When you decide to start gardening, most people don’t tell you about the many headaches that you can expect to experience while tending to your garden.
Pests are just the start of your issues, and it seems like once you finally manage to find a solution to them, you’ll have to contend with an entirely different source of difficulties.
Weeds are the bane of any gardener or lawn-keeper. They make your garden or lawn look worse and they siphon crucial nutrients and water away from the plants that you actually want to see thriving.
Unfortunately, weeds are some hardy plants, and it can be tough to find a non-toxic way to deal with them.
In today’s guide, we’re going to take a look at one of these non-toxic methods, specifically, we’re going to explore whether you can kill weeds to the root with vinegar.
We’ll explore using different kinds of vinegar to kill weeds to the root and even take a look at some alternatives that you have available.
Does Vinegar Kill Weeds to the Root?
Unfortunately, vinegar does not kill weeds to the root. While vinegar will degrade the biological material that weeds are made up of, this will typically only end up killing the leaves of older plants. That being said, there are some weeds that can be killed down to the root by vinegar.
In most cases, you’d be better off trying to kill younger weeds with vinegar, as seedlings tend to be less resilient than their fully-grown counterparts.
Does Vinegar Kill Weeds Permanently?
Theoretically, vinegar should be able to permanently kill weeds because it is a desiccant.
This means that it dries out the things that it touches, especially if it comes into contact with biological material like the cells that make up a plant.
The acetic acid in vinegar will gradually dry out each cell that it comes into contact with until the organism dies.
Most vinegars made for human consumption contain between 5% and 7% acetic acid, making them both safe to handle and environmentally friendly.
In theory, this means that you should be able to effectively kill any weeds in your yard or garden with a liberal application of your choice of vinegar.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t ever quite work out this way because of how long vinegar lasts in soil. Since the acetic acid in vinegar will quickly wear away in soil, it won’t be able to last long enough to do any lasting harm to the roots.
The very fact that acetic acid gets neutralized by soil is one of the main reasons why it’s one of the most environmentally friendly weed killers.
The acid won’t end up lingering long enough to do any lasting damage to any of the ecosystem, including other plants, pollinators like bees, and more.
To sum it up, the only kind of weed that you can expect tabletop vinegar to kill permanently is a seedling, as it won’t have grown enough to be able to resist the vinegar enough to survive.
How Long Does it Take for Vinegar to Kill Weeds?
After preparing a spray bottle full of white vinegar to get some weeds out of your garden, you may be wondering exactly how much time you’ll spend on the task.
The actual time you spend spraying the vinegar will be variable, as that will depend on the size of the yard that you’re working on.
You’ll start to see the leaves on the weeds drying out and dying away within the first few hours after you spray your solution on them. Hardier weeds may last a little longer before you start noticing the signs of them drying away.
In these cases, you may have to wait for up to 24 hours before you start seeing an effect.
Keep in mind that the yellowing and drying of the leaves doesn’t necessarily mean that the weed is dead in the first place.
If you neglect to keep reapplying vinegar to the plant, then you’ll notice that the plant will start getting healthier by the day until the leaves that were supposedly gone start growing back.
To keep the plant dead, come back to it every day and keep spraying it with vinegar on the days that you see the plant trying to sprout a new set of leaves.
Keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that this method will kill the plant permanently, as you’ll need to take out the roots to be truly effective.
What About 20% Vinegar?
So far, we’ve only discussed using tabletop vinegar to attack the root systems that are sustaining the weeds in your garden.
However, there is also horticultural vinegar, which is about four times more acidic than the kind of vinegar that we would normally consume. While using horticultural vinegar is safer than using commercial weed killers, it is still dangerous.
The vinegar that we put in our food is already highly acidic, but when the concentration of acetic acid in the vinegar reaches about 20%, it becomes nearly too dangerous to handle.
You certainly want to avoid using 20% vinegar if you don’t have protective gear like goggles, gloves, and a long-sleeved shirt.
This is because 20% vinegar can cause chemical burns on contact with your skin. It being more powerful also makes it more effective at killing weeds down to the root.
Unfortunately, 20% vinegar won’t work anywhere near as effectively as commercial weed killers because of how easily it disperses.
Even large amounts of 20% vinegar in your soil will likely not get to the root of the weeds that are plaguing you, so this is not as reliable of a method as you may expect it to be.
Also, be wary of getting 20% vinegar on any of your tools, as it can corrode metal, wood, and even concrete.
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Kill Weeds?
If 20% vinegar doesn’t do the trick, maybe apple cider vinegar will. Apple cider vinegar has been touted in recent years for its healthy properties, but can it also be a versatile enough tool to see use in your garden?
Considering apple cider vinegar tends to contain between 5% and 6% acetic acid, it’s a little on the weak side.
Compared to other kinds of vinegar that you may have available in the pantry, apple cider vinegar isn’t much more or less effective because of its similar acetic acid levels.
Much like other kinds of vinegar, the most you can expect from apple cider vinegar is to kill the plant’s leaves.
You can expect to wait for about a day for apple cider vinegar to kill the leaves on a plant, but you may see new leaves sprouting out within the next few days after that.
As with any other weed-killing method, you have to either kill or remove the root to make your efforts permanent.
Does Vinegar, Epsom Salt, and Dawn Dish Soap Really Kill Weeds?
Epsom salt is one of the most effective ways to kill any type of plant because of how it sucks the moisture out of the surrounding soil.
However, there’s a reason that “salt the earth” has become a relatively common saying since it’s very unlikely that anything will grow on salted soil for a long time to come.
Mixing salt into vinegar and dawn dish soap will make for an effective weed killer, but it will also kill anything else that you try to plant in that bit of land.
Salt is so insidious in soil because it doesn’t take effect instantly, so you may not know the extent of the damage you caused until it’s too late.
By the time ten days have gone by, the salt will have made its way into the earth, making it impossible for anything else to grow there, though it will also have killed any existing weeds.
Unlike vinegar, salt also won’t be neutralized over time, making that plot of land a dead zone for years to come.
What Kills Grass and Weeds Permanently?
If you’re looking to get rid of the weeds in your yard or garden permanently, then you may not be satisfied with the performance of vinegar, despite its safety and eco-friendliness.
Unfortunately, if vinegar was such a convenient way to kill weeds, everyone would be doing it by now.
Instead, due to the relative ineffectiveness of vinegar, gardeners tend to resort to chemical weed killers which can penetrate deep into the root system and destroy the weeds from within.
The downside to this approach is that you may end up damaging other plants in the area and even potentially rendering them toxic, based on the weed killer formula that you’re using.
If you don’t like the idea of potentially poisoning all of your other plants while trying to kill some weeds, then you can start killing weeds the old-fashioned way: by uprooting them.
While pulling weeds out by their roots may be a bit more challenging than just pouring something on them, it’s a much safer alternative to using chemical weed killers.