Mother Earth Living

Bug Out: Preventive Pest Control

Repel pests from your home by eliminating sources of food, water and shelter for them. Try these preventive pest control methods to keep your home bug-free!
By Allison Martin
May/June 2013

Eliminate sources of moisture (such as leaky faucets) and food to keep bugs out of your house.
Photo By Loupe


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Perusing the chemical pest control options in the hardware store—the rows of bottles marked with “poison,” “toxic” and details on how to reach poison control hotlines—is enough to make living with ants look attractive. But you don’t have to live with toxins, ants or other pesky bugs. We can keep common household pests at bay using safe, natural strategies.

When it comes to warding off pests, your first step is to figure out what conditions in your home are attractive to them. Sources of water and food and good places to nest are magnets to pests who’d like to make your home their own. Assess your home, looking for places that seem appealing to bugs, then make it difficult for them to access those resources using our tips at right. If you have a problem with a specific bug, check out our natural tips below for troubleshooting pest problems.

Preventive Pest Control Measures

Wage Water War. Available water (even very small amounts) is attractive to a wide range of irritating insects. Eliminate insects’ water supply by fixing any leaking fixtures, including faucets, pipes or clogged drains.

Block Food Supply. The same premise is true for food around your home. Keep pests from setting up shop by being vigilant about crumbs and spills. Sweep the kitchen floor regularly, clear up any spills and wipe down counters daily. Store food in tightly sealed containers, and deposit leftovers promptly in the fridge. If you keep a covered sugar jar on the counter, place it on an interior wall to keep it away from insects.

Eliminate Clutter. Excess stuff doesn’t just complicate life by getting in the way; it can also attract insects. Clear closets, the attic, the garage, the basement or any other area where unnecessary items accumulate. Recycle or donate old magazines, cardboard boxes and piles of old clothes. Store items you wish to keep in tightly sealed containers, especially items made of fabric or paper.

Secure the Perimeter. Keep pests away by blocking their way into your home. Keep the screens on your doors and windows in good repair. Look for any holes or cracks in your building and make sure these disturbances are properly caulked and sealed.

Use a Nontoxic Repellent Regularly. You can reap many benefits from cleaning with essential oils: Not only will your home be clean and smell wonderful, but several essential oils can also help repel pests. Whip up a natural, insect-repellent glass cleaner by combining 2 cups white vinegar with 10 drops sweet orange essential oil in a labeled spray bottle. Use it to clean windows and mirrors, shaking well before each use. You can also mix 1 gallon warm water, ¼ cup castile soap, 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil, 10 drops lavender essential oil and 1 drop vetiver essential oil (the vetiver is optional, as the scent is strong and distinct), then use it to wipe down floors.

Discover Homemade Pest Repellents

If preventive measures aren’t enough to keep pests away, use the safe, nontoxic pest-specific repellents found in the article Pest-Free, Naturally: Natural Pest Control.


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