The Best Crabgrass Killers for 2023

Our top pick is Preen Crab Grass Control, which works well on many lawn types

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The Best Crabgrass Killers

The Spruce / Alli Waataja

Nothing ruins a perfect lawn quite like crabgrass (Digitaria). This light green, wide-bladed grass grows low to the ground, crowding out the blades of smooth, green lawns. Its branching stems resemble crab legs, which is how the weed got its name. It is also hardy, germinating when soil temperatures rise to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and it can live up to 30 years before sprouting. 

We approached this roundup with the belief that most homeowners don’t want the invasive weed to muck up their lawns with blades that can grow up to 36 inches. That’s enough to want it gone, says Erin Schanen, Troy-Bilt’s gardening partner, a master gardener volunteer, and creator of The Impatient Gardener blog and YouTube channel. Schanen reminds us that crabgrass is “not an insurmountable enemy,” and that knowing “how crabgrass grows is helpful to knowing how to get rid of it.”

Our top pick crabgrass killer is Preen Crabgrass Control, an affordable option that works well on a variety of lawn types.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall

Preen Crabgrass Control

Preen Crabgrass Control

Amazon

What We Like
  • All-season use

  • Works up to four weeks post-emergence

  • Easy to spread

  • Large coverage area

What We Don’t Like
  • Doesn’t kill mature weeds

  • Can’t use on newly seeded lawns

Preen Crabgrass Control for lawns is for all-season use and can be applied four weeks before crabgrass emerges. Not only does it kill and prevent crabgrass, but it also works on 40 additional weeds, including purslane and spurge. Whether you have warm-season or cool-season grass, this works on everything from Kentucky bluegrass to Zoysia.

This preventative, which you can apply with a spreader in spring or fall (up to November, and in temperatures under 85 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the manufacturer), keeps weeds at bay for up to four months and continues to control emergent weeds before they mature. That means less time for you to wrestle with when to apply it. The manufacturer says that for heavily invaded areas, you can add a second application of Preen eight weeks later. The 15-pound bag covers up to 5,000 square feet, a little larger than a regulation-size basketball court.

Preen is not a miracle worker, and one needs to apply it prior to weed emergence for best results. Once a weed has matured, this product does not kill it. Activation requires water, so you should water generously if the forecast is for dry weather. The manufacturer advises waiting four to six weeks before planting flowers in the applied area, and 12 weeks before planting grass seed.

Price at time of publish: $26

Type: Pre-emergent | Formula: Granular | Season: All | Coverage: 5,000 square feet

Best Budget

Spectracide 510072 Weed Stop for Lawns

Spectracide 510072 Weed Stop for Lawns

Amazon

What We Like
  • Quality brand

  • Works on 470 weed types

  • Visible results in five hours

What We Don't Like
  • May discolor grass

  • Impractical for huge yards with a lot of crabgrass

The most expensive product isn’t necessarily the best product. Spectracide’s budget-friendly Weed Stop is proof.

Spectracide Weed Stop kills over 470 different broadleaf and grassy weed types, including dandelions and crabgrass. Those who want quick results should love that you can see the ready-to-use liquid working a mere six hours after application. A 1-gallon container can cover as much as 5,000 square feet (a little larger than a regulation-size basketball court).

The chemical spray penetrates crabgrass roots, which in turn lead to the demise of the visible portion of the plant. The spray formulation allows you to target patches of weeds within your lawn without worrying about injuring your grass.

This product does its best work when applied during the daytime, with temperatures 46 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit. To further enhance your results, mow the lawn two or so days before treating. The manufacturer advises to use this product only when rain isn’t expected for at least 24 hours.

While this works great to spot-treat crabgrass in your lawn, it might not be suitable if your yard is overrun with it. Spraying this in a fine mist may result in droplets affecting nearby plants. You can adjust the applicator to stream the flow as well as spray it.

Price at time of publish: $12

Type: Post-emergent | Formula: Foliar spray | Season: All | Coverage: 5,000 square feet

Best Pre-emergent

Scotts Halts Crabgrass and Grassy Weed Preventer

Scotts Halts Crabgrass and Grassy Weed Preventer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Easy to spread

  • Weather does not negatively impact results

  • Prevents additional weeds, such as chickweed

What We Don't Like
  • Does not work on mature weeds

  • Lawn must be dry when applying

For those with busy schedules, this one-and-done product is designed to keep crabgrass out of your life all season long. Since it is a pre-emergent product, it doesn’t kill existing crabgrass or prevent lingering crabgrass seeds from germinating. It might take more than one application each season, and even additional seasons to get on top of your crabgrass problem. 

For best results to prevent crabgrass, apply in spring, using a spreader. (You also could use it in fall to prevent winter weeds, such as henbit.) “In order to work, it should be applied when the soil temperature is between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Master Gardener Erin Schaen. “Obviously, this timing varies from place to place, but one indicator of proper timing is when forsythia bushes bloom their bright yellow flowers.”

