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How To Get Rid Of Bugs In The House WITHOUT Using Pesticides

These solutions are easy to find and effective at getting rid of (and even preventing!) pests.

Are creepy crawlies coming over without an invitation?

Pests are part of life, sure, but that doesn’t mean we have to live with them.

Get to know the most common unwanted visitors, then try these easy, natural pest control solutions to send critters packing – ideally, without resorting to an exterminator or pest control services.

If you’ve got the fortitude to make it to the end of our list of things that go bump or buzz in the night, scroll down to find out how to prevent them from setting up house (translation: your house) in the first place.

Without further ado, here’s how to get rid of bugs in the house without using pesticides! 

Ants

Attracted to food debris (or sometimes just water), you’ll know if you have an ant problem because – be they teeny or huge, red or black – they’ll come marching on through. Cracks in your foundation or vegetation near entry points also entice ants to explore.

How to prevent them: Spray a vinegar solution (mix three parts of vinegar and one part water) around the perimeter of your home to stop ants from parading in.

How to get rid of them: Sprinkle talc powder, cayenne pepper or diatomaceous earth near the source of the ants and along their trail. Citrus fruits are a natural source of limonene – something ants, flies and mosquitoes detest. Grind or dice orange peels and leave them nearby; replace with fresh peels once they’re dried. If it comes down to it, pour boiling water down into their nests.

Flying Ants

In late spring and summer (depending on your hemisphere), these mature ants of all different species are on a mission to mate. They rarely come indoors, so if you do see one, it’s probably a fluke. These guys are biters, though, so should you see a swarm, check your home for a possible infestation.

How to prevent them: As with most insect nuisances, you’re going to want to eliminate their food sources and seal up any cracks – think windows, walls and baseboards – that could be granting them access indoors.

How to get rid of them: If you see one roaming about your home, dispense with it as you choose. If we’re talking about a swarm, call pest control, pronto!

Book Lice

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While their small, grayish, flat shape resembles head lice, book lice aren’t actually lice. Though harmless, these insects can be a nuisance. They thrive in warm, dark, damp environments; as the name suggests, they often feed on the glue of book bindings, not to mention mould and mildew.

They may also infest dried, starchy foods that have been exposed to humidity. Book lice may surface in moist spots where mould isn’t even visible, like walls, floors and houseplants.

How to prevent them: Aim for dry, well-ventilated spaces, in the kitchen and pantry especially, which are inhospitable to egg-laying.

How to get rid of them: Try to reduce the moisture in the areas where the book lice are present by running the air conditioning, vacuuming frequently and airing them out as much as possible. Clean out cabinets and drawers, and make sure food is stored in air-tight containers.

Centipedes

Long, flat and extremely leggy, centipedes live a solitary life in damp indoor spots. They hunt for even worse pests around your house, which is both the good and the bad news if you’re graced with their presence.

How to prevent them: Remove all the things they like – moisture, humidity, clutter and food (i.e., other insects and spiders). Seal off points of entry around doors, windows and baseboards.

How to get rid of them: Thoroughly clean the dank spots they thrive in, like basements, attics and bathrooms. Then get rid of any potential habitats. Vaccuum centipedes right up.

Cockroaches

With their small heads, long antennae and broad, flat bodies, roaches are as commonplace as they are lightning quick. Their presences doesn’t mean your place is dirty – truly, these prehistoric guys thrive just about anywhere.

They can spread bacteria that causes asthma and other allergic reactions, and their dead bodies and droppings contain chemicals that act as a road map for other cockroaches to come find food and water. Lovely.

How to prevent them: Discourage roaches by removing food sources and possible habitats (piles of newspaper/magazines, rags). Seal gaps around windows and in walls and floors.

How to get rid of them: Feed these persistent pests a mixture of sugar or cornstarch and boric acid. The former keeps the mix moist and sweet-smelling, while the latter poisons them by dehydration.

