Gardeners will tell you it is no accident that "weed" is a four-letter word. As environmental awareness grows, so does concern over unhealthy chemicals that may be added to yard soil from herbicides. Vinegar, one of the older homemade remedies for weed eradication, lost its popularity to faster-acting chemicals. Weed killers, however, have taken their toll on other plant, insect and habitat growth. For a less drastic approach to weeds, take a little vinegar, simple tools, and a little time to remove weeds effectively.
Removing weeds with vinegar involves soaking the crown, the juncture of roots and leaves, to do as much damage as possible to the plant. Fill a spray bottle with ordinary white vinegar and aim the spray at weed roots. An application amounting to approximately a tablespoon of liquid is enough to kill many weeds. Using a spray bottle directs your efforts where they are needed, rather than affecting nearby plants.
If you spray weeds in the morning, be sure to check on their deterioration in the afternoon. Especially on a sunny path or driveway, the combination of heat and vinegar can damage a weed enough for easy removal in a couple of hours. A second dose of vinegar may be needed for a large, established weed, and vinegar fans note that spray seems more effective on broad-leaf weeds than those with narrow blades. You can use a weeding tool or old screwdriver to help pull out still-stubborn roots or, if weather will be dry overnight, spray again in the evening and attack in the morning.
Especially in areas like cracks between patio stones or walkways, vinegar users add a variety of kitchen-cabinet chemicals to intensify the weed-killing effect. Lemon juice, salt and dishwashing liquid all appear in accounts of vinegar weed-control. Remember, however, that additives may affect nearby plants for longer and more harshly than vinegar alone.
While some vinegar users seek out industrial or laboratory supplies of more concentrated vinegar/acetic acid solutions, others boost the effectiveness and concentration of vinegar by bringing it to a boil. Boiling vinegar, like the plain boiling water favored by some gardeners, partially cooks the weed under attack, making destruction or removal easier. The challenge, however, is transporting liquid in a way that does not also parboil the gardener.
Although users insist that the acidic residue left by vinegar weed-killing is temporary and easily absorbed by surrounding soil, using large amounts of vinegar in the middle of heavy plantings may damage fragile bloomers. Vinegar (with or without additions) is most effective in areas where weeds stand alone.