How to Get Rid of Pests in the House
Preventative pest control
Whether you’ve lived in your home long term or you’re moving into a place that’s been vacant a while, there’s a chance you’ll have to deal with pests. Some you’ll see, like flies and ants, and others, like bed bugs and fleas, you may not. While many pests are simply a nuisance that you want to get rid of, some are more serious — causing damage and posing potential health hazards. Considering this, it’s wise to rid your home of those that are currently there, and take preventive measures to make sure they stay away.
DIY solutions for household pests
There are traditional methods of getting rid of pesky critters (like sprays, powders, traps, pest control companies, etc.), but in some cases, natural remedies, including essential oils, can serve as a safe alternative.
Getting rid of mice in your home
Mice are pests that fit in both the “can cause damage” and “health hazard” categories. Aside from chewing through fabric and burrowing in furniture, did you know that rodents can transmit the Hantavirus through their droppings and urine? This can be serious as it causes fever, aches and vomiting, and it can be fatal. If you’ve seen evidence of mice (gnawed holes in food packaging or droppings) or heard them scampering in walls or ceilings, it’s time to tackle the problem. If you’re just moving into a new home, it’s wise to treat for mice before moving in.
So how do you keep mice from getting into your home? Traditionally, a pest control company would use poison or spray deterrents, but this may not be viable option if you have children or pets. Instead, 100 % pure peppermint oil is a great natural remedy. Put at least 5 drops each on cotton balls, and place them where you suspect mice are (or could be) coming in. Then, to mask their pheromone trail, place the peppermint soaked cotton balls where they’ve been (look for droppings or other signs). Setting the soaked cotton balls in areas where you don’t want mice to explore, like a closet or kitchen, is another good deterrent. To keep them at bay, replace the cotton balls once a month. If they’ve already moved in and made nests, more traditional removal methods may be necessary.
How to get rid of fleas
Fleas are small, dark brown or reddish-brown thin bugs. They don’t fly, but they jump (which is how they get onto pets and then get carried into the home). You may not see fleas, but instead, notice bites on you or your pets. Fleas have been known to carry diseases like Bartonella or Lyme disease to both people and animals.
With a flea infestation, treat both the home and pets. While commercial pet washes and medications are available, natural flea killers are another option. Mix 5-7 drops of lemongrass, cedar wood or thyme essential oils with pet shampoo for an initial treatment, then mix one cup of water with the same amount of oil to make a spray. While these oils may smell wonderful to humans, fleas don't like the smell, so they act as a repellent. Treat pets every other day until their skin returns to normal.
*Check with your vet before using any treatment on pets
Traditional sprays, foggers and natural methods are available for treating inside the home. The natural approach includes vacuuming carpets, flooring, furniture and fabrics (empty the vacuum outside so fleas don’t remain inside), replacing all pet bedding, and spraying fabrics with a mixture of one cup distilled white vinegar and 3-5 drops of tea tree oil. If pets have been in your vehicle, be sure to treat the carpeting and fabric. To keep fleas from entering in the first place, spread diatomaceous earth (DE). It looks like talcum powder, but destroys the outer covering of the bugs, killing them on contact. DE is reportedly harmless to people and pets.
How to get rid of spiders
You may have seen spiders crawling around or evidence of them by finding webs in corners. Some are harmless, but some, like the brown recluse and hobo spiders, can bite like, leading to serious complications like infections, nausea and even organ failure. Spiders can live for several years as long as they have food or water (and they often feed on other pests), so if you’re moving into a home that’s been vacant a while, it’s a good idea to treat for them before moving in.
Insecticides deter and kill spiders, or go chemical free and use a vacuum hose attachment to suck them up (release them outside). Peppermint oil and cedar mulch have a strong smell that spiders don’t like, so a few drops of the oil mixed with a cup of water works as a spray to deter them indoors, and cedar mulch around the exterior does the same outside.
