Some weeds are toxic to rabbits and other small pets. Unfortunately, many commercial weed killers are, too. But there are plenty of pet friendly weed killer options available, both on the market and in your own kitchen.

Pet Friendly Weed Killer Options For Your Garden

Weeds are every gardener’s bane. Some simply ruin the look of your careful planting. But plenty of wild-growing plants are toxic to rabbits and other small animals — killer weeds, if you will. Pet friendly weed killer may sound like a tall order, but there are a lot of safe options out there, both to buy and to make at home. Some of them might surprise you.

Is There Such Thing as a Pet Friendly Weed Killer?

Wait. Hold up. Aren’t many commercial weed killers poisonous?

Yes, many of them are. But so are a lot of other products we use every day. Drinking a cup of bleach will kill you, no question. But a few drops can make potentially contaminated water safe and drinkable. It’s a question of proportion–and of carefully following the directions.

Improperly using any herbicide can make you and your pets sick. But there are many commercial options for pet safe weed killers. there are ways to make sure that whatever product you use, you’re using it in a manner that’s safe for you and your pets.

Is there such a thing as pet friendly weed killer?

Limit the Application Area

The smaller the area to which you apply the herbicide, the less opportunity your pets and garden wildlife such as hedgehogs, will have to get into it. Spot-treating your weeds, even with a strong weedkiller in a spray bottle, can take care of them while keeping things safe for your rabbit or guinea pig. Avoid spraying strong weed killer under windy conditions to limit the spread of the product beyond your target area.

Pay Attention to Dwell Time

Most weed control products specify a “dwell time,” that is, the length of time that the product needs to sit, undisturbed, on your weeds. This may be a period of hours, or it may simply be until the product dries. During this time, the chemicals in many products can harm both people and animals. After that time, though, the product should be safe.

Remove Sprayed Weeds

Rabbits and guinea pigs love to nibble on wilting greens. And guess what? Nothing wilts plants faster than weed killing spray. Although many manufacturers say that their products are safe for pets after they dry, removing treated plants can give you an added measure of security.

Pet-Friendly Weed Killer: Various Options

There are a bewildering number of products on the market. For your convenience, we’ve divided them into categories:

  • Glyphosate-free weed control
  • Glyphosate-based products
  • Non-chemical weed control methods
  • Natural and DIY products you can make at home

Some weed control products are safer for pets than others. Still, you can increase the safety of whichever product you choose by carefully observing the manufacturer’s safety instructions.

The Best Glyphosate-Free Weed Control

The use of glyphosate is hugely controversial. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that it is safe and poses no danger to humans when used according to the directions, some other countries have banned its use.

If you want to avoid glyphosate, there are a number of glyphosate-free products on the market. Here are a few of our favorites.

Neudorff Superfast and Long Lasting Weedkiller

Active ingredient(s): Pelargonic Acid, maleic acid hydrazide (a growth inhibitor)

Type: Contact, broad-spectrum

Dwell time: As long as it takes the product to dry

Neudorff is a manufacturer of natural gardening products. Their Superfast and Long Lasting Weedkiller spray addresses a few safety issues right out of the gate.

  • The primary active ingredient is plant-derived pelargonic acid
  • Use only affects treated plants, not the surrounding soil
  • Low toxicity for bees

Most importantly, the manufacturer states that once the product has dried, treated plants will be safe for both pets and people.

Customers rate Neudorff’s weed killer very highly for speed and effectiveness. However, because the spray doesn’t seep into the soil, weeds can grow back. For this reason, we give this product 4 out of 5 stars.

Ecofective Weed + Moss Killer

Active ingredient(s): Acetic acid

Type: Contact, broad-spectrum

Dwell time: As long as it takes the product to dry

The primary active ingredient of Ecofective’s Weedblast Weed Killer ready to use spray is acetic acid, that is, high-concentration vinegar. This doesn’t mean you should spray it on your salad. However, it does mean that once it’s dried, the product is safe for humans, pets, and wildlife.

By and large, customers were impressed with this product’s speed and effectiveness. In addition, we also liked that this product:

  • Is appropriate for use in a wide range of temperatures
  • Works on weeds and other plants, moss, and algae
  • Shows results in 24 hours

We really like this product’s combination of safety and effectiveness, and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Roundup Naturals Glyphosate-Free Weed Killer Spray

Active ingredient(s): Pelargonic acid

Type: Contact, broad-spectrum

Dwell time: As long as it takes the product to dry

For many, the name Roundup is synonymous with glyphosate. However, the manufacturer also produces a highly-rated ready to use glyphosate-free weed killer spray. Roundup Naturals manages to solve a couple of the problems customers commonly note with natural products, including:

  • Speed. Roundup Naturals shows results one hour after use.
  • Rain resistance. After three hours, this product will resist rain.
  • The plant-derived active ingredient leaves no residues in the surrounding soil.

