How to Kill Weeds Without Digging or Toxic Chemicals

wild plants weeds

Weeds growing on path and driveways, though crack or gaps in concrete and paving, or in empty garden beds are very easily taken care of without chemicals or digging.

How is that possible you may ask? Go put the kettle on, then come back here and I’ll tell you! Seriously.

One of the most effective weed killers for locations where no other valuable plants are growing is just simply boiling water. Have you ever known steamed, boiled or blanched vegetables to come back to life? Pouring boiling water over a plant will cook the foliage and the roots in seconds, as no plants can withstand temperatures of 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit) for very long. It couldn’t be easier. Just boil up some water, locate the weed, and pour the boiling water over it. It’s fast, cheap, and easy with no environmental impact or toxicity.

boiling kettle
Boiling water is a cheap, effective weedkiller with low environmental impact!

There is no excuse for using poisonous weedkillers on weeds growing through cracks in the pavement or along walls. Any synthetic man-made chemical herbicide will just wash away eventually into drains and waterways and pollute the environment, the one you live in! You can pour all the hot water you want where there are no other plants around, without any concern about damaging other plants. If any manage to come back, simply repeat the process. You’d be crazy to go and pay money for weed killer to spray such areas.

weeds growing through cracks in sidewalk concrete
Weeds growing through cracks in concrete, this is the sort of location that boiling water is ideal for weeding

The Health Risks of Toxic Weedkillers

Also, there’s another major consideration with using poisonous chemical weedkillers such as Roundup which contains the toxic chemical glyphosate. We need to weigh up the benefit versus the risk. Is saving a few seconds by spraying a glyphosate-based herbicide or some other nasty concoction of chemicals worth the risk to your health and wellbeing?

For decades we’ve been told by both the chemical companies manufacturing the weedkiller glyphosate and government regulators that is is ‘safe’ but as it turns out, it’s not! in 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) conducted their own independent research and determined that glyphosate (the active ingredient in the Roundup herbicide) is a probable human carcinogen (Class 2A). In the US, California courts passed a ruling in 2015 to require ‘Prop 65’ cancer warning labels on glyphosate-based weedkillers.

What’s come to light in the court case so far is that the chemical companies appear to have shelved their own research findings that showed links to cancer, manipulated the US EPA, prevented other independent government research from taking place, and funded huge propaganda campaigns where ‘shills’ were hired to influence debates on online media to sway public opinion. Yeah, these chemicals are safe, sure…

These are what you’ll now see on glyphosate weedkillers labels in California. It’s about time others followed their lead to protect public health!

california proposition 65 warning roundup glyphosate
Glyphosate (roundup) proposition 65 warning label

Is this long-term health risk worth any short-term time-saving convenience?

Your water should be boiling by now! Happy environmentally safe weeding and you can make a nice tea afterwards too while you’re at it.

For more information on herbicides and alternatives, see these related articles:

More articles on Garden Pests, Diseases and Problems

10 thoughts on “How to Kill Weeds Without Digging or Toxic Chemicals

  1. Can I add to your great advice and suggest that vinegar is even better for use only on those areas where you never want anything to grow. I use it on gaps in concrete and other places over boiling water because it actually changes the pH of the soil and prevents weeds from growing. Be careful not to use any on area that you may one day want to grow something…

    1. You can indeed! Dandelions, nettle and purslane are way more nutritious than cultivated greens.

  2. Ever since I have discovered that a leaf or two of dandylion is nice added to salads and the chicken loves it, it has become scarce in my garden. They dont even grow on the lawn

    1. Boiling water will damage tree roots, so it’s best to be careful where you use it!

  3. I do this, but I’ll admit I feel sad for the little creatures and microorganisms that die when I pour the water.

  4. Hello
    I pulled up several buckets of dandelion weeds, full of flowers and seeds this year. It is almost 3’x3′ dried, in a cardboard box. May I please know a practical way to use this in the garden? I do not have a compost pile. I just chop-drop and bury my kitchen scraps.
    Many thanks
    Zone 10b, California

    1. Hi Kay, that’s a lot of green material packed with valuable nutrients! The fresh leaves would be a great addition to a work farm, they’re just like lettuce leaves!
      You could dig them all into your garden beds to break down, or under your garden paths, just get them into the soil where they will do the most good.

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