How to Kill Grass: 11 Effective Methods for Homeowners

A plush, grass lawn not only feels great under your feet but it’s beautiful to look at, which is why most people with natural grass lawns focus their time and money on keeping them alive. However, if your lawn is plague with weeks or patch spots it may be time to start from scratch and kill your existing grass. 

Typically the most effective way to kill your grass lawn is to apply an herbicide, such as glyphosate — doing so will eliminate grass and weeds all together. However, there are many different ways, natural and otherwise, that can kill your grass quickly and effectively. 

In this post, we’ll cover 11 methods for how to kill grass and reasons you might need to do so beyond aesthetics. 

Table of contents:

How to Kill Grass Naturally

1. The Shovel Method

shovel method to kill grass

If you don’t mind a bit of hard labor, you can manually remove your grass by digging it up. Stop watering your lawn so that it will turn brown and die. Once it is dead, grab a shovel – and hopefully some friends – and start excavating. Make sure you know where your irrigation lines are to avoid adding irrigation repairs to your chore list

Even if you use other methods on this list, you may need to use some sort of excavation process to remove your dead lawn if you cannot simply let it compost in place.

2. Vinegar

vinegar method to kill grass

Vinegar is a good choice for folks looking for an inexpensive, natural method for killing grass. 

  1. Step 1: Choose a hot day with now wind or rain in the forecast. Hotter temperatures help with the effectiveness of the process.. 
  2. Step 2: Simply spray your lawn with vinegar and wait for it to die. 
  3. Step 3:  Reapply the vinegar spray every few days until all of the grass is dead.

The thing to remember when working with vinegar is that it is an indiscriminate killer, which means you must keep it away from any plants you want to keep. Keep in mind that vinegar usually kills only what is above ground and does not kill the roots. Because of this, you may need to repeat this process until your grass is dead.

3. Boiling Water

boiling water to kill grass

Pouring boiling water over grass, weeds, or unwanted plants is an inexpensive way to kill them, but it is not the easiest method. First, you have to be very careful not to spill any of the boiling water on your skin while carrying it from the kitchen to your lawn. Second, unless you are only trying to figure out how to kill grass in a tiny area, it is going to take a lot of trips back and forth to the kitchen and a lot of time waiting for pots of water to boil. 

Keep in mind that this is another method that usually only kills what is above ground and will not kill the roots.

4. Salt

salt for killing grassSalt is an easy, natural way to kill weeds, grass, or any unwanted plants. Like vinegar, salt is an indiscriminate killer, so you will need to be careful when applying it to your lawn. 

  1. Step 1: Generously sprinkle the salt all over your lawn.
  2. Step 2: Then water your lawn to get the salt down into the soil.

*Alternatively, you can mix salt and water in a garden sprayer and spray your lawn

Either way, you will need to keep the salt away from flowerbeds or any wanted plants. You should only use salt in areas where you never want anything to grow again. While soil can recover from the introduction of salt over time, you are going to need some serious patience to wait around for this to happen.

Be aware of where water runs off of your lawn. If it rains or if your irrigation runs, the salt can be distributed in other areas through runoff.

5. Baking Soda

baking soda to kill grass

Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, can be used to kill grass as well. In small amounts, baking soda can be beneficial to lawns, such as for killing moss or treating lawn fungus. However, when applied in a concentrated and targeted manner, it can also be used to kill weeds or crabgrass in natural grass lawns. To kill your entire lawn with baking soda will be a little tougher, and your success with this method will depend on the type of grass you have and the makeup of your soil.

To kill grass with baking soda:

  1. Step 1: Wet the lawn.
  2. Step 2: Liberally apply baking soda to the blades. 
  3. Step 3: Re-apply every few days until the grass is dead. 

Keep in mind that baking soda increases the salinity of the soil, similar to applying salt, so keep an eye out for runoff and make sure you only use this method in areas where you want to kill everything.

6. Solarization

solarization for killing grass

Killing grass with solarization can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, but it is an effective and inexpensive option. Solarization is a simple, two-step process.

  1. Step 1: Mow your lawn.
  2. Step 2: Cover it with black plastic sheeting and let the sun do the rest. 

7. Layering

layering to kill grass

If you have access to a lot of newspaper or cardboard, layering is an effective method for killing grass and improving the soil for whatever you might want to grow in that area once your lawn is gone.

  1. Step 1: Simply mow your lawn
  2. Step 2: Add multiple layers of newspaper or cardboard (or both).
  3. Step 3: Generously wet down the newspaper/cardboard layer.  
  4. Step 4: Cover it with a layer of mulch. 

This method usually takes a few weeks to about two months to kill the grass, but the layer of mulch will make the area less of an eyesore during the process.

8. Mulching

mulching to kill grass

Mulching is similar to layering but without the newspaper or cardboard. Instead of depriving your lawn of sunlight and air with newspapers, you will do it with a thick layer of mulch. 

  1. Step 1: Mow your lawn as short as possible.
  2. Step 2: Cover it with 10 to 12 inches of a heavy mulch – such as wood chips.
  3. Step 3: Wait a few weeks to let your grass die.

Do not skimp on the mulch because using a layer will just nourish your grass and allow it to grow up through it.

