The Best Weed Killers of 2022

Control dandelion, crabgrass, and other unwelcome lawn and garden plants with the right weed killer for your needs.

By Manasa Reddigari and Tony Carrick and Mark Wolfe | Updated Sep 23, 2022 11:47 AM

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The Best Weed Killer Options

Photo: Debbie Wolfe

Whether they crop up on your lawn, in a flower bed, in gravel areas, or between cracks in paved pathways, weeds are the gardener’s age-old enemy. They make the yard and walkway look unkempt, and they compete with desirable plants for sunlight, water, and nutrients. Some weed species can even spread to the point of disrupting natural habitats. Weed killers can suppress the invaders and keep them from overrunning the lawn, garden, and landscape.

But banishing weeds needn’t harm the environment. Generations of chemical researchers have developed numerous powerful herbicides for home use that are highly effective, relatively cheap, and easy to apply. When used sparingly and as directed, these products can help eliminate the toughest weed problems while minimizing risk to adjacent desirable plants. Unfortunately, frequent use and improper application of chemical herbicides leads to water pollution, acute and chronic health problems, collateral damage to desirable plants, and other negative effects.

Natural and organic weed killers make the best choice for everyday lawn, garden, and landscape maintenance because the active ingredients are far less risky to human health, waterways, and wildlife. We tested the following products, and they proved to be highly effective. Read on to learn more about weed killers, our test results, and the reasons why we consider these some of the best weed-killer options available.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Doctor Kirchner Natural Weed Killer
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Calyptus 45% Vinegar
  3. BEST FOR LAWN WEEDS: Sunday Weed Warrior Herbicide
  4. BEST FOR DANDELIONS: Sunday Dandelion Doom Herbicide
  5. BEST FOR GRAVEL AREAS: Bonide Captain Jack’s Deadweed Brew Concentrate
  6. BEST READY-TO-SPRAY: Green Gobbler 20% Vinegar Weed & Grass Killer
  7. BEST PRE-EMERGENT: Concern Weed Prevention Plus
The Best Weed Killer Options

Photo: Debbie Wolfe

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Weed Killer

Weed killers are not interchangeable. Some herbicides kill on contact, while others work systemically. Some selectively kill specific types of weeds, and others kill a broad spectrum of vegetation. Before buying a weed killer, be sure to consider the types of weeds that need to be controlled, where they are growing, their growth stage, and the weather conditions.

Even a well-reviewed weed killer will deliver poor results if it is applied incorrectly or if the product is not designed to solve a specific weed problem. For instance, a vegetation killer designed to eliminate and prevent driveway weeds would devastate a lawn, while a lawn weed killer would be ineffective against some of the tough weeds that grow in concrete cracks. To maximize product performance and minimize the risk of herbicide failure, factor in weed-killer type, weeds it should attack, and other properties when choosing the right commercial weed killer.

Type

Choosing the right weed killer for the job is crucial. Ahead, learn more about the different types of herbicides.

  • Contact weed killers work by destroying the part of the plant to which they are applied, usually within hours to days. They’re commonly used on annual weeds, such as crabgrass, nettle, and chickweed, which are easier to kill than perennial plants and generally die when their foliage or stems are destroyed.
  • Systemic weed killers are absorbed into weeds and circulate within the plant’s interior after application, usually down to the roots. This destroys the entire plant from the bottom up, but it can take several days to several weeks to see results. Unlike contact weed killers, systemic products generally don’t state the specific period of time it takes to kill weeds. They’re a good option for perennial weeds such as dandelion, poison ivy, or ragweed, which are typically more difficult to kill because of their deeper roots.
  • Residual weed killers, also often referred to as pre-emergent herbicides, provide extended weed control. They prevent weeds from germinating and growing for a period of between 3 and 12 months. While residual weed killers provide an effective barrier against new weed growth, they also prevent germination of any new seeds from favorable plants.
  • Selective weed killers are meant to destroy weeds but not turfgrass or other beneficial plants in the vicinity, making them the best weed killer for lawns. This type of weed killer is a good option for eradicating, for example, dandelions or thistles on the lawn or in a flower bed.
  • Nonselective weed killers eradicate weeds along with any other plants in the application area. Use them along the fence or pool, or in driveway or sidewalk cracks, where beneficial plants aren’t at risk.

Chemical vs. Natural

While chemical weed killers are far more common, natural herbicides can also be effective at weed control. Natural weed killers use ingredients like vinegar, which burns weed foliage with its acidic pH, and herbicidal soaps that dry out the weeds. Natural weed killers make an excellent option for situations where a nontoxic formula is crucial, such as in a vegetable garden, children’s playground, or dog park. The ingredients in natural and organic herbicides are biodegradable, so they pose the least threat to humans and animals and do not pollute waterways.

