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Biodegradable and safer alternative for commercial herbicide

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Picture of Biodegradable and safer alternative for commercial herbicide
With this Instructable we will learn how to make a safer and cheaper alternative to commercial herbicide. The ingredients are very easy to obtain at any supermarket or grocery store. Most of us have them already available at home. 
 
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Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients
salt.jpg
dishwashing.jpg
You will need:
  • 1 gallon (3.78 liters) of white vinegar
  • 12 ounces (341.1 grams) approximately of salt for every gallon of vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon, more or less, of dishwashing detergent (biodegradable detergent preferably) will work as a surfactant
Mix and shake the ingredients on a safe plastic container.

Step 2: How to use the biodegradable herbicide

Picture of How to use the biodegradable herbicide
sprayer.jpg
For maximum effect you should spray the solution on a very hot and sunny day over the undesirable plants using a small trigger sprayer or a pump sprayer. Cover the whole plant and roots and watch the weeds go.

Looks a lot like the idea behind my instructable.

racoontnn1 year ago
It is hard to call this part of biodegradable as salt from the soil nowhere to stay. Yes, this line-up will destroy the weeds, but on this earth a little that will grow.
blkhawk (author)  racoontnn1 year ago
You are technically right that salt is not biodegradable. This issue has been discussed many times. However no proof has been presented that a little amount of salt would make your yard a huge brown spot. In every discussion that I have had on this issue no irrefutable evidence exists that this salt will permanently damage your yard or the environment.
Dear Sir, I just wanted to say that the salt remains in the soil, and I agree with you that it does not do any harm. I agree with you, and when the snow melts, I will process your staff my site. I think the best place for treatment will be the place where it grows weeds and crop plants do not grow.
blkhawk (author)  racoontnn1 year ago
Salt can be found naturally in the soil at different concentrations. Sometimes salt is added to the soil to help treat chlorosis. Salt will not remain on the ground forever. When dissolved in water, the sodium chloride framework disintegrates as the Na+ and Cl- ions become surrounded by the polar water molecules, thus combining with other elements to form other compounds.

Dear Sir.
Saline, or saline soils are those soils that contain a variety of easily soluble salts in an amount clearly harmful to the normal development of the crops. Almost to salt marshes include soils with soluble salt content of more than 1%. Your composition biodegradable herbicide could never bring so much salt in the soil. Consequently, for the cultural soil it is harmless.
HowToLou1 year ago
Just adding my experience here. I had a house with a paver patio with a terrible weeds-in-cracks problem. A Round-Up treatment would kill weeds, but last for only a week or two. I started pouring a whole cardboard can of salt on the patio and sweeping it into the cracks. Sprinkle a little water or rain on it and my pavers would stay clear for at least two months at a time. To help alleviate salt-fear, I will say that after two months, the vegetation was back, as strong as ever. Also, the plant beds, adjacent to the patio, grew just as well as the ones further away. -Lou
I live in a house with vinyl siding and I don't like weedeating around it. I also don't like plucking weeds from driveways. I'll try something like this. Probably I'll make a combo of pool salt and cheap sand, and pour it around the house to prevent weeds etc from growing there. I don't think a guy spraying some salt water from a spray bottle is anything of a disaster like some wall-of-text-posters here are crying about. A lot of commercial herbicides (used on farms no less) have instructions which call for them to be measured out in sprayers and mixed with maybe 20-50 parts diesel or fryer fat. That will probably keep the trolls up at night. hahaha
blkhawk (author)  Yard Sale Dale2 years ago
Trolls live with their computers under bridges! :-)
tryb012 years ago
Wow, you have started quite a controversy with this salt mixture. You might not have had as visceral of a response if you had suggested using radioactive waste.
Like most of the projects posted on this site your results will vary.
I am not in favor of polluting ground water. Using Roundup & similar commercial products are of real concern. Those products contain dozens of long acting chemicals that should not be in the hands of the general public. Salt is a pretty basic chemical that should not cause birth defects or rearrange your genes in surprising or unpleasant ways. Of course, anything can be toxic in large enough quantities. Even H20 will kill many living things if used improperly.
If you don't like the idea of putting a few spoonfuls of salt on your weeds then don't do it. I am not always right. I am open to learning new things but I don't think small amount of salt will do any great or long lasting damage, esp when compared to all the other garbage flowing into the ground, streams, & oceans.
blkhawk (author)  tryb012 years ago
Thank you! I agree with you. Like everything else in life, too much of a good thing is never a good thing.
andyk752 years ago
Please think it over and remove this instructable!!
This is no alternative to herbicide! It will only pollute the groundwater with a big amount of salt! And this is not bio-degradable. It will stay there or end up in a river!

