The Best Brush Killers of 2023

Woody, thorny, and vining weeds can get out of control quickly. Get rid of them once and for all with the right brush killer for your property.

By Glenda Taylor and Tony Carrick | Updated Nov 13, 2022 11:22 AM

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The Best Brush Killer Options

Photo: amazon.com

Depending on which area of the country you call home, a variety of brushwood species could be spreading along your fence lines or growing into impassable thickets in your yard. Left to their own devices, brush—a combination of saplings, conifers, young trees, and invasive vines—can quickly encroach on little-used parts of the property until you can ignore it no longer. Trying to chop and dig the weeds out is a labor-intensive task, and some brush varieties may regrow if roots remain.

That’s where brush killers come in. These herbicides, which can be organic or synthetic, should be strong enough to banish even invasive brushwood species. Selecting the best brush killer for your needs will depend on the type of brush you’re dealing with, the extent of the problem, and your preferred method of application. Ahead, learn what to look for when buying a brush killer and find out why the following products are all excellent at eradicating tough weeds.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Doctor Kirchner Natural Weed & Grass Killer
  2. RUNNER-UP: Natural Elements Weed Killer
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Earth’s Ally Weed & Grass Killer
  4. MOST VERSATILE: Natural Armor All-Natural Weed & Grass Killer
  5. BEST SPRAY BOTTLE: Green Gobbler 20% Vinegar Weed & Grass Killer
  6. BEST HEAVY-DUTY: OrganicMatters Natural Weed Killer Spray
  7. BEST FOR DENSE BRUSH: BioAdvanced Ready-to-Use Brush Killer Plus
  8. ALSO CONSIDER: Just for Pets Pet-Safe Weed Killer Spray
The Best Brush Killer Options

Photo: amazon.com

Before You Buy Brush Killer

While herbicides are one means of clearing brush, brush killer isn’t always the most effective solution. Brush killers can take a week or more to banish woody plants, kudzu, poison oak, and poison ivy. They also often require multiple treatments, especially if the brush is particularly dense or tall. Plus, unless shoppers go with an organic product, brush killers introduce harmful chemicals, such as glyphosate, triclopyr, and fluazifop, into the environment, which can hurt wildlife.

Organic brush killers use ingredients that biodegrade quickly in the environment, including seawater, vinegar, and small amounts of mild dish soap. While organic products may not take out brush as quickly as chemical-based products, they are far less harmful to wildlife as well as safer to use and store in a home with pets and kids.

That said, shoppers may prefer to avoid using a brush killer entirely in favor of physically removing the offending weeds. While a lawn mower and line trimmer may not be equipped for such a job, there are machines designed to take down brush. Field and brush mowers will cut through dense vegetation and can even cut through saplings up to 3 inches thick. While these machines are too expensive for nonprofessionals to purchase, many garden centers and home improvement stores rent them for a nominal fee.

If shoppers would rather not rent a brush mower, they might be able to convert their line trimmer into a more powerful machine capable of handling the job. Some string line trimmers can be fitted with serious cutting blades that can slice through dense vegetation.

How We Chose the Best Brush Killers

Brush, poison ivy, weeds, stumps, and other harmful plants can damage the integrity and aesthetic of an outdoor space and plants. The right brush killer can remove all noxious plants with the aid of potent ingredients, long working times, and water resistance.

Many of the above picks are made with triclopyr; glyphosate; 2,4-D; or combinations of these chemicals for effective weed killing. Some also contain weed-preventing chemicals to keep noxious plants from regrowing. These potent formulas typically have rainproof abilities to last through most weather conditions.

The above selection is also versatile, as most brush killers are able to wipe out a variety of harmful plant types simultaneously, and the effects can last for up to 1 year after application. Many of the above picks are concentrated, requiring dilution before use, so most come in lightweight quantities, but multiple size options are typically available. Also note that while brush killers are liquid formulas, not all products come with spray nozzles or wands for application. Those that don’t should be poured into a spray bottle using a funnel to prevent spills.

Our Top Picks

A brush killer should live up to its name and be potent enough to kill the offending varieties of brush. The following products will all kill most types of brush, and one or more is sure to be an asset in helping eradicate the woody overgrowth on a property. This list consists of mainly organic options that will eliminate brush without leaving behind chemicals that can hurt wildlife.

