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Nontoxic weed killers for pets

Gardeners everywhere use weed killers and herbicides to prevent weeds from taking over their yards. However, many weed killers are toxic to small animals and children, especially if there’s direct exposure to the chemicals. This dangerous aspect makes them less ideal for at-home use. Luckily, there are safe alternatives for those who want to tend to their garden without worrying about risking anyone’s safety.

Type

There are two main types of weed killers: liquid and granular.

  • Liquid: These either use a spray bottle or a pour spout to provide targeted control to problem areas. They also work quicker than granular options.
  • Granular: Some granular weed killers are pet-safe and work well as a preventative measure. They look like small coarse pebbles and dissolve when exposed to liquid. This type can typically address a larger area of weeds, but they can’t target specific growth as effectively as liquid ones.

There are also selective and nonselective weed killers.

  • Selective: This type only kills or prevents certain weeds, making them safer for other plants, flowers and grass.
  • Nonselective: This type targets anything it comes into contact with, including grass. Most pet-friendly weed killers are nonselective.

Pre-emergent or post-emergent

How you apply your weed killer differs if it’s pre-emergent or post-emergent. In both cases, follow the application instructions on the container. 

  • Pre-emergent: You should use this kind of weed killer before the weeds show. Use these in early spring as a preventative measure.
  • Post-emergent: Use this weed killer after the weeds are already above ground, either in spring or fall. This type focuses on direct contact with unwanted plants.

Plan the application based on your watering schedule and the weather report. Granular options, in particular, work well when applied to damp ground or weeds. This is because the moisture helps absorb the weed killer into the ground. You can use liquid ones in wet or dry conditions. 

Application

The best time to use any weed killer is in mild conditions when the temperatures are not too extreme.

  • After using your weed killer, avoid watering the area for at least two days. 
  • For best results, keep any pets and children away from the area for at least a day after application. 
  • Remember only to use the recommended amount. If you use too much, it could impact other plant growth later. If you use too little, it won’t be as effective.
  • Even if the formula uses safe ingredients, wear durable gardening gloves and long sleeves when applying weed killer. This will protect your hands and arms from possible irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Time needed to see effect

Some pet-safe weed killers work in as little as 24 hours, while others take several days or weeks to start killing weeds. You should only need to treat your yard or garden once a year, but if you have persistent weeds or see new growth, you can apply the herbicide a second time.

Ingredients

Unlike chemical-based herbicides, pet-safe weed killers usually use natural ingredients, such as clove oil, salt, vinegar and citric acid. These active ingredients can still cause minor skin irritation to pets and people, but they’re much less dangerous than other herbicides.

Avoid any weed killer with glyphosates, organophosphates, paraquat and surfactants.

Although uncommon, these ingredients can cause eye or skin irritation to humans and animals. If ingested, they can also lead to nausea, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, seizures or even death. 

For the most part, if the weed killer specifically mentions being pet-safe on the label, it’s probably fine to use around your animals. However, it doesn’t hurt to double-check the ingredients.

Best weed killers for use around pets

Just For Pets Weed Killer Spray

Just For Pets Weed Killer Spray

This natural, nonselective herbicide is free from harmful chemicals, such as glyphosate. Instead, it uses pet-friendly ingredients, including acetic and citric acid. Available in a 128-ounce gallon container, it comes with an easy-to-use spray applicator nozzle. It starts working within as little as 24 hours. 

Sold by Amazon

Doctor Kirchner Natural Weed and Grass Killer

Doctor Kirchner Natural Weed and Grass Killer  

Available in 1 and 2.5 gallons, this natural weed killer comes ready to use and doesn’t require any mixing before application. Its nontoxic formula consists of saltwater, food-grade vinegar and soap. It’s ideal for gardens and small paved areas, such as courtyards or sidewalks.

Sold by Amazon

Natural Armor Weed and Grass Killer All-Natural Concentrated Formula

Natural Armor Weed and Grass Killer All-Natural Concentrated Formula

Available in three sizes, this concentrated herbicide is easy to use, and it comes with a sprayer for controlled application. It can start killing exposed weeds and grass within several hours after use. It’s best for overgrown areas and around flower beds.

Sold by Amazon

Eco Garden Pro — Organic Vinegar Weed Killer

Eco Garden Pro — Organic Vinegar Weed Killer

Safe for kids and pets, this weed killer is nontoxic and biodegradable. It’s also fast-acting and targets unwanted growth, such as dandelions and clover patches. It doesn’t come with a sprayer.

Sold by Amazon

Preen Natural Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer

Preen Natural Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer

This 5-pound container prevents weeds, but it does not directly kill active growth. The primary active ingredient is corn gluten meal, which is considered safe for use around pets and people. For the best result, reapply it every month.

Sold by Home Depot and Amazon

OrganicMatters Natural Weed Killer Spray

OrganicMatters Natural Weed Killer Spray

Great for use around trees, driveways, edging, pool areas and patios, this natural weed killer is eco-friendly and nontoxic to pets. Its highly concentrated and nonselective formula will kill even the hardiest of weeds, such as crabgrass and dandelions.

Sold by Amazon

Natural Elements Weed Killer

Natural Elements Weed Killer

Formulated with vinegar, this gallon container of weed killer is safe to use around children and pets. It comes ready to use and starts working within 24 hours. It also works well on yards.

Sold by Amazon

Harris Vinegar Weed and Weed Grass Killer

Harris Vinegar Weed and Weed Grass Killer

This natural weed and grass killer uses nontoxic ingredients, making it safer than traditional herbicides. It comes with a trigger spray and works best around gardens, fences and dog kennels. It can kill most weeds, including moss and crabgrass. 

Sold by Amazon

 

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