Pet Safe Weed Killer

Andy Martin
Contributor: Jeanne Grunert
Golden Retriever puppy running on grass

A pet safe weed killer can kill weeds in your lawn or garden but won't hurt your furry friends. Such weed killers are often made with natural ingredients, such as salt or sugar, or use homemade treatments like boiling water to kill weeds.

Alternatives to Commercial Weed Killers

To begin your search for a weed killer that is safe for pets, talk to your pet's veterinarian. He or she may be able to recommend a few safe weed killers to use around the lawn and garden. Other safe ways to kill weeds in the lawn or garden include:

  • Manually removing them: While this may seem labor intensive, it's actually the very safest way to remove weeds. If you just have a dandelion or two in the lawn, you can use a long, thin digging fork to dig down and grab the roots (dandelions have a long taproot). Local weeds in the flower and vegetable beds can all be pulled up by hand. It's safe, plus it gives you good exercise too.

  • Boiling water: Like humans and pets, weeds die from scalding water. This is a good method for killing weeds that grow up between the cracks in the sidewalk, driveway or patio area. Simply boil water and pour over the weeds. Be very careful not to spill any on yourself!
  • Salt: A sprinkle of salt onto weeds is also a pet safe weed killer. Do not use a lot of salt, however, on flower or vegetable beds; it will kill plants you want to keep, too.

Make Your Own Spray

Spraying dandelions with homemade weed killer

For people who like to use a spray-on weed killer, you can make your own pet safe weed killer. Visit the Organic Materials Review Institute(OMRI) to learn more about appropriate options. The OMRI validates that fertilizers, herbicides/pest control substances and other gardening or horticultural products are suitable for organic living and food production.

Remember that strong oils, vinegar and other "safe" natural products can be irritating to pets. A nose full of clove oil or vinegar will surprise any curious pet! Always use caution when applying any product, even organic and natural ones, and keep pets off treated areas until the substance has been absorbed, washed off or weathered.

Supplies for Various Sprays

  • Mist spray bottle
  • Bowl
  • About 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • Drops of clove oil or lemon oil

Vinegar Herbicide Directions

This mix will work best when sprayed around noontime under a bright, scorching sun. Apply daily and after rain or watering to ensure it stays on the weeds.

  1. Mix the boiling water, vinegar, and scented oil together in the bowl.
  2. Allow to cool enough to pour into the plastic spray bottle without damaging the bottle.
  3. Spray the mixture directly onto weeds, being careful not to spray it onto plants you want to keep.

Clove Oil Directions

This strong and effective herbicide smells great and repels rodents. The recipe is simple.

  1. Add 10 drops of clove essential oil to a standard spray bottle.
  2. Fill the bottle with water.
  3. Spray the weeds daily until results are noted.

You can adjust the ratio of oil to water with some creativity. Experiment with a variety of concentrations. Increase the clove oil to 20 drops in the spay bottle if the weeds are unusually rugged.

Lemon Oil Directions

This one is very potent. Use caution as the lemon oil enhances the vinegar. It will kill desirable plants as well.

  1. Mix one cup of vinegar with several drops (around 8-10) of lemon oil.
  2. Add to one cup of water - mix can be doubled or tripled.
  3. Carefully spray onto the weeds to be removed.

Commercial Pet Safe Weed Prevention

Visit organic nurseries to see what is available as well. Arbico Organics, Planet Natural, Gardens Alive, and Groworganic.com specialize in natural and safe products for lawn and garden care. Some products are safe to use (all listed products have no residue or toxic persistence), but pets should be kept away from treated areas after application.

Non-toxic options, most of which are affordable in the $20 to $40 price range (depending on the size purchased), include:

  • Preen - Preen is a well-known brand that using corn gluten, which prevents weeds from sprouting. Try the Vegetable Garden Organic Weed Preventer which is simply sprinkled on the garden.
  • Orland's Safe-T Weed - This is a pre-emergent herbicide. The corn gluten inhibits weed seeds from setting root. This product is safe for all of the family - and established plantings in vegetable and ornamental gardens.
  • Soil Mender Enhanced Vinegar RTU - Grain alcohol - based vinegar (10%) herbicide that contains no chemical products. It prevents and removes broadleaf weeds and grasses without dangerous residue.
  • Suppress Herbicide EC - Caprylic acid based weed killer that can be used at different concentrations allowing for incremental weed removal. Weak solution treats emergent weeds and stronger (9%) mix tackles persistent problem plants. This is one of the more expensive options, at about $100 for a gallon.
  • Weed Zap - Intriguing, spice oil derived herbicide that kills invasive weeds without harming established woody plants. Great to use in orchards or around trouble spots - like those found at the base of hedgerows.
  • AllDown - Powerful acetic and citric acid based weed killer. A non-selective herbicide that controls a wide variety of broadleaf weeds and grasses. Will only remove plants spray is directly applied to. Retreat persistent plants without residue problems.
  • IRON X! Selective Weed Killer for Lawns - IRON X! eradicates broadleaf species in established lawns (will not harm grasses, but kill clovers). Removes - Lamb's quarters, dandelion, violets, lichen, chickweed and other broadleaf plants.
  • Weed Aside Herbicidal Soap - Innovative soap made with ammonium fatty acid, non-systemic (won't leech into root zone), contact herbicide that eliminates and controls grasses and other weed species (broadleaf - dandelion, trefoil, clover, oxalis and many more). Safe for vegetable plots, and non-staining - great for cleaning brick paths of weeds.

Other Considerations

Composting and mulching suppress weeds and add nutrients back into the soil. They're well worth the effort and will reward you with a healthy garden and lawn. Landscape fabric, spread over an area and anchored by hammering pins into the ground, suppresses weeds. Cut through the fabric to dig a hole and plant trees, shrubs and perennials. Mulch on top of the fabric to create a pleasant appearance. If any weeds do sprout on top of the fabric, they tend to be so shallow rooted you can easily pull them up. Other organic lawn care techniques may also help.

Reasons for Choosing a Pet Safe Weed Killer

Most lawn and garden weed killers, pesticides, and fertilizers are created using man made chemicals, some of them quite harsh to both living organisms and the environment as a whole. Even though a product may be deemed acceptably safe for sale and use on a home lawn, it's not likely to be safe to touch or accidentally ingest. Toxic chemicals persist in the environment and many break down into other environmentally hazardous materials.

If you've ever driven past a house that's recently had a commercial application of lawn fertilizer or weed killer and seen the white or blue warning flags placed by the company, you may recall that those flags typically warn that "chemicals have been used on this lawn; do not let children play here for 24 hours."

When children or pets touch the lawn or ground where harsh chemicals have been applied, the chemicals are absorbed through the skin. Children and pets touch their hands, or paws, to their mouths or eyes, directly ingesting the poison. Cats and dogs can pick it up on their paws and lick the weed killer right off. The majority of commercial lawn weed killers are not safe to use around pets.

Always Use Common Sense

Even safe products need to handled with care and common sense. Do not allow pets onto recently treated areas- even vinegar can irritate sensitive areas - especially eyes. If you have any concerns about whether or not a gardening product is safe to use around your pet, call the manufacturer or talk to your pet's veterinarian. If you think your pet has been poisoned by a garden chemical, seek treatment immediately from a qualified veterinarian.

Pet Safe Weed Killer