The Best Weed Killers for Gravel of 2023

Sand and gravel are inexpensive materials for paths and driveways, but they quickly lose their appeal if weeds mar the clean look. Here's how to keep them weed-free.

By Glenda Taylor | Updated May 5, 2022 2:18 PM

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The Best Weed Killer For Gravel Options

Photo: depositphotos.com

Pulling an errant dandelion here and there isn’t a big deal, but when multiple weeds appear, they can quickly multiply, making a path or a driveway look shabby and unkempt. Controlling the weeds for an entire gravel or sand area is usually the best way to eradicate a weed problem.

The standard practice when installing gravel paths is to put a weed barrier between the rock fragments and the soil to help reduce the risk of weed seeds sprouting and taking hold. It’s not foolproof, however, because dust and dirt can blow and settle in the gravel, providing an environment for weed seeds to grow. In addition, gravel driveways are sometimes installed without the benefit of a barrier, which makes them highly prone to weed development. Treating these areas with a quality weed killer may be the best solution.

Ahead, learn what to look for when shopping for the best weed killers for gravel, and find out why the following products all earned a spot in this lineup.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Natural Armor All-Natural Weed and Grass Killer
  2. RUNNER-UP: Natria Grass and Weed Control With Root Killer
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Energen Carolina LLC Vinegar Weed and Grass Killer
  4. BEST FOR GRAVEL DRIVEWAYS: Earth’s Ally Weed and Grass Killer
  5. BEST POST-EMERGENT: Green Gobbler Vinegar Weed and Grass Killer
The Best Weed Killer For Gravel Options

Photo: istockphoto.com

Before You Buy Weed Killer for Gravel

The best weed killers for gravel do more than simply kill existing weeds. Many also serve as pre-emergents that prevent new weeds from growing, thereby eliminating the need to treat the driveway constantly.

That said, many weed killers that prevent new growth include chemicals that linger in the ground for a year or more to serve as a weed preventative. These chemicals can be harmful to the environment, especially if they find their way into lakes, ponds, and streams. They can also leach into an adjacent lawn or landscaping, killing grass and beloved plantings.

Not all weed killers use harsh chemicals. Rather than use a synthetic weed killer for a gravel driveway, a better option is to use an organic alternative. Organic weed killers use natural ingredients that biodegrade quickly, so they aren’t harmful to wildlife and are less likely to damage a landscaped yard. While these weed killers don’t prevent new weeds from germinating, they often do come in handy spray bottles that make it easy to treat new weed growth on the fly.

How We Chose the Best Weed Killers for Gravel

Gravel is a common material for creating rustic walks and driveways, but it’s not impermeable, so weeds can blow in and sprout or spread inward from the sides of the graveled area. It’s common to put a weed barrier, such as a plastic liner, between the soil and the gravel, but weeds can still get a foothold over time.

Gravel walks look terrific when clean and weed-free, but even a few weeds can ruin an otherwise good appearance. We researched dozens of weed-killer products to determine which were well suited for use in gravel beds or sanded areas. While we considered Roundup and Ortho, which have earned a reputation for efficiency, we ultimately decided not to include these products as they use active ingredients that fail to meet our sustainability guidelines. While the eco-friendly products we chose may not be as effective as weed killers from these brands, they offer an environmentally responsible alternative to killing weeds.

Chemical weed killers are the most effective and typically require fewer applications, but some users are willing to spray more often with a natural weed killer to avoid ingredients that can remain in the ground for up to a year. The products that made the final cut in our lineup of some of the best weed killers for gravel are effective and user-friendly.

Our Top Picks

To qualify for a spot in this lineup of the best weed killers for gravel, the following products had to be effective and relatively straightforward to use. They had to contain ingredients known to kill common weeds, and—in the case of pre-emergents—include ingredients that prevent weeds from sprouting. These weed killers include a variety of components, and all are natural alternatives to products containing strong chemicals. Each, however, is a standout in its category.

Best Natural

The Best Weed Killer For Gravel Option: Natural Armor Weed and Grass Killer All-Natural
Photo: amazon.com

Natural Armor weed and grass killer is all-natural, so it’s safer to use around pets and people. Its highly concentrated vinegar is nonselective about the weeds and plants it kills, so spray it judiciously when the wind isn’t blowing. An included surfactant helps the solution stick to weed foliage, giving it time to work.