Scatter it around the counters, cabinets or crevices where roaches lurk, leave it overnight and clean it in the morning. You can also mix a capful of liquid fabric softener with half a cup of water in a spray bottle for homemade insecticide.

Vacuum up cockroaches with a cleaner that has a HEPA filter to avoid spreading allergens, and dispose with care, or wipe up their carcasses with a damp cloth (avoid direct contact). Clean surface with warm, soapy water and baking soda, then with disinfectant.

Dust Mites

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Not insects but arachnids, mites subsist on human or animal skin flakes that accumulate on bedding, carpeting and upholstery. These microscopic creatures multiply by the thousands in warm, humid conditions. Dust mites are the most common cause of allergies to household dust.

How to prevent them: First, keep things dry, either with a dehumidifier, moisture absorbers or professional help, as large areas of mould can make you very sick. Wash your bedding once a week in very hot water (at least 55 degrees C) to kill the mites and their eggs; dry bedding in a hot dryer or under direct sunlight.

Buy dust-mite covers for your pillows and mattresses, and keep dust collectors (baskets, soft furnishings, stuffed animals) to a minimum.

How to get rid of them: This is tough to do when you can’t even see them with the naked eye. Practice prevention and, if needed, bring in a pro.

Fruit flies

These wee gourmands are very small flies that descend onto delicacies like rotting fruits, veggies and fermenting liquids.

How to prevent them: Get rid of empty cans and bottles quickly, and check for decaying foods.

How to get rid of them: Make a DIY fly trap with apple cider vinegar – fruit flies can’t resist the smell of anything fermenting. Fill a shallow dish with an inch of ACV and a tablespoon of sugar. Add some fruit-scented dish soap if you’ve got it.

You can leave the dish uncovered, or tightly cover it with plastic wrap and poke a few holes to attract the flies.

Lizards

Lizards help control the population of other insects such as mosquitoes and spiders, but they’re still a source of psychological terror for many humans.

How to prevent them: Keep lizards out of your house by removing food sources and soft, dry, warm habitats. Seal gaps around windows, too. Sprinkle around egg shells and garlic cloves (or spray garlic juice and water) – lizards can’t stand those smells.

How to get rid of them: If you’ve got some, er, expired lizards on your hands, pick them up pronto with a cloth and dispose with care. Then clean the surface with warm water, soap and baking soda before wiping down the whole area again with disinfectant.

Mice, Rats and Other Rodents

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While ostensibly the cutest creatures on this list, mice and rats can carry icky diseases, often right into our food-prep spaces. Precisely no one wants to hear their scratching, nibbling or scurrying in the middle of the night, either.

How to prevent them: Add 10 to 15 drops of peppermint essential oil to cotton balls and lay them around the house, particularly near holes where you suspect mice are entering. The smell of peppermint is too overwhelming for these little furballs. Refresh every week or so, or when you notice the smell is fading.

Seal over entry points with steel wool and quick-set cement. Clear out tantalising waste where rodents may want to nest. Store food neatly and securely.

How to get rid of them: Rat traps baited with appealing foods like chocolate and raisins are one option. Professional help is another.

Mosquitoes

These disease-hosting blood suckers can present an itchy, ever-present nuisance in warm, damp and tropical climates.

How to prevent them: In plant, candle or stick form, citronella is a top-pick repellant. (In a garden, cut the citronella plant’s leaves from time to time and crush them to release their mozzie-nauseating aroma.)

Other naturally repellent plants and their essential oils include lavender, lemon balm, rosemary, basil and orange. Grow them in pots on your balcony or by the door.

Screened windows will prevent entry; check for and patch any tears.

How to get rid of them: Standing-water breeding sites, like bird baths and gutters, should be cleaned out regularly. In fact, mosquito mamas need only a bottle cap-sized body of water to lay their eggs.

Try a bug zapper in your outdoor gathering spots, as well as neem oil- and citronella-based bug sprays.

