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Safety Tips for Spraying Herbicides to Control Weeds Safety Tips for Spraying Herbicides to Control Weeds

10 Herbicide Safety Tips to Control Weeds

Herbicide safety is of the utmost importance when controlling unsightly crabgrass or dealing with that dandelion farm in your front yard. Herbicides contain chemicals that are effective in controlling weeds but require care when using around your family. Improper use can also harm or at the very least, be ineffective, on your grass and plants, making the process more expensive in the long run. For a safe and healthy lawn and garden, know the varieties of herbicides and follow these tips.



Weeds take away nutrients, sunlight, and water from your grass or plants making them less likely to thrive. Herbicides are an effective solution and part of a weed management plan to prevent or control any unwanted vegetation.

There are many different types of herbicides, and they all work differently. This is known as their mode of action. Generally, the active ingredients will target one or more growth functions of a weed like stopping photosynthesis.

Types of Herbicides

Herbicides are first divided into two groups: pre-emergent and post-emergent. Pre-emergent herbicides are used before the weeds have time to establish themselves and are usually applied around the same time as fertilizer in the spring and fall. Post-emergent herbicides, commonly known as weedkillers, eradicate weeds that have already started to grow.

Herbicides are further divided into selective or nonselective, and systemic or contact. Nonselective herbicides kill any vegetation they touch whereas selective is formulated to only kill certain weeds. Systemic herbicides kill by being absorbed through the plant. Contact herbicides kill the vegetation they touch.

4 Common Herbicide Chemicals

  1. Glyphosate. Herbicides with this chemical are nonselective and systemic. This chemical will stop a plant from making growth proteins.
  2. Trifluralin/Treflan. This chemical is preemergent and will stop a plant from growing roots by preventing mitosis or cell division.
  3. 2,4-D. This chemical is used in selective herbicides to kill broadleaf weeds by causing rapid cell division.
  4. lmazaquin. As a selective herbicide, this chemical is used on warm season grasses to kill weeds by hindering the production of amino acids that the plant needs to grow.

There are organic herbicides that are made with different natural compounds; however, they are not considered as effective as synthetic chemicals. These include ingredients like acetic acid, citric acid, clove and cinnamon oils, and corn gluten meal. Generally, organic herbicides are contact herbicides that remove moisture from a plant or hinder cell growth.


Herbicide Safety Tips


  1. Read the label. Since herbicides contain strong chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency and state agriculture departments regulate the use and production of herbicides, especially in large-scale farming practices. Always read the label first for special instructions for your specific herbicide.
  2. Know the toxicity signal word. Herbicides will usually have one of three different signal words on their labels to help the user understand their toxicity level. Toxicity is based on how harmful and severe symptoms can become if you are exposed to herbicide chemicals. Caution- slightly toxic, Warning- moderately toxic, and Danger- highly toxic.
  3. Understanding the mode of action and application. Understanding how your herbicide kills and how it is applied will help to prevent mishaps. Most herbicides come in liquid, power/granules, or gel forms. Herbicides are applied by either spot or broadcast application. If using broadcast application (spreading over a large area) be sure to apply the herbicide in a uniform and consistent manner to avoid chemical buildup. For spot application, weed identification is important.
  4. Apply the proper amount. Overuse of herbicides increase toxicity risks for you and your family and creates unnecessary waste. There are also studies that overuse of one herbicide can lead to weeds that become resistant. Always follow the application instructions and properly dilute any liquid herbicide before application.
  5. Check the weather before application. The best weather for herbicide application is a mild, sunny day with temperatures around 65 degrees and little-to-no wind. While the ideal day may not be possible when you need to apply herbicide, the best days are no-wind days to avoid spray drift that could go into areas you don’t want. This is the same with water runoff on a rainy day. The temperature should be warm enough for plant growth to occur, however high temperatures increase the risk of evaporation making liquid herbicide less effective.
  6. Wear protective equipment. Protect yourself from chemicals by wearing long pants and shirts, gloves, goggles, and masks while applying herbicide. This will decrease your chance of herbicide exposure. Be sure to wash your clothing, hands, and face well after application to avoid transferring any chemicals.
  7. Look for signs of herbicide exposure. Never ingest or have prolonged exposure to herbicide chemicals. Symptoms can include skin, eye, or respiratory irritation. Contact your doctor if you are concerned or poison control for emergencies.
  8. Keep away from children and pets. Keep herbicide chemicals away from children and pets to avoid exposure. Read the product’s instruction label to determine how long to keep pets and children off grass after application. A good rule of thumb is to wait at least until the product dries or 24 hours after, so plan for those puppy potty breaks.
  9. Never mix different chemicals. It is best to never mix chemicals as this could increase toxicity. However, if you have varying needs in your yard, consult a garden or lawn professional to determine which ones can be used together.
  10. Store and dispose of properly. Store herbicides in their original packaging with their proper labels. If you have young kids, store chemicals in a locked container. Keep all herbicides out of extreme hot, cold, and damp weather as that can cause them to lose their effectiveness. If you can’t use all of an herbicide, contact your local waste management for proper disposal in your area.

Stay Safe with McCoy's


Herbicides are an effective weed management tool for a healthy lawn and garden but require proper application and care. McCoy’s has all you need to keep you and your family safe with protective equipment like gloves, masks, and safe storage options. And, of course, a variety of herbicides to suit your needs. Easily shop online, pick up in store, and get back outside.