I can speak for Germany, where using kitchen-salt this way is forbidden!
Nearly nobody knows its forbidden and people try to tell you it is natural and safe, but it is NOT! It harms our water and the fishes in the rivers!

So please don't do this at home or anywhere else!
This is no alternative to herbicide!

Yes it is!


relax, everything's going to be alright.  Pro-Tip; don't drink so much Red Bull and post.  
Really the title is misleading. Salt is not biodegradable. Even though salt is needed for most life processes it kills or stunts when levels are high. There is a reason why they recommend not drinking ocean water.
Problem with using it on a driveway is that it doesn't stay there, it washes down into the ground to our drinking water...it may take 100 years to get there but think what 100 years worth of salt will do once it gets there, and it will take about as long for it to all work through the system.

The only totally environmentally friendly weed control is actually manually pulling and digging them out. Bonus exercises/yoga/whatever. People are so freaking lazy nowadays.
blkhawk (author)  josephlebold2 years ago
According to the website How Stuff Works the reason why we should not drink ocean water:

Unless you drink a lot of freshwater, the body's regulatory mechanism in this situation is potentially fatal. With seawater, the change in sodium concentration outside our cells is the main culprit. In order to regain an isotonic state, a must for cell survival, the body attempts to eliminate the excess sodium from its extracellular fluids. It secretes urine. However, human kidneys can only produce urine that's slightly less salty than saltwater. So, in order to remove the extreme amount of sodium taken in by saltwater, we urinate more water than we actually drank. And dehydration sets in.

 

This salt controversy is still raging eh? 

Nothing else to do I suppose - Any new viewpoints? (glances over comments) nope - same old same old-

Move on - you guys need a job - go volunteer somewhere -  Make it a better world - stop squabbling over a tablespoon of salt.  Move out of your parents basement.
"This is why you can't have nice things"
M.
blkhawk (author)  marcintosh2 years ago
To show you how easy is to spread rumors and fear, check this website, DHMO.org. About all the dangers of "dihydrogen monoxide" (another name for water).
Just do it in the evening, don't want you to sweat it and add more salt...
Good point.
the amounts used by this, although not bio-degradable herbicide, don't reach levels of toxicity as prohibited by law, like those levels used to melt snow.
I've tried this herbicide successfully ( used 1 l. vinager, 1 coffeecup (0,3 l) of salt and one coffeecup of dishwashing detergent). Get's well on cracks or fissures on sidewalk and so on, yet on garden use not so good. because you'll need amounts that will harm your plants. There are herbs who resist.
by the way, nice instructable blackhawk.
blkhawk (author)  arthur verburg2 years ago
Thank you!
djimdy andyk752 years ago
Pouring heaps of salt on your lawn is not a good idea. But that is not what this poster is saying. Scolding comments to the contrary show innumeracy at its best.

A truly civil society and its members should look sensibly at what they do and not repeat mantras of FUDs without thinking.

The poster is saying 12 ounces of salt for 1 gallon of liquid. That's 12 OUNCES.

Think what a 5lb bag of sugar looks like. That's 80 ounces. Now mix that with 6.6 GALLONS of vinegar. That's a lot, right? Would you be using this all at once? In one spot? Or even for your ENTIRE YARD? Unless your yard is several acres, I highly doubt it. Can you imagine using that much Round-Up on your yard?