Natural herbicides are nonselective and most effective against young, tender weed seedlings. Chemical herbicides, on the other hand, can kill weeds without harming other plants, such as a lawn. Systemic herbicides are chemicals that are easily absorbed through the foliage into the plant vascular system where they travel down to the roots for a thorough kill after one application, making them more effective against established weeds. Many chemical herbicides have a residual effect that will prevent weeds from growing back for months or even years after their application. But chemical herbicides are linked to unintended negative effects and therefore should be used with caution.

Form

Weed killers typically come in either a liquid spray or granular formulation.

  • Liquid sprays come in bottles with spray nozzles that are ready to use as well as concentrates that must be mixed before use. Some weed killers use spray bottles that attach to a standard garden hose for treating large areas, like entire lawns. Liquid weed killers are very effective because they are sprayed directly on the offending weed and can cling to even the smallest leaves.
  • Granular weed control is usually distributed with a spreader, which makes it easier to apply over a large area, such as an entire lawn. Granules can also be mixed with dry fertilizer, a combo that kills weeds as it nourishes. This ability to distribute herbicide and fertilizer over large areas makes granular forms ideal weed control for lawns.

Emergence

Emergence refers to the stage of weed growth at which weed killer is applied. Pre-emergent weed killers, sometimes labeled as “weed preventers,” target and kill the germinating (sprouting) seedlings of weeds before they emerge from the soil and become visible. This makes them the best herbicide to care for established lawns and flower beds. Although it is safe around established plants, users should not apply pre-emergent where they will be planting “good” seeds for desirable plants.

Pre-emergent herbicides are generally applied before signs of weeds are visible. They will form a chemical barrier in the top layer of soil to stop the growth of seedlings underground.

Post-emergent weed killers, also known as herbicides, are used to control existing weeds that have already emerged from the soil. Apply them to the leaves and stems of visible weeds in garden beds or in driveway and sidewalk cracks. They kill weeds by either destroying the foliage or stems, or traveling down to the roots and killing the entire root system.

Weed Type

There are three types of weeds: annual, perennial, and biennial. Annual weeds live for a single season and then die with the arrival of winter, spreading their seeds to take root and grow the next year. Pre-emergent weed killers, which stop the seeds from germinating, are often the best solution for this type of weed.

Perennial weeds have root systems that store nutrients during cold seasons, which they use to grow in the spring. Biennial weeds have a 2-year growing season; the first year they grow and the second year they produce seeds before dying. Both perennial and biennial weeds are easier to kill in the late summer or fall, just before they go into their dormant stage. Liquid weed-killer sprays are the most effective option for perennial and biennial weeds.

Longevity

Some weed killers degrade in soil within a few days to weeks. While they require more frequent reapplication to keep weeds at bay, they allow users to replant the area sooner without risking damage to new plants. This makes them a better option for use in flower or vegetable gardens that are soon to be planted, as well as in places where weed preventers are less effective, like gaps between paver stones in the yard.

Longer-lasting weed killers stay in the soil and keep new weeds from growing in the application area for months or even a year after application. They’re a good option for lawns or gardens requiring lasting weed control, but they can also inhibit the germination of new plants in the area. Users should avoid applying these weed killers to areas where they plan to add new crops in the near future.

The Best Weed Killer Options

Photo: Debbie Wolfe

Our Top Picks

We tested a variety of highly effective weed killers with low environmental toxicity that are safe for regular yard and garden maintenance. The lineup includes both pre- and post-emergent options to stop annual weeds f

rom sprouting and to knock out tough perennial weeds throughout the landscape. Read on to find out how they performed in our tests, and why we think they are some of the best weed killers around.

Best Overall

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

This 1-gallon jug of Doctor Kirchner Natural Weed Killer comes premixed and ready to use. It is a nonselective contact weed killer with an all-natural formula of salt, vinegar, soap, and water. Applied full strength from a trigger-spray bottle or garden pressure sprayer, it will stick to foliage, break down the waxy leaf cuticle, and penetrate plant tissue for a more effective kill than vinegar alone. The vinegar and soap are both biodegradable, but frequent use in a restricted area could lead to salt accumulation in the soil.

We tested Doctor Kirchner Weed Killer in mulched landscape beds, tree rings, and along a fence line with a diverse collection of broadleaf and grassy weeds and a few woody vines like Virginia creeper and poison ivy. We used a pump-up garden sprayer with the spray nozzle adjusted to a coarse setting. Most of the weeds began to discolor within 2 hours and browned out completely within 24 hours. The effect was slower and somewhat less consistent on weeds with tougher, thicker leaves, most notably English ivy, but even that defoliated within 3 days.

