Natural ingredients to kill English ivy

Updated July 19, 2017

English ivy (Hedera helix) is an invasive species. This plant is hard to control once introduced into an area. It takes over trees and sides of building with no trouble. However, there are natural ways of killing English ivy. Repeated application is key to success.

Boiling water

Boiling water kills English ivy. Pour boiling water over the English ivy and then remove dead plant material while it is still wet. This helps the gardener remove more of the root mass without severely disturbing the soil. Repeat this process for the next three days.


Vinegar or acetic acid works well when the English ivy first wakes from its winter dormancy. Apply vinegar directly to the plant two weeks after the first new growth appears. Household white vinegar works on young plants, but older plant material requires a stronger concentration. The grocery variety of vinegar is 5 per cent, but there are vinegars 10 per cent and higher sold as herbicide. When using this ingredient, wear protective clothing and eyewear. While vinegar is an acid, it only changes the soil pH for a couple days. Vinegar does not discriminate between plants and will kill anything it touches.


Use table or rock salt against English ivy. Create a ring of salt around each English ivy start. Repeat the process as necessary. If this technique is used, the soil becomes unsuitable for planting.

Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol works by pulling water out of the plant and causing the ivy to dry up and die. Put rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and cover all the leaves of the English ivy. When using this approach, spray only the English ivy. Rubbing alcohol is not selective in its killing nature.


This works for small areas and areas that may be damaged by other approaches. Lay out a layer of cardboard and top it with several inches of mulch. The mulch that works the best includes chipped or shredded mulch, but grass clippings or hay also work. The mulch must remain on the area for at least two consecutive years to be effective.

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About the Author

Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been writing since 2010. Her work appears on various websites and blogs. Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Science in agriculture education with minors in biology and natural resources from Purdue University. She is pursuing a master's degree in environmental education and urban planning from the University of Louisville.