The 128-ounce jug comes as a ready-to-use liquid and features an included spray nozzle for ease of application. No measuring, mixing, or diluting is necessary. Vinegar does not create a rainproof layer on weeds, so apply it on a sunny day when precipitation is not in the forecast. Like other nonselective weed killers, Natural Armor overspray can damage desirable plants, so use caution to spray only weeds. One jug treats up to 4,000 square feet, depending on the size of the plants (large weeds will require more solution than small ones).

Product Specs 

  • Form: Ready-to-use spray
  • Coverage: Up to 1,000 square feet
  • Working time: Results visible within 24 hours

Pros

  • Natural vinegar-based solution is free from toxic chemicals
  • Not toxic to animals and humans, so it’s safe for many households
  • Will wash off with rain and will not leave chemical residue in the soil

Cons

  • Not as strong at killing weeds as chemical herbicides

Get the Natural Armor weed killer for gravel at Amazon, Walmart, or The Home Depot.

Runner-up

Natria Grass and Weed Control With Root Killer
Photo: amazon.com

Those looking for an eco-friendly way to kill weeds in their gravel driveways and paths may want to consider Natria Grass and Weed Control With Root Killer. This ready-to-use product comes in a 1-gallon jug with an attached trigger sprayer to make treating weeds a snap. The active weed-killing ingredient is ammoniated soap of fatty acids that penetrates the weeds’ cellular structure and travels all the way to the roots to kill the entire plant. The best news? The fatty acids don’t remain effective longer than 5 days, so they won’t have lingering impacts on the environment.

Spray each weed thoroughly, saturating all foliage surfaces, and avoid spraying on nearby desirable plants or the lawn. Natria will kill many unwanted weeds, including chickweed, invasive grasses, and even moss. A 1-gallon container can treat up to 450 square feet of weeds, and results can often be seen within 24 hours.

Product Specs 

  • Form: Ready-to-use spray
  • Coverage: Up to 450 square feet
  • Working time: Results visible within a few minutes up to 24 hours

Pros

  • Natural ingredients that don’t have lingering adverse effects on the environment
  • Active ingredient kills all the way to the weed’s roots
  • Comes with attached sprayer to make application easier
  • Becomes rainfast within 3 hours of application

Cons

  • Overspray could kill desirable plantings, so care must be taken when applying it

Get the Natria weed killer for gravel at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or Tractor Supply Co.

Best Bang for the Buck

Energen Carolina LLC Vinegar Weed and Grass Killer
Photo: amazon.com

Many organic herbicides are expensive, often costing several times more than chemical-based alternatives. Energen is an exception. This herbicide uses a similar formula to other organic herbicides but costs less. Its lower price makes it a great option for those who want a sustainable product that’s safe for the environment but don’t want to fork over a lot of money to pay for it.

Energen uses industrial-grade vinegar as its active ingredient. While this 20-percent-vinegar mix requires the user to take precautions while applying it, the weed killer degrades quickly in soil and is an organic way of killing weeds. One should wear eye protection and clothing that covers exposed skin when using this product to prevent burns from the highly acidic vinegar. Energen requires no mixing and comes in a quart-size bottle with a trigger sprayer and 1-gallon refill bottles.

Product Specs 

  • Form: Spray
  • Coverage: Up to 2,900 square feet (1 gallon)
  • Working time: Less than 24 hours

Pros

  • More affordable with greater coverage area than other organic herbicides
  • Environmentally friendly formula with 20 percent vinegar as the active ingredient
  • No mixing required prior to application

Cons

  • High-concentration vinegar can cause burns

Get the Energen Carolina LLC weed killer for gravel on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best for Gravel Driveways

Earth’s Ally Weed and Grass Killer
Photo: amazon.com

In addition to being easy on the environment, this herbicide is also one of the safest for pets and people. That’s because its active ingredient consists of salt water. This safe formula makes it ideal for use in high-traffic areas, such as gravel driveways or footpaths.

