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Non-Toxic Pest Control at Home

By Laura Bourland Rise Writer
Jun 19, 2020

There is nothing worse than opening your kitchen pantry and finding a horde of cockroaches scrambling into the hidden nooks and corners where you store your food. Besides being simply disgusting, cockroaches also represent a serious health threat. They carry diseases that can cause typhoid fever, polio, and even dysentery. While ants generally do not pose any health threat to humans, ants in the kitchen will inevitably find their way into places where you store food. Termites can compromise your home's structure if you are unlucky enough to have a sizeable infestation.

When cockroaches, ants, or other common household pests are found, the first reaction of many homeowners is to purchase a can of Baygon or other common pesticides. However, spraying strong chemicals on your kitchen counter, in your pantry, and in other areas of your home should raise eyebrows for health-minded individuals. In this article, we look at some of the potential environmental and health problems associated with using pesticides in the house. Then, we offer a variety of ideas for pesticide-free control of pests at home.

Table of Contents

  1. Problems with Pesticides,The Importance of Prevention
  2. Already Have Pest Problems? Take Action Right Away
  3. Managing Pests at Home with Non-Toxic Pest Control
  4. Store-bought Non-Toxic Pest Control Sprays and Powders
  5. DIY Non-Toxic Pest Control Sprays and Powders
  6. Non-Toxic Pest Control Strategies for Ants, Fleas, Bedbugs & Cockroaches
  7. Non-Toxic Pest Control Strategies for Flies, Wasps & Moths
  8. Non-Toxic Pest Control Strategies for Spiders
  9. Non-Toxic Pest Control Strategies for Mice and Rats
  10. Non-Toxic Pest Control Is Possible
spray bottle

Problems with Pesticides

Many of the most common household pesticide products contain organophosphorus chlorpyrifos as one of the active ingredients. While this ingredient is certainly effective at killing insects, it is also known to cause health problems for humans, mainly through negatively affecting the central nervous system.

Another common active ingredient in over-the-counter pest control products is the several types of pyrethroids. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) finds that pyrethroids can interfere with the way that the nerves and brain function. They can also cause feelings of numbness, itching, burning, and stinging on the skin. In terms of environmental impact, any type of chemical insecticide use can have ecological effects.

Pesticides can contaminate soil and water sources. They also tend to indiscriminately affect beneficial insects such as bees and other pollinators, which are essential parts of any ecosystem. Even when used in the home, chemical insecticides may take a long time to break down and can negatively affect the ecosystem around your home.

If you go to the store looking for a pest management solution, you'll probably find an abundance of toxic chemicals. These are extremely dangerous if kids or pets come in contact with them. Luckily, there are dozen of non-toxic pest control options to deter critters and get rid of any that may already be crawling around your house. 

The Importance of Prevention

In most cases, pesticide use can be entirely avoided through proper preventative measures. Like all live creatures, insects need to eat to live and move toward areas where food is present. 

Following strict preventive measures can help to avoid, and also get rid of pest problems without relying on pesticides. Commercial, LEED-certified buildings have to abide by strict indoor air quality requirements and are a great example for the industry. This means that building managers need to follow a lengthy and extensive protocol, focusing on preventive measures before ever resorting to pesticide use for a pest infestation problem.

cleaner spray bottles

How to Proactively Prevent Pest Problems 

Here are a few tips that will tell pests they are not welcome in your home:

  • Clean up spills and messes as soon as they happen
  • When cleaning, move furniture, shelves, appliances, and other objects to clean under and around them
  • Regularly check for spills and crumbs behind the refrigerator and other hidden spots
  • Keep all food (dog food, too!) in airtight sealed containers, bags or bins
  • Make sure indoor compost, trash, and recycling bins have tight-fitting lids
  • Cockroaches like humid areas to reproduce. Keep your home well ventilated and free from humidity and dampness to discourage them from staying
  • Immediately fix any leaks in your kitchen or bathroom sinks to keep bugs away from these prime breeding grounds
  • Cover up any cracks and crevices around your home, which are entryways for all types of bugs
  • Keep firewood outside
  • Dump any standing water after rain and after watering your plants
  • Another great way to deter pests is to grow herb gardens around the outside edges of your house, especially in problem locations where pests have gotten in before. Most people love the strong scent of fresh herbs, but most pests find them too strong and will stay away. 
fresh herb garden
Photo Credit: planetnatural.com

Try growing these herbs in around the edges of your house to deter pests:

  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Lemongrass

Love pets? Cats are natural mice deterrents. An outside cat is an effective way to send rodents running. Already have an inside cat? Consider letting him/her outside every so often. Of course, if you're building a new home or adding on, that is the perfect time to put in a little extra proactive pest control. An airtight home is naturally more pest-proof than an older home with holes, cracks, and outdated fixtures.

