If you own a home, you’ve probably invested a lot of time (and money!) to ensure that your prized belongings and loved ones are protected. But no matter how much you paid for your home — even if your Manhattan condo cost $1.9 million, like the average unit in an existing building did during 2017 — there’s no guarantee that your domicile won’t be invaded by unwanted guests. And we’re not talking about distant family members who want a place to crash during the holidays.
No, we’re talking about pests. You may love all creatures great and small, but that doesn’t mean you should allow certain insects or rodents to take permanent refuge in your abode. On the other hand, you may not want to hire an exterminator, either. Although 68% of all pest control service revenue in the U.S. came from residential services in 2015, the majority of pest control companies will use methods that could harm the environment (as well as cause undue harm to the animals in question). So what’s the alternative? If you want to eliminate pests in a way that supports environmental sustainability, there are a few methods to keep in mind.
If you’re trying to keep bugs out of your garden or out of the house, there are natural ingredients you can use to achieve your goals. Make a safer pesticide to keep away small insects by combining vegetable oil and a mild soap (or just soap and water in a spray bottle). Garlic and water can be combined to keep away slugs and snails, while a chili pepper spray can deter all kinds of garden pests and predators.
In the home, try making your own ant traps by combining water, sugar, and Borax. Cayenne, citrus oil, mint, cloves, lemon juice, and coffee grounds will also keep ants away. Catnip and boric acid will stop cockroaches in their tracks, as will diatomaceous earth (which will also get rid of fleas, ants, silverfish, ticks, bed bugs, spiders, house flies, and a whole assortment of other bugs). If you’re tired of dealing with mosquitoes, herbs like sage, rosemary, and Thai lemongrass can work wonders, as can Neem oil. For flies, try cloves, eucalyptus, bay leaves, or basil, as well as a DIY flypaper made from syrup, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and craft paper. Dried lemon peels or sachets made from cinnamon sticks, cloves, bay leaves, eucalyptus leaves, lavender, peppercorns, or wormwood will repel moths, while ingredients like citronella oil, peppermint oil, castor oil, or crushed onions will drive rodents away.
In addition to cooking up solutions in your kitchen, you might also want to consider making changes to your landscaping. Not only can landscaping add up as much as 14% to your home’s resale value, but it can also discourage pest activity in certain cases. If you’re worried that your garden could be overtaken by unwelcome creatures, floating row covers can protect your plants from harm. You might also want to invite the presence of other animals — like ladybugs, praying mantises, or nematodes — to ensure your garden thrives. Some plant species can also keep pests away. Marigolds and nasturtiums, for example, can act as natural insect repellants. Daffodils, sweet pea, lavender, grape hyacinth, amaryllis, catnip, wormwood, and mint are just some of the plants that can repel mice and rats.
Keep in mind that large shrubs and thick vegetation provide both food and shelter for pests. Overgrown branches and other plants that are located close to your home can provide a way for pests to get inside. Be sure to keep up with pruning and other forms of landscaping maintenance to minimize opportunities for pests to find their way in. If you use mulch in your landscaping, be sure to start fresh every year; otherwise, this provides a welcome habitat for pests. Remember to remove all standing water to minimize the likelihood of mosquitoes and other creatures hanging around.
Another good way to discourage pests is to make thorough house cleaning part of your regular routine. Vacuuming, decluttering, and washing linens at higher temperatures can be highly effective. Even mattresses and pillows should be vacuumed regularly. Steam cleaning can act as a safe alternative that will get rid of bugs without exposing your family to harsh (and potentially toxic) cleaning agents. Frequent cleaning and tidying up will minimize how much food pests can find to live off of and can allow you to zero in on vulnerabilities in your home to ensure pests never come in.
Even if you’re eco-conscious, no one should have to deal with the potential health risks posed by certain pests. With these tips in mind, you can alleviate the need for conventional and harmful pest control and use tried-and-true methods that will protect both your loved ones and the environment.