Getting rid of ants
Some species of ants bite or sting, but did you know they can also cause allergies or flair asthma symptoms? A single colony often has over 500,000 ants, so act quickly if they’re inside! Because ants normally come in looking for food, they usually won’t stay long in a completely empty home.
There are traditional sprays or chemical powders that eradicate ants, or consider essential oils for a natural ant repellent. Mix several drops of peppermint, clove, lemon or orange oils with water and spray around the home in areas where ants are found or where they would travel (like baseboards or windowsills). Using a mix containing tea tree oil is also recommended, but avoid using it on or around food surfaces because it can be toxic.
How to get rid of bed bugs
Bed bugs are flat and reddish-brown and are about the size of an apple seed. They stow away on fabric like clothing, bedding and luggage and spread quickly. It’s especially easy to pick them up while traveling, or they can live over a year inside a vacant home. You may notice the bites instead of the actual bugs — they look similar to mosquito bites. Look for them along the seams of mattresses and watch for skins or droppings on beds.
Bed bug proof your new home when moving in by using bed bug-proof covers for mattress and pillows and regularly clean all bedding. If you’re traveling, make sure you don’t bring bed bugs home by examining the hotel bed before staying in the room.
Bed bugs are often resistant to traditional chemical pesticides, so steam is a preferred method for getting rid of them. Use a steamer on mattresses, fabric furniture and carpets, and wash all fabrics and beddings in hot water then steam them dry.
Some essential oils will deter bed bugs but may be ineffective at killing them. Try mixing cedar, cinnamon, lemongrass, peppermint and/or clove oils into water and spraying them onto mattresses or luggage.
How to get rid of flies
Both house flies and fruit flies can invade and cause problems. House flies, in particular, are not only a nuisance, but they’re also known to cause health problems. Some carry diseases, bacteria and viruses that are transferred when they land.
Both types of flies come inside the home seeking food, so keeping surfaces clean and food put away is a deterrent. While flies can be controlled with traditional sprays, foggers and traps, they often leave behind unwanted residue. Create a more natural fly repellent by combining 5-10 drops of peppermint, lemongrass or citronella oil with water. Or create a natural fly trap by mixing water with half a cup of apple cider vinegar and a couple of drops of dish soap. The vinegar will draw them to the water, and the soap will trap them.
How to get rid of crickets
A cricket problem will probably be heard before it’s seen. They make a high-pitched chirping sound, mostly at night. Crickets eat everything from wallpaper and furniture to carpets — causing a lot of damage along the way. Chemical sprays and glue traps are traditional ways to control crickets, or natural traps are a good alternative. Place equal parts of molasses and water in a jar to fill it halfway. The molasses attracts them, and they’re trapped inside. Once you catch some crickets, empty and refill the jar. Essential oils are also a good solution. Mix one cup water with 5 drops of clove oil in a spray bottle, and spray to deter them.
Crickets are attracted to bright lights and moist environments, so turn off outdoor lights at night and control potential habitats. Keep crawl spaces and basements clean and dry, and remove piles of wood or leaves around the home’s exterior.
Stopping a ladybug infestation
Ladybugs are cute little bugs, but hundreds or thousands of them inside aren’t quite as precious. Not only are they annoying, but they can also leave a yellow stain on surfaces, damaging walls, furniture and fabrics. Upon moving in, check the attic for ladybugs, as they could be hibernating there during the cold season.
Ladybugs typically come into the home in the fall or winter seeking refuge from the cold. To deter them, seal cracks and holes around doors and windows, and replace any damaged screens. Sprays and foggers are used for quickly eradicating them, but it’s important to avoid using chemicals in the kitchen and near food-prep areas. The vacuum also works for ladybugs, just empty the canister outside. Some other alternatives are lighted traps or essential oils — make a spray out of one cup water and 5 drops of eucalyptus or lemon oil.
No more household pests
These DIY natural pests control options are good solutions for keeping pests out of your home and managing them if there’s already a pest problem. Have you had success with natural pest control methods? We would love to hear any personal experience! Share it with us in the comments below.