Once again, that is with a SINGLE 5lb bag.

Your neighbor's dog likely pisses more weed-killing salt on your lawn every single day. Over the course of a decade, do you really believe that that salt will overpower the thousands of tons of dirt between your lawn and the water table? Not. Bloody. Likely. Otherwise, there would be nothing but barren wasteland for miles and miles from the beach's edge.

Please, people, think.
andyk75 djimdy2 years ago
Hi djimdy,
didn't want to sound rude. And indeed you are right. 12 ounces per gallon is not much. But it won't help, it is just as if you didn't use it. Look at the post of chabias.

Why I reacted this way was:
I did several studies about groundwater and know the problem with salt in groundwater. Not always anthropogenic, but very often.
And on the other hand: I have a small garden by my own, and I saw a lot of neighbours pave their walk-way with salt each summer to eliminate the weed. It did work for up to three month maximum! And they used a real lot of salt, like 500g per square-meter or so.
Don't know with how much they started out, but if a little bit doesn't help, let's try more and more and more and more...

boiling water, vinegar, flame thrower, a knife and sweat, that all is o.k. and works for some time, but please omit the salt !!!

Thanks!
Andreas
djimdy andyk752 years ago
Hi Andreas,
Your anecdote is much more informative this time around and helps a great deal to explain why such laws may be in place: because there are plenty of fools out there who tend to overdo things exactly as you said.

Salt apparently restricts water uptake by plants, so perhaps the addition of vinegar at the same time (as opposed to separately) really does help.
What would be nice is pictures showing results, not just talk (one way or the other).

Cheers,
blkhawk (author)  andyk752 years ago
I understand and share your concern for the environment. Regarding the impact that salt poses to the environment, this information shows that there are other sources than road deicing with salt that affects the environment:

Chlorides are released naturally into the environment through the weathering of chloride-containing rocks and minerals. The seas and oceans contain vast amounts of dissolved chloride. Chloride also enters the atmosphere naturally as a result of volcanic activity, forest fires and sea spray. Coal also contains significant amounts of chlorine that is released into the atmosphere as hydrogen chloride during combustion, where it contributes to acid rain. Coal combustion for power generation is one of the biggest industrial sources of chloride release to the atmosphere. However this is falling as a result of the declining use of coal for power generation and the installation of emission control equipment at major power stations. Other sources of chloride release into the environment are agricultural runoff; wastewater from various food and chemical industries; consumer water softening; pool salts; effluent wastewater from water treatment facilities and; road deicing operations.
Salt Institute

Like it was commented, the small amount of salt that you will use in this project will not affect the environment. You will only apply this concoction on pavement cracks. Constant freezing, thawing and rain will dilute the salt. And this herbicide is not intended to be used constantly, depending where you live you may not have to use it more than once each season. I hope that this will help with your concerns.

I live close to the German border (North-east part of the Netherlands) and I have never heard that using salt is forbidden in Germany.

Great instructable and I will surely try it. (We get free salt in the winter so I don't even have to buy salt!)
Agreed. Pouring boiling hot water over the weeds will set them back a lot. Or better yet, judicious use of a broad spectrum weed killer that kills to the root followed by patching the cracks in the pavement with something that bonds to the existing pavement and seals against water intrusion as much as possible. The weeds will still come back eventually but have a tougher go.
Yeah - We pave the streets with salt all winter. Sometimes there are warnings not to drink the tap water because of the high sodium content.

We also, dump herbicides into lakes to kill plants that are overgrown from fertilizer sprayed on lawns.

You can't eat the fish anyway because of the heavy metals.

I am in the NorthEast (in the USA). There are more and less polluted areas, it varies by state.

We also use remote control planes to blow people up in other countries -- but that is off topic.
stixnstones2 years ago
I think the whole point here is to minimize our impact on our environment in every way possible. Salt and Vinegar is the lesser of the two evils if Roundup is the other evil. Better yet you can obtain a higher strength of vinegar online which will even kill bamboo! Use sparingl

There are so many great alternatives to using Roundup which is deadly to frogs and toads and I am sure has effects on us we do not yet know.

