Even the cleanest household can have the occasional unwanted visitors, but fortunately you don’t need a cloud of hazardous chemicals to get rid of pests like bugs and rodents. You can tackle the problem with some preventative maintenance combined with less toxic alternatives to nasty bug sprays and poisons.
Step One: Seal The Cracks
Keeping pests from entering in the first place is the best start. Seal cracks in wood framing and masonry, ensure window screens and door seals are tight, and consider mesh coverings for any vents or chimney openings that could provide easy access for invaders.
Gaps up to 3″ can be quickly and easily sealed with expanding spray foam. Fair enough, crack sealant can contain some nasty chemical components – but we think it’s a fair trade-off it it lets you avoid continued use of pesticides. Just be sure to use it with proper ventilation.
Dow Great Stuff Pro Gap & Crack Sealer, $9.48 at Amazon.
Step Two: Eliminate Their Motive
Pests don’t want to visit – they want food, and keeping a clean home cuts off their food source. Kitchens are prime targets, but also remember to address potential problems like pet food, rubbish, and pantry storage in garages and basements. And moisture can be just as big a draw for pests as food, so fix leaky pipes and beware of excess condensation from appliances.
Step Three: Fight Back
Peppermint Oil For Rodents
Peppermint oil is highly effective for deterring mice and rats, and as a nice bonus it adds a fresh, pleasant smell to a home. Sprinkle a few drops around suspected rodent entry points, or soak cotton balls and place them where needed.
Peppermint Oil by Now Foods (1-oz. bottle), $7.41 at Amazon.
Note: Pure peppermint oil, although a “natural” product, can actually be toxic. Don’t ingest it or leave it where pets or children could access it, and avoid getting large quantities on your skin.
Boric Acid/ Borax For Roaches
For roaches, any contact with the chemical boron is deadly – so boric acid pest-control products, or even common laundry products like Dial’s 20 Mule Team Borax work very well. Sprinkle a small amount of the powder in any traffic areas where roaches have been seen (under sinks, along wallboards, etc.). You can also use a plastic squeeze bottle to “puff” the powder into hard-to-reach spots.
20 Mule Team Borax from Dial (76-oz. box), $10.99 at Amazon.
Note: Although boric acid is less toxic than many common pest control chemicals, like many household cleaners it can be harmful if ingested. Don’t spread or store the powder where children or pets could encounter it, and don’t apply it around plants (it will alter soil chemistry and damage them).
Ultrasonic Pest Repellents
A variety of devices are available that claim to repel pests by emitting harmless ultrasonic waves. But do ultrasonic pest repellers work?
Many users report that these devices have been extremely effective in discouraging pests like mice and raccoons from trespassing indoors. But when it comes to their usefulness combating roaches, user reviews are mixed, and a 2006 study by researchers from Louisiana State University and Kansas State University found no evidence that ultrasonic waves were effective against cockroaches.
The bottom line: None of the Modern Enviro team have had occasion to test ultrasonic pest repellers firsthand (luckily!). But if we had mice in the basement or raccoons in the attic, would we try an ultrasonic device? Definitely. However, when it comes to creepy-crawlies like roaches or spiders, it seems you’re probably better off with other methods.
For convenient protection in a localized area, try a plug-in model like the Riddex Sonic Plus. The 3-pack allows wider coverage, and the side plug design means the outlet is still usable with the Riddex plugged in.
Riddex Sonic Plus Ultrasonic Pest Repeller, $27.97 at Amazon.
For maximum effectiveness over the area you’re trying to protect, a more powerful option is the Black & Decker EP1100-A Ultrasonic Pest Repeller. The compact unit varies sound levels and frequencies to prevent pests from acclimating to the sound levels.
You can find the Black & Decker EP1100-A Ultrasonic Pest Repeller at Amazon.
And For Outdoor Pests…
This obviously isn’t something you’d want to use inside your home, but the Havahart motion-sensor water sprayer is a great way to discourage outdoor wildlife from feasting on your plants or vegetables. When an animal enters your lawn or garden, a quick spray from the sprinkler head is a harmless but effective deterrent.
Havahart Motion-Sensor Water Sprayer, $49.97 at Amazon.
Have you tried any of these pest-control methods, or have you had luck with any other approaches? Leave a comment below and let us know.