Best Overall

The Best Brush Killer Option: Doctor Kirchner Natural Weed & Grass Killer
Photo: amazon.com

A formula that’s both effective and organic makes Doctor Kirchner’s Natural Weed & Grass Killer the best brush killer on the market. It’s made from simple ingredients, including ocean salt water, commercial-strength vinegar, and soap. While it may not have the immediate brush-killing power of some chemical-based herbicides (multiple applications will likely be necessary to take out the vines and dense shrubs that classify as brush), it’s much safer for the environment, pets, and people.

This nonselective brush killer is ready to use out of the bottle and requires no messy mixing. It’s also available in a broad range of sizes—including a 640-ounce bottle that’s ideal for covering large areas of brush—to suit jobs both small and large.

Product Specs

  • Type: Ready to use
  • Active ingredients: Seawater, vinegar, and soap
  • Amount: 1 gallon, 2.5 gallons, 320 ounces, 640 ounces

Pros

  • Natural, nontoxic active ingredients made from ocean salt water; commercial- strength, food-grade vinegar; and soap
  • Wide range of sizes with multipacks available
  • Kills all types of vegetation fast, with most weeds beginning to wither in hours
  • Long shelf life for years of effective use

Cons

  • May take several applications to kill brush
  • Expensive

Get the Doctor Kirchner brush killer on Amazon.

Runner-Up

The Best Brush Killer Option: Natural Elements Weed Killer
Photo: amazon.com

With its mix of commercial-grade vinegar and salt water, Natural Elements is a powerful herbicide with ingredients that fortunately biodegrade quickly. Natural Elements will kill most broadleaf weeds and grasses, making it ideal for use as a brush killer. It also comes ready to use with no mixing required. Simply add the liquid herbicide to a sprayer and saturate the leaves of weeds and unwanted grass. Weeds will begin to brown and wilt in 24 hours. Natural Elements is available in 1-gallon containers.

While Natural Elements Weed Killer doesn’t present the same hazards as chemical herbicides, it does use highly concentrated vinegar, which can cause severe burns if exposed to the skin. Users should wear eye protection and gloves and cover exposed skin during application.

Product Specs

  • Type: Ready to use
  • Active ingredients: Sodium chloride, water, vinegar, and soap
  • Amount: 1 gallon

Pros

  • Environmentally friendly, nontoxic formula that is derived from vinegar
  • Affordable price for 1-gallon jug
  • Kills most types of broadleaf weeds and grasses
  • Results can be noticed in as fast as 24 hours

Cons

  • Tough weeds may require 2 applications

Get the Natural Elements brush killer on Amazon.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Brush Killer Option: Earth's Ally Weed & Grass Killer
Photo: lowes.com

Earth’s Ally is very similar to other organic herbicides in that it uses a mix of salt water, vinegar, and soap to kill weeds. What differentiates this weed killer from the competition is its notably lower price tag. Earth’s Ally, which comes in 1-gallon bottles, is effective against broadleaf weeds, including tough ivy and chickweed. Plants will begin to wilt just hours after application.

Earth’s Ally leaves a comparably smaller impact on the environment than chemical-based herbicides, and it’s safe for use around pets and people. It comes premixed and includes a handy sprayer, making it easy to use and an even better bargain.

Product Specs

  • Type: Ready to use
  • Active ingredients: Sodium chloride, water, vinegar, and soap
  • Amount: 1 gallon

Pros

  • Eco-friendly nontoxic formula that is safe for people, pets, and bees
  • More affordable than other organic herbicides
  • Kills most broadleaf weeds like crabgrass, dandelion, clover, ivy and chickweed
  • Includes easy-to-use garden sprayer
  • See results in as little as 3 hours in some climates

Cons

  • Vines and certain weeds may require multiple applications

Get the Earth’s Ally brush killer on Amazon or at Lowe’s.

Most Versatile

The Best Brush Killer Option: Natural Armor All-Natural Weed & Grass Killer
Photo: amazon.com

Natural Armor stands out from the field of organic herbicides with its use of multiple natural ingredients to kill weeds. In addition to sodium chloride and vinegar, common ingredients in other environmentally friendly weed killers, Natural Armor also uses citric acid and clove oil for an extra weed-walloping punch.

Simply coat weeds with Natural Armor using the included spray attachment—no mixing required. Weeds begin to show distress in just a few hours, though denser weeds and brush may require more than one application. Natural Armor is available in 2.5-gallon bottles that include a sprayer.

Product Specs

  • Type: Ready to use
  • Active ingredients: Sodium chloride, citric acid, water, clove oil, and soap
  • Amount: 2.5 gallons

Pros

  • Pet- and people-friendly ingredients that contain no glyphosate
  • Trigger-sprayer attachment included
  • Fast-acting formula that starts working in just hours
  • Easy to use: Just spray and go

Cons

  • Denser brush may require multiple applications

Get the Natural Armor brush killer at Amazon, The Home Depot ( 1 gallon), or Walmart.