Several of my favs are a tea kettle of boiling water poured on the cracks in the sidewalk to cook out the unwanted plants. Remember new seeds germinate all the time so a regular regimen is best.

Think about smothering the unwanted, mulches work, wet newspaper works, tarps work , it just depends on the size of the area you are trying to eliminate unwanted plants from. A black tarp in the sun covering your paver patio for the morning while you run errands will do the job and is a heck of alot cheaper and safe for the kids and critters.

Also do not let weeds go to seed. Pull them, cut them, douse with boiling water. Eventually you will see less and less intruders.

Another fav method to rid the unwanted is with a propane flame weeder (not recommended in dry fire prone areas). There's something quite satisfying with selectively frying a persistent deeply rooted weed!

lbrewer422 years ago
I used to live near Erie, PA. The soil there was different than where I know live in PA (Gettysburg area). In Northern PA I would apply this mixture once at the beginning of summer, the weeds died off just as fast as using the commercial weed killer "Roundup," and I literally had no weed problems the entire summer (3-4 months for that area!).

When i moved to where I am now, I mixed this stuff up and applied it. The weeds came back within a month. So I am guessing the makeup of the soil in this area (a lot more limestone) is such that the plants growing are more resistant to the vinegar/salt combination.

In fact I have noticed that commercial products have more trouble down here as well :( I applied some "Ortho" weedkiller a month ago and need to do it again!

As to the danger of salt being in the environment - whoever puts stock in this theory has never been in places with winters like NW PA. Salt is constantly put on the roads (and has been for a very, very long time) for up to 5-6 months per year to combat ice and snow conditions. There is no problem with it in the water table after countless tons have been put into the environment over the years. And I also noticed I never had to worry or fuss about a garden in NW PA like I do here. Up there, things just grew. Where I am now, this kind of soil makes gardening an art form to become successful at it.


One difference between Erie and Gettysburg is the fact that eastern PA in general has been farmed heavily for a few hundred years (about 300 or so). Many German and Dutch families settled here early on, and most were farmers. The soil has probably been depleted more here (I'm in New Cumberland, about 35 to 40 miles NNE of you, and used to live in Schuylkill Co. ... farmland and coal mining region).

P.S. Welcome to Eastern PA!
Now THAT makes a lot of sense. I know Erie was nowhere near as settled as this area. And even to this day people in Erie want to move b/c of the Alaska-like climate the Lake causes (which I dearly miss - I know, I am crazy!).

Thanks for the welcome - this is a pretty area, and the people sure are nice. I just have a lot to learn about growing a garden down here! I have a 4-square system set up and my plants grow but produce no fruit! And even this year, the tomato plants seem to have stalled in their height and no sign of blossoms so far?!

BTW - actually I'm in Chambersburg but did not figure too many people would know where that was.
Ohenrio2 years ago
In my country (Britain, France) we use algae collected at the coast, the sea, and we put them sue the herbs in the fall, effects and ecologist for our Planet!
rimar20002 years ago
Thanks for sharing this recipe. The world needs less venoms and more people concerned with the environment.
blkhawk (author)  rimar20002 years ago
Gracias mi querido amigo.
Thank you for posting this instructable. It was very timely.
blkhawk (author)  Jason Bedard2 years ago
Glad you liked it!
damack12 years ago
I commend you for your effort, but this is NOT BIODEGRADABLE. Biodegradable means it can be degraded by biological processes. Biological process CANNOT degrade salt. And if you pour salt into your flower bed, you will probably never grow anything there ever again.
blkhawk (author)  damack12 years ago
You are correct but:

When dissolved in water, the sodium chloride framework disintegrates as the Na+ and Cl- ions become surrounded by the polar water molecules.
Wikipedia
 

This allows for these elements to rearrange with other elements or molecules in the environment.

 

sweetnienna2 years ago
Those comments are so entertaining ! I live in Canada and we salt every winter from october to april and we still have grass growing everywhere the rest of the year. I do understand that salt is not a perfect solution, but if you use this recipe once a year... its absurd to believe that its gonna blow up our planet.

