Eco-Friendly Herbicides – a New Era in Home Weed Control

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English ivy takes over woodlands

English ivy is highly invasive, invading woodlands and choking out native plants. You can hand pull it but this is very labor intensive and may not be entirely effective.

Weeds are plants that grow where we do not want them. There are many plants that were brought to this country that are now escaped invasive plants. How do we control weeds without using harsh chemicals? Invasive plants deposit seeds in soils and these seeds will continue to emerge for years.

Controlling Weeds Without Herbicides

Controlling weeds without herbicides requires can be difficult and time consuming and often less effective than herbicides. Physically pulling, hoeing or mowing weeds can over time kills weeds. However, this usually takes several years effort and may not be effective in the long run.

In lawns mowing grass taller and keeping turf healthy can prevent weeds. Weed barriers can be made from household items such as newspaper or cardboard. These items kill and prevent weeds by preventing sunlight from getting to growing plants and smothering weeds. Avoid using plastics or cloths as these end up becoming environmentally unfriendly waste at some point. 

Homemade Herbicides

Some home recipes for herbicides are just scary. Avoid using gasoline, diesel, kerosene, oil products, solvents, etc. in your landscape as herbicide. Petroleum products may kill plants but they can lead to fires and pollution.

Any substance that would kill living organisms in general can be used to kill weeds. Dish soap, vinegar, boiling water, bleach, salt, borax, baking soda, alcohol, and lots of other chemicals can be found on the internet as recommended herbicides. We do not recommend using  homemade herbicides. Substances like vinegar and bleach are acids and can damage eyes and irritate skin. Scalding from boiling water causes a high number of home injuries annually.

Eco-friendly Herbicides – A New Era in Home Weed Control

If you do not want to use herbicides such as glyphosate and 2,4-D, select one of the new eco-friendly EPA-registered herbicides that are widely available today. Some of these herbicides are even formulated with home products such as vinegar. Just remember, every chemical whether it is a household cleaner or a pesticide, should be used with caution. When it comes to pesticides each is labeled and you are required by EPA regulations to read the label before you use the product.

Alternative Weed Control Products

  • oils (clove oil, eugenol, and d-limonene)
  • soaps (pelargonic acid)
  • acids (acetic, citric)
  • iron compounds (chelates).

All of these breakdown the leaf cuticle and dry out leaves. These “burn-down” herbicides act quickly but do not kill the roots so plants often come back. These work best on young plants.

Essential oil herbicides

  • WeedZap (45% clove oil + 45% cinnamon oil)
  • Bioganic Broadleaf Killer (2% clove and thyme oil; 1% sodium laurel sulfate; 10% acetic acid)
  • Burnout II (12% clove oil, 8% sodium laurel sulfate, vinegar, citric acid)
  • EcoSmart Weed and Grass Killer (sodium laurel sulfate and eugenol; 2-phenethyl propionate)
  • GreenMatch EX (50% lemon grass oil)
  • Repellex Weed-A-Tak (8% clove oil; 8% cinnamon oil; 4% citric acid)
20 percent acetic acid (vinegar)

This herbicide is 20 percent acetic acid (vinegar). Home vinegar is only 5-10 percent.

Citrus oil-based herbicides

  • Avenger
  • GreenMatch (55% d-limonene)
  • Worry Free Weed and Grass Killer (70% citrus oil)
  • Acid-based herbicides
  • WeedPharm (20% acetic acid)
  • AllDown (23% acetic acid; 14% citric acid)
  • C-Cide (vitamin C-based product)
  • Natural Guard (citric acid and soybean oil)

Fatty acid-based herbicides (aka herbicidal soaps)

  • Scythe
  • Safer Moss and Algae Killer
  • Safer Fast Acting Weed and Grass Killer
  • Monterey Herbicidal Soap
  • Natria Weed and Grass Killer

Iron HEDTA herbicides

  • Bayer Advanced Natria Lawn Weed Control 26.5% (concentrate)
  • Fiesta Turf Weed Killer 26.5% (concentrate)
  • Iron-X Selective Weed Killer for Lawns 26.5% (ready to use)
  • Ortho Elementals Lawn Weed Killer 1.5% (ready to use)
  • Whitney Farms Lawn Weed Killer 1.5% (ready to use)
ammoniated soap of fatty acids

Herbicidal soaps such as ammoniated soap of fatty acids kills weeds down to the root.

*Inclusion of product names neither implies effectiveness, nor endorsement by the author or NC State University. Not all products described may be locally available, and the active ingredient content may be changed by manufacturers. Read the label CAREFULLY and follow all label instructions whenever using any pesticides as required by the EPA.

Herbicide list excerpted from this article.