Best Spray Bottle

The Best Brush Killer Option: Green Gobbler 20% Vinegar Weed & Grass Killer
Photo: amazon.com

Green Gobbler uses a high concentration of 20 percent vinegar and a trigger spray with an adjustable nozzle to wage its assault on weeds and brush. This high concentration of acetic acid is effective at taking out stubborn brush, including vines and a host of broadleaf weeds and grasses. A nozzle that adjusts from spray to stream allows the user to target large and small weeds while limiting overspray. Green Gobbler kills quickly, with weeds drying out in less than 24 hours.

Its environmentally friendly ingredients make it safe to use anywhere, including vegetable gardens, flower beds, and driveways. Protective eyewear and clothing that covers exposed skin should be worn when applying the product due to its high concentration of acetic acid. Green Gobbler requires no mixing; the 1-gallon size includes the tough trigger sprayer, and 2-gallon refill bottles are also available.

Product Specs

  • Type: Ready to use
  • Active ingredients: Acetic acid (high-concentration vinegar)
  • Amount: 1-gallon jug with sprayer and 32-ounce spray bottle

Pros

  • Capable of taking out stubborn vines
  • OMRI-listed weed killer and certified for organic use
  • Environmentally safe ingredients made from corn grown in the USA
  • Kills weeds in less than 24 hours
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • High percentage of vinegar can cause severe eye and skin burns

Get the Green Gobbler brush killer on Amazon or at The Home Depot (32 ounces).

Best Heavy-Duty

The Best Brush Killer Option: OrganicMatters Natural Weed Killer Spray
Photo: amazon.com

While OrganicMatters relies on salt water and vinegar as other organic herbicides do, it can wipe out more types of weeds thanks to the addition of some potent yet less common ingredients. Its formula includes two ingredients that give it an added punch—clove oil, which is especially effective against broadleaf weeds, and lemon juice, which dries out weeds.

OrganicMatters is premixed and ready to use straight out of the 1-gallon bottle, though it must be poured into a spray bottle since a trigger is not included. It starts killing weeds in less than 24 hours; however, heavier brush may require several applications to finish it off.

Product Specs

  • Type: Ready to use
  • Active ingredients: Vinegar, salt water, clove oil, lemon juice
  • Amount: 1 gallon

Pros

  • Multiple active ingredients to target and dry out more weeds
  • Dries faster than most formulas, less susceptible to rain
  • Large coverage area; ideal for use around driveways, flower beds, fence lines, and more
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • No sprayer attachment included
  • Heavier brush requires multiple treatments

Get the OrganicMatters brush killer on Amazon.

Best for Dense Brush

The Best Brush Killer Option: BioAdvanced Ready-to-Use Brush Killer Plus
Photo: amazon.com

While organic options present the safest and most environmentally friendly options for killing brush, they generally aren’t as effective against dense brush as chemical herbicides.

With its active ingredients triclopyr and triethylamine salt, BioAdvanced is one of the best brush killers for taking out such stubborn plants as poison ivy, kudzu, blackberries, and poison oak. This spray-on herbicide also works quickly, in just a few hours, making it less vulnerable to rain. Although triclopyr is considered to be safer than some other chemical herbicides, it’s nonetheless somewhat toxic to some birds, mammals, insects, and marine life, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As such, it’s crucial that users carefully follow product instructions when mixing and applying it.

Product Specs

  • Type: Ready to use
  • Active ingredients: Triclopyr, triethylamine salt
  • Amount: 1 gallon container and 24-ounce spray bottle

Pros

  • Strong herbicide quickly kills over 70 types of brush, vines, brambles, and woody plants
  • Start seeing results in 1 to 6 weeks
  • Includes sprayer with grip-controlled trigger
  • Works quickly, making it less susceptible to rain

Cons

  • Active ingredient can be toxic to the environment

Get the BioAdvanced brush killer at Amazon (24 ounces), The Home Depot (1 gallon), or Walmart (for 24 ounces).

Also Consider

The Best Brush Killer Option: Just for Pets Pet-Safe Weed Killer Spray
Photo: amazon.com

Many commercial herbicides contain glyphosate, which is toxic to animals, so they’re a poor choice for those with dogs or cats that go outside or have wildlife roaming their property. Just For Pets Pet-Safe Weed Killer Spray only uses natural ingredients, making it a safer option for pet owners (though its active ingredients are basically the same as other organic weed killers).