Already Have Pest Problems? Take Action Right Away

The moment you find that first sign of pests inside your home is the moment you need to take action. The earlier you tackle the problem, the easier it'll be to rid your home of the intruders. Once in, they may breed and create an even bigger problem.

If the problem is already too big or you don't have the time or energy to act right away, call a professional. When you make the call, but sure to ask about their non-toxic options. 

If you have bed bugs in your mattress, you can either find a professional mattress cleaning service or dispose of the old mattress. Several organizations help make safe mattress disposal easy.

Environmentally Aware Pest Control Companies

There is an increasing number of pest control companies that are specialists in minimizing dependence on chemical pesticides to rid your home of pest problems. LEED Certified Buildings rely on these companies to resolve pest issues safely. For example, Heart's Pest Management company, in Southern California, offers green pest control methods that are compliant with LEED-certified buildings. 

Green Shield Certification

Another way to search for pest control companies that offer integrated pest management strategies is to look for businesses that have received Green Shield certification. This certification requires companies to apply effective non-chemical strategies first and pesticides only when necessary. Baits and traps must be used instead of more toxic sprays. The only pesticides allowed are those that have been screened and approved by the Green Shield Certified non-profit organization. You can find a list of Green Shield Certified pest control companies here.

Managing Pests at Home with Non-Toxic Pest Control

If you catch the pest problem early, it doesn't take much time or effort to manage it yourself. When you carry out your pest control, you can be 100% certain you're using non-toxic solutions that are safe even if your dog licks it or your toddler gets her hands on it.

Whether store-bought or homemade, the following pest management sprays and powder solutions will deter most pests, including ants, fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches, flies, wasps, hornets, moths, and spiders.

Diatomaceous Earth made by PF Harris
Diatomaceous Earth. Photo Credit: PF Harris

Store-bought Non-Toxic Pest Control Sprays and Powders

Diatomaceous Earth

This fine powder, made from fossilized algae, is the ultimate non-toxic pest management solution. It can be sprinkled on windowsills, carpets, furniture, and even directly on pests.

Don't Bug Me Spray

Don't Bug Me Spray is made from chrysanthemum flowers and won't harm humans, pets, or the environment. Just spray it wherever the pests are getting in.

Orange Guard

Orange Guard is made from orange peels. This liquid solution spray is great for the pantry, on countertops, windowsills, and even pet bedding.

Mouse Magic

Mouse Magic is a ready-made essential oil spray. It contains peppermint and spearmint oil and will work on all types of pests; mice included.


EcoRaider offers a large variety of products for pests ranging from bed bugs to cockroaches and ants. Their Roach Killer and Repellant made from geraniol, cedar extract, and sodium lauryl sulfate, which can be derived from coconut or palm oils.

lemon spray

DIY Non-Toxic Pest Control Sprays and Powders

Vinegar Spray

Mix 2 cups of water with 1 cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle. Shake and then spray wherever pests are a problem.

Essential Oil Spray

This spray can be sprayed anywhere inside the house, and it will make your house smell good, too! Mix 2 cups of water with 50 drops of essential oil like peppermint, spearmint, basil, lavender, or lemon. Feel free to mix oils to create a unique scent like basil lavender or lemon basil.

Garlic Spray

Mix 2 cups of water with 2-4 cloves of crushed garlic or garlic oil in a spray bottle and apply where needed.

Soap Spray

Mix 2 cups of water and ¼ cup of soap flakes from a bar of regular hand soap. Spray liberally on windowsills, door frames, and wherever pests are getting in.

Magic Powder

Mix equal parts baking soda and powdered sugar in a bag. Seal and shake. Lightly sprinkle the powder on windowsills and countertops where pests persist. Be sure to clean it up when the problem subsides. 


Non-Toxic Pest Control Strategies for Ants, Fleas, Bedbugs & Cockroaches

Once you've tackled the source, be it from cracks, pets, or messes, be sure to clean around the area where the pests were found thoroughly. They may have spread out onto carpeting, curtains, furniture, and other fabrics nearby. Anything infested with bugs should be cleaned or removed to fix the pest problem completely. Finally, apply a spray or powder (like those mentioned above) to deter them from coming back.


