Struggling to get rid of patio weeds? We tried Nancy Birtwhistle's viral hack and couldn't believe how well it worked

It's completely natural

Weeds in between patio slabs
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Weeding your patio can feel like an endless task – new weeds seem to spring up as soon as you finish wheedling out the last set, even when you’ve exhausted every patio weed hack you know.

If you're looking for new ways to remove weeds from a patio and keep them from thwarting your patio idea plans, you might want to try Nancy Birtwhistle's patio weed hack.

The hack went viral on Instagram after Nancy (of Great British Bake Off fame) uploaded a reel demonstrating how she simply pours boiling water and salt on the weeds and scrapes them away a few days later. Followers hailed the hack 'brilliant' and pledged to try it on their own patios.

Weeds in between patio slabs

(Image credit: Getty Images)

That’s why Ideal Home’s Editor-in-Chief Heather Young decided to try it out. ‘I really struggle to keep on top of the weeds on our paved front path, so when I saw this hack on Instagram I instantly wanted to give it a go,’ Heather said.

Perhaps the most appealing thing about this patio weed hack is that the ingredients are completely natural. The viral patio weed hack has two simple steps, and both involve ingredients you’ll find in your kitchen: water and salt.

‘Don’t go out buying path clear and spot weed killer,’ Nancy said in her Instagram reel. ‘Those things are so toxic, so bad for the environment and costly.’

‘We can do it effectively, cheaply and safely.’

How it works is you simply pop the kettle on, then pour the boiling water over the weeds growing between your patio. Then, sprinkle a tiny bit of salt over them.

Wait a few days, and then you should be able to easily pull the dead weeds out of the cracks. ‘Three or four days later, the dandelions are gone, and they’ll not be back this season,’ Nancy revealed at the end of her video.

To save bending down to pull the weeds up you can try the Spear & Jackson 4854WP Mechanical Weed Puller.

Heather was pleased with the results, too. ‘It was very quick and easy, using things I always have to hand, and three days later the weeds were dried out and easy to remove. I’m keeping my fingers crossed they don’t come back!’

How does it work?

The idea of this patio weed hack is that the boiling water and salt work together to dehydrate your weeds.

'Pouring boiling water and salt on your patio weeds essentially results in extreme dehydration,' explains John Clifford, director at Gardenstone. 'When the roots absorb the boiling water and salt solution, it disrupts the weeds' water balance and causes them to wilt.

'It is crucial that the salt is applied with boiling water as it is water-soluble, so on its own it cannot be absorbed as effectively through the roots of the weeds.'

This double-whammy effect makes sure the weed shrivels up in time for you to remove it a few days later. You can easily brush away the remnants with a weed brush like the Newman and Cole long-handle weed brush from Amazon, which we recently tested.

John Clifford
John Clifford

John Clifford is a director of Gardenstone, a leading garden landscaping retailer based in the UK. With over 30 years in the gardening industry and continual work alongside The National Trust, John has amassed an extensive range of gardening and planting knowledge. Alongside his younger son, John has built a strong reputation for Gardenstone as a trusted source for both high-quality garden products and expert gardening advice.

Weeds in between patio slabs

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is it safe for the environment?

Some of our followers were concerned that this patio weed hack is unsafe for the wildlife in our gardens, so we wanted to check in with the experts.

Used around other plants, salt can absolutely do more harm than good. 'Once saltwater is applied to weeds it remains in the ground's soil for a long period of time, often indefinitely unless the soil is replaced,' explains John. 'This can harm surrounding plants and prevent new growth, so although it will prevent weeds, it’ll also harm planting in this area.

'However, salt is ideal for using on a patio as there are no surrounding plants and the weeds in this area will stay away for a long period of time'.

So, while salt is harmful when used in the wrong places, areas like patios are a relatively safe bet – and it can even stave off future weed growth.

Nancy herself recommends hand weeding on soil where other plants are growing nearby, so keep this hack handy for when you see them peeping up through cracks in your patio instead.

Sophie King
Gardens Editor

I joined the Ideal Home team as Gardens Editor in June 2024. After studying English at Royal Holloway, University of London, I began writing for Grow Your Own, which spurred on my love of gardening. I’ve tried growing almost every vegetable under the sun, and I have a soft spot for roses and dinnerplate dahlias.

As Gardens Editor, I’m always on the lookout for the latest garden trend. I love sharing growing hacks for every space, from herbaceous borders to balconies.

When I haven’t got my hands in the soil, I can be found curled up on the sofa with my cat and a good book.