This product uses a mix of vinegar, salt water, and clove oil to kill weeds and is ready to use straight out of the bottle. To apply, use the included sprayer attachment to saturate offending weeds. While clove oil does have the potential to cause skin irritations, it is safer for pets than synthetic chemical herbicides.

Product Specs

  • Type: Ready to use
  • Active ingredients: Vinegar, salt water, clove oil, lemon juice
  • Amount: 1 gallon

Pros

  • Natural active ingredients that contain no glyphosate
  • Includes easy-to-use sprayer attachment
  • Works quickly; initial weeds will be gone within the first 24 hours
  • A portion of each sale is donated to animal shelters nationwide

Cons

  • Clove oil can still be dangerous to animals

Get the Just For Pets brush killer on Amazon.

Or, DIY Your Own Brush Killer

Most organic brush killers use active ingredients that folks typically have in their kitchen pantries—salt, vinegar, dish soap—which means replicating them is fairly easy.

To create a homemade brush killer, mix a gallon of vinegar with 1 tablespoon of dish soap and 1 cup of table salt in a spray bottle. For an even stronger solution, consider purchasing horticultural vinegar, which has a concentration level of 20 percent, significantly higher than the 5 percent vinegar available at the grocery store.

Just keep in mind that this higher concentration of vinegar is much more acidic and therefore has the potential to cause serious eye and skin burns. When using high-concentration vinegar, wear protective eyewear and cover all exposed skin.

Apply the vinegar-salt-soap solution to weeds on a warm, sunny day when the heat will help with the dehydration process.

Jump to Our Top Picks



Our Verdict

There are other common brush killers, including Roundup Ready-to-Use brush killer, Southern Ag CROSSBOW brush killer, and RM43 brush killer. However, they do not meet our sustainability guidelines and are not recommended in our top picks due to their harmful ingredients and danger to humans and pets. Doctor Kirchner’s brush killer is not only an effective means of wiping out brush, but it also uses ingredients that are safer for people, animals, and the environment than chemical-based brush killers. That’s why it took our Best Overall spot. While some organic herbicides can be pretty pricey, the Earth’s Ally brush killer uses a similar formula to the competition yet costs less.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Brush Killer

An untended yard can become a dense jungle of vines and wild bushes within a few short months. When that happens, it will likely be impossible to clean up the property with a mere mower or weed wacker. Organic weed killers and chemical herbicides are both capable of taking out dense brush. Before buying, however, it’s important to think about the best type and application method for each situation and the safety considerations involved with various products.

Type

Some types of brush killers are better suited than others to specific situations. Some folks have only a small area to clear, while others might have an acre or more. Fortunately, buyers have a choice.

  • Ready to use: The simplest of all products to apply, ready-to-use brush killers are dispensed via pump-type sprayers or larger backpack-style or trailer-mounted sprayer tanks. Some ready-to-use products come in hand-spray bottles, but a larger sprayer is a better option for treating anything beyond just a few offending weeds.
  • Liquid concentrate: Most brush-killing herbicides come in concentrated liquid form that users must dilute with water before filling in a sprayer. Concentrated herbicides are usually less expensive, coverage wise, than ready-to-use products. Mixing it is an extra step, however, and requires precise measuring.

Ingredients

Weed killers come in synthetic-chemical and organic options. While chemical-based products are more powerful and therefore more efficient at killing shrubs, vines, saplings, woody plants, and weeds, organic options are gentler on the environment and safer for people and pets.

Most chemical brush killers contain one or more of the following chemicals:

  • Triclopyr: This is the most common chemical found in herbicides used to kill brush, including poison ivy, poison oak, and kudzu. Triclopyr is a selective brush killer, meaning it will kill only particular types of plants, such as broadleaf woody plants like locust, sweet gum, mesquite, and more. Because it won’t kill most types of turfgrass, it is well suited for clearing away brush in areas near lawns.
  • Fluazifop: Found in brush killers that contain another herbicide, usually triclopyr, fluazifop is another selective herbicide. It targets thick, grassy undergrowth and various types of broadleaf weeds, such as invasive sedges. When used in combination, the two herbicides will kill most offending brush species.
  • Glyphosate: Considered a nonselective herbicide because it targets all vegetation, including woody species, vines, and grasses, glyphosate is an effective and potent brush killer.
  • 2,4-D: Short for 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, this selective herbicide is used to eradicate invasive broadleaf weeds. It’s often added to triclopyr to boost its effectiveness.

