Pet-Friendly Weed Killer

Pet-Friendly Weed Killers: Keep Your Pet And Garden Safe!

Can you trust your weed killer? A 2013 study showed that exposure to herbicide-treated lawns is associated with a higher risk of cancer in dogs.

Chemical-based herbicides can threaten your pets thanks to a variety of dangerous ingredients. The most dangerous of which is ‘glyphosate’, which can linger in soil, water, and food, and is toxic to both animals and humans. The World Health Organization has actually classified glyphosate as carcinogenic based on a review of several conclusive studies.

But not all weed killers are that dangerous. There are some weed killers that will keep your garden weed-free without threatening your pets. In this guide, we’re going to show you eight of the best natural and pet-friendly weed killers. We’ll also cover what you should look for in a pet-friendly weed killer, and some concerns about weed killers in general.

Read on to find a pet-safe weed killer that works best for you!

Our Winner After 40+ Hours Of Research

Green Gobbler Vinegar Weed & Grass Killer

Our Rating

Top 8 Pet-Friendly Weed Killers – Comparison

Name & Brand
Visible result
Size
Our rating
Price
Green Gobbler2-6 hours
1 Gallon
4.9
Check Price
Doctor Kirchner24 hours
16 Ounce
4.8
Check Price
Espoma Organic6 hours
25 lb
4.8
Check Price
Natural Armor24 hours
16 Ounce
4.6
Check Price
Preen Organic1-3 hours
5 lb
4.4
Check Price
BioSafe Systems2 hours
1 Gallon
4.5
Check Price
ACETA Force24 hours
1 Gallon
4.2
Check Price
Avenger Organics2 hours32 oz4.2 Check Price

The 8 Best Pet-Friendly Weed Killers

There are a lot of options on the market, but these eight are our picks for the top pet safe weed killers available. All of them use natural ingredients and won’t harm your pets.

Green Gobbler Vinegar Weed & Grass Killer

First on our list is Green Gobbler, which is made by the company of the same name based in Copiague, New York. Their main line of products is cleaners of all sorts, and this weed killer is a vinegar-based offshoot of that product line.

Green Gobbler Vinegar Weed & Grass Killer

It’s a pre-mixed ready-to-use weed killer made of 20% corn vinegar. The remaining 80% is all water. This lack of additives means that you only have to worry about the acetic acid, which breaks down in soil in just a few days or washes away with water. This product is very pet-friendly and environment-friendly, and it’s easy to use. All you need to do is spray it onto the weeds you want to kill.

You’ll want to apply it during a still day, temperature between 60 to 80 F, with no rain forecast. Spray your target weed thoroughly with Green Gobbler and ensure it’s completely coated. The treated weed will turn brown in hours, and most weeds will die overnight assuming you spray in the morning.

Also, since it’s just vinegar mixed with water, you can also use it for other purposes around the house, most notably cleaning. Dilute it with more water to get just the right strength, depending on what you’re cleaning, and you’ve got a nice, organic, multi-purpose cleaning agent.

Get Green Gobbler Vinegar at Amazon

It comes in four different sizes: 1-gallon container, 5-gallon pail, 55-gallon drum, and 275-gallon tote. It’s also cheaper than other premixed weed killers, so you’re saving a few dollars going for Green Gobbler.

Despite our praise, remember that this is still a commercial-strength vinegar herbicide. 20% vinegar is no joke, and it will irritate your eyes and skin if you get it on you. Get some pants and long sleeves on, a pair of waterproof gloves, and a mask. The mask is especially important; concentrated vinegar is quite strong.

Just about the only downside we can think of is the lack of other ingredients. This is good from an environmental standpoint, but it means Green Gobbler is not as effective as it could be. It could use some surfactant to help it stick to plants and thus be a bit more effective in killing weeds.

But beyond that one hiccup, Green Gobbler is our top choice for the best pet-friendly weed killer on the market. It’s effective, it’s cheap, and it’s completely pet safe.

Doctor Kirchner Natural Weed & Grass Killer

Doctor Rudy Kirchner and his brother Dan are the pair behind this fantastic weed killer. They invented this revolutionary product after suffering from health issues due to their use of non-organic weed killers. They started in 2015, went online in 2017, and now they offer one of the best natural weed killers on the market.

