Weed management is rarely at the top of any homeowner or tenant’s list of desirable to-dos. Bending over and pulling weeds is a lot of work, and it’s rarely a permanent solution. While you could spray weed killer, these chemicals aren’t good for your grass or the pollinators that may land or feed on those weeds.
Instead of breaking your back or introducing harmful chemicals into your lawn’s ecosystem, consider smoking those pesky plants out with a weed torch. These handheld torches run on propane and focus a small but scorching flame on stubborn weeds. If you’re new to weed torches, this buyer’s guide will help you choose the best weed torch for your yard or garden.
- BEST OVERALL: Flame King YSNPQ810CGA Propane Torch Weed Burner
- BEST SELF-IGNITING: AUSAIL Weed Torch Propane Burner
- BEST COMPACT: Red Dragon VT 1-32 C 25000 BTU Mini Weed Dragon Torch
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Weed Torch
From how the torch works and lights to its size and features, choosing the best weed torch does take a bit of background research. It’s important to make sure you understand how these tools work and what you need before you start scorching those dandelions. Here are a few shopping considerations to keep in mind while you’re browsing.
Lightweight vs. Heavy-Duty
There are two styles of weed torches: lightweight torches and heavy-duty torches. Lightweight weed torches are, as the name suggests, lightweight, and equipped with bent tubes that attach to a small 1-pound propane tank. Heavy-duty torches are for large-scale jobs and have hoses that can attach to a full-size 20-pound tank.
Choosing between the two styles is really a matter of preference, but here are a few points to help you decipher between the two.
- Easily portable
- Operate with lower temperatures
- Lack volume for extended use
- Do not use refillable tanks
- Offer plenty of volume for long burns
- May have adjustable flame
- Use refillable tanks
- Heavy and difficult to carry around
- May be noisy
There are generally two ways to light a torch—via built-in igniters or manual strikers.
Built-in igniters work similarly to the striker used to light a barbecue grill. They’re usually attached to the tube and feature a push-button spark. With the gas turned on, the striker safely lights the flame at the end of the tube. The pressure of the gas pushes the flame out to the end of the torch, and then it’s ready to use.
Manual strikers can be a little trickier to use. Similar to the strikers used in some high school chemistry classes, manual strikers need to be in proximity to gas when struck to light the flame. This could make some DIYers nervous, in which case a built-in igniter might be the better option.
Because most heavy-duty torches are meant to run on large 20-pound propane tanks, hose length is an important factor to consider. In general, a 10-foot hose is ideal. This length is long enough to cover a wide area, yet short enough to prevent the user from tripping or falling.
For those who plan to cover a large area of land while using their torch, purchasing an additional cart or dolly to hold the heavy propane tank may be a good idea. The wheels will make moving it across the yard easier.
Some weed torches are equipped with a bell-shaped shroud at the end of the torch. This bell helps the torch to retain heat and direct the flame, creating a more efficient burn.
While efficiency is always a bonus, it’s not always necessary when it comes to weed torches. It might take a little longer to burn a weed using a lightweight model without a bell, but it’s usually only a difference of a few seconds.
A bell also helps shield other plants from the intense heat created by the flame. If you’ll be working with your torch around sensitive plants, you might consider a torch with a bell. Keep in mind, however, that using a torch of any kind in a mulch-laden flower bed is a bad idea.
Variable Flame Control
Flame control is another important factor to consider when it comes to purchasing a new weed torch, as too much heat may cause the user to unintentionally burn valuable plants. Plus, without an adjustable flame, users may run through their bottle of propane before covering their entire yard.
Most of the products featured below include control valves that can be dialed up or down to throttle the amount of fuel passing through the wand. Some heavy-duty torches feature boost handles that can temporarily increase the size and temperature of the flame. Simply squeeze the valve to increase the volume and pressure for tougher weeds and release it to return it to its normal setting.
Torch heat ratings are quantified using BTUs (British Thermal Units), and there is a wide range of BTU ratings available.
