Written by Karen C.
So, how do we remove weeds without harming other plants, the environment, wildlife, and our families?
Through the years, chemical control has been the number one method for weed killers. Although chemical herbicides reduce the damage from weeds, they leave behind hazardous residue on our vegetables and cause environmental pollution.
For this reason, we’re giving you suggestions for safe, organic, and non-toxic weed killers for lawns and gardens.
If you’re looking for DIY recipes and ideas for killing and preventing weeds using some ingredients you probably already have at home, check out this article.
Or if you’d prefer to buy a pre-made organic weed killer that’s also safe for your lawn, keep reading to learn more about common toxic herbicides and alternatives we can use safely.
P.S. For even more non-toxic lawn tips, scroll down!
Table of Contents
- What Are the Toxic Ingredients in Common Weed Killers?
- What Are Organic and Non-Toxic Herbicides?
- Selective vs. Non-Selective Weed Killers
- The Best Organic & Non-Toxic Weed Killer Brands for Lawns
- Non-Selective Non-Toxic Weed Killers (Not for Use on Lawns)
- Earth’s Ally
- Green Gobbler 20% Vinegar Weed and Grass Killer
- Natural Armor Weed and Grass Killer
- Dr. Earth Final Stop Weed & Grass Killer
- ECO Garden Pro Weed and Grass Killer
- Natural Elements Weed Killer
- 4 More Tips for a Pollinator-Friendly and Non-Toxic Lawn
- 1. Don’t Mow (Or Mow Less)
- 2. Choose Native Grass or Other Ground Cover
- 3. Cultivate a Wildflower Garden
- 4. Find an Organic Lawn Care Company Near You
- FAQ about Organic and Non-Toxic Weed Killers
- Is Scotts Turf Builder Weed and Feed an organic and non-toxic weed killer for lawns?
- What is a selective weed killer?
- Are beneficial organisms killed by weed killers?
- What makes a weed killer organic?
- How do I treat weeds with an organic weed killer?
- What other eco-friendly methods are there for controlling weeds?
This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase. As always, we only make honest recommendations.
What Are the Toxic Ingredients in Common Weed Killers?
Despite all the benefits of applying chemical weed killers, the harmful effects on the environment are a real concern.
When choosing herbicides, watch for the following common toxic inorganic herbicides that can be hazardous to your family.
2,4-D is one of the most dangerous herbicides, but it’s still used in parks, athletic fields, and crops. Its common name is dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. It’s dangerous for the environment, wildlife, and people.
Paraquat dichloride (which you might know it as Gramoxone) controls weeds in farmland and non-agricultural areas.
This herbicide causes severe injury and even death. It is highly toxic and is not approved by the EPA for home use. Some professional landscapers use it, and they have to be certified to do so.
Atrazine is the second most popular herbicide used in US agriculture, and it’s found in many home-based weed killer products.
It is linked with a variety of health concerns, including endocrine disruption, birth defects, and cancer.
This is the most common ingredient in herbicides these days. It’s used on farms and residential gardens and lawns. The first product to use this ingredient was Roundup in 1974. Since then, many herbicides have started using glyphosate.
Although glyphosate is thought to be a less bad herbicide than many of its predecessors, it still it not safe. Maybe in a future article, we’ll do a deep dive down into the rabbit hole that is Monsanto/Bayer and their legal battles over glyphosate, but for now, we’ll just say that we do not recommend it as a truly non-toxic choice. It was listed as a probable carcinogen by the IARC and Monsanto has paid billions of dollars in damages in lost court cases in recent years. Bayer has even said it will be removing glyphosate from all of its consumer weed killers by 2023. You can subscribe to Carey Gillam’s Substack, UnSpun, to stay updated on the current lawsuits against the chemical giant.
What Are Organic and Non-Toxic Herbicides?
Here are some of the common ingredients used in non-toxic, natural weed killers.
- Clove oil
- HEDTA iron
- Potassium salts
- Corn gluten
- Citric acid/oil
Considering these are fairly common ingredients that you likely have at home already, you might want to try and make your own recipe.
However, if you don’t want to go through that effort, there are natural lawn care brands that have tested and perfected their own formulations using various combinations and ratios of the above ingredients. We’ve listed those brands below.
Selective vs. Non-Selective Weed Killers
Before you choose which weed killer is best for you, there’s one more important thing to be aware of. If you’re going to be spraying weed killer over your lawn or wide swaths of your garden, you’ll need to use a selective weed killer. This will ensure that the weeds are killed, but your lawn grass, flowers, and vegetables are not.
Non-selective weed killers, on the other hand, can cause damage to your lawn and should only be used directly on the weeds you want to get rid of. We’ve included recommendations for both options.