Doctor Kirchner Natural Weed & Grass Killer

The Doctor Kircher formula is a refinement of their Grandma’s proven weed-killing recipe. It’s a pre-mixed, ready-to-use mixture of ocean salt water, commercial-strength food vinegar, and soap. As Doctor Kircher explains, the key is to soak the target weed and its leaves in the solution until thoroughly wet, then leave it to work.

It takes effect in hours, though you might not see visible effects until after 16 hours. Either way, most weeds will die overnight. Particularly large weeds may need a second spray to finish killing. It’s a standard recipe with standard effects, but that’s the beauty of it; the vinegar-soap-salt combination is so common because it works quite well, and there’s no need to make it any fancier. The vinegar and salt kill whatever plant it’s being applied to, while the soap helps the solution stick to the plant to ensure maximum effect.

It’s available in a bunch of sizes: a dinky 2oz spray bottle, a 32oz bottle with a sprayer head, and larger 1-gallon, 2.5-gallon, and 5-gallon containers for when you’ve got a lot of garden to spray. The 32oz, 1-gallon, and 2.5-gallon sizes are even available as 2-packs, if you have a lot of weeds to kill.

Get Doctor Kirchner Natural at Amazon

With no other ingredients beyond the combination of salt water, vinegar, and soap, there’s nothing to linger in the soil that can either leach into your plants or poison your pets. The overnight kill time also syncs up quite well with drying time; by the time it’s dried off, the weeds you’ve sprayed will also be dying.

Just about the only thing you can say against Doctor Kirchner is the lack of immediate effect, which may lead new users to think it isn’t doing anything. It really does work, but you need to give it a little longer than other weed killers. It’s also slightly more expensive than the other pre-mixed products on this list, though not by all that much.

Overall, Doctor Kirchner is an excellent formula, and the variety of available sizes make it an excellent fit for pretty much any size of garden or lawn.

Espoma Organic Weed Preventer

Espoma saves you valuable time and effort by offering this handy 2-in-1 product. When you apply a good, healthy coat of Espoma onto your garden, you’re not only feeding your plants that are already growing, but you’re also killing the weeds that are just about to sprout. This product does both jobs thanks to its primary ingredient: corn gluten meal.

Espoma Organic Weed Preventer

Corn gluten meal is a byproduct of the corn milling process, and is entirely natural. It’s an excellent source of nitrogen for the soil, which is why it’s a good lawn feeder. All you need to do is spread the Espoma over your garden, rake it into the soil, and let it work. It’ll settle into the soil, and it’ll choke off any weeds just trying to establish themselves. When your garden sprouts, no weeds will sprout with it.

Since it’s a corn byproduct, it’s pet-safe, and is even technically edible. When applied, it releases no chemicals or fumes to make the garden unsafe. In fact, you can even let the pets in the moment you’re done.

It comes in 25lb bags, and Amazon also lets you order it in packs of two, three, and four bags. Note that Espoma isn’t quite like other fertilizer products; you must use quite a lot more for it to properly take effect. For weed prevention, the recommended application rate is 20lbs per 1,000 square feet, which means one 25lb bag is enough for a garden of 1,250 square feet. Check just how large your garden is so that you know how many bags of Espoma you need to get.

Get Espoma Organic Weed at Amazon

Note that this is not a weed killer. If the weed is already grown, Espoma won’t do anything to it, so you’ll have to pull those yourself. You must apply Espoma before the weeds germinate so that it can choke them out. If the weed is already established and growing, the Espoma will actually encourage weed growth. It also won’t protect any seeds that you’ve just planted, because it’ll choke them out just like it does with weeds.

Overall, if you want to both feed your lawn and save yourself the trouble of having to kill weeds yourself, Espoma Organic Weed Preventer is just the thing for you.

Natural Armor Weed And Grass Killer

The name might sound like it’s from a big company, but Natural Armor isn’t a label from one of them. It’s a Florida-based business, independent, family-owned and operated, with their original claim to fame being their All-Natural Animal Repellent. They’ve since expanded their product line, keeping the all-natural theme, which is what brings us to Natural Armor All-Natural Weed & Grass Killer.

Natural Armor Weed and Grass Killer

Natural Armor uses a pre-mixed ready-to-use formula that’s all-natural, pet-friendly, and glyphosate-free. The main ingredients by volume are water, vinegar, glycerin, and lemon juice. To help the vinegar in the heavy work, there’s a bit of salt, citric acid, and clove oil. And to ensure the whole thing sticks to the plant being killed, there’s a surfactant: sodium lauryl sulfate.