Because it avoids some of the common complaints of natural weed products, we give this product 5 out of 5 stars.

Richard Jackson’s Double Action Weed Killer Concentrate

Active ingredient(s): Pelargonic Acid, maleic acid hydrazide 

Type: Contact, broad-spectrum

Dwell time: As long as it takes the product to dry

Like Neudorff’s natural weed killer, Richard Jackson’s Double Action Weed Killer has pelargonic acid as its primary active ingredient. Pelargonic acid is a natural weed killer derived from geranium leaves. It’s also biodegradable.

We also like that:

  • This product works on leaves and roots, so it impedes regrowth of weeds.
  • Effective for use on a wide range of common weeds.
  • It’s a concentrate, which means more product and less packaging

We love that Richard Jackson’s Double Action Weed Killer works on the entire plant, rather than just the leaves. We also like the plant-derived active ingredient. For this reason, we give it 5 out of 5 stars.

RHS Glyphosate-Free Weed Killer

Active ingredient(s): Acetic acid

Type: Contact, broad-spectrum

Dwell time: As long as it takes the product to dry

RHS Glyphosate-free weed killer is from a line of ready to use garden maintenance products licensed by the Royal Horticultural Society. As much as possible, RHS-licensed products strive to use safe and naturally derived ingredients. The main ingredient in their weed killer is acetic acid. This product is biodegradable and pet safe after it dries.

Also:

  • It shows results 24 hours after use
  • Kills moss as well as weeds

We love the emphasis on natural ingredients. On the other hand, as with many natural products, you will need to use this product repeatedly throughout the year.

We give this product 4 stars out of 5.

The Best Glyphosate-Based Weed Killer

Though its use is controversial, most would agree that glyphosate is highly effective. According to Roundup’s manufacturer, a glyphosate-based product can be safe for pets once the product has dried. Here is what we consider the best glyphosate-based product.

Roundup Fast Action 

Active ingredient(s): Glyphosate

Type: Contact, broad-spectrum

Dwell time: As long as it takes the product to dry

The main selling point of Roundup Fast Action is that it kills weeds with a single application. It also promises to show results in one to two days. In addition:

  • The formula inactivates immediately upon contacting the soil.
  • It leaves no residues, so the area is fit for replanting.
  • It works on all parts of the weed, both above and below ground.

Fast, thorough action and high consumer satisfaction means that we give Roundup 5 stars out of 5 among glyphosate-based weed killers.

The Best Weed Killer for Non-Grass Areas

Weeds don’t just grow in the garden. We’ve all seen moss and mould sprout up in pavement cracks, along walks, and in the driveway. Patio Magic Concentrate is formulated specifically for use in non-grass areas.

Patio Magic!

Active ingredient(s): Benzalkonium chloride

Type: Contact, broad-spectrum

Dwell time: 5 to 6 hours, or longer if the product isn’t dry.

According to the manufacturers, Patio Magic, like most weed killers, is safe for animals and humans after it dries. Also:

  • It’s biodegradable
  • The effects last for several months
  • It’s also suitable for indoor use

Because of the high rate of consumer satisfaction, we give this product 4 out of 5 stars.

The Best Chemical-Free and Natural Weed Killers

Can you get rid of weeds without using chemicals of any kind? Yes, you can. The most common method is burning. Special tools can help you to do it safely. 

Burning your weeds away is fast, efficient, and environmentally friendly. Burning is also a pet friendly weed killer option, as pets can enter the treated area directly after treatment. If you live in a dry, fire-prone area, however, this might not be the best method for you.

pet friendly week killer
The Best DIY and Natural Weed Killers

NASUM Weed Burner

This wand-style burner is light and easy to use. It uses electricity to generate a flame and has a variety of interchangeable heads for different tasks such as weed burning and lighting a grill. Some of the benefits of this device include:

  • Instant results
  • No chemicals of any kind for pet safe weed destruction
  • The ergonomic design gives you fine control over your work

Burning weeds with flame is a surface treatment, however. Weeds will grow back, and you will need to re-treat the area from time to time.

For efficiency and environmental friendliness, we give this device 4 out of 5 stars.

Smashing Deals Direct Weed Burner

The Smashing Deals Direct Weed Burner differs from the NASUM Weed Burner in two main ways. First, it uses butane as a fuel (you have to buy the canisters separately). Also, it generates intense heat rather than a flame. 

