Best Weed Killer
If you’ve ever spent an appreciable amount of time in a garden or dedicated your weekends to landscaping your property, you’ll know weeding is an essential (and time-consuming) chore. Let’s face it, who really wants to be bending over repeatedly to pull these ragged invaders from in between rows of vegetables and away from the sides of your walkways? A dedicated weed killer makes this unenviable task much easier, and depending on the type you choose, can have lasting effects which prevents weeds from returning for months and even years in some cases. We’ve selected some of the best weed killers on the market today as well as providing a weed killer buyer’s guide below to help you determine which type is best suited for your needs.
Best Weed Killer Overall:
In this world of biodegradable and safe formulas for use around kids and pets, the best weed killers are non-toxic and safe. Weed killers with dangerous chemicals should not be allowed to come into contact with humans, pets or other flora and fauna. They shouldn't be hazardous if they come into contact with water that wildlife thrives on.
However, with that in mind, weed killer should also be the best tool for the job. They have to be effective and that means, they have to kill weeds. The best weed killers will be rated on effectiveness and safety as priorities, with price no object, and if it contains an organic formula, the better it is.
ST GABRIEL ORGANICS 40025-5 Ready-To-Use Burnout Weed Killer/Repellent is made of organic clove oil, lemon juice and vinegar, it is non-toxic so it is safe to use around water, kids and pets. Read Full Review
Nature's Avenger Organic Weed Killer is made from pure organic citrus oil which means it will effectively kill weeds yet remain safe to use around kids, pets and waterways. OMRI rated and USDA certified organic, it is environmentally friendly, biodegradable and non-toxic. Read Full Review
EcoSMART Organic Weed and Grass Killer is safe and non-toxic to animals and pets. All natural or organic ingredients. It is biodegradable and uses both clove oil and peanut oil compounds to kill weeds. Read Full Review
Bayer Advanced 706180A NATRIA Grass and Weed Killer is the most effective weed killer on this list. It uses ammoniated soap of fatty acids to kill weeds, but it must not be inhaled and should not be used around ponds or other waterways. Read Full Review
Best Lawn Weed Killer:
Lawn weed killers are selective herbicides that are engineered to kill weeds but not kill your lawn. Although there are powdered and granule types, sprays work best. When sprayed on a plant, the liquid gets absorbed through the leaves. Virtually all of them are made with non-organic substances, so if you are going to apply them to your lawn, read and follow the label directions when it comes to kids and pets. The main ingredient in all chemically prepared lawn weed killers is 2,4-D. Although considered safe by the USDA, 2,4-D was the main substance in Agent Orange, the infamous Vietnam Era jungle defoliant. Always were rubber gloves during application, wear a dust mask to avoid inhaling fumes, and watch out for gusts of wind that might carry some of the chemicals onto plants that you don't want killed.
A lawn weed killer is engineered to kill weed types in a lawn, therefore the best lawn weed killers will kill ALL lawn weed types. This includes broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, chickweed and clover,and they will even kill crabgrass. Killing crabgrass is important because it is the most common weed in a lawn, and it is the most genetically similar weed to regular lawn grass types. Price no object, a lawn weed killer that takes out crabgrass, makes it to the top of this list.
Bayer Advanced 704140A All-In-One Lawn Weed and Crabgrass Killer Concentrate kills broadleaf weeds as well as crabgrass, for total lawn weed killing effectiveness. Read Full Review
Ortho Weed-B-Gon Weed Killer for Lawns Plus Crabgrass Control will kill both broadleaf weeds and crabgrass. It comes in concentrates or ready-to-use formulas. Read Full Review
Agralawn Garden Weasel AG Crabgrass Killer is the safest weed killer on the market. Although it is formulated to kill crabgrass, it will also kill clover, chickweed and some other weed types. Read Full Review
Southern AG 2,4-D Amine Weed Killer 32oz Quart Selective Broadleaf Weed Control 46.3 percent is economical to use, and provides one of the broadest spectrum weed killing formulas available. Read Full Review
Spectracide Weed Stop Crabgrass Preventer and Broadleaf Weed Killer Granules is the easiest to use lawn weed killer. It will kill most broadleaf weeds, and if applied in early spring, it will stop pre-emergent crabgrass growth. Read Full Review
Weed Killer Buyers Guide
Prior to chemical use, weed killing was done by mechanical means. Pulling them by hand or tilling them under were the most common practices for getting rid of weeds. Essentially, had it not been for the agriculture of food plants, weed killing may have been an afterthought in society. But with the coming of the first chemical synthesized as an herbicide, called 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, and commonly abbreviated as 2,4-D, weed killing became an industry unto itself.
First manufactured in 1940, this chemical hormone quickly spread to homeowners who wanted a weed-free lawn. It worked by essentially stimulating a weed to grow so rapidly that the actual cell structure ruptured during growth. In fact, 2,4-D is one of the primary ingredients of the infamous herbicide used during the Vietnam War known as “Agent Orange”.
By the 1950's, when many city dwellers headed out to the suburbs, 2,4-D sales rocketed. Lawns were larger and homeowners wanted to keep weeds at bay, and by simply spreading a chemical onto their lawns, it became just that easy to rid back and front yards of dandelions and crabgrass.