When applied to weeds in gravel, it dries them out, turning them brown in a matter of hours. For best results, treat weeds on a dry, sunny day and saturate weeds with four to five sprays. Since Earth’s Ally requires no mixing and comes with a sprayer, users can have it at the ready in the garage to treat any new weeds that pop up.

Product Specs 

  • Form: Spray
  • Coverage: 450 square feet
  • Working time: 3 hours

Pros

  • Kills weeds down to the root to prevent regrowth of pesky weeds
  • Works quickly and results can be seen within 3 hours
  • Comes in a ready-to-use 1-gallon spray bottle

Cons

  • Must fully saturate weeds for best results

Get the Earth’s Ally weed killer for gravel Lowe’s, Amazon, or Walmart

Best Post-Emergent

Green Gobbler Vinegar Weed and Grass Killer
Photo: amazon.com

While a pre-emergent can be one of the best ways to keep a gravel driveway weed-free, if users forget to apply it, they’ll need to deal with the weeds. With its high acetic-acid content—it uses a 20 percent concentrate of vinegar—Green Gobbler is a great option for killing off weeds that have already poked through gravel. It kills fast, turning weeds completely brown within 24 hours. Plus, it’s glyphosate-free and only uses natural ingredients, so it’s much safer for the environment than chemical options.

Though Green Gobbler degrades quickly in soil, its acid content is four times higher than table vinegar, giving it the potential to cause burns on exposed skin. Gloves, eye protection, and clothing that covers exposed skin should be worn when applying it.

Product Specs 

  • Form: Ready-to-use spray
  • Coverage: About 1,200 square feet
  • Working time: Kills weeds in about 24 hours

Pros

  • Kills weeds quickly
  • Ready-to-use spray bottle doesn’t require mixing
  • Safe for the environment

Cons

  • High-concentration vinegar can cause serious skin and eye burns

Get the Green Gobbler weed killer for gravel at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Walmart (for 32 ounces).

Or, DIY Your Own Weed Killer

Before commercial weed-killing products were widely available, many had to rely on homemade remedies for getting rid of unruly weeds and other plants. The products and ingredients that worked then are still suitable for use today—and many are nontoxic and eco-friendly. Among the most popular are borax, salt, vinegar, and dish soap.

  • Borax: A natural mineral that’s mined extensively in the Mojave Desert, borax (sodium borate) has multiple uses—one of which is the ability to kill weeds. Borax is extremely alkaline—around 9.5 on the pH scale, while most weeds are 6 to 7 on the scale. Weeds sprayed with a solution of borax and water will usually die.
  • Salt: Found in nearly every home, plain table salt (sodium chloride) kills weeds by changing the internal water balance in their cells. A strong saline solution can be prepared by combining salt and water and then using the solution to spray unwanted weeds. Keep in mind that salt can remain in the soil and prevent desirable plants from growing. While this quality makes it a poor solution for treating flower beds and other areas where beneficial plants grow, it’s a good choice for driveways and walks that must be kept free of any vegetation.
  • Vinegar: The vinegar sold in the salad dressing aisle is quite a bit weaker than the high-potency vinegar found in some natural weed killers, such as the Natural Armor weed killer for gravel pick in our lineup. However, it may be potent enough to kill some weeds if used at full strength or when combined in a 1-1 ratio and sprayed on the foliage.
  • Dish soap: By itself, liquid dish soap may not effectively kill weeds, but when a few drops are added to other homemade formulations, it acts as a surfactant to help the liquid stick to the foliage where it can be absorbed by the plant. In that sense, it enhances the effectiveness of the other ingredients.

Jump to Our Top Picks



Our Verdict 

There are other common types of herbicides to choose from, including Roundup Weed Preventer, RM43 Total Vegetation Control Weed Preventer, Ortho GroundClear Year Long Vegetation Killer, and Preen Extended Control Weed Preventer. We don’t recommend these products, however, as they include such chemicals as glyphosate, imazapyr, and trifluralin, none of which meet our sustainability guidelines.

