Our Research Into Pet-Friendly Weed Killers & Alternatives
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Hello and welcome to DIY Gardening’s guide to pet-safe weedkillers.
My name is Daniel Woodley, and I’m a keen gardener, and the proud owner of a rebellious Labradoodle called Doogie (see photo).
According to the National Pesticide Information Center, one of the most popular garden weedkillers in the world can persist in the soil for up to 6 months and can cause pets to “drool, vomit, have diarrhoea, lose their appetite, or seem sleepy” (source).
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that in my garden, not when I have a pet, and when there are other, much safer options.
I’ve researched the safest products to use and below I’ll show you safe alternatives that work well on weeds and moss.
1) Electric Pet-Friendly Weed Burners:
A Safer Alternative: Perfect For Hard Surfaces
Electric weed burners are powered from the mains and provide a powerful blast of heat to kill off the weeds.
There is much confusion about how these devices work. Contrary to what many consumers think, they aren’t designed to burn the weeds to a crisp or vaporise them but instead to kill them with a short blast of scorching air. The dead weeds then naturally breakdown and decompose over the next week or so.
I have first-hand experience using these weed burners as I tested them for an article on this site.
During my testing, I found that all it took is a 5-second blast, and the weeds wilted and then dies off within a week.
From my research and testing, I’ve learnt that one can use these pet-friendly weed killers on patios, driveways, paths, gravel, most other hard surfaces and also some flowerbeds.
Unfortunately, you can’t use electric weed killers on lawns as they will also kill the grass.
My favourite pet-friendly electric weed killer is the Draper Weed Burner, but I recommend you explore our guide to the best electric weed killers, you’ll find cheaper products and a nifty guide worth reading.
2) Roundup Natural:
My Independent Research Revealed That This Is Much Safer Than Regular Roundup
Roundup Natural is produced by Bayer and is a safer alternative to the strong chemical-laden products they also have in their range.
I researched this product and found that the key ingredient in this pet-friendly weedkiller is Pelargonic acid, which breaks down naturally and harmlessly in the soil.
I tested this pet-safe weed killer to kill grass, clear weed-infested areas of the garden, remove weeds from gravel paths and gravel driveways, along fences etc, and while it did the job on young weeds, it took several repeat applications to get rid of the more persistent weeds, and some of them grew back.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this weed killer does work but should be applied every month during the growing season.
This US government factsheet states that Pelargonic acid is found naturally in foods and is used commercially as a food additive and consuming or inhaling small amounts poses no risk to human health. It also states “toxicity tests on non-target organisms, such as birds, fish, and honeybees, revealed little or no toxicity”.
There are two things I don’t like about this product:
Roundup Natural should not be used on hard surfaces such as patios or tarmac due to potential runoff. Pelargonic acid needs to come into contact with the soil so it can degrade naturally.
It’s also a mild skin irritant, so you’ll need to keep children and pets away from the area until it’s dried, but you should be doing that anyway.
3) Neudorff WeedFree Plus:
Both chemicals are much safer than the toxic soup found in many other brands; they also break down easily and quickly in the soil; Maleic Hydrazide has been regulated and approved for use on potatoes as a sprout suppresser since the 1950s.
As with Roundup Natural, use this product on soil, grass (to kill the grass), gravel, and fences. Neudorff WeedFree will kill almost all plants, so keep it away from anything you want to keep.
Avoid using this excessively on hard surfaces where there’s potential for runoff. While it’s effective on all surfaces, the ingredients need to enter the soil so it can degrade; otherwise, it may persist.
Lab tests revealed that when fed to dogs in small quantities, no adverse effects were noted. When dosed at a very high rate of 500mg per kg of body weight each day for one year, some adverse effects were reported – but this is a high does and in a normal garden, there is no way a dog or other pet could consume this much.
In short, Maleic Hydrazide is far safer than most pesticides when used in the garden, and dogs are unlikely to suffer adverse effects from short term, low dose exposure. Just keep the bottle away from pets and allow the surface to fully dry after application.
4) The Best Pet-Friendly Lawn Feed and Moss Killer
Overview: A Good Lawn Maintenance Product
I know from experience that if you maintain a lawn properly and keep it healthy, weeds and mosses struggle to take hold as the thick grass suppresses them.
The opposite is true for poorly maintained lawns; I’ve seen first-hand how bare patches soon attract seeds that germinate into weeds, and moss is always ready to spread onto damp, waterlogged lawns.
SafeLawn contains three key ingredients, all of which are child and pet safe:
- A natural bacteria that eats away at moss and thatch.
- Grass seeds that will germinate in bare patches of soil.
- Low-dose iron is a fertiliser to boost grass growth.
I checked this product and it’s 100% natural, and contains no pesticides.
The manufacturer even claims that LawnSafe is so pet-friendly that you can apply it frequently, up to a maximum of every three weeks.
A Few Issues I Have With This Product (Could be a Deal Breaker)
I’m always honest with our readers and here’s what I don’t like about this product:
- It honks! No kidding, this product is smelly, and it needs watering in; otherwise, your whole garden will smell.