Snow and adverse weather should not affect its performance, so you can apply this product with confidence, knowing this is the necessary application this season. A 10-pound bag covers up to 5,000 square feet (a little larger than a regulation-size basketball court).

The manufacturer cautions against using this product around shrubs or other ornamental plants, and waiting till the lawn is completely dry before walking on treated areas.

Price at time of publish: $27

Type: Pre-emergent | Formula: Granular | Season: Spring to fall | Coverage: 5,000 square feet

Best Post-emergent

Fertilome Weed-Out Lawn Weed Killer

Fertilome Weed-Out Lawn Weed Killer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Easy to mix

  • Works on all grass types

  • Can use on sidewalks, patios, and driveways

  • Safety gloves included

What We Don't Like
  • Might not be suitable for extra-large yards

When weeds begin making their presence known, choose a weed killer tailored to the job. Fertilome’s Weed-Out Lawn Weed Killer comes in an easy-to-use spray format to quickly target crabgrass, as well as undesired broadleaf weeds. Conquering over 200 broadleaf weeds, including spurge, and dollar weed, it should not harm most species of lawn grass.

This product also is designed to easily remove weeds on hardscapes such as driveways, paths, and patios. The 16-ounce container’s concentrated formula makes several gallons of spray, with a 1:8 ratio of product to usable solution.

The manufacturer claims this product is rain-safe up to 24 hours after application. We also like that the product comes with a pair of nitrile rubber gloves—a nice extra.

Price at time of publish: $24

Type: Post-emergent | Formula: Concentrate | Season: All | Coverage: 5,000 square feet

Best for Flower Beds

Preen Weed Preventer

Preen Weed Preventer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Can be used often in same season

  •  Safe for over 200 flower types

What We Don't Like
  • Not recommended for lawns

  • Doesn’t kill current weeds

Preen Weed Preventer gets our vote, because it is designed to be safe around 200 flowers, fruits, vegetables, trees, and shrubs. It blocks crabgrass, as well as broadleaf and grassy weeds, such as purslane and thistles, for up to three months. Working best when applied in spring, it is easy to apply as a pre-emergent. One bag should cover a little over 2,000 square feet, about two-thirds of a regulation tennis court.

You can cover the affected area gently with a light dusting of mulch. If weeds manage to make it through the mulch barrier, you can add Preen to help tackle future weeds after removing existing ones. Be sure to water the applied area soon after.

This product is not recommended for use on lawns.

Price at time of publish: $27

Type: Pre-emergent, can be used mid-season | Formula: Granular | Season: Any | Coverage: 2,080 square feet

Best Organic

Clean Green Selective Weed Killer For Lawns

Clean Green Selective Weed Killer For Lawns

Amazon

What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Natural ingredients

  • Directly targets weeds

What We Don't Like
  • Not rain-proof

  • May need to reapply for several weeks

For those seeking an environmentally friendly option, we recommend the new Clean Green Selective Weed Killer. Clean Green Selective kills crabgrass in addition to other broadleaf and grassy weeds. You should see Clean Green Selective working as it turns weeds from vibrant green to decaying black within 24 hours.

This product uses 1.5% iron HEDTA (FeHEDTA) as an active ingredient. Broadleaf weeds absorb it quickly and fatally within hours, but the ingredient shouldn't harm the neighboring turf. The manufacturer says you can use this product around pets, children, and waterways.

Since the packaging features a built-in sprayer, no additional equipment is needed for use. The manufacturer recommends using it twice, once every two weeks, for best results. One container should cover a little more than 2,000 square feet.

Price at time of publish: $36

Type: Post-emergent | Formula: Foliar spray | Season: All | Coverage: 2,080 square feet

Best with Fertilizer

The Andersons Premium Crabgrass Preventer Plus Fertilizer with Dimension

Andersons Premium Crabgrass Preventer Plus Fertilizer with Dimension

Amazon

What We Like
  • Easy to spread

  • Trusted brand

  • Covers a large area

What We Don't Like
  • Alternatives cost less

  • Does not kill existing weeds

The Andersons is a trusted name in lawn care, and the company's products are top of the line where quality is concerned. Their pre-emergent crabgrass preventer does just that, and the added fertilizer means that our lawn can be looking thick and green in no time. 

When applied in the spring, this product keeps your lawn free from crabgrass for up to four months. It also prevents 24 other common broadleaf grasses. One bag is designed to cover up to 6,000 square feet, nearly half the size of an Olympic swimming pool.

The lawn fertilizer included helps keep your grass healthy, which Master Gardener Erin Schanen says makes it difficult for weeds to thrive.

