What do Lawn Companies Use to Kill Weeds

What Do Lawn Companies Use to Kill Weeds?

All homeowners know that weed control is pretty much a constant battle. After all, there is a reason they’re called weeds! Weeds are invasive plant species that can spread like wildfire. It requires a certain amount of diligence to prevent weeds from growing in your lawn or garden. But landscapers seem to be able to manage them effectively with minimal work every few weeks. So what do lawn companies use to kill weeds, and are there tricks of the trade that you can use on your property?

I’ll discuss in today’s article.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Certified Horticulturist Nicole Forsyth, M.S., and by Horticulturist Arthur Davidson, A.S.

LawnChick.com is reader supported. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

It’s old advice, but it’s good advice. The time you spend preventing weeds will save you much more time remediating a major weed problem in your lawn.

Taking the right steps early in the spring can minimize the amount of work you need to do to maintain your perfectly manicured lawn.

Landscaper Treating Lawn for Weeds, Spraying Dandelion

Part of that can include choosing the right herbicidal solutions to either prevent or kill weeds. Pre-emergent (treatment before weeds emerge) and post-emergent (treatment after weeds are growing) solutions act very differently. The former prevents weed seeds from germinating and taking root. The latter kills weeds that have set up camp in your lawn or garden.

While many of the weed control products at the hardware store are effective, sometimes you just need to pull out the big guns.

Perhaps you didn’t get around to applying a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring and now your lawn is overgrown with crabgrass and other weeds.

Or perhaps you have a very large area that you need to cover and the little bottle of solution from the local hardware store just isn’t going to cut it.

Landscapers often have access to heavy-duty pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides.

Here are some of the things lawn companies use to kill weeds, broken down by category.

Pre-emergent weed control

One of the best ways to stay on top of weed growth is by using a pre-emergent method, and this is what professional landscapers rely on to minimize the time, effort and product they’ll use at your property for the rest of the growing season.

What Lawn Companies Use to Kill Weeds - Spreading Pre-Emergent Herbicide

Pre-emergent means that you’re using an herbicide or an organic substance (like corn-gluten, for example) to block weeds before they germinate and emerge from the ground.

The Organic Pre-Emergent I Recommend

Want to block weeds without the nasty chemicals? Try Weed Wipeout from Lawnbright.

This natural product is easy to apply with the included hose-end sprayer, and is made with liquid corn gluten meal – an effective pre-emergent herbicide that is USDA National Organic Program compliant and safer for kids and pets than traditional pre-emergent herbicides.

Save 15% on Your Order with Code LAWNCHICK15

This is a really effective strategy for blocking the pressure of annual weeds on your turfgrass. Annual weeds are those which die back every fall, but come back with a vengeance in the spring when the seeds they left behind germinate.

Crabgrass is one of the most obvious examples of this. Left untreated it can quickly crowd out and smother lawn grass, overwhelming an otherwise healthy lawn in just a few years. Block its seeds from germinating in the spring, however, and you can disrupt the life cycle of this invasive lawn weed.

Nipping annual weeds in the bud – pun intended – means that these nasty guys don’t even have a chance to grow at all, let alone spread their seeds to propagate and create a bigger problem for next year.

Applying an effective pre-emergent in early spring is the secret to many a landscaper’s success. One application can block weed seeds for 3-5 months.

Overseeding and (most) Pre-Emergents Don’t Mix

One critical component of a pre-emergent solution is that it will prevent most seeds from germinating. Thus, you will not be able to lay grass seed or other types of seed at the same time as pre-emergents.

Don't Overseed and Spread Pre-Emergent Herbicide on Lawn at the Same Time

This is a bummer for most homeowners who like to use spring to overseed their lawn and thicken it up for the season they’ll use it most.

If you’re planning to overseed this spring, I recommend using this product from Scotts. It prevents crabgrass and dandelions but allows grass seed to germinate. It also has the perfect quick-release formula that’s high in phosphorous for new lawns, so it’s the perfect product to use in the spring when spreading your over-seeding grass seed.

