do-it-yourself-pest-control
Home Energy Savings | August 15, 2017

DIY: How to get rid of cockroaches, mice and other pests in your home

Any pests in your home are cause for concern. They’re annoying, could bite and spread diseases, and they can damage your house. Fortunately, there are some home pest control methods designed for prevention, and others that will fix a current problem.

If you’re interested in avoiding harsh chemicals found in commercial pesticides, these DIY home pest control methods might do the trick instead:

Natural remedies for home pest control:

  1. Use a one-part vinegar and one-part water solution for cleaning. By wiping down your countertops and other surfaces every time you use them, you can rid your kitchen of odors or food particles that could be attractive to bugs.
  2. Use a trash can with a lid. An open garbage can has a smell if you’re tossing food garbage, no matter how small. And, even if you don’t smell it, the pests do. A secure lid will help to make your trash smells less enticing.
  3. Clean your recyclables. Most recycling companies require that food containers are rinsed before recycling, but even if yours doesn’t, you can do it, anyway. Especially if it’s something like a peanut butter jar or other container that has strong food smell, it’s a good idea to wash with soapy water, or let it soak for a bit, in order to get those scents out.
  4. Store your dry goods in sealed containers. Never leave cereal, pasta, crackers, or other dry foods open.
  5. Clean the sink drain. If you use a garbage disposal and are accustomed to dumping food scraps into the sink, make sure to grind the food as it goes down so that there isn’t food waste sitting in the sink. As well, routinely clean the drain with ½ cup baking soda and ½ cup vinegar to keep it clear and prevent food smells from building up.

getting-rid-of-mice-mosquitoes-ants

DIY natural pest control remedies for ants

If you’re concerned about the harmful effects of pesticides, especially on children or pets, there are some natural home pest control methods that could be effective. Ants can be a big problem, regardless of where you live, so let’s take a look at some natural ways to get rid of ants in your home:

  1. Peppermint oil. There are various ways to use peppermint essential oils to rid your home of ants. Bob Vila recommends two to three tablespoons of peppermint oil, mixed with a quart of water, and spraying the mixture around the ants’ points of entry. Another method is to wipe the baseboards or entry points with a few drops of peppermint oil on a cotton ball.
  2. Cucumber. Did you know that ants hate the smell of cucumber? If you have a few peels or gratings handy, place them near an ant infestation and they will head on out.
  3. Apple cider vinegar. Ants hate this, too. A spray of one part water with one part apple cider vinegar will repel ants coming into your home. Apply every day for a few days if you see an infestation, and do it a few extra days just to be on the safe side until the ants are gone.

There are other methods to get rid of ants without pesticides, and while they are still “natural”, they could carry some risk if you have small children who might put things in their mouths. Some people use borax, or boric acid, for home pest control. If you sprinkle borax where the ants are, the chemical erodes the waxy surface on the insect’s skin and it will dehydrate and die. In order to “bait” the insects to the borax trap, though, you likely have to mix the powder with something sweet like honey or powdered sugar. By doing that, you could attract other kinds of pests (like rodents), so be careful if that’s your technique.

Still, while borax or boric acid might not have the level of risk that you would find in commercial pesticides, ingesting it can cause nausea, vomiting, throat swelling and other serious issues. Home pest control remedies that involve borax or boric acid would be best for cracks, behind appliances, out of reach of children or pets, and not near food surfaces.

How to get rid of mosquitoes inside the house

If you live in the southern portion of the U.S., or even in the northeast, mosquitoes can be a big problem. Years ago, mosquitoes were seen as merely a nuisance — aside from the buzzing if one got into your house, a bite would be an itchy annoyance for a few days. With concerns about the Zika and West Nile viruses on the rise, everyone wants to do whatever they can to control the mosquito population. How to get rid of mosquitoes inside the house can be challenging, so the best method is to start by controlling them outside.

Eliminate standing water. The egg, larva and pupa stages of a mosquito life cycle happen in four to 14 days. Therefore, any water that remains stagnant for four days or longer is ripe for mosquito breeding. Eliminating breeding sites is the best way to reduce the mosquito population in your yard.

Here are some tips for getting rid of standing water:

  • Remove objects that could collect water (buckets, sandboxes, bird baths, empty flowerpots, etc.)
  • Place a screen over rain barrels.
  • If you have a pond, use a pump or fountain to aerate the water.
  • If you do have standing water in bird baths, pools, etc., replace the water every few days, or at least once a week.

Herbs and plants as mosquito control. There are certain herbs and flowers that are believed to create inhospitable environments for mosquitoes, whether because the pests dislike the smell, taste, or for other reasons. These herbs and flowers are commonly used for mosquito control:

  • Peppermint
  • Citronella (which includes lemongrass and lemon verbena)
  • Geranium
  • Marigold
  • Cloves
  • Cedar
  • Eucalyptus
  • Rosemary
  • Tansy
  • Lavender
  • Anise
  • Wormwood
  • Catnip

You can use these herbs or flowers in “mosquito pots”; simply plant a few combinations of the herbs listed above in small pots and place them strategically around your yard or home. You can also use dried versions of these herbs to make mosquito-repellent potpourri that you could place by entryways, a pool deck, barbecue, or just on an outdoor table while you’re dining. Making your home smell uninviting to them is one method to get rid of mosquitoes inside the house.