Price at time of publish: $39

Type: Pre-emergent | Formula: Granular | Season: Apply in spring | Coverage: 6,000 square feet

Best Cool-season

Ortho WeedClear Lawn Weed Killer Ready to Spray: For Northern Lawns

Ortho WeedClear Lawn Weed Killer For Northern Lawns

Amazon

What We Like
  • Works on all cool-season grasses

  • Works on existing weeds

  • Can be hooked up to a hose

What We Don't Like
  • Does not work on warm-season grasses

If you reside in a northern climate, consider a crabgrass killer designed with your lawn in mind. Ortho’s WeedClear targets crabgrass, as well as dandelions and 200-plus other broadleaf weeds while keeping your grass safe. According to the manufacturer, it is effective for a number of northern grasses, including Bermudagrass, Buffalograss, Tall Fescue, Fine Fescues, Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrass, and Zoysia grass.

Even though WeedClear is a spray formula, it can easily take on a full lawn when hooked up to a garden hose, with the ability to cover 5,000 square feet (larger than a regulation-size basketball court). Rainproof in just one hour, this product can be applied anytime during the year and works as a post-emergent, when weeds are actively growing.

The manufacturer suggests applying WeedClear to a dry lawn when the temperature is between 65 degrees and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This product takes a minimum of three weeks to completely kill weeds.

Price at time of publish: $14

Type: Post-emergent | Formula: Liquid concentrate | Season: Any | Coverage: 5,000 square feet

Best for Zoysia Grass

Ortho Weed B Gon Weed Killer for Lawns

4.5
Ortho Weed B Gon

Amazon

What We Like
  • Safe on all warm-climate grasses

  • Works on small existing weeds

  • Can be hooked up to a hose

What We Don't Like
  • Does not work on wet grass

Zoysia grass is becoming more popular, thanks to its carpet-like appearance and even spacing. Unfortunately, crabgrass can easily sneak its way into your Zoysia grass lawn. Ortho’s Weed Be Gon Plus targets crabgrass and more than 250 other weeds without harming Zoysia.

In addition to crabgrass, this product conquers other weeds, such as dandelions, and protects other Southern grass favorites, such as St. Augustine and Bahia. The product works best when the weeds are still small and when rain is not forecast for the next 24 hours. 

For large weed outbreaks, the formula also comes with a hose attachment to make large coverage possible, up to 5,000 square feet.

Price at time of publish: $39

Type: Pre-emergent | Formula: Liquid concentrate with hose attachment | Season: Warm season | Coverage: 5,000 square feet

Best for St. Augustine Grass

Southern Ag Atrazine St. Augustine Weed Killer

Southern Ag Atrazine St. Augustine Weed Killer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Safe on all warm-climate grasses

  • Works on existing weeds

  • Only need to apply twice a year

What We Don't Like
  • Requires a re-entry period

  • Not recommended for hose-end sprayers

St. Augustine has become one of the most popular grasses in the Southern United States. Homeowners appreciate its wide, flat, bluish-green blades and dense mats. Sold as plugs or sod, it is a costly investment! 

To keep your expensive lawn free of crabgrass, we recommend a product containing atrazine, which has been used for decades for broadleaf weed control. Atrazine is the active ingredient (4 percent) in Southern Ag’s weed killer. (Note that exposure to atrazine can result in discomfort that may include skin irritation, and swelling or redness in the eyes.) Due to toxicity, you should keep pets off the grass directly after application.

Apply this product, which can be used as a pre-emergent, as well as a post-emergent herbicide, during the dormant or active growing season, with the best results seen in spring. Applying twice a year should be enough to keep your lawn crabgrass-free all season long. The manufacturer says that one container should cover up to just over 3,000 square feet, larger than a tennis court.

Price at time of publish: $36

Type: Post-emergent | Formula: Liquid concentrate | Season: Warm season | Coverage: 3,270 square feet

Best for Bahia Grass

AgraLawn Crabgrass Killer

AgraLawn Crabgrass Killer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Safe on all warm-climate grasses

  • Works on existing weeds

  • Can be used around pets and people

What We Don't Like
  • Does not work when wet

  • Small coverage area

Bahia grass is a good choice for Southern yards that contain sandy, poor, acidic soil. As such, this grass often requires special products for fertilization and weed control. AgraLawn Crabgrass Killer’s active ingredient is cinnamon, which can be an effective pesticide and herbicide on just about any warm-season grass. Designed to combat hairy and smooth crabgrass, the post-emergent ingredients also work on dollar weed, purslane, and dandelions.

You shake this product from the can onto targeted weeds and dust them directly. The product is taken in through the leaves and kills the weeds at the roots. In three to five days, most should be gone from view, according to the manufacturer. Pulling out the dead crabgrass is not necessary, as the manufacturer says it should melt away, and the vacancy filled in by the regular turf. Since this product is applied directly, one container has a coverage area of only 200 square feet, which is about the size of a one-car garage.