Pre-emergents should not kill established plants and won’t kill weeds that have been established, so anything that has germinated (even if you haven’t noticed it yet) won’t be touched.

A lot of people see a dandelion after applying pre-emergent and think the product is awful … that’s not necessarily true. It may have already started to sprout before application.

Choosing the Right Pre-Emergent (what to look for)

Some of the best chemicals for pre-emergent weed control include trifluralin, bensulide, DCPA, dichlobenil, oryzalin, and simazine.

These are the active compounds that lawn companies use to kill weeds before they germinate. They are marketed for controlling broadleaf weeds like clover and Black Medic as well as grasses, and they are commonly used around flower beds, trees, shrubs, and even crops.

If you don’t have access to a landscape supply company, then you can also look for these chemicals in the products available at your local hardware store, or on Amazon.

In agricultural applications, farmers can use pre-emergent herbicides such as Avadex Liquid EC, Fortress Microactiv, Edge Granula, or Valtera to prevent weeds from popping up in their crops. The selected chemical can depend on the type of crop being grown, and if you’re interested in these products you may be able to find them at your local farming supply store.

If you’re hesitant to use harsh chemicals like this on your property, you’re not alone. You can avoid these and still effectively prevent weeds by using corn gluten – an effective natural pre-emergent herbicide. Espoma makes a good product, but like anything you have to get your application timing and distribution right to see good results.

Post-Emergent Weed Control Like the Pros

Not all weeds can be controlled with a pre-emergent herbicide. There may also be occasions where you didn’t have the opportunity to apply a pre-emergent or perhaps it was less effective than you’d hoped.

Lawn Care Professional Spraying Lawn

In these situations, post-emergent herbicides and weed control methods can be implemented to combat your weedly lawn.

Note that while pre-emergent herbicides can be more broadly effective since they all prevent germination, post-emergent herbicides are oftentimes more species-specific, so you really have to do your homework, identify the weed that you have in your lawn, and buy a product that’s specifically designed to kill that weed.

About Glyphosate

One of the most popular chemicals for post-emergent weed control is glyphosate.

It is a general purpose weed killer that is used frequently and available in many forms. If you’re wondering what do lawn companies use to kill weeds … well this is probably it.

It is most effective when there is at least 42% glyphosate in the product being used. However, it’s worth noting that there are some concerns about how safe it is for human health, even though it has been in use for over 30 years.

Other common post-emergent herbicidal chemicals include 2,4-D, dicamba, and MCPP for broadleaf weed species. For grass-like weeds, fluazifopbutyl and sethoxydim are used.

If You’re Going to Go Chemical, What’s Your Best Bet?

2,4-D, in particular, has been tested extensively and used for over 30 years in a variety of landscape settings. Research supports the use of this chemical given its safety for the environment and human health.

A 10-year study showed that there is no relationship between 2,4-D and cancer.

Spraying Weed in Lawn

With that said, if you’re going to use any chemicals on your lawn (or anywhere), you must take proper precautions. Wear effective PPE, including a face-mask or respirator and safety goggles. Wear long sleeves and long pants. Make sure you put up signs or alert neighbors with children and pets that your lawn has been treated and they should stay off for their own safety.

What do Farmers Use?

Farmers have access to stronger post-emergent solutions, and will regularly use them to protect their crops and livelihood.

These can include herbicides such as Axial, Signal, Simplicity GoDri, Traxos, Varro, Odyssey Ultra NXT, Solo ADV, Solo Ultra, and Viper ADV. Some of these may be available at a farm supply store if there is one near you.

What Else Do Lawn Companies Use to Kill Weeds?

Many landscapers pay timely visits to maintain your lawn and garden. Part of these visits will also include manual management of weeds.

Manual management of weeds, though labor-intensive, can be just as effective as post-emergent herbicides.

And one perk to using old-fashioned, time-tested weed control methods? It’s good exercise!


One way to prevent weeds in your garden beds is to add mulch. This will deprive weeds of the sunlight and air they need to germinate and survive.