Thank you for this diy, its simple and easy !
blkhawk (author)  sweetnienna2 years ago
Glad you liked it!
tcarney572 years ago
To help calm those of you with jerking knees, please search the following on Google: "chlorine deficiency in plants." You'll find that ordinary salt--sodium chloride--can be an important source of chloride ions vital for plant health. This is from "Plant Physiology Online":

Plants require relatively high chlorine concentration in their tissues. Chlorine is very abundant in soils, and reaches high concentrations in saline areas, but it can be deficient in highly leached inland areas. The most common symptoms of chlorine deficiency are chlorosis and wilting of the young leaves.

And from the University of Kansas:

[C]hloride-containing fertilizers include: ammonium chloride (NH4 Cl), calcium chloride (CaCl2), magnesium chloride (MgCl2), and sodium chloride (NaCl). These fertilizers contain 66 percent, 65 percent,
74 percent, and 60 percent chloride, respectively.


Of course I added the emphasis to sodium chloride--you know, "salt." Carefully understood, the issue is not about salt as toxic to plants, but rather how much is beneficial and how much is too much. I am persuaded by the comment from djimdy (above) that the amount of salt added by the spot use of salt in the relatively-low concentrations called for in this Instructable is minuscule, and may in fact be beneficial.

According to the many scientific sources you'll find using Google, light inland soils can be easily leached of chloride enough to need supplementation. Salt is mentioned in numerous sites as a cheap amendment to treat hypo-chlorosis.

By the way, according to an EU report (European Task Force TG3, 'Snow and Ice Control on European Roads and Bridges.'), Germany uses more than 2,000 metric tons of salt each year to de-ice roads--all of which leaches into both ground and surface waters. Is it really illegal there to use it in your yard?

Also, it appears that "salting the earth" by conquering armies in ancient times was for ritual purposes only--sort of like a triumphal march--and that salt was far too valuable to have been used in the quantities needed to poison farm fields.

I teach university students how to use online research to sort fact from fiction in claims made by others. It inoculates them against rumor, bias, and just plain stupidity.    

blkhawk (author)  tcarney572 years ago
Good comment! As a matter of fact, the etymology of the word "salary" comes from salt. This shows the value that salt had in ancient times.
pattyann2 years ago
I have used 20% vinegar alone or with a little orange oil added. Both with great success.
blkhawk (author)  pattyann2 years ago
Thank you for sharing!
Hubiewan2 years ago
I agree. Comming from New England, I see hundreds of tons of salt used every winter, year after year, with no apparent harm to water or roadside plants. Like I'm going to give credence to foreigners over personal experience. Think, people. An opinion is supposed to be the result of research and thought, not a substitute for them.....................
pudding832 years ago
tcarney57, it´s really forbidden in many, many areas of germany. just the community people are allowed to use it with a special way of spreading in winter so they need less of the salt. of course we need to use it for dangerous stairs or the highways.

another option is road grit, but it´s a big job (connected with other damages to the environment) to remove it in spring.

but please think of this:
"Many little people doing many little things in many little places can change the face of the world!" African proverb

i decided not to use salt for my own.
daveand52 years ago
hey guys, as an ex-pro-lawn-weed killer, vinegar by itself, of up to 20%, will devastate weeds. Takes only days. Soak just the leaves with it. a few drops of liquid soap helps wet the vinegar, so it sticks better.
The vinegar makes the soil acidic so nothing grows where its at, until its diluted by rain or water hose. It also will kill the grass!! flowers!! etc!!
But be aware that next spring the offending weed will probably back as weed roots all need to be killed, any left and they grow again.
Also many weeds are spread by parts of the leaves such as creeping charlie, so clean your mower deck after mowing each yard to avoid spreading the weeds.
chabias2 years ago
I tried this method about a month ago. It didn't work well at all. The following week, I tried a half & half mix of salt and water, with a touch of soap to help it cling to leaves. Again nothing. I'd read the salt water would keep the weeds from growing back for about a year. Instead, my weeds shot up about 3 feet in a week! I'm almost finished pulling them out by hand.
I know my ex used a commercial weed killer in the past. I'm thinking it created a super-weed.
sprinter2 years ago
Biodegradable? There's nothing biodegradable about salt. It's forever. In the soil.
like they say we use it on roads all the time up here in the east ,...so a little to kill weeds won't be bad......
also if you use the sprayer like blkhawk....there is a little filter like device on the inside that will need cleaned now and again.......
sb42 years ago
I think people should heed the advice about salt and avoid it.
pudding832 years ago
I join to the comment of the other german commantator in this list...
ité very bad for our groundwater to give salt on the ground.