The Best Organic & Non-Toxic Weed Killer Brands for Lawns
There aren’t very many selective non-toxic and organic weed killers on the market, but here are the ones we recommend:
A first-of-its-kind lawn care company, Sunday makes a line of lawn-safe weed killers that are made from eco-friendly ingredients. It can take care of things like dandelion, thistle, moss, speedwell species, white clover, mustards, rust, snow mold, moss, algae, lichens, and more.
Their two main weed control products are Dandelion Doom and Weed Warrior, both of which can be purchased as a concentrate or in a spot treatment spray bottle. You can also purchase a Starter Pack first and then get refills later.
The Dandelion Doom uses iron to kill weeds at their roots. The Weed Warrior, on the other hand, uses a type of soap made from fatty acids, which “eats away at the waxy coating that protects most green leafy growth from the elements.” You can learn more about the different ingredients Sunday uses right here.
In addition to their weed control products, Sunday also carries a variety of other glyphosate-free garden and lawn-care products, including fertilizers, pest controls, live plants, and more. If you want a more comprehensive approach to your lawn and garden care, they can help you set up a “Smart Lawn Plan.”
They’re also a member of 1% For the Planet (just like us!), meaning they give back a portion of their revenue to environmental non-profits.
Espoma Organic Weed Preventer is one of the few organic weed killers available for lawns. It’s manufactured with a natural corn gluten meal that not only kills weeds but feeds the lawn.
It’s a pre-emergent herbicide, which means it prevents the weeds from germinating on your lawn. So, it doesn’t kill established weeds. Apply it in the spring before weeds emerge for the best results.
Also, children and pets can walk on the grass right after applying it to your lawn.
Non-Selective Non-Toxic Weed Killers (Not for Use on Lawns)
The following weed killers are non-selective herbicides, which means they can damage any plants they come into contact with, including your lawn grass. These weed killers should be sprayed directly on the weeds you want to get rid of, in cracks in the driveway, etc.
Earth’s Ally uses salt as it’s main weed-killing ingredient, and they combine it with other ingredients like vinegar and soap. It kills common weeds at the root, including broadleaf, crabgrass, dandelion, clover, ivy, chickweed and more. You can see it start working in about three hours so that you don’t end up over-spraying. Then after about a week, the weeds are completely dead.
They also have other organic lawn care and gardening products, including general plant spray, insect control, and disease control. They transparently list all of their ingredients right on their website.
Plus, not only are Earth’s Ally’s products “Bee Safe®”, but they even donate 5% of profits to pollinator conservation efforts.
Naturally made from corn, Green Gobbler Weed Killer is an organic alternative to harsh, chemical herbicides. It advertises that it kills weeds starting within one hour and destroys all weeds within 24 hours.
Green Gobbler is certified organic and safe to use anywhere in your yard and garden. The active ingredients in this herbicide are made from vinegar derived from corn. The product states that it’s four times stronger than household vinegar.
The phosphate- and glyphosate-free ingredients work on crabgrass, dandelions, nutsedge, moss, and clover, plus other weeds.
Natural Armor natural, organic weed and grass killer is also glyphosate-free. It kills over 250 types of weeds and grasses.
This herbicide formula is safe for your family, pets, wildlife, and groundwater. It comes ready to use, so there’s no messy mixing. Whether you want to kill weeds in your flower beds, around trees, on patios, or pathways, Natural Armor Weed Killer gives good results.
The all-natural ingredients include vinegar, lemon juice, clove oil, glycerin, sodium chloride, citric acid, and water.
Dr. Earth Final Stop Weed & Grass Killer is an effective, organic weed killer. Its natural ingredients include cinnamon oil, clove oil, rosemary oil, sesame oil, thyme oil, and citric acid.
It kills grasses and broadleaf weeds anywhere they grow. This organic herbicide formula is safe for pets, wildlife, people, and the environment.
All of the ingredients in this natural weed killer are safe for children, pets, wildlife, bees, and fish. Eco Garden Pro kills weeds and roots within 24 hours. The active ingredients are vinegar and sodium chloride.
Some of the weeds this product eliminates are dandelions, chickweed, crabgrass, moss, and other common weeds.
The all-natural, organic ingredients are not only non-toxic but also biodegradable and safe for groundwater. It’s an eco-friendly weed solution for flower gardens, sidewalks, and driveways.
Natural Elements eco-friendly weed killer is safe for your family, pets, and wildlife. The formula doesn’t contain any chemical herbicides and it’s a ready-to-use weed killer.
The ingredients in Natural Elements are vinegar, sodium chloride, and sodium lauryl sulfate.
4 More Tips for a Pollinator-Friendly and Non-Toxic Lawn
Keeping ourselves, our kids, and our pets safe while we live and play on our lawns is obviously important, but conscious citizens will also want to do what they can to protect pollinators as well. Pollinators tend to be even more sensitive to the toxic effects of pesticides than humans and other animals. Not only are they an important part of our ecosystem as a whole, but they also are crucial to humans’ food supply.