Non-Natural Grass Killer Methods

9. Commercial Herbicides

commercial herbicides to kill grass

When possible, it is always better to use natural options for all of your landscaping tasks, but commercial herbicides that contain potentially harmful chemicals are quite effective and should at least be on this list. These options, such as glyphosate (think: Roundup), are non-selective and kill grass and weeds permanently. They also kill down to the roots, which is not the case with most natural ways to kill grass.

If you choose this method, wear long sleeves, gloves, and eye protection to limit exposure. You should also pick a day with no wind and no rain in the forecast.

10. Bleach

bleach to kill grass

Bleach kills grass, weeds, and any other plants it is sprayed on or poured on. Since you may already have bleach in your laundry room, this might be a good solution for you. But, before using bleach to kill grass, make sure you take precautions to protect yourself, your children, your animals, and plants you want to keep. Always wear gloves, eye protection, and protective clothing when working with bleach. Keep animals and children out of the area while you are applying the bleach, and make sure that you only apply it to plants or grasses that you want to kill.

Bleach will penetrate soil layers and also kill beneficial microbes and worms, which is not ideal, particularly if you want to plant something else in the area.

11. Dish Soap

dish soap to kill grassIn concentrated amounts, dish soap can be an effective grass killer. While it’s more commonly used as a DIY pesticide, dish soap will also dry out and kill your lawn. Because dish soap is meant to cut oil and grease, it will also break down the healthy, oil-based tissue in grass and weeds. Without that, grass can no longer contain moisture and combined with sunlight and heat, you’ll quickly end up with a brown lawn. 

Dish soap can also be combined with salt and vinegar for a more effective DIY herbicide. 

  1. Step 1: Heat vinegar over the stove.
  2. Step 2: Combine vinegar with Epsom Salt and wisk until it has dissolved. 
  3. Step 3: Once that combination has cooled, add dish soap to the mixture.
  4. Step 4: Spray heavily or pour on grass. 

Keep in mind this method may take multiple applications to fully kill the roots and will need to be excavated once the grass has dried out. 

Why You May Need to Kill Your Grass

Grass Creeps Into Unwanted Areas

Creeping grass varieties spread through underground rhizomes and aboveground stolons, and, if not effectively held in place by landscaping borders or hardscapes, they may creep into areas where you never intended to have a lawn. When this occurs, you may need to kill the grass to keep it from spreading.

Spend Less Time on Yard Care

At some point, most natural grass lawn owners grow tired of the constant mowing, weeding, edging, fertilizing, aerating, and watering. When they reach this point, they usually either hire a company to care for their lawn, or they reduce it or remove it and replace it with low-maintenance landscaping options.

Removing your natural grass lawn and replacing it with artificial turf or drought-tolerant plants allows you to spend less time taking care of your yard and more time enjoying it.

Conserve water

More than 50% of outdoor water usage goes to watering lawns. This means that anyone who wants to lower their water bill or reduce their home’s environmental impact can easily accomplish both of these goals in one step: removing their lawns.

Create Space for a Garden

Growing food plants is a great way to know where your food is coming from and how it’s grown while also teaching your kids about caring for food plants all the way from planting seeds to harvesting. If you plan on growing very much food in your backyard or front yard, you are going to need some space. Removing your natural grass lawn is the perfect way to increase the space you have available for growing food for your family.

Replace Natural Grass for Turf

You still want a green, lush lawn for your kids to play on, your dogs to nap on, and for that all-important curb appeal, but you are over it when it comes to the maintenance and irrigation requirements. Plus, it gets brown spots, needs to be reseeded, and just takes a lot of effort to keep it looking healthy and inviting. So, when you are ready to replace it with low-maintenance synthetic turf, you are going to need to find out how to kill grass so you can make the switch.

You Need to Start Over

You may love natural grass and be committed to keeping a natural grass lawn in your yard. However, if your current lawn is riddled with brown spots, overgrown with weeds, or not a drought-tolerant variety, you may need to start over. If this is the case, you will need to kill and remove your current lawn to replace it with a more environmentally friendly option or just some healthy, new sod to get it looking green and welcoming again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will Grass Grow Back After Bleach?

Chlorine bleach like Clorox will permanently kill grass and most everything else in the soil. Bleach breaks down into salt, which will continue to rob the soil of microbes and nutrients long after the bleach has been applied to the grass. 

In fact, it can take up to a year for the soil area to recover from a bleach application. Sometimes a new sod/soil application is necessary to establish proper pH balance. This is why you won’t want to use bleach if you plan to grow anything else in place of your former grassy area. 

Will Grass Grow Back After Roundup?

Roundup and similar herbicides kill grass completely to the root. However, Roundup does not kill grass and weed seeds, so if there are any seeds present in the soil at the time of the application, chances are that you’ll see sprouts pop up even after an application, in which case, more application or other prevention measures may be necessary.

What Kills Grass the Fastest?

If you’re fine with using a non-natural method to kill your grass, commercial herbicides like Roundup, Scotts, Spectracide, Ortho or Green Gobbler are some of the quickest and most hassle free ways to kill grass and weeds. These typically take 10-14 days to fully kill a lawn.

Whether you just have a patchy lawn and need to start over from scratch or you’re going for a fresh look with your outdoor landscaping, there are many ways to effectively kill grass and weeds. Just remember to consider what kind of plants, if any, that you might want to grown in that space down the road. Need some help with revamping your landscape design in San Diego? Our team at Install-It-Direct is here to help you create your landscaping vision, whether you’re in Chula Vista, Encinitas, or Fairbanks Ranch.