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Sep 29

Vinegar vs. Herbicides

Posted on September 29, 2021 at 8:19 AM by Alicia Doran

Recently on social media sites we have been seeing a lot of people touting the use of Acetic acid (a.k.a. Horticultural Vinegar) as a substitute for 'traditional' herbicides.  Many people are unaware of the truth about Acetic acid and mistakenly think it is the same as the vinegar you put on your salad.

  • Horticultural vinegar is a 20-30% solution of Acetic acid (salad vinegar is 5%)
  • Acetic acid is highly corrosive and can cause severe and permanent eye injuries including blindness.  It also is caustic to skin and can cause long-term respiratory problems.


  • There are some Acetic acid products labeled as herbicides.  Not all sites may be listed on the label.
  • The labels list required personal protective equipment (PPE) including eye protection, N-95 respirators, gloves, long sleeves, long pants, shoes plus socks vs. some traditional herbicides that are less restrictive and may only require long sleeves, long pants, and shoes.
  • The products have a 'Danger' label meaning that they pose a health and/or environmental risk vs. many common herbicides that are lower risk and have a 'Warning' or 'Caution' label. (Yes - Including glyphosate which usually has a Caution label).
  • Some Acetic acid products prohibit reentry into an area (including non-ag sites) for 48 hours.  Most traditional herbicides allow reentry into non-ag sites once the spray has dried.
  • Not all acetic acid products are labeled for herbicide use.  If they are not labeled for herbicide use on your site, it is illegal to use them.

Activity and Effectiveness

  • Acetic acid works best on young, newly emerged annual or biennial plants on warm and sunny days.
  • Acetic acid will kill young foliage but DOES NOT move within the plant.  It is not effective for controlling deep-rooted perennial plants like Canada thistle or Dalmatian toadflax.  While it may damage the leaves, it will not kill the roots and the plants will survive and regrow.

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