Instead, with a chemical-free formula that’s effective at taking out all types of weeds and plants, Natural Armor weed killer for gravel is a responsible solution for clearing weeds from gravel. Those looking for a more economical option may want to consider the Energen Carolina LLC weed killer for gravel, which uses similar ingredients to take out weeds but costs less than other organic herbicides.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Weed Killer for Gravel

The same weed-killing products used to treat other areas, such as along sidewalk cracks, under fence lines, and in lawns, can all be used on gravel and sand. But when it comes to gravel, it’s especially important to wage war on unwanted plants early, because even a few dead weeds can stand out starkly to mar a tidy look.

The weed problems common to gravel vary widely, ranging from a single dandelion that springs up in the center of a path to invasive creeping grasses that systematically eat away at the sides of a gravel driveway. No matter what type of weed woes shoppers are dealing with, the herbicide chosen needs to be strong enough to kill the unwanted vegetation. In some cases, it might also be a good idea to use a product that keeps future weed seeds from sprouting.

Many chemical herbicides designed for gravel will not only act as post-emergent weed killers, but they may also prevent future weed growth. Plus, they can leave harmful chemicals that eventually find their way into waterways, where they can wreak havoc on aquatic life. While organic options may require one to treat a gravel driveway or walk more often, they biodegrade quickly, leaving a much smaller footprint on the environment.

Selectivity

When it comes to weed killers, the ingredients in the product will be either selective or nonselective.

  • Selective weed killer: Many herbicides are selective, meaning they kill certain specific types of weeds but not others. The type of weeds killed by selective herbicides depends on the product. Several selective herbicides may be combined to increase the number and type of weeds killed.
  • Nonselective weed killer: This herbicide will kill all plants—both unwanted and wanted. When applying nonselective weed killers to gravel driveways and paths, care must be taken to ensure overspray does not come into contact with desirable plants or the lawn.

Ingredients

The most effective weed killers feature one or more chemical herbicides known for their ability to vanquish vegetation. Several ingredients are used—some wipe out weeds while others act as mixing agents or surfactants to help the herbicide stick to the unwanted plants’ leaves. The following are among the most common ingredients found in weed-killing products.

  • Glyphosate: A nonselective herbicide most commonly sold under the brand name “Roundup.” It is powerful, effective, and arguably the best total vegetation killeravailable today.
  • Triclopyr: An ingredient found in some weed-killing products, triclopyr is a nonselective herbicide. It will kill various weeds, including invasive woody plants such as mesquite and locust, but it won’t harm most types of turfgrass, making it among the best options for use on gravel paths adjacent to lawns.
  • Fluazifop: This is a selective herbicide designed to kill broadleaf weeds that can grow in gravel or sand, such as varieties of sedges. It’s often combined with triclopyr to produce an herbicide product that kills a broader range of weeds. However, it will kill turf grass, so it’s not suitable near lawns.
  • 2,4-D: Another selective herbicide that will kill invasive types of broadleaf weeds, 2,4-D may also be combined with triclopyr for greater weed-killing power. Like triclopyr, it’s safe to use near lawns.
  • Imazapyr: This is a nonselective herbicide that kills a broad range of weeds, including many types of invasive grasses that can creep into gravel drives and paths.
  • Vinegar: Many natural weed killers contain highly concentrated vinegar, a nonselective product that will kill all plants it contacts. Effectiveness depends on the strength of the vinegar.
  • Sodium chloride: Better known as table salt, sodium chloride kills weeds by dehydrating them and starving them of the nutrients they need to survive. Sodium chloride does remain in the soil, making it unsuitable for plant growth, so it shouldn’t be used in garden beds or other areas where beneficial plants grow.
  • Ammoniated soap of fatty acids: A natural ingredient, ammoniated soap of fatty acids kills weeds as the acids accumulate in a plant’s cellular structure, causing the plant to dehydrate and die. Especially stubborn weeds may require two or more applications.

Persistence

How long an herbicide continues to kill weeds after application and whether it breaks down when it comes into contact with water describes its persistence or lingering effect. A product’s label may not use the term “persistence,” but it will often detail how long the product will continue to work.

A weed killer that remains on a path or a driveway for a few months is desirable for gravel and sand. Short-term weed killers will eliminate existing weeds but don’t offer a residual killing effect, so frequent treatments may be necessary.

Pre-Emergent vs. Post-Emergent

By definition, weed-killing products are “post-emergent” because they kill weeds that are currently growing. Post-emergent weed killers take out weeds that have already emerged from their seeds.