Of course, food production also spiked during this time period as well. Farmers could now kill weeds quickly and effectively, yet keep crops unharmed, since 2,4-D targeted only broadleaf plants, many of which were classified in the “weed” category. No longer did farmers or hired hands have to spend day after day plucking weeds between plant rows. A weed killer could be applied by machine over the course of a few hours, and the results were lasting. A few applications per growing season kept weeds at bay while crops flourished.
Weed Killer Types
There are 4 basic weed killing types, or herbicides as they are called, and each of them have their own unique property being emergence, selectivity, persistence, and contact/translocation. Each work in different ways, and you must decide which type is right for your needs.
Depending upon the specific type, these herbicides work before, during and after a weed emerges. A pre-emergence herbicide should be applied a week or two before any weeds are seen. An emergence herbicide should be applied just as the weed begins coming out of the soil, and a post emergence herbicide is designed to kill a weed after it is already growing. All weed killers fall into one of these categories.
These herbicides target specific types of weeds, and can be used in or around other plant growth (like lawns and crops for instance) without adversely affecting them. For example, in this classification, certain types of weed killer may only target dandelions to the exclusion of any other plant life. They can be spread confidently onto a lawn, and only dandelions will be affected.
Conversely, a non-selective herbicide will kill virtually any plant it comes into contact with and for killing large areas of undesirable growth, a non-selective weed killer would be your best bet.
Persistence essentially means how long weeds will be killed after a herbicide application. Non-persistent weed killers will not last longer than the day after application. On the other hand, persistent types can be made to kill weeds for extended periods after the initial application. If you want an area to be free of weeds for any length of time (such as pathways) a persistent weed killer would work best for this type of application.
Contact and/or Translocated
Contact weed killers only kill the part of the weed that it has been applied to. Translocated weed killers work their way down to the root system after application, effectively killing the entire plant. These types are very common for spot weed removal.
There are over 50 different chemical substances used to kill weeds, and more are being formulated yearly. Although effective, all of the synthetic manufactured types must be used with caution. Gloves and a respirator should be used during application, and for contact control, make sure that overspray does not touch other desired plant types.
Chemical herbicides run the gamut of characteristics. They can be contact killers, emergence killers, some manufactured for a specific weed type meaning they are highly selective, and some will have a persistence factor lasting years. They are also inexpensive to use, but caution must be taken around waterways, ponds and rivers as they are highly polluting and will kill off desirable water vegetation and the surrounding aquatic wildlife.
The newest herbicides are made from natural or organic substances like citric acid, garlic, clove oil and vinegar. Generally, they are of the contact variety and they are completely non-selective, meaning that they will kill any plant they touch. However, these are the safest herbicides available today, and many can be used around kids and pets without harm.
The most common types of pre-mix liquids are contact herbicides. You'll need a sprayer for these, as most need to be mixed with water and then sprayed on to be effective. These are very common for homeowner use, and very inexpensive for the amount used during application.
Pre-mix liquids are also popular for farmers. In this case, they are mostly used as pre-emergence types or selective weed killers during the growing season. Tanks of herbicide chemicals are mixed with water, than distributed by mechanical means while pulled behind a tractor.
These are the easiest to apply, and can be broadcast from a grass seed spreader. These are generally emergent types of herbicides, relying on the action of rain or artificial watering to dissolve the granules and activate them.
Ready Mixed Spray
A ready mixed spray is essentially ready to use right out of the bottle. In most cases, they are non-selective contact formulations, but some are also selective sprays targeting only a few types of weeds. These are the most expensive herbicides on the market, but since they are ready to use and no mixing is required, they’re the most hassle free types available.
What's Best for You
Weed killers have become so commonplace that you'll easily be able to find a type for your specific needs. They can be used virtually anywhere, the newest formulas are relatively safe, and if safety is your primary concern, you can use an organic or natural formulation. Some considerations on how and where to use weed killers are as follows:
Selective granules work best. They can be distributed by any centrifugal kind of spreader, and many of these granular types are also mixed with fertilizer, which kills weed and stimulates grass growth. These granules will target weeds only and allow your grass to flourish. However, you may have to keep kids and pets off the lawn for up to 72 hours after application. Always read and abide by the restrictions as stated on the package.
Emergent weeds between cracks can be spot targeted with a contact killer. For large areas, use a pre-mix and a yard sprayer. For smaller areas, a ready mixed spray bottle will suit your needs.
A contact spray can be used for growing weeds, but for long lasting weed killing, use a pre-emergent granular. You can lay on a pre-emergent granular before you mulch the path, and if you mulch yearly, also lay down some pre-emergent granular each time. A highly persistent type would be perfect if you are constructing a pathway. You could broadcast it beneath the first layer of mulch, and you would not have to worry about sprouting weeds for years.
Much like pathways, if your mulch bed is for aesthetics only, a pre-emergent granular can be broadcast each time you mulch. A contact spray can be used for sprouting weeds.
There are many synthetic herbicides that are certified for garden use. Most should not be sprayed near fruit, but there are both specific contact types and emergent types that can be used in a garden for weed control.
However, the safest and healthiest way to kill weeds in a garden are by pulling them out or tilling them under. If you must use a chemical weed killer here, the best choice is a natural or organic type.