That combination makes an effective weed killer. Effects are visible in hours, with some plants even dying in as short as four hours. Most weeds will die overnight. This is standard for vinegar-based weed killers, though you may need to give tougher weeds a second spray. You do get a strong vinegary smell after application, but it’ll fade as the weed killer begins to take effect.

Natural Armor comes in 1 gallon and 2.5 gallon containers. You can also buy a 1 gallon container with an included trigger sprayer. All the ingredients are natural and have no ill-effects on the environment or animals. That includes the sodium lauryl sulfate. Don’t let the name fool you; it’s derived from coconut and palm oil, and it’s commonly used in a wide variety of products. You probably have it in a dozen other products in your home.

It’s a solid formula that kills weeds in about a day. All in all, it’s one of the best vinegar-based weed killers on the market.

Preen Organic Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer

It’s not just Espoma who’s made note of the benefits of corn gluten meal. This product from Preen also makes use of the same substance, and for good reason. It both feeds your garden and kills weeds that haven’t solidly established themselves yet. And unlike every other substance on this list, it isn’t even toxic; in fact, it’s technically edible.

Preen Organic Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer

Preen, just like Espona, is made from 100% corn gluten meal. This means that it’s a pre-emergent weed killer, with all the bonuses and downsides that apply. It’ll feed your garden and choke out weeds trying to establish themselves. It won’t do anything to existing weeds, which means you’ll have to remove those with something else.

Apply it just as growing season starts, but only around established plants. You can’t ‘protect’ a seed still trying to sprout by coating it with Preen. It’ll choke out all seeds trying to grow, whether it’s the plants you want or the weeds you’re trying to kill. Once applied, rake a bit of soil over the Preen so that it settles in.

It’s pet-safe because it releases nothing when applied, though we still recommend keeping your pets away, because they might eat the product. This won’t do anything bad to them, but it’s a waste of money.

You can use Preen as a typical lawn food, but using it as a weed killer needs a lot more product. Specifically, you want 20lbs of corn gluten meal for a space of 1,000 square feet. Thus, the small 5lb container covers 250 square feet, while a 25lb bag covers 1,250 square feet. Consider what areas you’re covering to figure out exactly how much you need.

On the whole, there just isn’t much difference between Preen and Espoma, except for two things: Price and availability. Preen tends to be a bit more expensive than Espoma for the same quantity, so Espoma is better in that regard. However, if you really want corn gluten meal and Espoma isn’t available, Preen will serve just as well.

BioSafe Systems 7601-1 BioSafe Weed Control Concentrate

Vinegar is all well and good, but the smell can be a bit overpowering. If you want a pet-safe weed-killer that’s highly effective and vinegar-free then we recommend BioSafe Systems’ Weed and Grass Killer.

BioSafe Weed Control Concentrate

Its active ingredient is ammonium nonanoate, a soap made from ammonia and nonanoic acid. It works the same way as vinegar-based weed killers: it dissolves the wax coating on plant cell walls, which causes the weed to die of dehydration.

This is a concentrated weed killer, which means you have to dilute it with water. The ratio depends on what weeds you’re trying to kill. The manual recommends 13 to 16 ounces of concentrate to 1 gallon of water, which will kill most weeds encountered. You can go as low as 8oz to 1 gallon for lighter weeds, or as high as 19.2oz to 1 gallon for stubborn ones.

Ammonium nonanoate’s effects on animals haven’t been studied yet, but indications are that it isn’t toxic. It can irritate the skin and mucous membranes if improperly handled, but it’ll break down in soil very quickly. Just to be safe, don’t let your pets into the treated area until the next day.

As a concentrate, you get more out of a given volume than a premixed weed killer, so this is especially good if you’ve got a lot of lawn or garden to cover. The downside is that you have to dilute it before it’s ready for use, which means handling the herbicide directly. It’s important to take all necessary safety precautions just as the label recommends, and don’t breathe in the fumes.

The most notable downside is that while this is pet-safe, it is not bee-safe. The manual explicitly notes that it’s toxic to bees that have been exposed to it or its residues on treated plants, so if bees are a concern, use with caution or avoid it entirely. Either way, spray at night so that you affect as few bees and beneficial insects as possible.

Overall, this product proves that vinegar isn’t your only recourse for natural weed killing. This concentrate lets you cover a lot more ground, and is both pet-friendly and effective.