On the other hand, pre-emergent products do not kill weeds but keep weed seeds from sprouting. For long-lasting weed-free gravel walks and driveways, users may want to apply a weed-killing product containing added pre-emergent ingredients, such as benefin, isoxaben, trifluralin, or siduron, among several others.

For the best results, read product labels to determine which type of weed seeds are controlled by a pre-emergent ingredient because most will keep only certain weed seeds from sprouting. Manufacturers may combine one or more pre-emergent chemicals for broader protection.

Contact vs. Systemic

Nonselective herbicides are further classified as either contact or systemic.

  • Contact: This type of herbicide kills the green foliage it contacts. For the best results, contact herbicides are uniformly sprayed on the weeds, coating as much of the green parts as possible. The effect of the green parts dying typically shocks the weed to such an extent that it kills the entire plant.
  • Systemic: A systemic herbicide penetrates the weed’s foliage and travels throughout the entire plant—all the way to the roots—to kill it. Systemic herbicides are among the most potent types and should be used with caution. Overuse may cause the chemical to travel from weed roots to the roots of nearby desirable plants, killing them as well.

Coverage 

Weed killer for gravel comes in various strengths and application coverage rates. In general, concentrated liquid products offer the most significant coverage.

Most manufacturers list their product’s coverage as “up to” a specific square footage. For example, a ready-to-use weed killer may come in a spray bottle designed to treat up to 500 square feet, while a concentrated product may cover up to 4,000 square feet (or more) of a gravel drive when diluted as directed on the package.

Safety

Commercial weed killers can be toxic to humans, animals, and the environment if not used as intended. Herbicide products bear the warning: “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.”Hence, it makes good sense to take safety precautions.

  • Follow the instructions: Only use the product as directed on the label. Do not mix a stronger solution than recommended, and do not apply it while children and pets are in the vicinity.
  • Protect eyes and skin: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves to protect the skin. It’s also good to wear a pair of protective goggles—or at least don a pair of sunglasses—to protect eyes before applying weed killer to gravel.
  • Avoid application when windy: No matter what type of weed killer is being applied, the safest way to keep it where it needs to be is to use it when the wind isn’t blowing.
  • Stay off the gravel: It typically takes time before the chemical on a treated area dries and no longer poses a danger to pets and humans. This could be as little as 2 hours or as long as 48 hours, so ensure that folks and pets stay off the gravel during this time.

FAQs

Once unwanted weeds appear, they can spread quickly, turning a good-looking gravel path into a shoddy mess. Most weed killers are made to kill existing weeds, but some are designed to keep future weed seeds from sprouting. Those interested in protecting the look of a gravel walk or driveway may still want more information, which will likely be found below in answers to some frequently asked questions about these products.

Q. Does weed killer work on gravel?

Yes, weed killers work on weeds no matter where they sprout. The best weed killer for drivewayswill work on gravel, sand, or even where weeds sprout from cracks on concrete driveways.

Q. What is the best weed killer for my gravel driveway?

The Natural Armor weed killer for gravel, with its ability to kill a broad spectrum of weeds and its use of a surfactant that allows it to stick to plants, makes it one of the best all-around organic weed killers for gravel driveways. The best chemical-based weed killers include a pre-emergent along with an herbicide, allowing these products to kill weeds and prevent new weed growth for up to a year.

Q. How do I use weed killer on gravel?

Follow the manufacturer’s directions. Spray or sprinkle the product on the weeds at the recommended rate. Granular weed killer may require watering afterward, while some sprays should not be applied when rain is in the forecast.

Q. How do I permanently get rid of grass in my gravel driveway?

The only permanent way to get rid of grass that grows in a gravel driveway is to pave over the gravel with concrete. Since that’s not an option for many, the next best thing is to use a weed killer to remove the existing weeds and then use a pre-emergent over the gravel to keep new weed seeds from sprouting. It’s not permanent, but diligence can keep the driveway looking neat.

Q. Will weed killer for gravel damage the soil?

It could—temporarily—damage the soil, depending on the product used. Some products leave residual traces behind that keep future weeds (and all plants) from growing for a few months to a year.

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