While chemical herbicides are more effective at killing brush, they also have much greater potential to impact the environment negatively. Triclopyr and fluazifop are considered to be milder than other chemical herbicides, but they still present a hazard to wildlife. Glyphosate, a common ingredient in most chemical herbicides, has been listed as probably carcinogenic (i.e., a cancer-causing agent) to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, though the EPA states that there is no evidence that ingesting glyphosate leads to cancer. Glyphosate also poses a significant threat to wildlife.

Organic brush killers, in comparison, use natural ingredients that biodegrade quickly, posing much less of a threat to wildlife. Most organic brush killers contain the following ingredients.

  • Vinegar: Nearly all organic herbicides use horticultural vinegar, which has a higher concentration of acetic acid than kitchen vinegar. The high levels of acetic acid in this type of vinegar prevents plants from absorbing water, causing them to dry out and die. Though horticultural vinegar is safer than synthetic chemicals, the high acid content does make it potentially dangerous during application.
  • Salt: Many organic herbicides use sodium chloride, which works with the vinegar to dehydrate the plant. Sodium chloride also treats the surrounding soil, making it difficult for plant roots to absorb water.
  • Clove oil: Some organic herbicides also use clove oil, which destroys the leaf cuticle, killing the leaves. Clove oil alone isn’t an effective herbicide as it does not damage the weed’s root system.

Water Resistance

Applying an herbicide just before it rains can cause the product to wash away before it can kill the offending plants. That’s why some of today’s herbicide products are designed to be rainproof within a few hours of application. Depending on the product, an herbicide can become rainproof in as little as 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Working Time

Patience pays off when using an herbicide to kill brush. Some types of brush, especially tender vines and grassy weeds, may begin wilting within a couple of days. Woody and thorny bushes with hardwood stems or trunks, though, may not show signs of dying for up to 6 weeks. Wait it out—there’s usually no need to reapply the herbicide. In some cases, the product’s label may even recommend against reapplication for a specific amount of time, such as 30 to 60 days.

Safety

Commercial brush-killing products are considered to be safe when used as directed. Keep in mind that these are potent chemicals, and care is required when applying them—careful application protects the user as well as pets, children, and the environment. What’s more, neglecting to follow usage instructions on an herbicide label may even be a federal offense. Herbicide labels bear this warning: “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” It also makes good sense to follow some safe-application tips.

  • Protect eyes and skin: Wear goggles, long sleeves, long pants, and a respirator mask when spraying brush with a potent herbicide. If any of the product gets on the skin, wash it off promptly.
  • Don’t spray in the wind: Apply brush killer only on a calm day to avoid killing desirable plants with accidental overspray. Spraying on a still day also reduces the risk of skin exposure or inhaling the chemical. A good rule of thumb is not to spray if the wind is blowing over 8 miles per hour.
  • Establish a kid-free zone: Brush killers and children don’t mix. Keep the kids away while spraying, and don’t allow them into the area until the manufacturer says it’s safe, which can range from an hour or more up to a couple of weeks. The same goes with pets—no sense in taking any chances.
  • Mix only as directed: While it may be appealing to use the herbicide at a higher concentration for added kill power, resist the temptation to do so. Not only does this come under the “violation of federal law” clause, but using too strong a mixture could render the soil unusable for months (or longer).

FAQs

Unwanted vines and brush can take over a plot of land quickly. When they become too thick and tough to remove with a mower or brush cutter, many shoppers opt to use chemical weed and brush killer products. Here are answers to some common questions about brush killers.

Q. Can a brush killer kill grass or other desirable plants?

Yes, herbicides kill a wide range of plants, and overspray can kill grass and other desirable plants. So use caution and don’t apply herbicide when it’s windy.

Q. Are brush killers safe for children or pets?

Some are safer than others. Always read and follow the label’s safety precautions, and don’t allow children or pets in the area until the recommended amount of time has passed.

Q. How long does it take for a brush killer to work?

When foliage is saturated, many brush killers start working almost immediately. Still, it can take time for the herbicide to travel from the leaves through the stems, trunks, and roots. Wilting may be evident in 24 hours, but the entire plant may not die for up to 6 weeks.

Q. How many times do I have to apply the brush killer?

Typically, only one application is necessary, but success depends on several factors. If the wrong type of product is used, it may never kill the offending brush; if rain washes the herbicide off too soon, reapplication may be necessary. Always read the product’s label, because it may be a violation of federal law to reapply specific herbicides before a certain amount of time (specified on the label) has passed.