Mulch Can be an Effective Way to Prevent Weeds and Lawn and Landscaping Companies Use a Lot of It

Mulched beds are also attractive, and help retain moisture so you have to water your garden less. Adding mulch provides a finishing touch to a garden bed that makes everything look neat and uniform and can really transform the curb appeal of your home.

No you’re not going to mulch your lawn, but mulching your grass clippings can help smother weed seedlings if your lawn is otherwise thick and healthy.

Pulling Weeds by Hand

Manually pulling weeds that have popped up can be time-consuming and hard work. I like to minimize this task by using a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring, and just pulling the weeds that sneak past the goalkeeper (as I call it).

Hand Pulling Weeds

When manually pulling weeds, it is important to get the entire plant (including the root). A simple garden spade or a specialized weed-pulling tool such as a dandelion digger can be helpful.

But the most important advice I can offer is to pull weeds after a deep watering or soaking rainfall. The ground will be soft and moist, and this makes it easier to pull weeds. This is a particularly helpful tip if you have dandelions to remove from your lawn – they have a long taproot so moist soil is critical.

Also – if you have kids, this is a great punishment.

Spot Treatments

There are some more natural and non-toxic solutions that you can create for spot-treating weeds.

But, it’s important to note that these are specifically for spot-treatment because they will kill anything and do not specifically target weeds (you’ll kill the grass you spray too).

Spot Treating Weeds

For example, 1 cup of salt mixed into 2 cups of water creates a solution that kills weeds when sprayed onto their roots.

Apple cider vinegar or regular white vinegar also work similarly.

These are good natural solutions to stubborn weeds you can’t pull.

Crowd Them Out

Letting your grass grow a little taller can help crowd out weeds by preventing them from getting sunlight.

A Thick Lawn Canopy Can Crowd Out Weeds - Here You See a Dense Grass Lawn with Only a Single Dandelion

Longer grass also means deeper roots that can better compete with weeds for nutrients in the soil.

Ideally, grass should be a couple of inches tall but no shorter than an inch, and you should never mow more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time.

To prevent cutting your grass too short, adjust the height on the blade of your mower to the highest setting. This will ensure that you just trim a little off the top when you do mow your lawn.

Overseeding your weedy lawn every year is a great way to naturally control weeds … plant more grass so there’s absolutely no room for them to grow!

What Do Lawn Companies Use to Kill Weeds?

It depends.

There are a number of effective methods available for weed control, and most of the products and techniques that lawn companies and landscapers use to control weeds are available to the general public.

However, landscapers and lawn companies often have better access to certain herbicidal chemicals.

Sometimes their products seem to work better because they have chemicals available in higher concentrations, and sometimes it’s a product that is only available for commercial use.

Spraying Dandelion in Lawn

If you don’t want to work with chemical sprays at all, that’s fair (and probably smart), but if you have good PPE and don’t mind the risks, then it’s worthwhile to check the hardware store products for the appropriate chemicals. The products you find on the shelf are for consumer use and are less likely to inadvertently do damage to your lawn (or your family).

And most of these off-the-shelf products work just fine if used as directed.

If you’re determined to use commercial-grade products on your property, you may be able to find the products you’re looking for at farm supply or landscape supply stores near you.

If there are no stores of that kind in your area, you may be able to purchase commercial-grade herbicides and weed treatments online.

The caveat with purchasing from a farm or landscape store is that sometimes they require a license or certification in order to buy certain products.

If you’re trying to buy from a specialty store locally, it’s worth calling ahead before making the trip.

At Lawn Chick, I am committed to publishing accurate, useful, and trustworthy resources for my readers. As part of this commitment, I’ve invited subject matter experts to review our articles for accuracy. I invite you to read our editorial policy and publishing standards which outlines in detail how every article on this site is sourced, edited, fact-checked, and vetted.



Sarah Jameson’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

8 thoughts on “What Do Lawn Companies Use to Kill Weeds?

  1. Lindsey Golubosky

    I have a 20,000 sf yard. Large yard. It is covered with dandelions and crabgrass. I have a pool, grand kids and dogs. My yard is used daily.

    What and how do I eliminate weeds.without hurting the environment or harming my kids and large dog?