The main advantages of this device include:

  • Permanent destruction of plants so that they don’t grow back
  • Leaves the garden pet safe immediately after treatment
  • Lightweight and easy to use

On one hand, you won’t need to re-treat weed areas after blasting them with this device’s intense heat. On the other hand, you will need to buy butane canisters to power it.

We give this device 4 out of 5 stars.

The Best Natural and DIY Weed Killers

Our glyphosate-free choices include products with plant-derived herbicides and chemical herbicides other than glyphosate. But there are a number of weed killers whose active ingredients are naturally derived. You can even make some of them with things you already have in your kitchen.

A word of caution, though: just because a product is natural doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you. The qualities that make anything a good herbicide mean that it can irritate eyes, skin, mucous membranes and more. And that goes for your pets, too.

White Vinegar

You may already be familiar with vinegar’s effectiveness as a cleaner and deodorizer. Did you know that white vinegar can also be a pet safe weed killer?

A 5 percent vinegar (food strength) can kill weeds by dissolving the skin of the leaf, which causes the weed to dry up. Since it’s food-grade, this is a safe weed killer to use around children and pets.

A 10 percent vinegar (or greater) is a more powerful herbicide. You can buy more concentrated vinegar specifically formulated for herbicidal use at garden stores, and apply it with a spray bottle.

As with many natural solutions, you will almost certainly have to treat and re-treat your weeds. This is often the tradeoff for lower toxicity. Also, vinegar at lower concentrations doesn’t work as well on older weeds or perennials.

Boiling Water

Can you really kill weeds with boiling water? Yes! In fact, boiling water is probably the most pet safe weed killer there is. It’s safe, it’s fast, and it’s cheap. It won’t keep weeds from returning, but as long as you make sure to protect your pets from the heat, boiling water is an extremely pet safe weed killer.

Newspaper

This is an old gardener’s trick, and one of the most pet safe weed killers available. It’s easy, and you can do it, too.

First, use a weed whacker to kill weeds in your target area. You could also dig or pull them up. Next, lay down a layer or two of old newspapers. Then cover the newspaper with mulch.

This deprives any new weeds of air and sunlight. And the newspaper will break down and dissolve of its own accord.

It takes time, and there’s no guarantee that the weeds won’t sprout back up nearby. But if safety and environmental friendliness are your priorities, then this could be a good way to go.

Vinegar, Citrus, and Dishwashing Liquid

This combination may sound familiar. A mixture of vinegar and dishwashing liquid is a great way to remove carpet stains. It can also kill fleas on your dog (and lemon juice can deter new fleas from settling on your dog).

The same qualities make this combination a powerful yet marvellously pet safe weed killer. Vinegar and citrus — lemon juice, lemon oil, or orange oil — are acidic. They kill weeds by burning through the skin on the leaves. Dishwashing liquid acts as a surfactant. 

Combine one tablespoon of lemon oil or orange essential oil with one cup of white vinegar and spray directly onto the weeds. Add a small amount of dishwashing liquid, as desired. Make sure to re-treat the area if new weeds sprout.

Again, this will require ongoing treatment, not a one-time application. On the other hand, this method is natural, environmentally friendly, and one of the most pet safe weed killers available.

Pet Friendly Weed Killer: A Buyer’s Guide

Weed treatments work in a few very specific ways, no matter what the method or active ingredient. Before they dry, most weed killers, natural or otherwise, can harm people and animals in different ways and to differing degrees. No matter which method you choose, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and strictly observe the dwell time.

How Weed Killers Work

There are several different kinds of weed killers. Experts describe them in terms of how they attack a weed, which part or parts of the weeds they affect and what sort of weeds they target. We’ll also describe the functioning of non-chemical methods.

Contact Weed Killers

Contact weed killers kill plants that they come into contact with. They enter the cells of the plants then continue inside to do different kinds of damage. Contact weed killers may or may not affect the roots or the surrounding soil.

Acid-based weed killers are one type of contact weed killer. They work by burning the skin that covers the leaves, which causes weeds to dry up and die. Some examples of acid-based chemicals used in weed killers include:

  • Acetic acid (vinegar)
  • Citrus oils
  • Clove oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • D-limonene
  • Lemon juice

Other contact weed killers disrupt weeds’ growth processes. Glyphosate, for example, inhibits an enzyme called EPSP synthase, which plants need to grow. Without EPSP synthase, plants that come into contact with glyphosate will yellow and die. Maleic acid hydrazide, another common herbicide, is a growth inhibitor.