The spray smelled strongly of vinegar, which was slightly irritating and might have become overwhelming if the nozzle had been adjusted to mist. A residual scent persisted in the yard for about a day. Doctor Kirchner Weed Killer offered the best combination of quick-killing action and minimal regrowth of all the weed killers we tested.

Product Specs

  • Type: Contact
  • Formula: Liquid, ready to use
  • Active ingredient: Sodium chloride, vinegar, soap

Pros

  • Contains salt, vinegar, and soap for longer-lasting control
  • No mixing is necessary
  • Kills weeds within hours

Cons

  • Frequent applications on concrete cause etching
  • Corrosive to metal and rubber

Get the Doctor Kirchner weed killer on Amazon or The Natural Weed Killer.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Weed Killer Option: Calyptus 45% Vinegar
Photo: amazon.com

Banishing weeds needn’t negatively impact the environment or the pocketbook thanks to this Calyptus product. To use this cost-effective biodegradable product to defoliate and kill weeds quickly, dilute one part of this highly concentrated vinegar with up to eight parts water and apply with a sprayer. The high acid content erodes leaf cells and dries out foliage within 2 to 24 hours. This weed killer is best used in mulched beds and other planted areas but is not ideal for patios, sidewalks, or driveways. Repeated contact with concrete, natural stone, mortar, and some other hardscape surfaces may cause etching.

We were extremely careful when diluting this concentrated Calyptus vinegar and recommend that all users follow suit, working outdoors for better ventilation and wearing goggles and rubber gloves to protect against eye and skin irritation. We also double-checked to ensure all of the sprayer’s interior parts were made of plastic, since this acid could damage rubber and metal. We adjusted the sprayer nozzle to a coarse pattern and applied the weed killer on herbaceous weeds in garden pathways and vacant garden beds. All of the smallest weeds died within a few hours. Established, undesirable Bermuda grass runners browned out in 5 to 6 hours, but where the grass was the thickest, only the exterior portions turned brown.

This weed killer smelled so intensely of vinegar that we had to walk away from the area during treatment several times. The strong odor remained in the yard for about 24 hours. Calyptus killed more weeds for less money than the other weed killers we tested.

Product Specs

  • Type: Contact
  • Formula: Liquid, concentrate
  • Active ingredient: Vinegar

Pros

  • Contains only acetic acid (vinegar) and distilled water
  • 45 percent concentrate makes up to 9 gallons
  • Weeds die within hours of application
  • Can also be used for household cleaning
  • Budget-friendly

Conbs

  • Frequent applications on concrete cause etching
  • Intense vinegar smell may become overpowering
  • Requires personal protective equipment while mixing and spraying

Get the Calyptus weed killer on Amazon.

Best for Lawn Weeds

The Best Weed Killer Option: Sunday Weed Warrior Herbicide
Photo: lowes.com

This gallon-size Sunday Weed Warrior is premixed and comes with its own battery-powered spray pump/wand. Its ammoniated soap formula adheres well to leaf surfaces and begins killing weeds and grass on contact. As a nonselective weed killer, it’s intended for targeted spot treatment only—overspray will damage or kill lawn grass. To use, give the jug a good shake, install the sprayer adaptor into the cap, and start spraying.

We tested Sunday Weed Warrior on crabgrass, clover, plantain, and wild violet in several lawn areas as well as on crack weeds on the driveway and sidewalk. It worked faster than vinegar-based products, with noticeable dieback in less than 2 hours and thorough brown out in about 18 hours. It also penetrated and killed Bermuda grass shoots more thoroughly than the vinegar products: Near total dieback occurred after one application, whereas vinegar killed off only the surface leaves and left green blades beneath.

The battery-operated sprayer was easy to use and worked well, extracting almost every drop of liquid from the jug. Plus, concentrated refill containers are available to order directly from the manufacturer. Sunday Weed Warrior was an excellent all-around weed killer for lawns, as long as users take precautions to protect against overspray.

Product Specs

  • Type: Contact
  • Formula: Liquid, ready to spray
  • Active ingredient: Ammoniated soap of fatty acids

Pros

  • Noncorrosive soap-based formula
  • Sprayer attachment included
  • Kills weeds on contact
  • More effective on grassy weeds than vinegar

Cons

  • Nonselective; kills lawn grass

Get the Sunday Weed Warrior weed killer at Lowe’s.

