Extremely versatile, this natural product is a staple of homemade household products.
Some people also use it to kill weeds.
But is white vinegar really useful as a weed killer? And is it safe for your garden soil?
Update on the virtues and dangers of white vinegar to eliminate weeds:
white vinegar against weeds
In principle, it might seem quite harmless to use white vinegar as a natural weedkiller to replace pesticides…
The intention is laudable.
Instead of using chemical weed killers like Roundup, we spray the weeds with white vinegar.
And yet, this practice is not without risk.
As is often the case with gardening tips (and even some commercial organic products), the potential dangers must be taken into account.
Because, contrary to popular belief, a natural product is not necessarily a product without consequences for the environment.
For my part, know that I do not use pesticides or white vinegar in my garden.
What weeds is white vinegar effective on?
White vinegar is especially effective on young shoots and tender weeds.
For example, it is perfect for eliminating weeds in the paths or in the interstices of your terrace.
On the other hand, its effectiveness on perennial plants is limited.
For what ? Because perennial weeds have bigger, and therefore stronger, roots.
And of course, it is the roots that must be eradicated if you want to eliminate weeds permanently.
Otherwise, they will just keep growing back.
The problem is that « ordinary » white vinegar has a hard time destroying these roots.
Vinegar and its acetic acid concentration
White vinegar contains acetic acid, which can be produced naturally through bacterial fermentation.
This is also how we produce cider vinegar.
White vinegar can also be an industrial product. It is obtained by converting ethanol into acetic acid.
Food grade white vinegar that you find in the supermarket contains 5 to 10% acetic acid.
At this low concentration, white vinegar is only potent enough to kill the most tender shoots and weeds.
But, as mentioned before, that’s about it!
So how do you kill perennial weeds with white vinegar?
Not with white food vinegar!
To get rid of stubborn weeds, you have to use a more powerful vinegar…
A lot more powerful: it is white vinegar with an acetic acid content of 20%.
Also named horticultural vinegarthis white vinegar is a real herbicide.
And as you will have understood, it is a product that is less respectful of the environment.
Because natural product does not necessarily mean harmless product!
Is white vinegar safe?
So, is white vinegar safe? The answer is no.
With a high concentration of acetic acid, white vinegar as a weed killer is not safe for your soil and the environment.
White vinegar is called a contact herbicide.
That is to say, it acts by contact on plants (including weeds).
The visible parts of the plant are thus « burnt » in a short time, generally within 24 hours.
The problem is that its action stops there.
Because it burns the aerial parts of weeds, white vinegar only gives the impression to be an effective weed killer.
But that doesn’t mean weeds won’t regrow from their roots, especially perennial varieties.
Dr. Jeff Gilman is a botanist who researches on the use of pesticides and the author of the book The truth about organic gardening.
It is precisely this lack of results that worries Dr. Gilman and organic gardening specialists.
Indeed, when a gardener sees the weeds grow back… what do you think will be his reaction?
This will of course encourage him to use more white vinegarwhile this product is not completely harmless for the garden.
But that’s not all…
Often, gardeners not only continue to use white vinegar, but they also replace it with an even stronger vinegar.
Thus, many gardeners replace household vinegar (5% acetic acid) with a much stronger formula (up to 20%).
And yet, the word « danger » appears on most white vinegar bottle labels.
The problem is that most gardeners only see the word « white vinegar » written in large letters.
And as a result, they use this product in their garden, without really being aware of the danger it poses to the soil.
Dangerous for your health?
Here are some sobering details about high strength white vinegar:
– white vinegar with an acetic acid content greater than 11% can cause skin burns and eye damage.
– white vinegar with more than 20% acetic acid becomes corrosive for pewter, aluminum, iron and concrete… It can even make you blind.
It goes without saying: white vinegar with a high acetic acid content should be treated like all other herbicides.
That is, it should be applied while wearing goggles and protective clothing.
The impact of white vinegar on the environment
White vinegar also presents a potential danger to garden wildlife: insects, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
For example, a toad or salamander can hide under the foliage of weeds.
Let’s not forget that small animals often have a beneficial effect on the garden.
« When the weeds are still tender little shoots and you spray them right away with household white vinegar, you’re fine, » according to Jeff Gilman.
If this is not the case, it is better to put away your spray bottle of white vinegar.
And instead, use a hoe to pick up and remove the roots of weeds.
The impact of white vinegar on the floor
In addition, the white vinegar used regularly in the garden can also be harmful to the soil.
Indeed, by dint of weeding the plants with white vinegar, it can change soil pH.
The addition of vinegar (and therefore acetic acid) risks lowering the pH of the soil, and making it more acidic.
Therefore, it can disrupt the way your plants absorb nutrients, and therefore their proper development.
How to eliminate weeds WITHOUT white vinegar?
Are you wary of white vinegar with a high concentration of acetic acid? Well Named !
Soil acidification, potential effects on wildlife…
The dangers of white vinegar as a weedkiller are concerning.
It is for this reason that I advise you to use white vinegar as a weed killer only in the following cases:
– if it is to eliminate shoots or tender weeds and
– if you use household vinegar with a low acetic acid content (between 5 and 8%).
Be aware that there are chemical-free methods to kill weeds and keep them from coming back:
– With mulch: you can mulch the soil or choose the right time to work the soil.
– By hand: This is the favorite method of Jeff Gilman and myself… the good old weeding by hand.
– With newspaper: just cover your crops with a thick layer of newspaper. This prevents sunlight from reaching the weed seeds. So they cannot germinate.
– With boiling water: with this method of thermal weeding, all you have to do is pour a trickle of boiling water over the base of the unwanted plants.
– With a jet of steam: another method of thermal weeding. A high-pressure sprayer turns the plants’ water into steam, their cells burst and the plant dies.
All these methods are without a shadow of a doubt more efficient and more respectful of the environment.
Do you know any other natural ways to kill weeds? Share them with us in the comments. We can’t wait to read you!
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