Keeping our homes safe and clean includes keeping them free from household pests but also limiting the use of potentially harmful chemicals. The following are safer alternatives to control insects and other pests around your home. The items marked with an asterisk (*) are NOT non-toxic but are safer alternatives to widely used chemical preparations.
Helpful predators around the home include frogs,
spiders, ladybugs, praying mantis, and dragonflies.
Keeping these beneficial creatures around can help you
reduce pest populations.
Vinegar. Wash countertops, cabinets, and floor with
equal parts vinegar and water to deter ant infestations.
Flour and Borax*. Mix 1 cup flour and 2 cups borax in
a quart jar. Punch holes in the jar lid. Sprinkle the
contents around the house foundation. Keep borax out of
the reach of children and pets.
Bonemeal or powdered charcoal or lemon. Set up
barriers where ants are entering. They will generally not
cross lines of bonemeal or powdered charcoal. If you can
find a hole where ants are entering the house, squeeze the
juice of a lemon in the hole or crack. Then slice up the
lemon and put the peeling all around the entrance.
Pennyroyal*, Spearmint, Southernwood, and Tansy.
Growing these plants around the border of your home will
deter ants and the aphids they carry.
Vacuum. Vacuum, remove the vacuum bag, seal it, and
dispose of it immediately outside your home.
Vinegar. A ratio of 1 teaspoon vinegar to 1 quart
water (per 40 pounds of pet weight) in their drinking
water helps to keep your pets free of fleas and ticks.
Fennel, Rosemary, Red Cedar Shavings*, Sassafras*,
Eucalyptus*, or Pennyroyal*. Spread leaves or shavings of
these plants under and around the pet's bed.
Prevention: Keep kitchen garbage tightly closed.
Sprinkle dry soap or borax into garbage cans after they've
been washed and allowed to dry; it acts as a repellent.
Orange. Scratch the skin of an orange and leave it
out; the citrus acts as a repellent.
Cloves. Hang clusters of cloves to repel flies.
Mint or Basil. Mint planted around the home repels
flies. A pot of basil set on the windowsill or table helps
to repel fleas. Keep basil well-watered from the bottom so
that it produces a stronger scent. Dried ground leaves
left in small bowls or hung in muslin bags are also
Sugar and Corn Syrup. Make your own fly paper by
boiling sugar, corn syrup, and water together. Place
mixture onto brown paper and hang or set out.
There are many strategies for controlling garden pests
without unduly upsetting the local ecology of your garden.
These strategies include cultural controls (nutrition,
resistant varieties, interplanting, timed planting, crop
rotation, mulch, trap crops, and cultivation), mechanical
controls (handpicking, physical barriers, traps),
biological controls (predatory and parasitic insects,
microbes), and sprays and dusts. Because information is
too varied to make suggestions in this limited space, we
refer you to your library, colleges, and Extension Office
for details on integrated and natural pest control.
Extension offices can be found under local government in
the phone book.
Mashed potato powder or buds. Place instant mashed
potato powder or buds in strategic places with a dish of
water close by. After eating the powder or buds mice will
need water. This causes fatal bloating.
Mouse Traps. Use according to label directions.
Castor Oil* and Liquid Detergent. Whip together 1
tablespoon castor oil and 2 tablespoons liquid detergent
in a blender until the mixture is like shaving cream. Add
6 tablespoons water and whip again. Keep this mixture out
of the reach of your children and pets. Take a garden
sprinkling can and fill with warm water. Add 2
tablespoons of the oil mixture and stir. Sprinkle
immediately over the areas of greatest mole infestation.
For best results, apply after a rain or thorough watering.
If moles are drawn to your lawn because of the grubs
feeding in the soil, you may be able to rid yourself of
both pests by spreading milky spore disease to kill the
Prevention. Encourage natural predators such as
dragonflies or praying mantises. Eliminate pools of
stagnant water. Avoid wearing perfume, bright colors,
flowery prints, and bright jewelry as these items attract
Citronella. Burn citronella candles to repel insects.
Tansy or Basil. Plant tansy or basil around the patio
and house to repel mosquitoes.
If you can see moths, these aren't the ones to worry
about. Moths that cause damage to clothes are too small
to notice. It is the larvae of these moths that eat
fabric. Prevention. Store items in a clean condition; moth
larvae especially like areas soiled with food stains.
Rosemary, Mint, Thyme, Cloves, and Ginseng (optional).
Chicago area weavers and spinners use 1/2 pound rosemary,
1/2 pound mint, 1/4 pound thyme, 1/4 pound ginseng
(optional), and 2 tablespoons cloves. Mix and put in
cheesecloth bags and place in closets or drawers.
Dried Lavender or Rosemary and Mint. Make sachets of
dried lavender or equal portions of rosemary and mint.
Place in closets, drawers, or closed containers to
Rosemary, Sage, Mint, Dried Lemon Peel, and Cinnamon.
Mix handfuls of first three ingredients. Add a little
lemon peel and a pinch of cinnamon. Place in muslin bags.
Molasses, Vinegar, and Yellow Container. To trap
moths, mix 1 pan molasses with 2 pans vinegar and place in
a yellow container to attract moths. Clean regularly.
Clothes Dryer. Kill moth eggs by running garment
through a warm dryer.
Prevention. Close off all gaps around pipes and
electric lines where they enter the house by using cement
or screening. Caulk small cracks along baseboards, walls,
cupboards, and around pipes, sinks, and bathtub fixtures.
Seal food tightly. Rinse food off dishes that are left
overnight. Do not leave pet food out overnight.
Hedge Apples (Osage Orange). Cut hedge apples in half
and place several in the basement, around in cabinets, or
under the house to repel roaches.
Flour, Cocoa Powder, and Borax*. Mix together 2
tablespoons flour, 4 tablespoons borax, and 1 tablespoon
cocoa. Set the mixture out in dishes. CAUTION: Borax is
toxic if eaten. Keep out of reach of children and pets.
Borax* and Flour. Mix 1/2 cup borax and 1/4 cup flour
and fill a glass jar. Punch small holes in jar lid.
Sprinkle powder along baseboards and doorsills. Caution:
Borax is toxic if eaten. This recipe may not be for you
if there are young children or pets in the house.
Oatmeal, Flour, and Plaster of Paris. Mix equal pans
and set in dishes. Keep out of reach of children and pets.
Baking Soda and Powdered Sugar. Mix equal pans and
spread around infested area.
Slugs And Snails
Natural Predators. Gardener snakes, grass snakes,
ground beetles, box turtles, salamanders, ducks, and
larvae of lightning bugs all feed on snails.
Clay Pots. Place overturned clay flower pots near the
shady side of a plant. Rest one edge on a small twig or
make sure that the ground is irregular enough for the
slugs and snails to crawl under the rim. They will collect
there during the warmest pan of the day. Remove slugs and
snails regularly and drop in a bucket of soapy water.
Sand, Lime, or Ashes. Snails avoid protective borders
of sand, lime, or ashes.
Tin Can. Protect young plants by encircling them with
a tin can with both ends removed. Push the bottom end of
the can into the soil.
This information comes from the Guide to Hazardous
Products Around the Home, part of the HouseHold Hazardous
Waste Project in Missouri.
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