Most weed torches produce at least 20,000 BTUs, which is plenty of heat for burning a weed. Heavy-duty models can produce up to 500,000 BTUs, which isn’t usually needed for common yard weeds. A torch that offers between 20,000 and 100,000 BTUs is often more than adequate.
As a general rule, weed torches aren’t inherently safe. They produce lots of heat, and their nozzles get very hot. There just simply isn’t much one can do to make a tool like this 100 percent safe.
Features such as built-in gas control valves, built-in igniters, and hoses of safe lengths can reduce some of the risk involved in burning yard weeds. A built-in igniter ensures that the user’s hand is kept a safe distance away from the flame, while the gas control valve helps throttle back the amount of flame the torch produces to keep things under control. Using a hose of proper length can prevent users from tripping.
Our Top Picks
Below are some of the best weed torches on the market. There are compact options, heavy-duty models, and high-powered torches to choose from, so be sure to compare carefully.
Taking weeds out permanently doesn’t have to break the bank. The Flame King weed burner gets the job done while also saving users a bit of cash. This lightweight torch produces up to 24,000 BTUs, which is enough for breaking down most weeds in just a few seconds. It comes with everything necessary to attach it to a standard 1-pound propane bottle.
While it’s budget-friendly, this Flame King isn’t short on features. It has a 33-inch long wand with a built-in push-button starter for safe starts. It also has an adjustable nozzle for dialing in the perfect gas flow and features a nonslip molded rubber grip, ensuring users maintain a safe grip while cooking weeds.
DIYers who aren’t comfortable putting their hand near the business end of a propane torch will appreciate the weed torch from Ausail. This torch features a built-in striker that keeps the user’s hand far away from the end of the torch, providing quick and safe starts. At full flow, it produces 50,000 BTUs, which is significantly more than comparable torches.
This lightweight torch attaches to 1-pound propane bottles, making it portable and easy to set up. It has a built-in gas flow regulator to adjust to throttle the output and an ergonomically designed handle for comfortable use.
Those who own large properties might appreciate Red Dragon’s compact, streamlined design. While it does have a full-length handle that measures 36 inches long, its trim profile makes it easy to pack in a truck or UTV for remote property maintenance needs.
The mini torch features a built-in gas flow regulator that allows it to produce up to 25,000 BTUs. The foam-wrapped handle makes it comfortable and easy to control with a 1-pound bottle attached. While its lack of a built-in starter does make it more streamlined, starting will require using the included manual striker.
Tips for Using a Weed Torch
In general, a quick blast of heat will break down the cells that weeds need to grow, even if they don’t turn completely black. The best time to use a weed torch is on a wind-still day after a good soaking rain. While weed torches are safe if used properly, the soaked terrain will help reduce the risk of an accident and low wind speeds help keep the flames controllable.
Always keep a hose or a bucket of water nearby while burning weeds, and remove leaves and debris from the area before torching the weeds. Leaves and debris will burn much faster than weeds, and passing over them with a lit torch can lead to an unintended fire in no time.
- A quick pass of heat is often enough to kill a weed without charring it to embers.
- Wait for days after rain with low winds before setting out to torch weeds.
- Keep water on hand and remove leaves and debris before torching weeds.
FAQs About Weed Torches
If you still have some questions about buying or using the best weed torches, this section is for you. The following is a collection of some of the most frequently asked questions about weed torches.
Q. How does a weed torch work?
Weed torches use propane-fueled flames to cook the cells inside of a weed, inhibiting the weed’s ability to use sunlight (or photosynthesis) for energy and growth.
Q. Can a weed torch help with poison ivy?
Burning poison ivy is a bad idea. The oil in poison ivy, oak, or sumac that causes itchy blisters is called urushiol. If you burn these plants, the oil attaches itself to the smoke particles, which can land in your lungs and cause serious respiratory irritation.
Q. Do I need to reduce the weed to ash or simply brown it to destroy it?
Generally speaking, burning the weeds to charred ash isn’t necessary. Simply heating the plant for a few seconds until it wilts and browns should be enough to destroy it.