ACETA Force Industrial Strength 30% Natural Acetic Acid

We’ve seen a few good vinegar-based weed killers on this list, but all of them were pre-mixed. This product is a concentrated vinegar-based weed killer, and it’s very effective. It’s labeled as ‘industrial strength’, and it lives up to its name.

ACETA Force Natural Acetic Acid Vinegar Weed Killer

Industrial Strength vinegar means 30% acetic acid, compared to the 5% in the vinegar you have on your table. This stuff is not for the faint of heart. Handle it with care, caution, and protective equipment. Don’t breathe in the vapors. Wear gloves and long sleeves and keep it off your skin. Beyond the vinegar, it’s also got a bit of surfactant and some salt in it to make sure that it sticks to surfaces and thus delivers maximum effect.

You can use it either diluted for typical weed-killing duty or undiluted for stubborn weeds. You can also use it as the base for your own weed killer solution. As always, it’s best to spray this product on a still day that isn’t too warm or too cold, with no rain. This ensures best conditions for the Aceta Force to work. You’ll see results in about four hours, with most plants dying overnight.

Since it’s concentrated, a given quantity will last you a bit longer than a pre-mixed product. Aceta Force’s standard size is a 1-gallon container. If you’ve got a lot of weeds to kill or you’re planning to use it for other cleaning purposes, it also comes in a 4-pack of those gallon containers.

The strength of this product is also its main disadvantage. This is a concentrate and you’ll need to dilute it for use, and you’ll need to handle his product with extreme care. 30% vinegar is not a friendly or safe substance by any measure. So, unless you’ve been invaded by stubborn weeds this might not be the best product for you.

With that said, sometimes you need an extremely strong natural weed killer, and no other weed killer on this list is stronger than Aceta Force.

Avenger Organics, Avenger Weed Killer Concentrate

Maybe vinegar isn’t your thing. Maybe you don’t like the smell, or you’d rather not deal with the trouble of dealing with concentrated vinegar. If you’d prefer a non-vinegar weed killer that’s still natural and pet-friendly, Avenger Organics has the product for you.

Avenger Organics Avenger Weed Killer

But, what makes this weed killer safe for dogs and other pets? Avenger Weed Killer’s active ingredient is citrus oil extracted from oranges, lemons, and other citrus fruits, and it’s got the aroma to match. It works the same way as every other weed killer on this list, breaking down cell walls to kill a plant by dehydration. It’s 70% citrus oil, with the other 30% being castor oil and emulsifiers. These are surfactants by another name, increasing effectiveness by keeping the weed killer on the plant for a longer period.

Avenger’s recommended dilution ratios depend on what precisely you’re trying to kill. 1:6 weed killer to water will do for small annual weeds. For larger examples of annual weeds, 1:4.5 does better. Tougher weeds like ivy and the more durable perennial weeds need a 1:3 dilution. All of these are done with clean water. Of course, nothing’s stopping you from experimenting on your own, so while these are the maker’s recommendations, you may find something that works better for the plant life in your garden.

Once you’ve diluted Avenger, spray it on and cover the target plant thoroughly. Unlike the vinegar-based weed killers, you can apply this on cold overcast days, just don’t apply it if you’re expecting a downpour.

Target plants will start drying out fairly quickly. In ideal conditions (a nice warm sunny day), you can even see the effect within minutes. As usual, most plants will be dead overnight. And you also get a nice citrus aroma afterwards, which is quite a lot better than the smell that comes with vinegar-based weed killers. But just because it smells better doesn’t mean you’re completely safe. Protection is still in order, so get your long sleeves and mask on before you use Avenger.

Avenger Weed Killer comes in 32oz containers. Since it’s concentrated, that will stretch further than a pre-mixed equivalent, though you should experiment with dilution relative to your usual weeds to find out just how far it will go.

If you don’t want to deal with strong concentrated vinegar, then Avenger Weed Killer makes for an excellent and more fragrant-smelling alternative.

ECO Garden PRO – Organic Vinegar Weed Killer

Like the previous entry, ECO Garden PRO’s weed killer is a safe vinegar solution that can satisfy all your weed killing needs. The product mentions a similar list of weeds that it is effective against with a bunch of new ones too such as poison ivy, Chickweed, Dollar weed, and thistle!