This product works best when rain is not forecast, as the dust easily washes away before it has had the opportunity to work. It is recommended to apply to wet crabgrass, however, whether after a rain or when watered with a hose. Wait two days before watering the lawn after applying. 

Note that AgraLawn Crabgrass Killer may burn northern turf. Besides Bahia grass, it is expressly recommended to be used only on Southern turf grasses Bermuda, St. Augustine, and centipede.

Price at time of publish: $27

Type: Post-emergent | Formula: Dust | Season: Warm season | Coverage: 200 square feet

Final Verdict

If you are searching for a powerful, easy-to-use crabgrass killer, we recommend Preen Crabgrass Control. For an extinguisher that is environmentally minded, check out Clean Green Selective Weed Killer.

What to Look For in a Crabgrass Killer

Type

It may sound simplistic, but when purchasing a weed killer that is intended to kill crabgrass, “look for it to specifically mention that it controls crabgrass,” says Erin Schanen, creator of The Impatient Gardener blog and YouTube channel. She adds that the product should also feature instructions on when to apply, and recommends following those instructions exactly for best results. 

There are two main types of crabgrass killers, and both yield different results: 

Pre-emergents are designed to keep seeds from germinating and thus are considered crabgrass preventers. These products don’t work on your existing weed problems. When applied, following label directions, annual weeds, such as crabgrass, cannot take off when this product is used at the start of the growing season.

Post-emergent crabgrass killers destroy mature plant tissue, killing the weeds after they have emerged from seed. These products are designed to kill tough-to-treat crabgrass and are most effective when applied while the crabgrass is actively growing. If you have many crabgrass areas, your best bet is to use both a pre-emergent and a post-emergent at their designated times on the labels.

Formula

Usually, crabgrass killers are sold as liquids or granular formulas. Granules are great for larger yards because you can easily apply them with a push spreader for even application. You can store leftover product until later. You can find pre-emergent and post-emergent crabgrass killers in granular form.

If you have a small yard, or just a few spots with weed outbreaks, a liquid foliar spray might make sense for you, as you can target weeds directly. These products work by direct application and may require more strategy than broadcast granular spreaders. A few concentrates also come ready to attach to a garden hose, making it easier to spray a larger quantity over a wider area.

Lawn Types

Not all grass is the same, even if it looks that way! There are dozens of cultivars of lawn grass, and each region has its favorites that work best in their communities. Knowing your grass types is essential in choosing a crabgrass killer that doesn’t harm your lawn. Cool-season grasses likely require different timing, with pre-emergent control than what a warm-season grass needs.

Crabgrass seeds germinate at an average 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you live in the Southern states, you might be applying a pre-emergent multiple times.

Coverage Area

Coverage area is a factor to consider, especially if you have a large yard. Most packages of crabgrass killer specify a coverage area of 5,000 square feet, about the size of a regulation basketball court. If you have a smaller yard, a dust or foliar spot treatment spray may be more cost-effective. 

Results

Crabgrass did not invade your lawn overnight, so don’t expect it to disappear that quickly. Many products cite visual cues such as foliage turning black or drying up within a few hours of application. Organic products containing vinegar, iron, or essential oil might take a bit longer to show visible results.

FAQ
  • Does a crabgrass killer really work?

    “Using a pre-emergent that prevents seeds from sprouting is the first step to controlling crabgrass,” says Erin Schanen, creator of The Impatient Gardener blog and YouTube channel. She strongly recommends applying this product when the soil temperature is between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. You can measure soil temperature with an ordinary thermometer.

  • Does crabgrass killer harm the surrounding lawn?

    “Non-selective herbicides, like glyphosate, can kill crabgrass but will also likely kill your grass,” Schanen advises. Make sure you choose a product that is labeled for use on lawns, and your grass type.

  • Does crabgrass killer work on stubborn infestations?

    Your best measure in getting rid of crabgrass is to avoid giving it the opportunity to invade. Creating a healthy lawn is a holistic process, involving applying fertilizer, mowing taller than 3 inches, and using mulch. The healthier your lawn, the less likely crabgrass and other weeds can creep in.

Why Trust The Spruce?

This article was written by Amanda Rose Newton, a freelance writer and garden product reviewer for The Spruce. As a horticulturist and entomologist, Amanda Rose is an avid supporter of garden education. To make this list, she tested each product for ease of use, safety, and weed protection. She also had the pleasure of speaking with Erin Schanen, creator of The Impatient Gardener blog and YouTube channel, for her take on what consumers need to know to keep their lawn weed-free all season long.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Iron-based Herbicides. University of Maryland Extension

  2. Atrazine. National Pesticide Information Center

  3. Cinnamon & Cinnamon Oil Profile. Cornell University eCommons

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