    • Great question, Lindsey!

      It’s always tough when you want to improve your lawn, but also need to use the lawn. I’ll give you some advice for two different options:

      1) Using Herbicides – Most people shy away from using herbicides because of the fears of damaging insects, wildlife, pets, kids, and waterways. I get it, and try to avoid using them myself. What I can say is that in most states herbicides sold at your local box or hardware store are required by law to break down into harmless compounds within two weeks of application, so if you’re planning a vacation and won’t be using the lawn for a bit, you might be able to treat your weeds with a selective herbicide (say, one that will kill broadleaf weeds but leave your grass unharmed) and not really sweat any exposure to your pets and loved ones. You can also use a product called Tenacity, mixed with a surfactant to kill your crabgrass. Once it’s dried and there’s a rain or you water your lawn you’re pretty much safe to be back on the grass again. There’s a video with links to the products you’ll need toward the bottom of this article.

      2) Going Organic – If you want to stay organic and natural I recommend spreading corn meal gluten (I like Espoma’s) as a natural pre-emergent in the spring to block annual weed seeds (crabgrass) from germinating. You can hand-pull broadleaf weeds that make it past the pre-emergent. I’d also recommend overseeding your lawn with a heavy hand with some perennial ryegrass (if you’re in the northern half of the country) in the fall. Perennial Rye is easy to grow and it’s tough as nails and will hold up to the abuse your lawn takes. You can read about overseeding right here.

      If you get into the habit of overseeding in the fall and getting pre-emergent down in the spring you’ll be surprised with the results and how great your lawn turns out. Good luck!

    • Hey, Dan

      To be honest I’m not a huge fan of granular post-emergent herbicides. For established weeds I recommend spraying, and mixing the herbicide you choose with a good Surfactant (I like the one from Southern Ag) to improve its adhesion and effectiveness.

      The right herbicide for you will really depend upon what types of established weeds you have in your lawn – what works for broad leaf weeds won’t work for grassy weeds, so you’ll really have to know what you’re targeting and go from there. Whatever you choose, I always recommend testing a small area of your lawn first to make sure it’s effective and will not damage your turfgrass before spraying it across your lawn.

      Once you knock out the weeds with your post-emergent, look for opportunities to apply a good pre-emergent like Barricade 2 times a year to keep them from coming back and allow your lawn to thicken up.

      Hope this helps!

      • Dawnell

        Hi Sarah,
        Our lawn and now flower beds in Kauai (which never seems to have a winter and weeds don’t stop growing…) has an infestation of Black Medic which I’ve hand pulled weeds from the lawn historically (never successfully eradicating them though- in fact they seem to thrive and spread with a vengeance) and recently our son in law mowed the grass after the weeds went to seed and I have Black Medic in all of my beds as well everywhere in my 1/2 acre lawn…how and what do you recommend treating this seemingly out of control infestation safely and preferably naturally in both lawn and now beds?

        • Hey, Dawnell!

          I actually have an article all about Black Medic which you may find helpful: https://lawnchick.com/black-medic-weed/

          I’ve dealt with this in garden beds as well, and in my experience hand-pulling is a tiresome yet proven method to clear it out. Black medic is pretty easy to pull, and I just try to get one weeding done, mulch my beds, then quickly pull anything that comes up through the mulch as I walk past my perennial borders each day. I tend to plant my herbaceous borders pretty densely so once everything is up, there isn’t a lot of light for annual weeds to grow, so that first weeding in the spring and some mulch typically resolves my issue.

          The selective broadleaf herbicide I listed in my Black Medic article works really well for eliminating it in your lawn (so you won’t have this issue again), and if you are tired of hand-pulling you could try targeted applications of vinegar or even boiling water to kill it naturally. Personally, I shied away from all of these options in my borders and beds just because I didn’t want to damage any of my perennials. Depending upon what you have in your gardens a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring may be effective at blocking all weeds from growing. I wasn’t able to go that route on my property because I have a lot of bi-annuals that come back from seed each year and I didn’t want to block germination of any of these desirable flowers.

          Hope this information is helpful! Good luck.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *