A favorite of children for their delicate seeds that take flight with a single blow of breath, dandelions are among the challenges many home gardeners face in keeping their lawns lush and green.
A single dandelion plant can produce as many as 10,000 seeds that float on the gentlest breeze, so a yard with just a few dandelions can turn quickly into a lawn with hundreds. An effective course of action is to kill the weeds before they can multiply.
In most cases, the best dandelion killer is one that will get rid of the dandelions without harming the surrounding grass. However, if the dandelion infestation is widespread, you may have to kill the entire lawn and start over.
Ahead, learn what to look for when shopping for a dandelion killer, and find out why lawn lovers and groundskeepers prize the following herbicides for eradicating dandelion problems.
- BEST OVERALL: Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Compare-N-Save 2, 4-D Amine Broadleaf Weed Killer
- BEST FOR LARGE AREAS: GreenView Weed & Feed Broadleaf Weed Control
- MOST VERSATILE: BioAdvanced Season Long Weed Control
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Dandelion Killer
Dandelions are categorized as broadleaf weeds because of their wide, flat leaves that spread out—dinner-plate style—along the ground. Unlike many weeds with shallow root systems, dandelions develop long tap roots that can extend as deep as 2 feet or more in the ground, making them virtually impossible to pull out. Successfully getting rid of this invasive weed usually requires applying an herbicide designed specifically to kill broadleaf plants.
Organic vs. Inorganic Ingredients
Chemical herbicides have been a point of contention and debate for years, and while they have several disadvantages, they also have advantages. Herbicides come in two main types, organic and inorganic. Each has benefits that can suit individual needs and lifestyles.
- Organic: Organic herbicides contain only natural ingredients. They won’t leach toxic chemicals into the environment, but they also typically are less potent than their chemical cousins. Organic dandelion killer products may contain one or more of the following ingredients:
o Salt: Very similar to table salt but without iodine.
o Vinegar: May be concentrated to as much as six times stronger than household vinegar.
o Essential oils: Common essential oils include clove, cinnamon, and wintergreen.
o Soaps: Dish soap and natural detergents or fatty soap acids.
o Plant by-products: Corn gluten or corn starch containing proteins that stop weed seeds from sprouting.
- Inorganic: This type of herbicide, which contains synthetic and chemical ingredients, can be quite potent. Although some may be designed to kill only specific types of weeds, other types of these weed killers may kill all vegetation. Some broadleaf herbicides also include fertilizers, so in addition to killing weeds, they can boost lawn health. Herbicides designed to kill dandelions and other broadleaf weeds typically contain two or more of the following commonly used chemicals:
o Triclopyr: As a systemic herbicide, it mimics plant growth hormones and tricks the plant into a sudden burst of growth that overwhelms the weeds and kills them.
o 2, 4-D: Short for dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, 2, 4-D is a systemic herbicide that targets only broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, plantain, and chickweed.
o MCPP: Also known as “Mecoprop,” MCPP, a selective herbicide, kills only broadleaf plants and is often used in combination with another herbicide.
o MCPA: The selective herbicide 2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid (MCPA), which controls broadleaf plants, is most often used in the agriculture industry.
o Dicamba: A systemic broad-spectrum herbicide, dicamba kills broadleaf and other types of plants and weeds by stimulating plant rapid growth.
Selective vs. Nonselective
Some herbicides are “nonselective,” which means they will kill virtually any vegetation they come into contact with. Other herbicides kill only one or a few types of plants, which are called “selective” because they won’t harm other types of plants.
Weed-and-feed-type products are selective because they kill broadleaf weeds like dandelions but don’t harm turf grasses. A selective herbicide is like pulling up a single weed by hand. A nonselective herbicide is more like running a weed whacker.
When used as directed on the label, most selective and nonselective herbicides don’t affect the long-term health of the soil except for those that contain salt. If the herbicide will affect soil health, the product states how much time should elapse before planting in that spot, which could range from a few days after treatment up to a year or longer.
Dandelion-killing products are available in different formats, each suited to specific types of infestations and personal preferences.
- Spray bottle: Among the simplest forms of herbicide to use, spray herbicides come in a handy spray bottle for spraying directly on the offending weeds.
- Liquid concentrate: For those with many dandelions, it may be easier to purchase a concentrated liquid to apply using a pump-type sprayer.
- Powder: Powdered herbicides can be used in two different ways: dusting with a duster or by dissolving in water and applying with a sprayer.
- Granules: This herbicide requires the use of a broadcast spreader or drop spreader. Depending on the product, the granules may serve two purposes: killing existing broadleaf weeds and preventing new weed seeds from sprouting.
Application Safety Tips
The key to safely using any type of herbicide is to plan ahead and reduce human and animal exposure. While chemical herbicides present the most risk to humans, pets, and the environment, highly concentrated natural weed killers can irritate skin and kill desirable plants if not applied with care.
Use the following safety tips to help ensure safe use of the product for the environment and all involved.
