds before you go, and when you return, they should have all died!
Does Vinegar Kill Weeds Permanently?
OK, so we said that household vinegar wouldn’t be very effective at dealing with a large weed infestation. However, it can be sprayed onto weeds as a good preventative measure – especially on young weeds.
Vinegar contains acetic acid, which kills weeds as well as other plants and vegetation. Domestic vinegar in your kitchen doesn’t have so much acetic acid and is relatively weak compared to specialist vinegar-based herbicides.
Nevertheless, domestic vinegar can provide a level of control if applied in its pure form. Older and more established perennial weeds will put up an intense fight against vinegar treatment, though.
The benefits of commercial vinegar herbicides…
Commercial vinegar herbicides contain a much higher percentage of acetic acid, generally between 20 and 25 percent – while domestic kinds of vinegar are usually around the five percent mark.
The higher levels of acetic acid work to kill a large variety of weeds right down to their roots. Just be careful to try and not to spray all your other plants in the process. A less intrusive method of applying the herbicide is to wear rubber gloves and massage the liquid onto each weed individually – we’ll explain this creative process later.
A word of warning – commercial versions are harmful to humans because of their high acidity. Acetic acid can cause severe skin burns and damage to the eyes – please be careful! Also, if you are going to search for one of these vinegar-based weed killers, the vinegar will probably be labeled as acetic acid, not vinegar.
A good thing about vinegar-based herbicides, though, is that they aren’t going to cause as much damage to the soil as bleach would. And yes, they can kill weeds permanently – if they are strong enough and applied for the right period of time.
Can You Mix Bleach and Vinegar to Kill Weeds?
There are quite a few ways to make your own weed killer using household ingredients, but mixing bleach and vinegar together isn’t advisable. Bleach will be as potent as can be at killing weeds over a two-day period – so why would you need to add vinegar into the equation?
Instead, if you want to use either of these substances most effectively, you can mix them with two other household ingredients – dish liquid and salt.
We recommend vinegar for areas where you don’t want to damage nearby vegetation as much and bleach if you’re going to blitz an area completely.
Here’s how you do it…
Get a big pot, fill it with water, add salt, and then bring it to a boil. For every two cups of water, use a ratio of one cup of salt. The salt will dissolve into the boiling water and is added for some extra weed destroying power!
Allow the water to cool down before adding about half a teaspoon of dish liquid for every eight cups of water (just a few drops). The reason why dish liquid is added is that it will stick to the weeds when you spray the mixture – for a more potent effect.
Safety calls at this point, so pull on a pair of rubber gloves as you’re going to get the bleach out. Even if you want to use vinegar at this point, it’s still a good idea to protect yourself. Now it’s up to you how much vinegar or bleach you want to add – but choose only one. The stronger the bleach or, the more acetic acid the vinegar has, the better.
Pour the mixture into a spray bottle using a funnel, so things don’t get messy – and potentially dangerous. If you don’t have a funnel, carefully submerge the spray bottle into the pot to fill it up with your gloves on.
Dry and warm weather conditions are ideal for when you want to spray your homemade weed killer. Whether you are using a vinegar or bleached-based mixture, keep in mind that they will be very harmful to other plants and your grass. So you’ll need to spray your weeds individually to limit any collateral damage.
Alternatively, instead of spraying the weeds, you could take a bucket of your weed killer with you and massage it onto each weed – wearing protective gloves, obviously. This method might be the least intrusive to your other plants and flowers.
After a few days, the weeds should have died out. At this point, you might want to flush the ground with water. Then finally, after a couple more days, add some grass seed to areas that have been damaged through the process.
The Final Verdict
Bleach and vinegar both have their uses for killing weeds, and they are readily available at home. Vinegar is the less invasive option and works better as a way of preventing further growth. Bleach should be considered if you want to destroy all plant life in one area – like the cracks on your driveway.
And if you don’t have either of these household items on your shelves at home, there is one last tip – use boiling water loaded with dissolved salt. Be super careful if using this primitive method, but it does work well for surface weeds.