Orange Oil, Vinegar and Dish Soap: Partners in a Natural Herbicide

Weeds are a part of life when you garden, but constantly pulling them doesn’t have to be! Try this simple and natural recipe for killing weeds.

Weeds are a part of life if you garden or tend a landscape. Sometimes, it takes just as much time to pull weeds as it does to plant the flowers and shrubs you DO want!

Despite the vast amounts of personal satisfaction that come from yanking a weed out of the flowerbed, there’s always that little voice in the background saying, “why can’t we spray these weeds and forget all of this pulling?”

The fact is, many gardeners don’t like to spray weeds for fear that the material will drift onto valuable plants and cause damage or even death. Commercial weed killers (herbicides) are available to kill specific types of plants or to kill any green plant they contact. Some gardeners are experienced herbicide users and others prefer to stick with pulling weeds or using something more natural. For others, arthritis or other physical challenges make it difficult to get down and grasp or pull those pesky weeds.  How about a handy recipe to kill weeds that’s natural and easy to make?

The recipe is pretty simple: orange oil (where have we used orange oil before?), 20% white vinegar and dish soap (doesn’t have to be BLUE Dawn!).

The mixture is thus:

  1. 1 gallon of 20% white vinegar
  2. 2 ounces (or 4 tablespoons) of orange oil or cleanser containing d-limonene
  3. 1 ounce (or 2 tablespoons) of dish soap

Wearing proper eye protection and rubber/nitrile gloves, pour out about 1/4 cup of vinegar from the container and discard.  Pour the 2TB of soap and 4TB of orange oil directly into the vinegar jug and replace the cap.  Make sure the cap is firmly in place and gently shake the vinegar mixture for a few seconds to thoroughly mix the soap, vinegar, and orange oil together.  Be sure to LABEL THE JUG with a permanent marker to denote what’s now contained in the vinegar jug.

Decant some of the mixture into a spray bottle using a funnel and spray liberally onto the plants you intend to kill. BE SURE TO SPRAY DURING THE HOTTEST PART OF A SUNNY DAY. Cover all parts of the plant with the spray. You may need to repeat the application after two days if rainfall or new shoots occur. You can also drench the plant roots once the top begins to die. Be sure to shake the mixture periodically while you’re applying it and only spray the plants you want to kill.  You may store the vinegar mixture in a cool, dark place.  Do not store the mixture in the spray bottle because the vinegar may degrade the draw tube and plastic components inside of the spray bottle. Be sure to shake the mixture before decanting or spraying.

This mixture is not going to be as effective as commercially-available herbicides, but it does a pretty nice job nonetheless. It works great on weed and grass seedlings and broadleaf weeds. Mature grass plants require multiple applications for success. When it’s all said and done, you’ve been able to save your back a few aches and still manage to keep those weeds at bay for one more week.

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