Non-Toxic Pest Control Strategies for Flies, Wasps & Moths

In the warmer months, flies, wasps, and moths often find their way inside our homes. If these flying pests bother you, your first line of defense is to secure your window screens and avoid leaving doors open. 

Next, find out what they're attracted to. Fruit flies are aptly named for their love of ripe, sweet fruit, and fruit-topped desserts. Be sure any produce or sweets left out are covered or sealed. Or better yet, move them to the refrigerator. You'll also want to check that your garbage, compost, and recycling bins are all sealed tightly. 

Regardless of how neat and clean your house is, flies, wasps, and moths may find your home more attractive than the great outdoors. Luckily, there are several non-toxic products (store-bought and homemade) that can help.

Store-Bought Traps for Flies, Wasps, and Moths

  • Fly swatters are a tried and true solution for tackling flying pests at the moment. Bonus: they can be purchased for under $1!
  • The Monterey Indoor Fly Trap is a sticky "L" shaped paper that can be attached to window and door frames.
  • Natural Catch Fruit Fly Traps are low maintenance, non-toxic vinegar-based traps that can be placed anywhere in your home.

Easy DIY Traps for Flies, Wasps, and Moths

  • Eucalyptus Oil can be dabbed on cloth strips or cotton balls. It can be left on windowsills, countertops, and along your baseboards to repel flying pests naturally.
  • A lemon halved and studded with cloves is a fly trap that works great and smells even better.
  • Citronella candles can be burnt inside the house, allowing smoke to waft around and deter flying pests.
  • Citrus peels can be saved from snacks and cooking, placed in a cloth bag, and left on windowsills or countertops.
  • A venus flytrap is an attractive houseplant that naturally traps flies.
  • DIY flypaper takes just a few hours to make. Bring 1 cup of corn syrup and 1 cup of water to a boil. Soak strips of a brown paper bag or cardboard in the solution for 4+ hours. Let them dry and then hang them up to catch those flying pests naturally. 

Non-Toxic Pest Control Strategies for Spiders

Some spiders can be incredibly beneficial in trapping other pests, but many people are afraid of these 8-legged insects. To remove them, find their entry point and seal it. Any spiders that are already inside can be quickly and safely moved outside on a piece of paper. 

You can buy a ready-made crawling trap like the Terro Insect & Spider Trap. Or you could use any of the non-toxic sprays mentioned above. Some research indicates that lemon, peppermint, and chestnut repel some species of spiders, so do your research and try these options as a last resort.

Catch and Release Humane House Trap made by PF Harris
Catch and Release Humane House Trap. Photo Credit: PF Harris

Non-Toxic Pest Control Strategies for Mice and Rats

Mice and rats are probably your least favorite pest to deal with as they can be quite large and fast. Again, the first thing to do is to seal up those entry points. Next, either hire a professional exterminator or try these at-home solutions.

Store-Bought Mousetraps

  • Snap traps are tried and true and will trap and kill your rodent guests with just a little bit like a piece of cheese or a dab of peanut butter.
  • Sticky boards can be placed in problem areas to freeze rodents as they scurry about, but this trap might be considered inhumane as the mouse is stuck in place while still alive.
  • Catch and release traps are more humane as they capture the mouse or rat so you can safely set him free outside.
  • The Ultrasonic Pest Chaser produces a sound that humans and pets can't hear, but mice certainly can.

Easy DIY Mouse and Rat Deterrents

  • Corncob bags can be made at home by combining three cubs of corncob bedding with 1 oz of balsam fir oil in a cloth bag. Then leave them near the mouse entry point(s) to naturally deter mice and rats from entering.
  • Kitty litter is an excellent, natural deterrent whether or not you have a cat. 
  • Onions and garlic are strong odors that rodents don't like. Proudly display yours in pretty baskets or braid and hang in your kitchen to ward off potential rodents.
Sitting on Couch in clean house

Non-Toxic Pest Control Is Possible

Whether you live in the country or the city, pests can always find a way into your home. Keeping a clean home is the number one way to deter pests from making a home of your house. If you do come across pests, try any of these non-toxic options to remove them without harming your loved ones.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-10T05:51:53+0000
Laura Bourland

Article by:

Laura Bourland

Laura grew up in the California suburbs, far removed from environmentalism, but nature always has a way. She uprooted her life in 2015, moving to the countryside of Washington to live a more sustainable and simple life on 12 acres. She and her fiancee are learning on the job as they attempt everything from gardening and natural pest control to eco-friendly building and home improvement.