ECO Garden PRO - Organic Vinegar Weed Killer

This 100% natural weed killer is composed of the potent Acetic Acid (quality white vinegar), Sodium Chloride (organic rock salt), a biodegradable plant activator, and fermentation-derived co-factors that ensure whatever weeds or grasses you choose to spray are killed within 24 hours!

Because of its all-natural list of ingredients, it remains safe for use around pets and natural wildlife and even children. This even means the bees that work so hard to keep plant life lush and diverse in your area will stay nice and safe. The product also cannot affect the safety of groundwater which only adds to the list of its many pros.

ECO Garden PRO’s organic vinegar weed killer is the perfect weed killer for any residential, commercial, industrial, or agricultural use. Places this product can be used effectively in include concrete flats with sprouting weeds, infested farmlands, flower beds, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, and mulch beds!

Their READY TO USE (RTU) formula ensures that there’s no unnecessary fuss when all you need is a weed-free space.

In my experience using this product, the results were astounding. I applied sprayed a particularly bothersome patch of crabgrass in the corner of my yard at about nine in the morning so I could forget about it as I went about my normal day. At about noon I noticed it had drizzled a bit in my area and that concerned me. I thought that perhaps the rain might wash the spray off, but when I checked again at sundown, maybe four-ish I was surprised to see the weeds already wilting! That’s just another plus in my book.

For a product with such a wide array of effective uses, ECO Garden PRO – Organic Vinegar Weed Killer really is a great tool for anyone with recurring problems with weeds. The makers of this product clearly had the safety of the environment, animals, and of course family in mind when making such an effective yet safe product.

Just For Pets Pet-Safe Weed Killer

Just For Pets Pet-Safe Weed Killer is an all-around answer for any home-based lawn keeper who’s looking to take care of and weed problems without endangering their family and pets. Their name says it all ‘Just For Pets’ ensures that their products are made with your furry companions in mind. Without a trace of dangerous chemicals, poisons, and especially no Glyphosate, this product is definitely a must-have.

Just For Pets Pet Friendly & Pet Safe Weed Killer

These guys use a host of natural and organic ingredients to promise a safe and effective weed killer. But outside of this, you can really tell that Just For Pets cares about the well-being of animals because with every purchase a portion of the proceeds go to the development of animal shelters.

Most weed killers boast results after around 24 hours or even after repeated use, but Just For Pets Pet-Safe Weed Killer handles those pesky dandelions and annoying patches of crabgrass in UNDER 24 hours. No wasting time with this product, just straight to business!

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to use it either. It’s usable straight upon purchase. Just point and spray on any weed affected area to get desired results. This potent formula will ensure the sprayed area is clean and free of vegetation so aim carefully!

From personal experience, using the spray on a few patches of crabgrass in the morning saw them dead by the end of the afternoon and it even rained that day. Apparently I was lucky, because it is usually recommended to reapply the spray on target weeds in the event of heavy rain since the rain may wash the formula off.

On the off chance that you aren’t completely satisfied with your purchase they also offer a 100% money-back guarantee with no questions asked. Although in truth, I doubt you’ll actually need it due to how damn effective it is.

Overall this product is a home run hitter for me due to the fact that it covers all the fundamental areas I’m looking for when buying a pet-friendly weed killer. From the name alone you should already know that this company makes animal safety one of their top priorities in addition to the fact that the product’s all-natural composition means it leaves no permanent damage to the environment.

A Short Buyer’s Guide To Pet-Friendly Weed Killers

Now that we’ve seen what’s on the market, let’s take a look at why we chose the eight above, and find out what makes a weed killer safe for pets? This section breaks down exactly what you should look for in a pet-friendly weed killer.

  • Ingredients And Composition

Most commercial weed killers are chemical-based. This means that they’re highly effective, but there’s also the downside of toxicity. This is not so big a problem for humans (you can just avoid your garden until it’s safe) but this is a bigger problem for children (who can be hard to control) and pets (who need the time outside).

For a weed killer to be pet-friendly, it has to use ingredients that break down into harmless byproducts after they take effect on the weeds. This is what makes the chemical ones so difficult; they not only kill the weeds, but their residue can harm your pets and leave them with health conditions afterwards.