All of that being said, here are a few more things you can do to protect all living things in your yard.
1. Don’t Mow (Or Mow Less)
Not mowing is quickly becoming a trendy thing to do, as citizens realize that preserving the health of our environment is more important than “keeping up with the Joneses” with a perfectly clean-cut lawn.
Consider participating in no-mow May, or better yet — quit mowing altogether and start a pollinator-friendly yard that the bees and butterflies can benefit from all spring and summer. (More on that in a minute.)
Of course, some municipalities and HOAs have rules about what your lawn is supposed to look like, so depending on where you live, it might be more difficult for you to get away with not mowing. (One couple in Maryland actually went through a legal battle after their HOA told them to remove their wildlife-friendly garden. The lawsuit actually ended up changing the law in Maryland so that HOAs can no longer force homeowners to have lawns. Well done, Crouches!)
But even mowing less often can help. Grasses that are a few inches longer can help slow weed growth without the use of pesticides simply by providing more shade for weed roots. Longer grass can also help the blades grow deeper roots, which aids in a more resilient lawn overall.
2. Choose Native Grass or Other Ground Cover
Choose grasses and other plants that are native to your area. They will probably be easier to take care of and will require less water and pesticides.
You may want to go with a ground cover other than grass, especially if you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of rain or if you just want some more variety in your lawn. Epic Gardening has a great guide to using cover plants either instead of or in addition to normal grass.
3. Cultivate a Wildflower Garden
There are a few different ways to create a pollinator friendly yard. You could either add more traditional flower and/or vegetable gardens around your yard, which will require more maintenance but will be easier to get past the HOAs.
Or instead of a more conventional garden, you could let the grass grow while also planting wildflowers. You might consider starting with just one section of your lawn to see how things go, and then gradually expand that section each year. (Keep in mind that it will likely take a couple of years before you get a “pretty looking” wildflower lawn.
It’s relatively easy to start cultivating a pollinator-friendly lawn. You’ll need to do a quick search on what wildflowers are native to your area and then ideally seed them in early spring. Here are more instructions on how to start and maintain your bee-friendly lawn.
And if you’re afraid of what the neighbors might think, you can even put up a sign to let others know what’s up!
4. Find an Organic Lawn Care Company Near You
If you have specific needs or problems, or if you’d rather just not do the work yourself, you’ll want to hire a lawn care company that cares about non-toxic products as much as you do. Watch out for greenwashing in this area because many companies will pay lip service to safety, but without actually backing it up.
Don’t be afraid to ask the company questions about the products, ingredients, and methods they use. If they aren’t willing to be transparent with you, consider that a yellow flag.
One relatively quick way to find out if the lawn care products they use are truly non-toxic is to ask if kids and pets can be on the lawn right after application. If they say no, then whatever they’re using may not be as safe as you want it to be.
FAQ about Organic and Non-Toxic Weed Killers
Here are some questions we often hear about organic, non-toxic weed killers.
Is Scotts Turf Builder Weed and Feed an organic and non-toxic weed killer for lawns?
No, Scotts Turf Builder Weed and Feed is an example of a non-organic herbicide and lawn fertilizer combination that can be harmful to the environment, pets, and your family.
Although it provides certain nutrients to grow a healthy lawn, the chemical weed killers can be hazardous. Its ingredients include hazardous chemicals like dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and propionic acid for weed control.
What is a selective weed killer?
A selective weed killer only kills certain weeds. For instance, a weed killer created for lawns will only kill weeds but not grass.
Are beneficial organisms killed by weed killers?
Eco-friendly organisms are often killed by toxic chemicals in weed killers. These beneficial organisms include insects, fungi, and bacteria that help break down organic matter that feeds the soil. That’s why it’s so important for us to use safe, organic weed killers.
What makes a weed killer organic?
An organic weed killer is anything that avoids synthetic chemicals. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) reviews organic weed killers. You can research products at OMRI to see the products they say are organic.
How do I treat weeds with an organic weed killer?
The best way to treat weeds with an organic weed killer is to catch them when they’re first sprouting. It’s harder to kill established weeds, so you will need to reapply several times to kill the weeds.
Make sure you spray the whole broadleaf weeds including the underside of the leaves.
What other eco-friendly methods are there for controlling weeds?
If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, pulling weeds by hand is the safest method for killing weeds. That’s usually all you have to do for home garden beds.
In fact, cutting back on the lawn areas is a great way of weed control. Planting flowering trees, shrubs, and raised beds to make less weeding for you. Plus, you get more enjoyment out of the gardens.
I hope this guide has been helpful for you in finding the non-toxic and organic lawn weed killer that’s best for your needs.
To get more guides, recommendations, and news delivered to your inbox each week, sign up for Filtered Friday.