Summary The influence of plant developmental stage in hot water weed control was studied on the test weed Sinapis alba in field experiments. The dose was measured as thermal energy in the hot water (kJ m−2) and the response as reduction in plant weight. The energy dose for a 90% reduction in plant weight was 340 kJ m−2 at the two-leaf stage, which is one-third of the energy required for the same reduction at the six-leaf stage. Treatment at an early stage saves energy, increases the driving speed and lowers the costs. Hard surface areas with naturally developed weeds were used to study the required treatment interval and the influence of time of assessment on the reduction in weed cover. The required treatment interval was 25 d on average, which is similar to that of flame weeding. A longer lasting effect requires a higher energy dose. A 50% higher energy dose was needed to obtain a 90% reduction in weed cover that lasted for 15 d instead of 7 d. After 3–4 weeks, hardly any reduction could be recorded because of regrowth of perennial weeds. However, hot water weed control has a potential on urban hard surfaces and railroad embankments, especially where the use of herbicides is restricted.