Fifth grade science projects aside, you probably don’t want to become deeply acquainted with a family of scuttling insects. Unless you’re Phoebe Buffay from “Friends,” keeping your invasive pests around as pets isn’t as attractive as drowning them in a barrage of chemicals.
Although conventional chemicals may seem like the quickest route to regaining your home, these pest control techniques often use substances that are toxic not only to insects but also to humans and the environment. These chemicals can be particularly dangerous for children. And according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, chemicals treat only the symptoms of insect problems, not the root causes.
Fortunately, many eco-friendly alternatives control insects naturally and simply. Green alternatives also have the added bonus of preventing future insect problems rather than trying to solve an existing problem.
These natural solutions include:
1. A clean and dry house
The first step in eradicating insects is to make your home seem unwelcome. Wiping up water immediately, washing and drying dishes, keeping ripe food in the refrigerator and cleaning floors regularly can go a long way in keeping insects at bay.
2. Sealed entryways
To prevent insects from entering your home, it is helpful to physically seal them out.
- Using silicone caulk, seal cracks around molding and trim, doors and windows.
- Add screens to heating and cooling exhaust vents to keep intruders from crawling inside.
3. Citrus peels
Citrus fruits contain a natural chemical called nootkatone, which acts as an effective mosquito and tick repellent. In fact, scientists are currently working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to further develop nootkatone into commercial insecticides and pesticides. To take advantage of the power of citrus, rub window sills and bookshelves with citrus peels to discourage insects from making themselves at home.
4. White vinegar
One of the most versatile natural ingredients, vinegar can be used to disinfect and repel bugs. Consider diluting vinegar with water, spraying, then wiping it on bathroom and kitchen surfaces to prevent insect problems. (Don’t neglect the garbage disposal, trashcans and under the sink!) The best part about using vinegar is that you will likely always have it on hand.
5. Essential oils
Many essential oils —
- such as cedar
- soybean oil — are known to repel insects.
According to the Environmental Working Group, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, also known as PMD, is considered particularly effective against mosquitoes and ticks. Add a few drops of essential oil to a bottle of water and spray your home’s corners and other areas where spiders lurk. The oil can also be applied to a cloth or cotton swab and hung in an invaded area like a flag of victory.
If you notice where insects are entering your home, dust that area with cinnamon or hang cinnamon sticks in a sachet nearby. According to the Humane Society, the scent of a cinnamon “barrier” will drive insects, especially ants, away without posing a danger to your pets.
No matter which method you use, it is important to first understand the specific pests in your home. Visit pests.org for more information related to almost any insect you may encounter. Understanding an insect’s preferred environment, mating habits and life cycle all play a role in helping to control problems without negatively impacting the health of your family or the planet.