Non-Chemical Pest Control Methods

Ridding your home of pests by using chemicals may not only be dangerous to your own health, but futile as well.  If you spray your home with chemicals, but still make it attractive for bugs, they will come back — sometimes very quickly.  Some bugs, like fleas, may never completely leave.

You can make bugs unwelcome by controlling things they need in your house: access, food, habitats, and humidity levels.  Its not as hard as you may think.  Below are 5 strategies to control pests without chemical pesticides.

1. Food Cleanup and Storage

A. Store food in tightly sealed containers.

B. Clean food preparation surfaces and dishes after each use.  Keep kitchen area free of crumbs and organic waste.C. Store organic kitchen waste in tightfitting garbage containers or plastic bags that can be closed at night.  Rinse and drain food containers before disposal.  Store recyclable paper bags and newspapers in a plastic bag away from moisture, and clean and dry recyclable glass and cans before storage.  Remove trash daily from house.

D. Keep outdoor trash cans away from house (30 feet if possible) and clean both indoor and outdoor cans regularly.

E. Empty grease and condensation pans regularly. Clean stove exhaust fan filter regularly.

F. Keep mops and brooms away from exterior doors and windows, places near heat and moisture, and kitchen area.  Clean them after each use.  Designate a broom for outdoor use only.  Mop buckets should be dry before storage.

G. Pour boiling water down the drain once a week.


2. Exclusion Techniques

A. Caulk the interior house thoroughly anywhere there is a noticeable crack or crevice: in the floor, wall, baseboards, and cabinets.  Caulk the exterior holes as well, such as around window air conditioners and under the eaves.

B. Screen vent pipes and chimneys with 16 mesh-per-inch hardware cloth.  Screen frequently used windows and doors with 28 mesh-per-inch hardware cloth.  Maintain an absolute seal around door and windows with weatherstripping, caulk, etc.  Make sure plumbing and electrical entrances are sealed as well.

C. Fix air grills and seal holes in attics and basements.

D. Place screening behind air ducts.

3. Home Cleaning and Maintenance

A. Clean and dust house thoroughly.  Vacuum drapes and under furniture.

B. Fix leaks in roof and plumbing to eliminate wood rotting, mildew, and humidity.

C. Ventilate home by opening windows.  If the bathroom or kitchen is too humid, install vents.

D. If the house is pier and beam, add (screened) vents.

E. Remove bird nests, wasp nests, and spider webs from eaves of house.  Keep roof gutters clean.

F. Paint and varnish exterior wood.

4. Yard Maintenance

A. Many insects eat rotting organic debris like limbs and trees.  Rodents use dry limbs for shelter.  Maintaining a minimum 6 foot band around the house raked and cleared of organic debris will help deter bugs.

B. Eliminate standing water.  Correct grading by filling the low areas in a lawn.

C. Clear debris, including scraps of wood, from under sheds and crawl spaces.  (This is one way to deter termites.)  Store onsite lumber away from the house.

D. Trim tree and shrub branches away from the house.

E. Encourage natural predators like purple martins, bats, and praying mantises.  (Install a martin or bat house.)

F. Clean up after you picnic or barbecue outdoors.

G. Yellow bulbs should be used for outdoor lighting, as it attracts fewer insects.

5. Pets

A. Store pet food in tightly sealed containers away from heat and moisture.  Take away food after the pet finishes eating.  Water should not be left out overnight in regular dishes.  But if you must, place the water in a pan filled with dishwater.  This will deter roaches, but not mice and rats.  There are ant-proof dishes available, such as Mote™.

B. Clean litter box daily.

C. To deal with fleas, have pet sleep in the same area each night and vacuum frequently.  Place vacuum bag in the sun for several hours (or alternatively the freezer) to kill the vacuumed fleas.

D. Collect and bury pet excrement 2 to 7 times a week.

Drawings by John Dolley 

© Paul Robbins/Environmental Directory

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