The Best Weed Killers for Gravel of 2022

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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Best Weed Killer For Gravel Option

Photo: depositphotos.com

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.

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. Treating the weeds, which often entails treating the entire gravel or sand area, is usually the best way to eradicate the problem. 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: RM43 Total Vegetation Control Weed Preventer
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Ortho GroundClear Year Long Vegetation Killer
  3. BEST FOR PREVENTION: Preen 2464161 Extended Control Weed Preventer
  4. BEST NATURAL: Natural Armor Weed and Grass Killer All-Natural
  5. BEST BORAX-BASE: Earthborn Elements Borax Powder
  6. MOST ECO-FRIENDLY: Natria Grass and Week Control with Root Killer
The Best Weed Killer For Gravel Options

Photo: istockphoto.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Weed Killer for Gravel

The same weed-killing products used to treat other areas, such as 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 will stand out starkly to mar the clean look. In a lawn, dead weeds may soon be hidden by healthy grass, but in graveled areas the unsightly species will have to be removed—typically by plucking them out by hand—so prompt treatment pays off.

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 you’re dealing with, the herbicide chosen should 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.

Selectivity

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

  • 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.
  • Non-selective weed killer: This herbicide will kill all plants—both unwanted and wanted. When applying non-selective weed killers to gravel driveways and paths, care must be taken to ensure overspray does not come into contact with desirable lawns or plants.

Ingredients

The most effective weed killers feature one or more chemical herbicides known for their ability to vanquish vegetation. Several ingredients are used, some that wipe out weeds and others that 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: Most commonly sold under the brand name “Roundup,” glyphosate still appears as an active ingredient in some non-selective herbicides but is being phased out of production in the United States to due to serious concerns over its environmental impact and possible links to cancer. Unfortunately glyphosate remains in common use today due to its sheer effectiveness as a total vegetation killer.
  • Triclopyr: An ingredient found in some weed-killing products, triclopyr is a non-selective 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. It may also be combined with triclopyr for greater weed-killing power. Like triclopyr, it’s safe to use near lawns.
  • Imazapyr:
  • Vinegar: Many natural weed killers contain highly concentrated vinegar, a non-selective product that will kill all plants it comes into contact with. Effectiveness depends on the strength of the vinegar.

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 refers to the product’s ability to kill 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

Non-selective herbicides are further classified as either contact or systemic.

  • Contact: This type of herbicide kills the green foliage it comes into contact with. For the best results, contact herbicides should be 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 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. Most manufacturers list their product’s coverage as “up to” a specific square feet. 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. In general, concentrated liquid products offer the most significant coverage.

Safety

Commercial weed killers can be toxic to humans, animals, and the environment if not used as intended. Herbicides 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 it in 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 treated area: It typically takes time before the chemical on treated weeds 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.

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 weed seeds from sprouting. These weed killers include a variety of components, and some are natural while others contain strong chemicals. Each, however, is a standout in its category.

Best Overall

The Best Weed Killer For Gravel Option: RM43 Total Vegetation Control Weed Preventer
Photo: amazon.com

RM43 contains glyphosate and imazapyr, both non-selective herbicides made to kill a wide variety of invasive weeds. In addition, the herbicides can remain in the ground and continue to kill post-emergent weeds for up to a year after application. The product is rainproof in 2 hours, and results (wilting) may be visible as soon as the same day.

The product comes in a concentrated liquid, and a single quart of RM43 Total Vegetation Control will make 5 gallons of weed-killing solution. Mix and use only as directed and avoid applying the product to any gravel areas that lie above the root zones of desirable plants and trees, as the systemic nature of this product is prone to seeping through the soil and reaching the roots of other plants. A separate pump-type sprayer (not included) is recommended for application.

Product Specs

  • Form: Concentrated liquid
  • Coverage: Up to 4,324 square feet
  • Working time: Rainproof in 2 hours; residual effects may last up to a year

Pros

  • Powerful weed killer
  • 1 quart makes 5 gallons of herbicide
  • Kills all vegetation

Cons

  • No included sprayer

Get the RM43 weed preventer on Amazon or The Home Depot

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Weed Killer For Gravel Option: Ortho GroundClear Year Long Vegetation Killer
Photo: amazon.com

To vanquish weeds fast from gravel driveways, patios, and walkways, consider Ortho GroundClear Year Long Vegetation Killer, which can wilt unwanted plants in as little as an hour. GroundClear’s primary active ingredient is imazapyr, which is a non-selective herbicide that systematically kills weeds to their roots so they don’t come back. The product also contains pelargonic acid, a contact herbicide that kills plants’ green parts for better overall results.

The product comes premixed and ready to use, no mixing or diluting necessary. It also includes a precision spray wand for directing the product directly on the weeds. A single 1.33 gallon of Ortho GroundClear will treat up to 400 square feet. Residual chemicals may remain for up to a year to reduce the risk of regrowth.

Product Specs

  • Form: Ready-to-use liquid
  • Coverage: Up to 400 square feet
  • Working time: Potentially visible results in just an hour; residual effect may last up to a year

Pros

  • Ready-to-use liquid
  • Precision spray wand included
  • Quick results

Cons

  • Overspray can kill desirable plantings

Get the Ortho vegetation killer on Amazon, Ace Hardware, Tractor Supply Co., or Lowe’s.

