10 Alternatives to Roundup Weed Killer

10 Alternatives to Roundup

Updated July 16, 2019

A California jury awarded over $2 billion in favor of a couple with cancer, ordering Monsanto to compensate for failing to warn consumers that exposure to Roundup weed killer causes cancer.

Even as more people continue to learn about the dangers of Roundup—Monsanto’s best selling weed killer—the herbicide remains in heavy use in the U.S. and around the world.

Stay Safe From Roundup Weed Killer

While Roundup and similar products are still being sold and used, consider doing the following to protect you and your family:

Natural Weed Killer: 10 Alternatives to Roundup

1. Mulch and Permaculture

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2. No-till cover crops

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3. Saturated steam weed control

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4. Electric shock weed control

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5. Electric weed control

6. Fatty Acid Based Herbicidal Soap

Most of the other alternative herbicides used by farmers or gardeners fall into the following categories:

7. High Percentage Vinegar sprays like OSM

8. Salt-Based Herbicides*

9. Phytotoxic Oils (aka Essential Oils)

10. Corn Gluten

Why Use Alternative Herbicides?

Screen_Shot_2018-02-19_at_12.27.38_PM.pngGlyphosate is so widely used in the U.S. and around the world that traces of the chemical have been found in breast milk, cotton products, beer, wine (even when made with organic grapes), eggs, oatmeal, and non-dairy coffee creamer, among other products.

The herbicide has also given rise to genetically modified food, which has been linked to health issues such as infertility, immune problems, faulty insulin regulation, accelerated aging and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.

In March of 2015, glyphosate was classified as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO).

But if the health risks are not enough to convince you to consider an alternative herbicide, maybe the environmental impact will change your mind…

A recent U.S. Geological Survey study sampled waterways in 38 states and found glyphosate in the majority of rivers, streams, ditches, and wastewater treatment plants that were tested. Glyphosate also was found in roughly 70 percent of rainfall samples.

Watch this video to learn more about the effects of glyphosate herbicides on your health and our environment:

Please share this video.

How to Use an Alternative Herbicide

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In order to get the best results from an alternative herbicide, it is best to use in conjunction with other helpful practices, like working to improve soil health, plant nutrition, and irrigation. Remember, an alternative is generally going to be a contact herbicide (except for electric shock), not a systemic herbicide, which kills the entire plant by entering the vascular system.

Contact herbicides generally work by burning plant foliage that comes into contact with the product. They are only capable of killing weeds that have emerged—they have no residual activity on weeds that emerge after application.

Other Ideas for Alternative Herbicides

Acetic Acid – Commonly known as vinegar, acetic acid affects the cell membranes of a plant and causes rapid breakdown of foliage tissue on contact. Vinegar used for herbicidal purposes can be organic household vinegar, which is roughly five percent acetic acid or agricultural vinegar, which has an acetic acid concentration of roughly 20 percent. Insufficient quantities, agricultural vinegar by itself will quickly burn down a weed.

There is much debate on the efficacy of household vinegar versus agricultural vinegar in alternative herbicides. Research has found that acetic acid concentrations between 5 and 10 percent can provide viable control of very small, young weeds that have one or two leaves (or are within two weeks of germination). Larger weeds with three or four leaves more are likely to survive this concentration. Using higher agricultural vinegar with a higher concentration of acetic acid and increasing the application volume can improve weed control.

Salt* – Some choose to combine vinegar with salt to make their alternative herbicide more potent. Like vinegar, salt is a desiccant, so it dries out leaves and stems. 

Oil or Soap – Oil will break down any coating or other natural barriers that many weeds produce to protect their leaves. By using oil or soap in your mixture, you give the vinegar a greater chance to penetrate the weed. Additionally, oils and soaps break the tension water on weed surfaces, which keeps the mixture from running off.

If you would like more information on ingredient concentration levels for your alternative herbicide, check out this article from Garden Counselor.

*BEWARE: any form of sodium chloride is toxic to almost all plants and soil communities. It does not break down, and after it kills the grass in your walk, will poison and even kill large specimen trees where their roots run under the sidewalk or treated area.

Alternative Herbicide Tips

  • Alternative herbicides work best when applied on a hot day. If possible, wait until the humidity is low and morning dew has burned off. This will allow the mixture to stay in contact with weeds.
  • Be careful not to spray the mixture on plants you do not wish to kill. You can do damage to the plants you are trying to protect if you aren’t careful.
  • Use gloves and protective eyewear, as the mixture can damage your skin, especially if you are using agricultural vinegar with a higher concentration of acetic acid.
  • Larger weeds and perennial weeds may wilt or discolor after application, but in some cases, they will regrow a few days or weeks later. These weeds will require multiple applications to be controlled.

Are Alternative Herbicides Effective?

A University of Maryland study found that properly applied acetic acid-based alternative herbicides have promising results controlling the following weeds:

  • Broadleaf Plantain
  • Carpetweed
  • Common Chickweed
  • Crabgrass
  • Cutleaf Evening Primrose
  • Ground Ivy
  • Ladysthumb
  • Lambs Quarters
  • Oriental Mustard
  • Pale Smartweed
  • Spiny Amaranth
  • Tumble Pigweed
  • Velvet Leaf

The Top 5 Benefits of Alternative Herbicides

  1. Public health safety
  2. Avoidance of lawsuits
  3. Improved soil and water retention
  4. Improved water quality
  5. Improved longevity of landscaping

Download PDF of this article here to share with your neighbors.