The best way to go pet-friendly is to go natural. There are a lot of possible naturally-occurring ingredients that can fill this role, but the favorite is vinegar; it’s a common and cheap acid that will readily kill plants in the right concentration. Plus it breaks down after it’s done killing, posing no further threat to your pets

  • Post-emergent Vs Pre-emergent

There are two types of weed killers, based on what weeds they can kill. Post-emergent weed killers are the ones we usually think of; spray them on weeds that have grown or are just growing to kill them. Pre-emergent weed killers attack weeds before they’re grown and prevent them from reaching maturity.

Both have their uses. We’ve listed mainly post-emergent products above, but we also recommended two pre-emergent ones. You can always use both if you have enough money and time: lay down a coat of pre-emergent, then use a post-emergent product to kill the already-grown ones and anything that gets past the pre-emergent. If you had to pick just one, we recommend post-emergent. There will always be something that pre-emergent misses. However, a good use of pre-emergent can make your weed killing a lot easier. Best to experiment and find out what works for you.

  • Active Ingredient Strength

How powerful is the active ingredient? A stronger active ingredient means a product can kill established weeds effectively. The downside to this is that a stronger active ingredient means it’s more difficult to handle. Since most natural weed killers rely on dehydrating a plant with chemical reactions, it’ll do the same to your skin if you mistreat it, so handle with care.

Just because it’s pet-friendly and the label says ‘organic’ doesn’t mean that you can spray it on yourself and be fine. Use with care and with protective equipment. That goes double for the concentrated products, especially before dilution.

You want to find a balance here. You need a product that’s strong enough to handle any weed, but it shouldn’t be too strong that you need to put on a full chemical suit just to weed out your garden.

  • Speed Of Action And Breakdown

We’re using ‘speed’ here in two different ways. One, how fast does the active ingredient kill its target? While this is also a function of strength, it bears consideration in its own right. If you have to keep your pets away from your garden for five straight days, that’s going to cause frustration for everyone in your household.

Another important speed consideration is how long the active ingredient takes to break down and become inactive. This is an important part of what makes a weed killer pet-friendly, as we’ll cover later. The faster a weed killer breaks down, the sooner you can go back to the area you’ve just treated.

How To Kill Weeds Without Harming Your Pets

Now that we’ve covered what goes into our weed killers, here’s a few tips about how to use them in a safe and pet-friendly manner.

  • Keep Your Pets Inside

This is especially important for any kind of weed killer. No type of weed killer is ‘pet friendly’ while it’s killing its targets. Vinegar in concentrations strong enough to kill weeds can burn your pets easily. Keep your pets well away from the area while you’re spraying, and keep them away for at least 24 hours so that the weed killer has time to both take effect and dissolve. This will keep your pets safe, and it’ll also stop them from tracking any weed killer onto plants that you don’t want to kill.

  • Read And Follow The Labels

The label on a weed killer always contains useful information that the manufacturer is legally required to disclose. A lot of the time, what people think is the product not working is actually them not using the product properly. Read the labels, note the manufacturer’s instructions, and use your weed killer with care.

  • Spray In The Right Conditions

The ideal day to spray a weed killer is a still day with temperature between 60 to 80 F, and no rain forecast for the next two days. Since the weed killers we’ve listed above all rely on damaging plant tissues, time of day doesn’t really matter as much but other factors still play a part. Too high a temperature, and your herbicide might evaporate before it has time to take effect. Too cold and too early in the day should also be avoided; heavy dew can cause weed killer to run off before it takes effect.

Still days are better than windy ones, because wind action can affect where your spray lands, leading to you accidentally spraying plants you want to keep. And rain works the same way as dew; if rain is likely to fall soon, your herbicide may be washed off.

Killing Weeds With Household Materials

As you’ve noticed, a lot of these weed killers use materials that you can find in your own home. You can make your own pet-friendly weed killer if none of the above products quite work for you!

  • Acetic Acid: Vinegar

There’s a reason so many of the products we listed above use vinegar: it’s cheap and it’s effective. But not all vinegar is suited for weed killing.

The power of a vinegar-based weed killer comes from the percentage of acetic acid. Your regular ‘white’ vinegar that you have on your table is 5% acetic acid. You may see cleaning vinegar as a product distinct from food-grade vinegar; this is usually 6% acetic acid. This can kill weeds, but only the small ones just getting established. For the bigger, more stubborn weeds, you need commercial-grade vinegar. 10% is the lowest you should go for a serious weed killer, and you should ideally get stronger. Aceta Force is a good start; look for 20% to 30% vinegar. Only the toughest, most stubborn weeds will stand up to 30% vinegar.

