Which is the Best Weed Killer?

Which is the best weed killer for specific weeds and needs?  When you understand the easy outline of herbicides and how they work, you'll know the answer.

On a personal note:  When I was the beginner gardener I wanted to understand how these different over the counter weed control methods worked.  I learned to avoid using them - butterflies don't like them and they can have residual negative effects for the soil and beyond.  Many don't know this information and it is important to understand these chemicals.  I use homemade weed killers combined with old-fashioned weed pulling.

Chemicals that help in getting rid of weeds are called herbicides. Herbicides can kill specific weeds or collective total vegetation.

This basic outline describes the types of herbicides and the various weeds they kill. Click on each of the two broad categories for detailed information.

A) Pre-Emergent Herbicide
1) Weed Seeds

B) Post-Emergent Herbicide
1) Systemic
a) Selective Herbicides
  • Dicots
  • Monocots
  • Sedges

2) Contact
b) Non-Selective herbicides
  • Total Vegetation

** Because herbicides overlap and

don't fit precisely into any one

group, the above outline is designed

as an easy to remember starters

guide to understanding.

The best time to use herbicides is during growing season. Plants and weeds are very susceptible during extremely hot, dry months. When applying these chemicals it's best to under-use rather than over-use. You can always re-apply if you don't get the job done the first time and it is sure better than killing wanted plants and flowers.

The best time of day to apply herbicides is mid-day. This is when weeds actively grow and are most susceptible.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind the 85-degree mark. Most herbicides are most effective below 85 degrees. If you are using these chemicals above 85 degrees some could lose potency to be as effective.

Know that no one product is completely effective against weeds as is discussed in each category. Understanding how to choose the proper product(s) is good management.

The best weed killer is You armed with simple Knowledge.

Pay special attention to soil factors and the age of your trees. There are products that are called Soil Applied Herbicides. These are applied to the stems and cut off stems (stumps) of plants or under the soil of targeted plants.

You may not realize that the root system of many plants can be 2-times to 3-times larger than the plant you see above the soil. With water or rain these will carry, possibly killing other vegetation, including mature trees.

Read Product Labels!

This is where you will learn what weeds the product is intended for. If the label does not indicate any specified weed or weeds it's probably used for multiple purposes. Remembering the above outline helps guide you. This is where you will also see the very important "Do's" and "Dont's".

Do follow mixing instructions. Making herbicide mixes too strong can cause more harm then expected or it prevent the chemicals from working at all.

Please note: This information in these pages to help with understanding best weed killer is intended for home garden use. If you see on the label "not for range use" or "not for forestry purposes", this is for good reason. The product could be more highly toxic where it puts livestock and wild animals at risk by eating the plant.

Read Product Labels for Herbicide Safety!

If you see 'PPE', this means Personal Protective Equipment.

1) When handling toxic chemicals it is recommended to wear a mask to avoid breathing them in.

Some chemicals have been linked to various kinds of cancers. The chemical Paraquat (Gramoxone/Dipyridylium) is linked to Parkinson's Disease along with other health issues.

2) Wear Gloves, leather or rubber are best.  Be cautious, many look like rubber but are not.  I have had herbicidal chemicals splash on my gloves where the the chemical of the gloves melted and adhered to my skin.  Ouch!

Beyond not having chemicals irritate your skin, we gardeners have a tendency to pull weeds. If you are not certain of what you are pulling, you can learn the hard way what Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Stinging Nettle are. These are pretty common weeds but did you know Knapweed sap that gets into any open wounds can cause cancerous tumors?

Other items recommended to keep close by for herbicide safety are:

  • Goggles should the chemicals be eye irritants.
  • Plastic to place on plants and flowers that you don't want harmed.

When finished using herbicide products outside

  • Take your shoes off before going inside. Don't track these poisons throughout the house.
  • Remember if it's harmful to plants, it is likely to be harmful to you, your kids and pets.
  • Keep children and pets away from the treated area for 1 - 7 days depending on the product. This is for both the plants and your family.

The EPA Classification of Herbicides for toxicity uses Roman Numerals I-V. With I being the most toxic, IV being the least toxic.

If you have kids and pets the best weed killer for you may be the products with a rating of III and IV.

One last note about herbicide safety and family ... It's probably not a good idea to stock up on these products if you have young kids and/or pets.


  • Directions on labels may also include using Surfactants.  What is a surfactant? These are wetting agents that increase efficiency of an herbacide by increasing penetration into weeds, seeds and soil. They are usually applied as leaf sprays but it can also be as simple as water from your garden hose. Again, read the directions! This can be the difference in making an herbicide into the best weed killer.

  • The best weed killer may not be found in over-the-counter chemicals.  They may be in your own kitchen and homemade by you.

    It is important to me that these chemicals are proven to kill pollinators.  Pollinator numbers are declining as a result of these chemicals (especially with the use of glyphosate) used in many over the counter products.
Homemade Weed Killer

Soils, also, are losing important microbes while weeds are becoming more resistant to these chemicals.  When learning how to kill weeds it may be best to just pull them out!

Related Articles:

Back from Best Weed Killer to How to Kill Weeds

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