- This is a maintenance product, which means it works great at suppressing weeds and keeping your lawn thick and healthy, assuming it’s already fairly healthy. However, if your lawn is covered with weeds and bare patches, this product won’t be effective; it’s what we refer to as a “maintenance” product, not a silver bullet.
- It contains iron which may stain patios and other hard surfaces, so you’ll need to be careful when applying it in your garden.
5) 100% Natural Lawn Moss Killer:
My Experience: Perfect For Mossy Lawns
MO Bacter is the best natural and organic product for killing lawn moss, it contains no harmful chemicals at all and is 100% safe to use around children, pets and all wildlife.
The ultimate pet-friendly moss killer for lawns, MO Bacter contains a natural bacteria that eats away at the moss until it breaks down into a feed for the lawn.
I sprinkled MO Bacter onto the grass, and over the following weeks, I could see the moss breaking down, I then overlaid any bare patches with grass seed which germinated in the decomposing moss.
I rate this product very highly, but for the control of lawn moss in a garden where pets spend time, I feel it’s the best product out there.
There are so many advantages to using this natural and pet-friendly product:
- It didn’t stain patios or stonework (unlike iron-based moss killers).
- I didn’t need to rake out the moss, I just let the moss decompose naturally.
- Pet-friendly as all animals and even children can use the lawn straight away.
- It didn’t blacken the lawn, unlike many other products I’ve tested.
- Endorsed by the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society).
If you have a very mossy lawn, I recommend reading our detailed guide to removing and preventing lawn moss which contains excellent advice on how to stop lawn moss from returning.
The ONE Issue I Have With This Type of Moss Killer
I know from my tests and years of experience with this product that the bacteria takes time to act. We’re talking weeks and months here, not days. If you want a product to turn your mossy lawn black so you can sow grass seed and achieve a lush lawn in a few weeks, this product isn’t for you. I use lawn bacteria to slowly kill off and consume moss over time, and I periodically sprinkle the lawn with grass seed to fill in bare patches and suppress weeds.
Alternative Natural and Pet-Friendly Ways to Kill Weeds:
In addition to the products suggested on this page, you can also try:
- Boiling water is perfect for killing weeds on patios, concrete and other hard surfaces. You can’t use it on lawns, though, and there’s a risk of damage to plants if used in a dense flowerbed.
- Salty water is a pet-friendly weed killer for use on hard surfaces. However, too much salt is bad for the ground as it persists and can stop plants from growing for several years. My issue with salt is; it isn’t selective, and soil contamination will affect all plants. If you must use it, I’ve found that if you mix one part salt to five parts water and apply directly to the leaves of the weeds, you should get good results. It would be best if you didn’t use salt regularly, but it’s okay as a one-off (i.e. once a year) treatment of weeds on hard surfaces, provided you don’t allow excess salt to run off the leaves of the weeds.
- I’ve seen organic gardeners use vinegar to suppress weeds, but in reality, it will only scorch the weeds and rarely kills the roots. Almost all of the organic gurus I’ve seen suggest that vinegar and salt together is the best solution, but too much salt can ruin your flowerbeds and kill off plants.
- Don’t forget that there are also several tools for lifting deep-rooted weeds from lawns and flowerbeds. Used in conjunction with the pet-safe weedkillers recommended on this page, we feel you have a good chance of getting rid of weeds without the need for harsh chemicals or excessive amounts of salt.
Where can pet-friendly weed burners be used?
You can use pet-friendly weed burners on any surface that won’t be damaged by heat. Patios, concrete, driveways and gravel are places you can safely use a weed burner.
Do pet-friendly weed killers work?
Yes, weed burners are effective but need to be used periodically to keep weeds at bay. The chemical weed killers listed here are safe provided the manufacturer’s instructions are followed. The moss eating bacteria is 100% safe to pets.
Does vinegar kill weeds?
Vinegar isn’t very effective and most grasses and perennials will soon grow back. Food grade vinegar found in most shops is very weak, although horticultural vinegar is stronger and effective on some broad leaves during hot weather.
Does boiling water kill weeds?
Boiling water is very effective at treating weeds and can permanently kill many of them. The seeds are often killed off by the hot water too. Hot water will kill lawn grass and many plants though so careful handling and application are required.
Author: Daniel Woodley
Daniel has over 18 years of experience in the construction, home improvement, and landscape garden industries.
He previously worked as a project manager and has experience in managing teams of tradespeople and landscape gardeners on both small and medium sized projects.
Daniel is also a keen gardener and enjoys growing unusual plants and tending to his lawn.
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Daniel has worked with various chemicals and pesticides over the last 18 years, and he’s also a responsible dog owner.
Daniel checked the contents of dozens of commercial weedkillers before writing this review. He also suggested alternatives, such as the weed burner and the moss-eating bacteria, based on his first-hand experience.
To ensure accuracy, we also asked horticulturist Elizabeth Smith to review and fact-check this guide before publication, Elizabeth also chimed in with advice regarding some of the products as she’s previously tested them.
Explore: Elizabeth Smith’s profile.
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