But as we have noted previously, use caution when handling strong concentrations of vinegar. It’s pet-friendly because it doesn’t leave any harmful residue after it decays; while it’s still active, acetic acid will readily burn your skin, your eyes, or your pets.

  • Salt The Earth: Salt

Salt is quite the effective weed killer, and is used in several forms, as you can see in the list of recommended products above. It’s best as an additional ingredient to vinegar-based weed killers, but in case you don’t have any vinegar, you can use a mixture of salt and water. A 3:1 ratio of water to salt will work; from there you can increase the amount of salt if you see no results. Apply that to the weed (but not to its roots), and the offending weed will die.

However, there is a problem with using salt. If it leaches into the soil, it makes that soil a lot less fertile, and the surrounding plants will feel it. This is fine if you’re treating an area where you don’t want plants to grow anyway (like in the spaces of a brick path) but not so good for the rest of your garden. Best to keep salt as a secondary ingredient, not the primary weed killer.

  • Wash It Off: Soap

Soap does two things. First, certain types of soaps (like ammonium nonanoate used in the BioSafe weed killer listed above) are herbicides in their own right, and are strong enough to dissolve plant cell walls like vinegar does. The second, which applies to all soaps, is that soaps are surfactants, and these will help the active ingredient stick onto a plant for longer instead of just sliding off. This means you get a lot more effect on the targeted weed, and a lot less wastage.

  • Boiling Water

It might sound too simple, but it works. Boiling hot water kills weeds pretty efficiently. This also saves you the trouble of watering the nearby ground! You can also add salt and/or vinegar to use their weed-killing ability as well.

  • Dig Them Out

Of course, the most pet-friendly way is to do it by hand. For smaller weeds, no digging is necessary; just pull them up and make sure you’ve taken their roots with them. There are some weeds that are resistant to weed killers like wisteria or nutgrass. So when you’re facing stubborn weeds like that, that’s when your shovel comes in handy.

Frequently Asked Questions

People tend to have a lot of questions about weed killing. They’ll ask what works, what doesn’t, and what kind of effect the more common weed killers will have on their pets. In this section, we’re going to cover all of the most frequently asked questions about pet-safe herbicides.

Is there a pet-safe way to kill grass?
Yes. Any of the weed killers listed above will do (though not the pre-emergent ones). You may need to get them in bulk if you’ve got a large area to cover, so a concentrate may be more helpful in this regard. Grasses are still plants and will die readily to natural weed killers.

Are there pet-friendly weed killers that don’t kill grass?
Here’s a problem. Vinegar, citrus oil, and the other naturally-occurring ingredients we’ve seen listed above all kill plants by a mechanical process; that is, they break down the walls in plant cells, which lets water out, and this causes the plant to die of dehydration.

The problem is that this applies to both broad-leafed plants and grasses. So to answer this question and the previous one, there isn’t a pet-friendly weed killer that can do only one or the other; that just isn’t how they work. The best you can do is to spray selectively and try not to get the weed killer onto the plants you want to keep.

Is there a pet-friendly way to kill dandelions?
Yes, just grab any of the post-emergent weed killers we listed above and get spraying. They’ll burn through dandelions as easily as they will any other plant. If it’s early enough, you can kill them before they get established by using a pre-emergent weed killer. A combination of both should suffice to keep your garden dandelion-free.

However, if those measures have failed and the dandelion in question starts flowering, not even weed killer will suffice; you’ll have to dig them out. Grab your shovel and get sweating.

Are weed killers safe for dogs?
Yes and no. No weed killer of any type is ever ‘pet safe’ for any kind of animal while it’s active and killing weeds, not even the ones we’ve listed here. Chemical weed killers take effect by disrupting a plant’s biological systems. Natural weed killers like the ones we feature damage the plants directly. They can and will do the same to both you and your pets, which is why you should wear protective equipment and keep your pets away from the area you’ve just treated.

It’s only after the weed killer dries off that it can be pet-safe. Natural weed killers break down into harmless residue that won’t harm anyone; chemical weed killers linger, and can still poison you or your pets. We’ll cover these later.