Silverfish

These slinky insects resemble fish both in their metallic color and flexible contortions. They can live up to eight years in the shelter and abundance your house provides. While not posing much of a threat, admittedly they can be capital-C-creepy.

How to prevent them: Dust often. Get rid of anything with tasty adhesives on it, like shipping boxes and envelopes. Make your home as well-sealed and as dehumidified as possible. Keep crumbs off the floor and foods cut off from moisture with air-tight containers.

How to get rid of them: Cedar oil and dried, crushed bay leaves repel silverfish. Sticky traps are another way to round ’em up – make your own by putting a starchy food or substance in a glass container, then wrap the outside with tape. Silverfish can get in but not out.

Termites

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Arguably the most harmful of all the common pests, termites can wreak total havoc on wood and unknowingly cause permanent damage under floors and behind walls. They seek dark, damp spaces, so the wooden portions of our homes make for their ideal abode. It can be difficult to detect termite damage until you have a full-blown outbreak.

How to prevent them: Wood needs to stay dry, so keep shutters, windows and siding well maintained. Keep your sprinkler, soil, lumber and shrubbery as far from your house’s foundation as you can.

How to get rid of them: As soon as you see damage to wood (what looks like small wood shavings), contact pest control. Termites are tough to get rid of, plus, it’s hard to assess the full scope of the damage to your property without a professional’s trained eye.

Flying Termites

Generally harmless, flying termites don’t bite or chew wood because during this stage of their life, they’re swarming to mate and form new colonies – this is the only time you’ll see termites flying. After the deed is done, their wings drop, the males die and the females burrow in mud or other warm, damp areas to lay eggs. They’re commonly seen during hot and humid seasons, especially after it rains.

How to prevent them: During the spring especially, when they’re most active, eliminate moisture (seal up leaky water sources like pipes and gutters) and remove their food (plant/tree debris, mulch and paper).

How to get rid of them: Extremely attracted to light, flying termites swarm under streetlights and your home’s fluorescents. Hang a bug zapper at your window, or try this trick: Hold a pail of water about 10 cm. away from the swarm at a light source. The bright reflection on the water should attract the termites, drowning them. You will have to hold it up for a while, but it works magnificently. Spill your termite soup down the drain after about 30 minutes.

Weevils

These small, dark insects are part of the beetle family. They love to burrow in dried rice and pasta and can chew right through paper and plastic.

How to prevent them: It’s all about A+ food storage here, so check your cupboards and pantry, and sift through grains coming home from the market before you store them in your kitchen. If possible, store your dried grains in the freezer, as this kills the eggs. No space for for permanent freezer storage? Keep them in there for 3 days after purchase before moving them out in a glass, air-tight container.

How to get rid of them: Toss the contaminated foods immediately, then do a thorough pantry clean out and dispose of any food not stored properly. Vacuum counters and cabinets and wipe them down with white vinegar.

4 tips to prevent pests in the first place

1. Take out the trash regularly

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When you leave your trash bins lingering outside, you’re helping pests come indoors. Get in the habit of taking the trash out every night, disposing of raw food waste right away, then bringing the bins right back in.

2. Clean your sink

You’d be surprised at how easily insects can crawl up your drainage pipe. Every time you wash plates and let leftover food find its way into your drainage pipe, you’re serving pests a buffet. Cleanse the pipe by pouring half a cup of baking soda and half a cup of vinegar to dissolve leftover food particles, then rinse with boiling water.

3. Wipe down your counter tops

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Make it a point to clean your kitchen countertops and stove every night to keep food particles from accumulating. This way, pests don’t have a reason to come in.

4. Get pest-control netting

Magnetic pest control nets keep tiny critters on their side of the window. This way, you can still get fresh air without worrying about what’s wandering into your home.

Some text adapted from Home & Decor, December 2016 to May 2020 (various articles); The Singapore Women’s Weekly, July 2016 / Last updated by Brooke Glassberg

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