Contact weed killing methods include:

Systemic Herbicides

Systemic herbicides affect the entire plant, from leaves to roots. Once a systemic herbicide enters the plant’s system, it spreads throughout the plant, killing every part of it. Systemic herbicides can be highly effective in preventing weeds from re-growing. Some examples of systemic herbicides include:

Selective vs. Non-Selective Herbicides

Selective herbicides target certain kinds of plants, such as broadleaf weeds, sages, and grasses. They leave other plants intact. You might use a selective lawn weed killer to treat your lawn, for example, rather than to spot-treat a clump of weeds.

Non-selective, or broad-spectrum herbicides will kill any plant that they come into contact with. These are best for spot-treating specific weeds. Some examples include:

Chemical vs. Non-Chemical Weed Killers

Should you choose a chemical weed killer or a chemical-free method? Some people have a definite preference. For the rest of us, though, it helps to ask, what’s your biggest priority?

If avoiding chemicals and poisons is the most important thing, then a non-chemical weed control method is the obvious choice. Non-chemical methods include:

  • Pulling weeds by hand or with a weed puller
  • Weed burning
  • Homemade natural weed control preparations

The tradeoff with many natural and non-chemical remedies is workload. You will definitely spend more time addressing weeds than if you use a chemical weed killer. On the other hand, you won’t have to worry about poisons, dwell times or residues.

If quick action and lasting results are your biggest priority, then a chemical weed killer might work better for you. You can find commercial herbicides that target specific weeds, as well as weeds in general. Some of them attack all parts of the plants. Most show results within days or even hours. And most are safe for animals after they’ve dried.

Chemical weed killers with naturally-derived or plant-derived active ingredients like acetic acid can be a happy medium. Many of these are fast-acting with reasonably long-lasting results. Most are pet safe after the end of the dwell time. And these sorts of products are plentiful and easy to find.

How to Choose A Weed Killer

How do you choose a pet friendly weed killer? It comes down to a balance of four parameters: effectiveness, environmental friendliness, speed, and duration of results.

Effectiveness

There’s no point in using a weed control product if it’s not effective. However, some are demonstrably more effective than others. Also, people may judge effectiveness in different ways. 

Do you want a weed killer that simply kills weeds? Or would you prefer something that kills weed and keeps them from coming back? Do you want a targeted herbicide for specific kinds of plants? Or a broad-spectrum herbicide that will kill everything it touches?

How you judge a product’s effectiveness is one of the most important considerations when considering weed control.

Speed

Weed control methods have a surprisingly wide range of working speeds. Some advertise results in as little as an hour. Others may take a day to several days. Still others may work over the course of a few weeks.

Do you need your weeds gone right now, or are you content to allow a product to work over a longer period of time? 

The speed of action is one of many people’s top considerations when choosing a weed control method.

Duration of Results

Some weed control methods have long-lasting results. Often these are chemical weed killers that attack multiple parts of the plant. Weed killers with growth inhibiting chemicals can stop weeds from growing back, as can high-heat weed burners that deliver heat below the surface.

With some methods, particularly a lot of home remedies, weed control will be an ongoing process. 

Does it matter to you if the weeds grow back? If you’re an avid gardener, or most interested in avoiding poisons at all costs, it might not. On the other hand, if you want to get the job done and have it stay done, duration may be an important consideration.

Environmental Friendliness

If you’re interested in pet safety, you probably also want your weed control to be as environmentally friendly as possible. You might think that excludes chemical weed control methods. Not necessarily.

Chemical, natural, and non-chemical weed control methods can have a combination of these environmentally friendly features:

  • They do not leave toxic residues in the soil
  • Biodegradable
  • Plant-derived active ingredients

Again, remember that environmentally friendly doesn’t necessarily mean non-toxic. Even natural and plant-derived ingredients like vinegar and essential oils can harm eyes and skin. Some are even poisonous if you or your pets ingest them.

To protect yourself and your rabbits, guinea pigs, and other pets, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Accessories You May Need

A spray bottle is only the beginning. Depending on your weed control, you may need additional equipment.

Delivery Method

How will you apply your weed control? There are a number of different ways.

Safety Equipment

Whether chemical or natural, most weed control products can irritate your skin and eyes. It pays to take precautions when applying them.

You might consider:

  • Eye protection
  • Gloves
  • A mask or bandana

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that weed killers are dangerous poisons that will harm you and your pet rabbits. Like many things, they can be harmful if you use them incorrectly. Then again, one could say the same for natural products like vinegar and essential oils.

There are a lot of weed control options, including chemical, non-chemical, and natural products. There are also pet friendly weed killer preparations you can make yourself from things you may already have at home.

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One Response

  1. I think it’s really important to live as environmentally friendly life as possible, I always try to do my bit by recycling and composting but I always thought I should be doing more. Thanks for your post, it was very informative. I also found this site which helped me with some great ideas Get More Eco Friendly Tips

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