After spending hours edging the lawn, tending to flower beds or walkways, the last thing you want is pesky weeds popping up and making your newly pristine landscape unsightly. The occasional weed can easily be pulled out by hand but with multiple weeds plucking them one by one can quickly become a time-consuming chore making weed killers a popular choice because they can kill a lot of weeds, fast.
With so many choices for weed killers on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right one for your needs. That’s where the Good Housekeeping Institute comes in. Every year the Health, Beauty, and Environmental Sciences and Cleaning Products Labs evaluate hundreds of beauty and cleaning formulas for efficacy and completeness of label directions, safety warnings based on ingredients, and how easy each product is to use.
We rounded up well-known weed killers and those that are highly rated and reviewed. We then teamed up with sustainability expert, Dr. Michael Brown, Ph.D., of Brown and Wilmanns Environmental, to review the ingredients in each weed killer and eliminate chemicals that could potentially be harmful to humans or the environment, such as possible carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, respiratory toxins or chemicals that may cause skin sensitization. (Some examples of chemicals we avoided are glyphosate and 3,6-dichloro-2-methoxybenzoic acid). To assess these potential hazards, safety data sheets were evaluated for each ingredient as well as performing additional research for anything that might not be listed on the safety data sheet. After narrowing the list down based on these criteria, below are our top picks for best weed killers:
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Best Overall Weed Killer
Vinegar Weed Killer
This weed killer from Green Gobbler has more than 6,600 reviews on Amazon with a 4.2 rating. It kills many types of weeds such as dandelions, clover, chickweed, thistle and more. It comes with a trigger spray for the bottle making it easy to dispense. It can be used on sidewalks, concrete, mulch beds, and other places where weeds pop up.
Reviewers say that this product killed their weeds and was easy to use. However, it does kill many types of vegetation so take care around lawns, flowers or any other plants you want to keep alive. This is made with a highly concentrated form of vinegar so the smell may be bothersome at first but will fade over time.
- Easy to use
- Great for use on sidewalks and mulch beds
- May kill grass and flowers
Best Weed Killer for Lawns
Stand-Up Weeder and Root Removal Tool
Many weed killers that made it through our vetting process can not be used on lawns because they are non-selective which means they will kill all types of vegetation, including the lawn. With this weeder, you can specifically pluck out the weed without having to worry about ruining the rest of your lawn. It has a long handle so there’s no kneeling or bending over to help prevent a sore back or knees.
Customers highly recommend this product giving it a 4.0 rating from over 700 reviews saying it’s easy to use and one reviewer suggests waiting for it to rain and the ground to make the job even easier.
- Removes weeds without having to spray liquids
- Grass- and flower-friendly
- May leave a divot in lawn
Best Weed Killer for Flower Beds
GroundClear Weed and Grass Killer
Ortho Ground Clear kills all types of grasses, weeds and even moss and with visible results in as a little as 15 minutes. Upon drying in about two hours it’s rainproof so you won’t have to worry about it washing away from the rain after application. It has a spray applicator with a long handle, so it can be targeted at the specific weeds you want to kill.
Take note though, this is a non-selective spray meaning it will kill all types of plants so be sure not to get it on anything you don’t want to kill. It’s one of the highest-rated weed killers at Home Depot with 1,330 reviews and a 4-star rating. Shoppers love that the trigger wand sprays exactly where you need it and does not get everywhere for targeted weed killing.
- Trigger wand allows for targeted weed killing
- Easy to apply
- May kill other vegetation if not careful when spraying
Best Natural Weed Killer
Weed and Grass Killer
This formula is ready to use straight out of the bottle and delivers weed-killing results in 24 hours. It’s one of the most popular weed killers on Amazon with over 1,000 reviews and a 4.1 rating. It’s effective on clover, moss, poison ivy, dandelions, chickweed, thistle, dollar weed and general weeds and grasses.
According to Eco Garden it’s also safe for use around pets and kids and reviewers say this weed killer is effective. It does have a stronger vinegar-like scent at first but users of this product say it goes away after a few hours.
