When you start searching for 'pest control' recommendations, you're likely to find all kinds of harsh chemical products, articles filled with misleading info, and images of people spraying pesticides around their homes.
But how do you protect your home from pests without the use of harsh chemicals? What are the safest and most effective ways to find pests and keep them outside and away from your house? This simple guide will help you know exactly what steps you should take to start managing and preventing pest populations around your home.
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Be Careful Where You Get Pest Information
Not all pest resources are created equal, and many pest control company websites are actually written by marketing pros, not pest professionals. Unless the site you're using was written by a professional with pest control experience, be wary of their recommendations, especially ones that involve the application of products (even natural ones like diatomaceous earth and essential oils).Continue to 2 of 15 below.
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Think Like a Pest
Before performing your own pest control, it's important to get into the right mindset. Approach pest control with patience and understand that it might take some time to get control of an issue. Pest control is a long-term goal, not a short-term fix.
Start by thinking about your pest issue. Think about when the activity started, where you're seeing it, what time of day the pests are active, and what could be attracting the pests to your home in the first place.
Depending on the pest, you're going to need to be prepared to get dirty, climb ladders, access small, dark spaces like the attic or crawlspace, and potentially use some tools to get the job finished. Dress accordingly, including:
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- long sleeves
- gloves (nitrile is best)
- eye protection
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Protect Your Environment and Stay Away From Sprays
Spraying of any kind (even essential oils) should be avoided, especially at first Homeowners can end up wasting lots of time and money trying to use sprays and at-home remedies. All the while, time is passing, and their pest issue is getting worse.
When pest control is done right, sprays and chemical products of any kind are used minimally, if at all, and always in tandem with other control measures.Continue to 4 of 15 below.
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Don't Bring Pests Home
Did you know that pests love the grocery store? It is surprisingly easy to bring pests home from the store, especially cockroaches and pantry pests. If you're bringing home cardboard produce boxes or pantry goods purchased in the bulk section, be careful!
Try to leave grocery store cardboard outside, and be sure to look over your grocery store items before bringing them into your home. Ideally, look them over twice: once in the store, and once before you bring them inside.
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Keep Your Kitchen and Pantry Tidy
Pests love the grocery store because they can find so much of what they need there: food, water, and a place to hide. If given the opportunity, pests will come to see your home as a suitable place for them, too, and pests love kitchens.
Keeping food messes cleaned up and storing your food items in proper containers will not only help prevent pests in your kitchen, but it will also help contain any pests brought in by mistake.Continue to 6 of 15 below.
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Have a Garbage and Compost System
To you, trash is trash, but to a pest, it's an all-you-can-eat buffet! Have a plan for how you stay on top of trash and compost removal.
For starters, don't let trash or compost stay inside too long. It should go out at least once per day. Also, make sure your garbage cans and compost pile aren't too close to the house. Outdoor garbage bins and compost are very attractive to pests. Rodents might poke around these areas looking for dinner, and you don't want them to be close to your house while they do!Continue to 7 of 15 below.
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Put Your Vacuum to Work
When it comes to all-natural, in-home pest control, few tools are handier than a good vacuum.
For pest control, vacuums should be used on a regular basis to clean up food crumbs, dry pantry spills, and pet hair that pests can feed on. Make sure to also focus on hard-to-reach areas like under beds and sofas. If hair is left to pile up in these spots, it can lead to infestations of pests like carpet beetles.
Not only do vacuums clean up messes, but they can also clean up pests! Spotted a spider you don't want to see anymore? Suck it up with the vacuum! Found some lethargic flies on your window sill? Suck them up, too!Continue to 8 of 15 below.
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Keep Lights Off at Night
When it comes to pest control, spiders are often a top concern. Not only are chemical treatments not particularly effective against spiders, but they are also not necessary.
Lights left on at night will attract flying insects, in turn attracting spiders hoping to catch a bite to eat. While exterior lights are the main issue, inside lights seen through the windows can also attract pests.
Avoid a surplus of flying insects (and spiders) by keeping your interior and exterior lights off when not in use, especially when it's dark outside.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Keep Your Roof and Foundation Clear
Start by making sure there is no clutter around the foundation of your home. Rodents, spiders, and other wildlife will all use clutter around your house as a hiding spot. From there, it's only a matter of time before they try to get inside. Wood piles should be kept away from the home whenever possible.