I USE JUST VINEGAR CLEANER (without other additives) on a hot sunny day
or a knife and use the time to get a sunkissed skin ;)

this is not our world, think of your children!

best regards from germany!
ulab2 years ago
I find it a lot more satisfying to use one of those little gas torches...
sbappleg82 years ago
Use Bleach to kill unwanted grass and weeds.
sberry2 years ago
It is not like you are spraying the whole yard with salt just small places that you want permanent weed removal...Like the ones tearing up my new asphalt driveway...I would rather have a little salt than totally harmful chemicals in my water...Thanks for this info...
Vegetable oil is the best biodegradable herbicide. I've seen my grandpa spill some when he was filling up his diesel truck with it in the summer. All the oil does is cover the leaves of the plant and suffocates it. Bacteria in the ground will eat it up once the plant and oil end up down there. Plus it's nontoxic, that's if it's not peanut oil Haha. If you have an allergy to peanuts and peanut oil then just use vegetable oil.
neutron72 years ago
When I have plants growing where I don't want them (especially in cracks in cement) I just boil a kettle of water and pour it on them, they are dead the next day.
virginiakev2 years ago
Very good herbicide mix. People, the objective is to kill an intrusive plant here
DON'T USE SALT!!!!! RUINS THE GROUND, WATER FOR YEARS AND YEARS TO COME. IT'S HOW THE ROMANS RUINED THEIR ENEMIES FARMLANDS.

THE VINEGAR ALONE WILL WILT AND WITHER THE WEEDS; do it 3 times and likely the roots will quit, too.
cwickenkamp2 years ago
It's good to think up ways to avoid the toxic commercial herbicides, but salt will "kill" the soil. That was a way of a conquering nation to get revenge on their enemies in ancient times - they salted their fields so they couldn't grow food. So I think it is not a good idea to use it. It will linger in the soil, and eventually make its way into the ground water, as has been mentioned.

But vinegar will not harm the soil and is very effective in killing weeds. It might even benefit for soil that is too alkaline. Vinegar has so many uses.

I would not have thought of using detergent as a surfactant. Good idea.
Mersix2 years ago
The salt is a really bad idea for all the reasons above. On my version of this Instructable your instructions had a group of ads for herbicides, and herbicide companies right next to it. Which I thought was pretty funny. Unless that is a environmentally safe detergent, then you are doing as much damage as good. And just to be a total Nay sayer, what do those chemicals do to the critters in the ground?The soil is a living breathing community. Even the acid in the vinegar will be enough to kill another creature. Everything we do, or don't do matters. And everything you put into the soil eventually ends up in the ground water. With so many people doing it, it becomes a problem. Where I live all of the water is pumped from wells. I am all for pulling weeds.
ortsa2 years ago
You are so concerned about using 'chemicals' but your using salt? Wont it eventually leach to the surrounding soil?
rimar20002 years ago
You can add a reference to this instructable to http://www.instructables.com/id/Unusual-Uses-for-Vinegar/
canucksgirl2 years ago
Good job. I like the alternative to brutal chemicals. :)
blkhawk (author)  canucksgirl2 years ago
Glad you liked it, hun!
flyingpuppy2 years ago
THANK you, thank you, thank you! Needed this very much!
blkhawk (author)  flyingpuppy2 years ago
Glad to help!