Article by Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, PC with additions by Zen Honeycutt of Moms Across America.


Showing 9 reactions

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  • Sandy Gladstone
    commented 2020-05-25 05:40:31 -0700
    Andrew is correct. EcoMight weedkiller translocates into the roots better than roundup. It really does work incredibly well. We didn’t want to change from roundup, let’s face it, it’s cheap and it works. We were under intensive pressure from our customers for an alternative. The irony is our business has increased from changing to a safe product. Our customers are talking about it (this is a good thing). This is perhaps the highest level of efficacy I’ve seen in the entire organic marketplace. Highly recommend.
  • Andrew Bergolis
    commented 2020-02-16 09:58:56 -0800
    We are also using the EcoMight product.  We were also very skeptical. I have been in the industry for 32 years with a degree in turfgrass mgmt.  I personally tested this product side by side vs roundup. We didn’t want to bother testing against other organic herbicides because we have literally tried EVERY ONE OF THEM: avenger, axee, biosafe, dr kishner, weed slayer, cheetah, etc. The list goes on and on. Don’t waste your time or money. Most are not “safe”  but more importantly, they don’t work. Literally the only product in 32 years that works the same as glyphosate is the ecomight weedkiller. Not sure on their exact mode of action, but it seems to absorb better with 20-30% less drift than glyphosate.  In fact, our efficacy testing for both aquatic and non-aquatic use was quite surprising.  The testing was off the charts controlling vegetation that glyphosate has grown resistant to.  I was doubtful with the aquatic variable, but it worked quite well.  Not as fast as the syntheics but certainly achieved excellent results.  Perhaps the most surprised I’ve been for a natural product in my entire career. The issue is their purchase quantity is limited to cases, at least the last time I checked. Not sure if it’s sold in stores, we are in the central Florida area and have not seen it around.  We are using the product and recommending it to the state associations to get on board. I did notice they are FSPMA certified. This is a big hurdle for any product.  Good luck to all. Hope this helps. 
  • Liha Rinehardt
    commented 2020-02-12 16:27:40 -0800
    @Robert Crann.. interested in trying Ecomight. Their website seems to be down. Where did you purchase it?
  • Robert Crann
    commented 2020-01-01 08:47:59 -0800
    I’ve been using a product called Ecomight weed and grass killer. We have a crew of 150+ workers on the ground in Southern California at any given time. I’m worried about lawsuits but the main concern is reducing the exposure from roundup and glyphosate. The problem is very few products work as good as the toxic ones. I’ve even tried vinegar and salt. It just never seems to work good and having the soil tested, the vinegar actually kills the soil! I went into this with skepticism but came out a big fan. We are now ordering the Ecomight product in 55 gallon drums. The product works…actually I think it’s better than roundup in many ways. I’ve been on an “herbicide hunt” for years experimenting and trying every new product. It also has equated to cost savings. The product does cost more, but all organics generally do. I was ok with that but the big surprise was how long it lasted. I typically send our applicators every 12-18 days to re-spray after using roundup. The ecomight weedkiller is lasting around 90 days. Needless to say, I was shocked. I told other members of the landscaping association about it and it seems we are not the first to discover it. They have been using the Ecomight all year at many of the HOA’S, and Brentwood school districts. I can’t verify but another crew said they use it at LA, Stanford and UCLA. this may be true, and I hope it is because no matter what product we all use, as long as it’s non-toxic and safe, its better than Roundup! I must add one point, that some of the other herbicdes listed as OMRI don’t work as good but the main issue is they harm butterflies and bees. This is a “no-no” for a few of my customers so I decided to stay away from those. Hope this info is helpful. Feel free to share your thoughts or if you have a better product for weeds thats safe, would love to hear about it. Just wanted to share my experiences and success with this product. Thanks! Rob
  • Karin Westdyk
    commented 2019-07-04 17:59:45 -0700
    Best alternative is hemp grown in rotation.
  • Lisa Crowe
    commented 2019-05-18 18:57:21 -0700
    Thank you this article is exceptionally informative. I shall share.
  • Todd Honeycutt
    commented 2019-04-01 11:26:15 -0700
    Robert – we’ve added your warning about salt to our text. Thanks!
  • Robert Shaw
    commented 2018-08-13 09:35:33 -0700
    Please do not advise adding salt to make any herbicide “extra strength”. Table salt, sea salt – - any form of sodium chloride is toxic to almost all plants and soil communities. It does not break down, and after it kills the grass in your walk, will poison and even kill large specimen trees where their roots run under the sidewalk or treated area. I screwed up big time with this once, and if you take just a moment to logically think about the use of salt, it doesn’t make sense at all.
  • Burton Schrader
    commented 2018-06-22 18:09:18 -0700
    Where can I find this/these products in Thailand please. I can find wood vinigar here but thought it was for bugs not intrusive plants. Thanks

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