Best for Dandelions

The Best Weed Killer Option: Sunday Dandelion Doom Herbicide
Photo: lowes.com

Selective herbicides that are safe for lawns and derived from natural ingredients are rare, but Sunday Dandelion Doom Herbicide fits the bill. The active ingredient, iron HEDTA, is bad news for broadleaf weeds but safe to use on grass. This 1-gallon package is ready to spray, with its own battery-powered sprayer attachment. Shake well, plug in the spray adaptor, and spot spray dandelions, clover, thistle, and other weeds without damaging the lawn.

We tested Dandelion Doom in an out-of-the-way lawn area that was moderately infested with clover, dandelion, wild violet, crabgrass, and a few other weeds. After marking a small test plot, we sprayed the weeds individually, without being especially careful about overspray. After 24 hours, we noticed discoloration of the dandelion, clover, and violets. After the third day, most of the broadleaf weeds appeared dead.

Unlike other weed killers that cause weeds to dry out and turn brown, this product made the leaves turn black. The lawn grass and crabgrass appeared unaffected. Because of our curiosity about iron staining, we also sprayed a few weeds in cracks on the concrete driveway. The weeds died there in about 2 days, but the concrete did not stain. Sunday Dandelion Doom is an excellent choice to keep broadleaf weeds out of lawn areas.

Product Specs

  • Type: Contact
  • Formula: Liquid, ready to spray
  • Active ingredient: Iron HEDTA

Pros

  • Selectively kills broadleaf weeds within hours
  • Safe for use on lawn grass
  • Sprayer attachment included
  • Runoff will not harm adjacent plant roots

Cons

  • May take a few days to see results
  • Requires 3 hours to be rain-safe
  • Effectiveness is dependent on weather and weed maturity

Get the Sunday Dandelion Doom weed killer at Lowe’s.

Best for Gravel Areas

The Best Weed Killer Option: Bonide Captain Jack’s Deadweed Brew Concentrate
Photo: amazon.com

The active ingredient capric acid, a saturated fat that comes from coconut and palm kernel oils, kills broadleaf and grassy weeds by drying out the foliage. It makes Captain Jack’s Deadweed Brew an effective desiccant for gravel areas prone to weeds. The concentrate comes in a quart-size package with a dedicated measuring cup. Mix it with water to make up to 8 gallons of spray-on contact weed killer.

We tested Deadweed Brew Concentrate on a secondary gravel driveway that was essentially two graveled tire tracks with a ridge of green weeds down the middle. Because of the tall, dense weed cover, we prepared the site by first mowing it down with a string trimmer and removing the clippings. Then we waited 3 days for some foliage regrowth to occur before broadcasting the spray over the entire weed zone with a backpack sprayer, having set the nozzle on a coarse spray pattern.

Within 4 hours after the midmorning spray application, the weed zone had turned a pale greenish brown. By the next morning, all the weeds were completely brown. We appreciated that this concentrate was odor-free, even at full strength. Captain Jack’s concentrate kills lots of weeds over large areas without noxious odors.

Product Specs

  • Type: Contact
  • Formula: Liquid, concentrate
  • Active ingredient: Capric acid and caprylic acid

Pros

  • Plant-derived active ingredients
  • Noncorrosive to metal sprayer parts
  • Rapid dieback of annual and perennial weeds
  • Concentrate makes up to 32 gallons of weed killer

Cons

  • Requires mixing with water

Get the Bonide weed killer on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Best Ready-to-Spray

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

Green Gobbler makes grab-and-go weed control easy with no mixing required. This quart-size trigger-spray bottle is ready to use with 20 percent vinegar and water solution. Just twist the on/spray switch and target grassy and broadleaf weeds.

We tested Green Gobbler vinegar weed killer at the edges of landscape beds where creeping grasses had begun to encroach and among veggie plants within raised garden beds, and it worked within hours. The compact package and ready-to-spray bottle were convenient, but to avoid damage from overspray, we had to hold the trigger sprayer within about 12 inches of targeted weeds, which increased stooping and bending compared to tank sprayers with long spray wands. The fine mist coated weed foliage well but with more spray mist drift than our coarse spray wand emitted. We also had to exit the area at intervals due to the overwhelming smell.

Product Specs

  • Type: Contact
  • Formula: Liquid, ready to spray
  • Active ingredient: Vinegar

Pros

  • No mixing required
  • Handy trigger-spray bottle
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Weeds die within hours

Cons

  • Frequent applications on concrete cause etching
  • Fine spray mist easily becomes airborne

Get the Green Gobbler weed killer at Amazon (two-pack), Ace Hardware, or Green Gobbler.

