Safe Ways to Control Pests Around Your Home
These alternatives to toxic pesticides will protect the health of your household, while keeping insects, rodents and other pests at bay.
If it buzzes, squeaks, eats your azaleas and has more legs than you do, chances are you don't want it creeping around your house. Blasting unwanted critters with a potent poison may seem like a satisfying solution to your pest problem, but the same stuff that's toxic to pests is often toxic to people, too -- especially kids. And because pesticides typically treat pest symptoms, and not underlying causes, they often don't work as well as prevention-based alternatives. Here are some general tips for putting a lid on pests; click on the links provided for more specific information.
STEP 1:Make Sure Your House Is Clean and Dry
Many insects and rodents are attracted to food and water, so start off by making your home less enticing to pests.
- Wipe up spills immediately with soap and water.
- Take out garbage daily and keep garbage cans clean of food residue.
- Keep ripe fruit in the fridge.
- Wash dishes daily, or at least submerge them in soapy water until you can get to them.
- Make sure all food and beverage containers outside the fridge or freezer are tightly sealed. Glass jars with rubber seals or plastic containers with tight snap-on lids are better than screw-top jars.
- Sweep and vacuum your floors regularly.
- Keep bathroom and kitchen areas as dry as possible. Fix leaky faucets and don't let standing water accumulate.
- If you have a pet, comb it regularly with a flea comb and wash its bedding frequently. Be sure to vacuum floors, rugs and upholstery your pet comes in contact with regularly. (Click here for more information on pesticides and pets.)
STEP 2:Seal Entryways
Deny access to new invaders by making sure potential entry points are sealed off.
- Use silicone caulk to seal any cracks and crevices in baseboards, moldings, cupboards, pipes, ducts, sinks, toilets and electrical outlets.
- Place screens in front of heating and cooling vents, and repair holes in any existing screens. The average mouse found in homes can squeeze through a hole the size of a dime!
- Keep vegetation, stacked firewood and other debris away from the exterior of your house so pests can't climb up and in.
STEP 3:Try Chemical-Free Strategies
Now that you're denying pests food, shelter and access, it's time to put the squeeze on any lingering intruders. To solve your pest problems without using chemical pesticides, you can:
- Vacuum for individual bugs or nests (bugs will usually suffocate in the bag)
- Lay traps (flytraps, jar traps, pheromone traps, light traps, etc.)
- Use a swatter
STEP 4:Choose Lower-Risk Pesticides
If problems persist, try these techniques, which will minimize the health risks to members of your household.
- Dust boric acid on cracks and crevices, which slowly poisons crawling insects like ants, cockroaches and silverfish, but is far less toxic to humans and other mammals. (Still, you should avoid dusting in areas that might result in human exposure.) See www.beyondpesticides.org for details.
- To control insects and rodents, try tamper-resistant bait boxes -- an effective and safer choice than sprays, powders or pellets, which all spread pesticide residues. Look for one that uses a nonvolatile chemical, like boric acid, and make sure to keep bait stations out of the reach of children. See www.beyondpesticides.org for details.
- Try insecticidal or fatty-acid soaps, which kill soft-bodied insects like caterpillars, fleas and mites on contact, and are virtually harmless to humans and mammals unless they're ingested. See www.beyondpesticides.org for details.
- Hire a professional trained in Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which uses physical controls and low-toxicity products to manage pest problems.
STEP 5:Minimize Exposure
When using any pesticide, be sure to limit the exposure of everyone in your household.
- Avoid frequent, preventative applications. Never exceed the application rate indicated in the instructions.
- When applying pesticides, follow all precautions listed on the label, such as wearing gloves, masks or goggles.
- Make sure any baits, traps or pesticide residues are kept out of reach of children and pets.
- Never dump leftover pesticides in the garbage, on the lawn, or down the drain, where it could contaminate the soil or drinking water. Check with your public works department about how to dispose of hazardous waste.
last revised 7/20/2007
Get Updates and Alerts
NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs
- Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
- Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
- NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.
- Trying to Stop Another Nanosilver Pesticide
- posted by Mae Wu, 7/28/15
- Climate change variability, not just temperatures, increase mortality risks for vulnerable populations
- posted by Juan Declet-Barreto, 7/24/15
- Multidrug resistant foodborne bug threats on retail meat - Klebsiella, not your usual suspect
- posted by Carmen Cordova, 7/23/15