What protective equipment do I need?
Protection is important to keep yourself safe from the weed killer you’re using, especially when you’re dealing with vinegar in high concentrations. It’s still an acid, and 20% to 30% acetic acid will damage your skin if you spill the product. When handling any type of weed killer, make sure to wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and waterproof gloves. Safety goggles or a face shield are also important, especially if you’re getting up close to the plants you’re spraying. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Is glyphosate safe for my pets?
Glyphosate is the main active ingredient in Roundup weed killer, which is one of the most common weed killers on the market, used at home and in agricultural applications. It’s a non-selective weed killer, working on both broad-leafed plants and grasses. It’s in very widespread use; if you haven’t used it yourself, chances are you know someone who has.

It is also not pet-friendly in the least. Glyphosate does not break down quickly, with a half-life of four months in agricultural soil. It can leach into the plants it’s been treated with, especially if they’re resistant or genetically engineered to be ‘Roundup Ready’, and your pets might eat plants in the area so treated. Glyphosate exposure has already been linked to many health problems in humans; your pets aren’t any more immune than we are.

Considering all these risks, it’s better to just leave the Roundup on the shelf and go for a more natural alternative. A natural product will kill plants without as much risk to you, your pets, or your soil.

Is Roundup safe for my pets?
We’ve already covered glyphosate itself, but Roundup as a whole isn’t quite helpful either. Our warnings about not letting your pets into an area treated with weed killer go double if it was Roundup. Animal contact with still-wet Roundup is incredibly toxic; they’ll display symptoms like weight loss, excessive drooling, diarrhea and vomiting. This is the surfactants in Roundup at work, and it’s not a pretty picture.

On the whole, it’s not worth the risk. Is your pet’s life and continued health really worth the money you’d save by using Roundup?

Is 2,4-D safe for my pets?
2,4-D is a herbicide developed in the 1940s and is now one of the more common ingredients for herbicide products on the market. This is because it kills broad-leafed plants and leaves grasses alone, making it ideal for weed control in crops like wheat or rice. Many farmers use it to control weeds that grow in the winter.

But, if you have pets, 2,4-D carries a significant risk. Studies have found that animals exposed to 2,4-D are at risk of multiple ill effects, like bladder cancer and malignant lymphoma. In large doses, it inflicts lethargy, vomiting, and convulsions. Even worse, it sticks around longer than other herbicides, lingering for as much as three days.

All this means that it just isn’t worth it to use 2,4-D if you have pets. A natural solution is much better for your animal friends.

Is Sethoxydim safe for my pets?
Sethoxydim is a common herbicide sold under a bunch of names; you may encounter it as Aljaden, Checkmate, Expand, NP-55, Poast, Vantage, or several other names. Its value is the opposite of 2,4-D; sethoxydim kills grasses but leaves broad-leaved plants alone.

It’s a bit safer for animals than 2,4-D is, but it can still cause some problems. Surface contact with it isn’t a hazard, but don’t let it come into contact with your eyes. The real problem is if it’s ingested, as it can irritate the nose and throat, and cause sedation, salivation, tremors, and diarrhea. It doesn’t cause any ill effects beyond that except for reproductive effects, so keep your pregnant pets firmly away from any area treated with sethoxydim.

Overall, while it’s not as hazardous as 2,4-D, it can still be risky. Better to have a more pet-friendly solution to the grassy weeds.

Is Spectracide safe for my pets?
It depends on which of their product line you’re using. Their weed killer for lawns mainly uses  2,4-D, which has its problems as already detailed above. Their general weed killer uses diquat dibromide and fluazifop-p-butyl, among other ingredients. Of these ingredients, fluazifop-p-butyl is not toxic to birds or mammals, but is notably toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Diquat dibromide causes cataracts in animals over prolonged exposure, and is harmful to fish.

They can be helpful, but given the risk to other animals and your pets, Spectracide products might not be the best option. A natural weed killer won’t have these downsides.

Conclusion

Chemical weed killers might make it easier to tend your garden, but they’re hard on both you and your pets. It may seem difficult to keep your garden weed-free while also keeping your pets safe, but it’s quite possible; all you need is the right product.

There are plenty of great products that can kill weeds while remaining pet-friendly. Avenger’s fragrant citrus oil is completely natural, and smells great! Espoma Weed Preventer lets you kill weeds before they ever come up, and it even feeds your garden while it’s working. And Green Gobbler’s vinegar solution is a classic organic answer to a thorny problem.

All the products above are effective, affordable, and best of all, they’re safe for your pets. So, whichever solution you choose, your pets are in good hands.

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