- Effective on many different kinds of weeds
- Pet- and kid-safe
Best Weed Killer for Gravel and Rocks
Weed and Grass Killer
Get rid of those pesky weeds sprouting up on your walkway or rock bed with this liquid formula. It’s made to eliminate broadleaf and a variety of grass weeds. It works quickly and results can be seen within 24 hours.
You’ll need to be careful where you spray this weed killer since it is nonselective and will kill all types of greenery, however it does not leach through the soil so you won’t have to worry about the liquid seeping into other areas where you don’t want it. Because this solution is concentrated, be sure to follow the mixing ratio according to the instructions to get the desired results.
- Works quickly
- Formula won’t leach into soil
- Requires extra step of diluting formula
Best Weed Killer for Large Areas
Weed and Grass Killer
You can buy this weed killer in a 5-gallon size which is enough to cover a large area. It’s highly rated on Amazon with nearly 850 reviews and a 4.3 rating. Shoppers say that this works just as well as Round-up weed killers, but you will need to use more to get the same results. One reviewer commented they used this on their entire backyard full of weeds and saw results in 24 hours.
- Quick results
- 5-gallon jug for large outdoor spaces
- May need to use more to see results
Best Chemical-Free Weed Killer
Weed Torch Kit
If you would rather not use any liquid weed killers, this torch is a good option to rid of weeds. Shoppers gave this nearly 1,100 reviews and a 4.2 rating. This torch will kill weeds with a quick burst of fire, though it does need to be hooked up to a propane tank that will need to be bought separately.
Many reviewers raved that this killed weeds effectively and preferred to use this over a chemical sprayer. Because this is a torch, it’s best to take precautions such as prewetting surrounding areas and not using this around anything flammable.
- Requires a separate propane tank
- Need to take precaution around flammable objects
Best Weed Killer for Landscapes
One of the best ways to keep weeds in check is to prevent them from growing in the first place. This landscape fabric creates a barrier so weeds can not grow through and eliminates the light that weeds need to grow while still letting air and water through to keep the soil underneath healthy.
It’s easy to use: simply unroll the fabric and cut to the size needed to cover your landscape. It has over 3,600 reviews and a 4.6 rating with customers saying that this is more durable than what they normally buy at the hardware store.
- Easy to use
- Durable fabric
How do weed killers work?
• Emergent weed killers destroy weeds at specific growth stages. Pre-emergent weed killers help prevent weeds from popping up by targeting the sprouting weed underground before it reaches the soil surface. Post-emergent weed killers focus on getting rid of the weed once it has emerged from the soil.
• Selectivity refers to particular weeds the weed killer will target. Selective weed killers will destroy specific vegetation and not others, so check product labels to ensure it’s targeting the correct weeds without harming other plants. Non-selective weed killers will get rid of weeds and any other greenery around that it’s applied on, so you’ll want to take care around plants you want to keep alive.
• Translocated weed killers absorb into the plant’s system causing it to slowly die from within. These types of herbicides take longer to produce results, from several days to weeks, but often destroy the entire plant making them a good choice for weeds with deep roots. This is different from contact weed killers, which only kill the part of the plant where it is applied and results can be seen from several minutes to a few days.
• Persistence refers to how long the weed killer stays in the soil once it’s applied. Some weed killers deteriorate after several days where others last a few months to possibly a year. If you will be planting in the area where the product is being applied in the near future consider a weed killer that doesn’t last as long, however, if that is not an issue a longer-lasting product may be beneficial so it won’t need to be reapplied often.
How to find the best weed killer for you
• Check what types of weeds and plants the weed killer is intended to be used on. Some weed killers will kill all types of vegetation that you may not want killed including lawns, flowers, and vegetables.
• Ready to use vs. diluted. Ready to use formulas are convenient as they are ready to go, but concentrated formulas will be able to cover a lot of ground and last a long time since you’ll only use a small amount of product.
• Check the labels for safety warnings and wear protective gear such as googles or gloves as recommended by the manufacturer. Although a product may be labeled “all-natural” or “organic” it does not necessarily mean it’s safe on contact or around kids and pets.
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