How To Sterilize Soil So Nothing Will Grow

Like many gardening enthusiasts, you probably spend a fair amount of time tending to all the various things that you’re currently growing. Whether edible, just for decoration, or a mix of both, your garden is a wonderful reflection of all the time and effort you’ve awarded it with. 

However, what isn’t an accurate reflection are the areas that are growing things that you never planted in the first place. 

You most likely already know how pesky weeds can be and how to get rid of them in the areas where plants you care about live, but what about the places where you just want an empty patch of dirt? 

It doesn’t make sense to continually pull the weeds as they keep continuing to grow, which is a considerable effort if all you want is some empty soil. 

Luckily, since you don’t need to worry about sparing some plants while still killing off others, you have more options on how to get rid of the weeds that keep popping up. This article will go over the different options so that you can make an informed choice when it comes to properly sterilizing your soil.

Different Methods of Sterilizing Your Soil

  1. Boiling Water 

Pouring boiling water on the patches of dirt that house those pesky weeds is an effective way to kill them once and for all. This practically cooks the plant while in the ground, stopping it from continuing to grow. 

This method also works great for killing plants that extend through the cracks in cement or in your driveway. Just be sure not to use this method too close to a plant that you do not wish to kill, as you can’t be selective with which plants the boiling water kills and which it doesn’t.

2. Vinegar

Another great and effective weed killer that you most likely already have at home is vinegar. Both white and apple cider vinegar will work in this case, as they both contain acetic acid. 

Take note that this method works best on younger plants and weeds, as there is a chance that older plants will be resilient enough to grow back from the energy stored in their root systems. Although if vinegar gets applied enough times to more established plants, eventually their energy stores will get depleted, and the plant will die.

3. Salt

There’s a reason that salting the fields of enemies was once a well-known war tactic—it really works. Enough salt will kill all plants and make the soil unsuitable for the growth of future plants, at least until it rains enough that the soil is thoroughly washed clear of it. 

Sprinkling table salt at the base of your unwanted plants will effectively kill them, washing away after a few showers of rain.

4. Rubbing Alcohol 

Used around the house to draw water out and evaporate it quickly, rubbing alcohol does the exact same thing to plants. Since water is like blood to a plant, this will effectively kill them. Just be careful not to get the rubbing alcohol on plants you wish to keep, as it is non-selective.

5. Corn Meal

This one is interesting because while it won’t kill plants that have already grown, it will prevent new weed seeds from ever developing and therefore sprouting and growing. Cornmeal is a pre-emergent, kind of like a plant birth control, if you will. 

This is an excellent method to use if you’ve already gotten rid of the weeds and plants from a patch of soil and want to ensure that no more will grow. 

Cornmeal works as a pre-emergent for both weeds and desired plants, so keep that in mind if you plan on using the patch of soil to plant some seeds anytime shortly after. Although if you plant already established plants in soil that you’ve sprinkled cornmeal in, it will have no effect on them, and they will grow happily.

6. Newspaper

This method is pretty much just smothering the weeds with newspaper until they die, but it is effective. You’ll want to lay down a layer of the newspaper that’s at least four pieces thick, although the more the better, since what you’re trying to do is stop the plants from getting any sun. 

This will also kill any new sprouts starting to grow since they won’t be getting any sun right from the get-go.

7. Vinegar, Salt, and Dishwashing Liquid Combo

This one involves making your own weed-killer concoction with things that you already have at home. This combination works incredibly well, each component helping the other to be more potent and more effective than they would be by themselves. 

To make this, you’ll mix two cups of ordinary table salt, one gallon of vinegar, and one teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap. The soap is just to help break the surface tension so the mixture will stick to the plant you’re getting rid of, so you don’t need a large amount. 

You’ll start by dissolving the salt into the vinegar, either by shaking or stirring, then adding the soap in. 

Next, you’ll add the finished mixture into a regular garden sprayer and then apply it to any plants and weeds you don’t want. You’ll want to do this on a dry and sunny day so that the mixture doesn’t get diluted by rainwater. 

After that, the plants you applied it to should die and will not grow back. This mixture is a permanent solution, so make sure you won’t be planting anything in whatever patch of dirt you applied it to.


When it comes to gardening, there will always be setbacks and obstacles, but the end result and the fun along the way will always be worth it. While unwanted weeds are a bit of a nuisance, there are many ways to get rid of them once and for all—and as an extra bonus, with things that you most likely already have at home. 

Also read

What is the Difference Between Soil and Dirt?

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