Best For Pervention

The Best Weed Killer For Gravel Option: Preen 2464161 Extended Control Weed Preventer
Photo: amazon.com

Sometimes an ounce of prevention really is the best cure, and with Preen’s Extended Control Weed Preventer, that’s what users get. This Preen product comes in granular form and is applied by shaking the granules out of the unique cap that helps distribute them evenly. After sprinkling the product on a gravel area, it should be wet down with a hose or a sprinkler to help dissolve the product, which then creates a barrier that keeps weed seeds from sprouting.

This Preen product won’t kill existing weeds, so users will need to treat those with a weed killer. Once the gravel or sanded area is weed-free, reapplying Preen every 6 months will help keep new unwanted plants from growing. One 4.93-pound jug of Preen will treat up to 805 square feet, and it will not harm desirable trees, lawns, or other established plants.

Product Specs

  • Form: Granular
  • Coverage: Up to 805 square feet
  • Working time: Works continuously up to 6 months

Pros

  • Easy to apply with a shaker lid
  • Prevents weeds seeds from sprouting
  • Works for up to 6 months

Cons

  • Will not kill existing weeds

Get the Preen weed preventer on Amazon, Tractor Supply Co., or Target.

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 chemical-free, so it’s safer to use around pets and people. Its highly concentrated vinegar is non-selective 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 non-selective 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 4,000 square feet
  • Working time: Results visible within 48 hours

Pros

  • Natural vinegar-based solution
  • Not toxic to animals and humans
  • Will not leave chemical residue in the soil

Cons

  • Not as strong as chemical herbicides

Get the Natural Armor weed and grass killer Amazon, The Home Depot, or Walmart.

Best Borax-Based

The Best Weed Killers for Gravel Option: Earthborn Elements Borax Powder
Photo: amazon.com

Found in the laundry detergent aisle of most grocery stores is a natural product that can help keep gravel driveways clear of weeds. Earthborn Elements Borax Powder is a natural product that comes as a fine white dust that dissolves quickly in water. For this weed-killing solution, users will need to mix borax in water and apply it to weeds with a hand sprayer or a pump-type garden sprayer.

To prepare the borax-based weed killer, mix 1/2 cup of Earthborn Elements Borax into 1 gallon of water and stir until the powder dissolves. This creates an entire gallon of solution, but any leftover liquid can be stored indefinitely on a shelf in a plastic jug (like a rinsed-out milk jug).

To use the solution and spray the weeds directly, taking care to saturate all foliage surfaces. Avoid letting overspray get on nearby desirable grass or plantings because it can also kill them. Visible results can be seen in 2-4 days, although reapplication may be necessary to kill the weeds completely.

Product Specs

  • Form: Powder (to make DIY solution)
  • Coverage: Undefined, but one container will create many gallons of solution.
  • Working time: Results visible in 2-4 days

Pros

  • Natural borax-based solution
  • Not toxic to animals and humans
  • Will not leach chemicals into the environment

Cons

  • Not as strong as chemical herbicides

Get Earthborn Elements Borax at Amazon and Sears.

Most Eco-Friendly

The Best Weed Killers for Gravel Option: Natria Grass and Week Control with Root Killer
Photo: tractorsupply.com

Those looking for an eco-friendlier way to kill weeds in their gravel driveways and path 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 acid 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 impact 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 will 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 24 hours

Pros

  • Natural ingredients
  • Kill all the way to the weed’s roots
  • Comes with attached sprayer

Cons

  • Overspray could kill desirable plantings.

Get Natria Grass & Weed Control with Root Kill on Amazon, Tractor Supply, or Ace Hardware.

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 non-toxic, eco-friendly, and natural remedies. Among the most popular are borax, salt, and vinegar.

  • 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, whole most weeds are 6-7 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. The downside to using a salt solution repeatedly is that it can remain in the soil and prevent desirable plants from growing.
  • 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 and Grass Killer pick in our lineup. However, it may be potent enough to kill some weeds if used full-strength or when combined in a 1:1 ratio and sprayed on the foliage.
  • Dish soap:  By itself, liquid dish soap will not 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.

Our Verdict

Any of the weed killers in this lineup are effective for killing weeds that grow in gravel areas, but RM43 weed preventer ticks all the boxes. It offers quick weed-killing results and helps prevent regrowth for up to 4 months. For an effective all-natural solution, the Natural Armor Weed and Grass Killer is the top pick.

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 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 their good appearance. We researched dozens of weed killer products to determine which were well suited for use in gravel beds or sanded areas. We considered brand reputation, with Roundup and Ortho products having earned a reputation for efficiency, but didn’t automatically eliminate products made by smaller companies if they performed well.

Chemical herbicides are the most effective, 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 are effective and user-friendly.

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 weeds seeds from sprouting. Those interested in protecting the look of a gravel walk or drive may still want more information, which will likely be found below in answers to some questions about these products.

Q. Does weed killer work on gravel?

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

Q. How do I use weed killer on gravel?

Follow the manufacturer’s directions. Spray or sprinkle the product on at the recommended rate. Granular products 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 with diligence it can keep the driveway looking neat.

Q. Will weed killer for gravel damage the soil?

It could—temporarily—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.