Best Pre-Emergent

The Best Weed Killer Option: Concern Weed Prevention Plus
Photo: homedepot.com

The active ingredient in this Concern product—corn gluten meal—is a natural byproduct of the corn wet milling process. Instead of killing existing weeds, it prevents them from growing in the first place. Spread the granules on lawns, gardens, or landscape beds twice a year to block annual weeds like crabgrass, chickweed, henbit, annual bluegrass, and many others. As an added bonus, corn gluten meal is a significant source of nitrogen that boosts lawn and garden growth.

Testing a pre-emergent product in the middle of summer is less than ideal because summer weeds are already present. In order to give it a go, we physically removed all vegetation, roots and all, from one of our dormant but infested garden beds. We avoided weed killer sprays in order to protect the latent seeds remaining in the soil. Once the bed appeared to be nothing but clean soil, we applied Concern granules, watered them in, then let the soil dry out for a few days per the label instructions. Through 4 weeks of observation, we noted germination of only 27 crabgrass plants and a few other seedlings in the 150-square-foot area.

Although we are not confident in the scientific value of our little test, it seems to agree with real research performed by Iowa State University scientists. However, we recommend buyers use Concern in late winter or early fall as directed for their area on the label instructions. Also, we suggest using it immediately after purchase and not storing the product for an extended period, as the scent will attract rodents and other pests. Consistent use of Concern pre-emergent will eliminate most of the need for other weed killers.

Product Specs

  • Type: Residual
  • Formula: Granules
  • Active ingredient: Corn gluten meal

Pros

  • Easy to apply
  • Residual action prevents weed seeds from sprouting
  • Includes nitrogen to feed the lawn

Cons

  • Does not kill existing weeds
  • May attract insects or rodents

Get the Concern weed killer at The Home Depot, or The Build Club.

Our Verdict

The two weed-killer categories that are always in high demand are those that kill “everything” and those that kill weeds without harming lawn grass. Doctor Kirchner weed killer tops our list as a broad-spectrum weed killer that works fast, killing weeds and grass to the root. For control of broadleaf weeds in lawns without harming grass, we recommend the Sunday Dandelion Doom weed killer.

How We Tested the Best Weed Killers

Retailers offer a broad selection of chemical, natural, and organic weed killers, but many herbicides are linked to such unintended consequences as toxicity to nontargeted plants and animals, water pollution, and human health risks. We recommend avoiding applications of most synthetic chemicals during routine maintenance—after researching 43 popular lawn and garden herbicides, we selected and tested seven low-toxicity weed killers. We were confident that they would prove to be highly effective when used as directed and safer for regular use based on their human and environmental impacts.

We timed the application of weed killers to avoid inclement weather and tested each on a minimum of 100 square feet, according to the instructions on the labels. All liquid products were applied using a backpack sprayer, or the applicator included with the product when provided, with the spray nozzle adjusted to a coarse pattern to avoid spray drift. We inspected application areas 2, 4, 8, 18, and 24 hours after spraying and noted the patterns of dieback. Then we waited 7 days and began inspecting daily for signs of regrowth.

With each of the weed killers we tested, dieback occurred within 3 days or less of the initial treatment, with no signs of regrowth for 2 weeks or more. When regrowth of perennial or woody-stemmed weeds did occur, it was significantly diminished compared to the pretreatment appearance. Secondary applications of the same products on regrowth in each area led to similar dieback patterns along with even slower, less vigorous regrowth.

FAQs

If you’re wondering if weed killer is safe to use around pets and people or what type is best for killing weeds in driveway cracks, read on for answers to these and other commonly asked questions about these herbicides.

Q. What’s the best weed killer for driveways?

Though it depends on the type of weeds, the best weed killer for driveways will eliminate existing plants and prevent new growth from expanding driveway cracks. For this, use of both a pre-emergent and post-emergent weed killer would be helpful.

Q. Are weed killers toxic to people and animals?

Yes, some weed killers can be toxic to people and animals. Recent studies, however, show that even toxic weed killers can be safe around people and pets if the directions are followed closely and the product is used sparingly.

Q. Are natural weed killers effective?

Natural weed killers are effective at killing young, tender weeds outright. Since perennial weeds have established root systems, they will likely grow back after being defoliated with a natural weed killer. One or more follow-up treatments on regrowth may be necessary to kill the toughest weeds.

Q. What kills weeds permanently?

The best bet for permanently killing weeds is pulling them out of the ground from the root.

Q. Can I use vinegar as a weed killer?

Yes, vinegar can be used as a weed killer. Some commercial weed killers use concentrated vinegar as a natural alternative to synthetic chemicals.