How to Use Vinegar to Kill Weeds on Sidewalks and Driveways

Rid your driveway, patio, and sidewalk of unwanted plants with these tips on how to make and apply a simple vinegar weed killer.

Vinegar is a jack-of-all-trades around the home. In addition to the zip it adds to pickles and many other favorite recipes, it's an effective window cleaner, disinfectant, stain remover, and more. But did you know that it's also very effective in the garden? Yes, vinegar has the ability to help control weeds, which can be a win-win if you're looking for products that are less harsh on the environment than many synthetic herbicides. However, you wouldn't want to use this acidic liquid in all areas of your landscape because it could damage any plant it touches. Here's what you need to know to effectively use vinegar for weed control in your yard.

bottle of vinegar and spray bottle

Katie Burdett / BHG

What Kind of Vinegar to Use

Typical white vinegar in the store is 5% vinegar (acetic acid) and 95% water. While this type of vinegar can be used on weeds, it has quite a few limitations. It works best on small, annual weeds that are less than two weeks old, and it will often require several applications to do the job. You can up its efficacy by adding a cup of table salt and a tablespoon of liquid dish soap to a gallon of white vinegar. Usually, this mixture only kills the tops of the target weeds, leaving the roots that can regrow new shoots. And be aware that salt build-up in the soil from repeatedly using this homemade solution can mean nothing will grow in that area at all.

Household vinegar doesn't work well when sprayed on older weeds, perennials, or grasses. Drenching the roots will likely be required (fall is a good time to do this) and even then, it likely wouldn't have much effect. To get rid of tough, perennial weeds, a 20% vinegar solution is best. This type of vinegar, sometimes called horticultural vinegar, can be found at garden centers, farm stores, or online.

person apply vinegar with a spray bottle to weed growing out of crack in sidewalk or driveway

Katie Burdett / BHG

How to Apply Vinegar as Weed Killer

The safest places to use vinegar for weeds are in between concrete seams in sidewalks, mulch or gravel paths, and driveways. It's usually easy to spray the vinegar in these areas without getting it on other plants. As with any weed killer, select a day that is at least 70°F and sunny to apply it. This is because the chemicals will be most effective when plants are actively photosynthesizing. Avoid days that are windy or rainy. Wind can carry the vinegar to places you don't want it. Rain weakens it, diluting its effectiveness.

As with any weed killer or harsh chemical, follow safety precautions when using higher concentrations of vinegar: Don't get it on your skin or in your eyes, and don't ingest it. Unlike household vinegar, the higher concentrated kinds of vinegar can burn skin, harm eyes, and cause bronchitis if inhaled.

Always read and follow the label directions for personal protections requirements and safe handling for all herbicides.

Vinegar is non-selective, meaning it will damage any plants and turf grass it touches, not just the weeds you are trying to kill. When you spray the vinegar onto weeds, make sure it isn't hitting other plants. If that isn't possible, paint the vinegar onto the weeds with a brush. Make sure the vinegar makes contact with all the foliage. The acetic acid in the vinegar will burn and dry out the leaves.

For a couple of days after applying the vinegar for weeds, you can expect the area to smell like a salad dressing exploded all over your yard. On the plus side, that powerful scent can deter deer, rabbits, and other pesky critters from entering your garden for a while. Wait at least two weeks before spraying again.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take vinegar to kill weeds?

    When used on the right kind of weeds, vinegar works within 24 hours.

  • Is vinegar safe to use as a weed killer around pets and small children?

    Yes, it's safe. Vinegar won't harm either children or pets.

  • Will vinegar harm insects or other wildlife?

    It can kill ants, spiders, and mosquitos. Vinegar can be lethal to bees, so if you grow plants to attract pollinators to your garden, it's better not to use vinegar to kill weeds where they grow.

  • Will vinegar weed killer damage concrete, metal, wood, or other surfaces?

    Vinegar is an acid and can damage wood and marble, so it's a good idea to not spray it near planters or patios with these surfaces.

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