- Read the label: This can’t be emphasized strongly enough. While many products have instructions, the labels on herbicides are federally regulated and bear the phrase, “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.”
- Water before weeding: Some herbicide products can stress the lawn, so water thoroughly one to two days before applying the product to ensure the grass is healthy and ready to withstand any stress associated with the application.
- Wear eye protection: In most cases, a pair of sunglasses will suffice for eye protection, but if it’s breezy, opt for goggles with side protection.
- Protect skin: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves to protect skin. Avoid leather, however, because it can absorb herbicide.
- Wait for calm: Winds more than 8 miles per hour are too strong to control herbicide spray.
- Wash afterward: After applying the product, wash hands and any other exposed skin. Change into clean clothes after application.
- Walk backward: Rather than walking forward over a newly sprayed lawn, which virtually guarantees getting the herbicide on clothing and shoes, walk backward to reduce the risk of contact with the product.
- Wait: While it’s frustrating to spray for dandelions and then see them looking healthy and robust the next day, many herbicides take a few days to work. Depending on the product, it may take up to two weeks.
- Stay off: Different products advise users to keep pets, kids, and adults off the lawn until the herbicide no longer poses a health risk, which could be a couple of hours or a few days.
Our Top Picks
To qualify as a top pick, a dandelion killer is effective at eradicating the weed, relatively simple to use, and comes with easy-to-follow instructions. The following broadleaf herbicides are all made to control dandelions, and each is well suited to various weed-killing situations.
Kill dandelions, reduce new weeds, and fertilize the lawn, all in one fell swoop with Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action herbicide. This granulated broadleaf weed killer also contains a crabgrass preventer, which prevents crabgrass from spreading in the lawn for up to four months, and a nitrogen-rich fertilizer that bolsters grass to make it healthy and lush.
This all-purpose weed killer comes in granules in a 20-pound bag, sufficient for treating up to 4,000 square feet of lawn. Safe for use on Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, and fine fescue, it may not be safe on lawns that contain creeping-type grasses such as St. Augustine and centipede grass.
For best results, apply Scotts Turf Builder with a push-type broadcast spreader or seeder in late spring or early summer.
Compare-N-Save 2, 4-D comes in a 1-quart jug of concentrated liquid that can treat up to 43,280 square feet of lawn. It not only kills dandelions but also other broadleaf weeds, without harming the grass. It works best when applied in the spring when dandelions and other weeds are still small and tender. After at least 30 days or more have passed since the first application, it can be reapplied once more per year.
This selective herbicide, while safe for most lawns, should not be used on creeping grasses such as St. Augustine, centipede grass, or bentgrass lawns.
Kill dandelions in yards up to 15,000 square feet with GreenView Weed & Feed Broadleaf Weed Control Plus Lawn Food. This selective herbicide comes in a 39-pound bag of granules (other sizes may be available), and a single application kills more than 250 types of broadleaf plants.
GreenView Weed & Feed also stimulates healthy grass growth, making lawns more resistant to heat and drought. The product can be applied safely with a broadcast spreader to most grass types, but it should not be used on St. Augustine, dichondra, or carpetgrass lawns.
For quick and easy weed eradication without mixing or measuring, this BioAdvanced Selective Herbicide comes in a handy 29-ounce bottle. The concentrated BioAdvanced formula kills existing weeds on contact and prevents new weed seeds from sprouting for up to six months.
The bottle attaches to a standard garden hose connection. Its one-touch sprayer makes it easy to adjust the water pressure and pattern. Apply the product up to twice per year, optimally in spring and again in fall when temperatures are between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
BioAdvanced will not harm lawns, and it’s suitable for use on sensitive grass varieties, including St. Augustine, zoysia, and Bermuda grass.
FAQs About Dandelion Killers
Broadleaf herbicides can help keep a lawn free from dandelions, but you may have some questions about whether the products are safe for yards, humans, pets, and the environment.
The best dandelion killer is one that fits your family’s lifestyle while helping keep the lawn weed-free. Below are answers to some of the most popular questions about dandelion killers.
Q. Why should I remove dandelions from my lawn?
Dandelions won’t harm the soil; in fact, their deep roots can help prevent erosion on sloped areas. However, a few dandelions this summer can turn into hundreds next summer. Because they detract from the look of a lush lawn and they spread so quickly, the best way to keep them out of a lawn is to get rid of them when they first appear.
Q. Are dandelion killers safe?
It depends on the product. Natural and organic herbicides are safe for the environment, but they may still pose health risks to pets and humans. Chemical herbicides also may pose health risks during application and until the chemicals are absorbed in the soil. The verdict is still out as to whether chemical herbicides pose a substantial risk to the environment when used as directed, but to minimize risk, use them with caution.
Q. How do I kill dandelions but not the grass in my garden?
The best method is to use a selective broadleaf herbicide that will kill the dandelions but will not harm the lawn. Read the product’s label before applying it to ensure it’s safe for specific species of grass.