Once the area around your home is free from clutter, trim back vegetation that could give pests access to your house. This includes shrubs and plants along the foundation as well as shrubs and tree limbs touching the roofline. These circumstances can provide pests like rodents, wildlife, and even ants, a highway of access straight from your landscape and onto your home.
In a perfect scenario, there should be a clear path of at least 18" around the foundation of your home.Continue to 10 of 15 below.
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Don't Provide Pests With Food and Water in Your Yard
If there are food and water sources in your yard that pests can find, they will keep coming back. Think about reducing the following food and water sources when possible:
- An open compost pile
- Fruit trees that are dropping fruit
- Bird feeders
- Bird baths
- Irrigation hoses
Not all of these food and water sources are easily eliminated, but reducing and eliminating attractants is always a very important step in pest control.
For solutions, consider an enclosed compost space, pick up fruit that has dropped, move bird feeders and baths as far away from the house as possible, and try to time irrigation watering to mornings and not nights when nocturnal rodents and wildlife are seeking food and water.Continue to 11 of 15 below.
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Seal Your Home
This step starts with simply keeping doors and windows closed. Open doors and windows are an open invitation for pests to enter. If you need to leave the door or window open, make sure it has a working screen in place.
If you're already in the habit of keeping your doors and windows closed but pests are still getting in, make sure your home is adequately sealed by:
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- Repairing any moisture-damaged wood quickly to avoid pest infestation
- Checking that all door sweeps are undamaged and have a good seal against the ground
- Caulking any cracks or crevices around windows and doors
- Making sure there are no gaps around your eaves or foundation
- Ensuring all bird blocks and vents are in good, working order
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Have the Right Equipment
For at-home pest control, some of the most effective tools are the simplest.
A good quality flashlight is a pest control must, and if you can find one that is 250+ lumens, even better. If you can find one that clips to the bill of a hat, you'll be able to keep your hands free to work. A flashlight can be used to spot all kinds of activity, including trailing ants, rodent entry points, and potential bird activity (just to name a few).
Another pest pro favorite? A spider brush, known at the hardware store as a cobweb brush. This brush can be attached to a pole and used to remove not only spiders but also egg sacs and webs. This form of spider control is far more effective than spraying; not only are you removing adult spiders, but also future generations by removing their eggs. Spider brushing is an inexpensive, long-term solution for spider control around the home. For maximum reach, use an extending painter's pole.
When spider brushing, prioritize the following areas:
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- Along gutters
- Around window and doorframes
- Near exterior lights (just be careful not to knock the glass down!)
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Don't Overwater Your Plants
Whether your plants are inside or outside, avoid overwatering whenever you can. Overwatering your indoor plants can lead to a fungus gnat infestation inside. Fungus gnats love moist soil that's rich in organic material, and your potted houseplants are the perfect spot for them.
Outside, overwatering your plants can flush pests out of the soil and cause them to pop up inside, including pests like ants, earwigs, and clover mites.
Limited, targeted plant watering not only saves water but also saves you from the headache of unwanted pest activity inside.Continue to 14 of 15 below.
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Read Your Local Wildlife Laws
If you are attempting any type of wildlife control, including birds (pigeons, woodpeckers, etc.), raccoons, or bats, it might be better to call a professional.
While you could attempt to control these pests on your own, many states have laws that govern safe wildlife control and removal. Not only do you want to avoid illegally controlling a protected species, but it's also important to make sure you're handling wildlife in the safest way possible for you and your neighborhood.Continue to 15 of 15 below.
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Have a Pest Company You Trust on Speed Dial
Building a relationship with a local pest control company is a great idea whether you're concerned about general pests around your home or if you find yourself in the middle of a pest emergency.
While there are many pest control jobs that homeowners can handle solo, there are some jobs that may require professional help or at least a second opinion.
Unfortunately, there are lots of pest control companies out there just looking to spray some product and make a quick buck. Shop carefully and find a company that specializes in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). They will know how to approach pest problems using a science-backed approach that's the lowest risk to your loved ones and the environment.
Pest control isn't always easy, but it's often pretty simple to execute once you have a good plan of attack. Controlling and managing pests can be tricky because you're dealing with living organisms that want to come back again and again, but with the right know-how and some simple tools, pest control is totally achievable for even the most inexperienced beginner.
Entomology, Purdue Extension. Cockroaches.