You can also place a few drops of essential oils on a cotton cloth and throw it in the dryer with your clothes. It will add a little natural repellent as you wear your clothes, and you don’t need to apply anything directly to your skin!

DIY: How to get rid of cockroaches in your home

Most of us can probably agree that cockroaches are gross. Even if you’re pretty pest-tolerant, there are lots of reasons why you definitely don’t want cockroaches in your home. For one thing, they contaminate food and can spread bacteria that causes food poisoning. For another, one cockroach could produce several thousand offspring in a year, so once you have them, they’re very hard to get rid of.

If you do suspect that you have an infestation, here’s how to get rid of cockroaches in your home:

  1. Put food and food waste in sealed containers. Roaches love food and moisture. As mentioned above, keeping trash cans sealed with a lid and making sure that your dry food is in closed containers will reduce access to what they need.
  2. Caulk and seal any cracks or holes. Do a visual inspection of your exterior walls and foundation, especially if you have an idea as to where they might be entering from. If you can find tiny cracks or holes, use a sealant such as caulk to close them.
  3. Use glue traps. Glue traps can be effective in moist areas behind refrigerators, in bathroom vanities, near plumbing, or anywhere that you think cockroaches are entering.
  4. Dust boric acid into cracks or crevices. If you’re able to use it safely, this will poison cockroaches when they consume it.
  5. Coat diatomaceous earth over cockroach hiding places. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is non-toxic to humans and pets and kills cockroaches on contact. You could sprinkle a thin layer near any areas where you think they might be entering or living.

DIY: How to get rid of mice

Mice are among the most common non-insect pests that can invade your home. Even if you don’t have an “invasion,” just a few can cause a lot of trouble. But, first, they’re sneaky little critters. They’re not about to just come out of hiding when a human walks by and make their presence known.

How do you know if you have mice in your home?

  1. Food debris. Mice are scavengers. They will chew through cardboard or even plastic bags to get to food, and that includes dog food or bird seed (in addition to human food). You might see tiny teeth marks in boxes, or other evidence that your food packages have been tampered with. As well, they might leave crumbs or other debris behind. Sometimes, though, they “steal” the food and take it back to their nests, so the crumbs might be more obvious by a nesting spot than by the food storage area.
  2. Feces. Get to know what mouse droppings look like — they are very small, oblong pellets that are usually pointed at one end. You might see them on floors, countertops or inside cabinets, if it’s a travel area for mice.
  3. Sounds. If you hear scratching in the walls or running sounds at night, focus on the areas where you hear it. There could be a nest somewhere in that vicinity.
  4. Nesting space. Mice often enter a home when the weather starts to cool in the fall. They want a warm spot to sleep and birth babies. If you see a spot in your basement or attic where the insulation has been disturbed or other debris looks awry, it could be a sign that mice are nesting.
  5. Traffic patterns. Mice use specific travel patterns. You might be able to spot dirt under ceiling joists or on the walls where they’ve been.

Pro tip: If you hear or see mice only at night, it’s possible that the mouse population in your home is still small and manageable. If you begin seeing them during the day, that could be an indicator that you have a large mouse problem and you might want to call a pest control professional.

How to get rid of mice in the walls

If you are pretty confident that you have a mouse problem but you want to try to manage it on your own without bringing in a home pest control professional, there are DIY methods for getting rid of them without extensive use of chemicals or pesticides.

Terminix has some good information on this topic. Here’s how to get rid of mice in the walls:

  1. Check for entry points. Mice can squeeze through a hole as small as the width of a pencil. If you suspect that there are mice in your home, walk the perimeter of your house and check for cracks in the foundation. Seal any cracks, and check any openings near vents and pipes. You can best seal any openings with steel wool or caulk; mice could gnaw through plastic, wood or rubber.
  2. Set traps. In case there are more mice in your house than you think, you want to set a lot of traps, use a variety of bait and types of traps, and think strategically about placement (see below for more on types of traps, bait and placement).
  3. Clear hiding spots. Remember that mice love to burrow. If you have clutter like dead leaves or weeds around your home, clear it away. They won’t burrow through heavy gravel, so consider using that to line the areas around your home where they might be entering.
  4. Cat. This might sound like a tongue-in-cheek suggestion, but even if you have a cat that’s not a mouser, mice hate the smell of cats. By introducing a cat into your home or yard, you can be effectively keeping the mice away.

How to set mouse traps effectively

Mouse traps come in several varieties. The most commonly used are the bait-’n-snap, live capture, electric, and “sticky” traps. Once you’ve chosen what type of trap you want to use, you then need to select bait and consider the most effective placement.

Snap traps. These are the traditional wood or plastic traps that have a single snap bar that is designed to instantly kill a mouse when it comes for the bait. You would bait these traps with a tiny piece of cheese or dab of peanut butter. Be sure to use a very small amount of bait, though — they will come for just a tiny bit, but if you use too much they could steal the bait and avoid the trap.

  • Pros: These are inexpensive and easy to set. Some are reusable. They are considered humane because they kill mice quickly.
  • Cons: You would need to remove the dead mouse by hand. And you would want to place these away from children or pets so that they don’t accidentally get snapped.

Enclosed snap traps. These function much like the traditional snap traps, except that they operate like a little hut. You open the door in the back to add the bait; when the mouse goes in to get it, he gets snapped.

  • Pros: These are safer if you have pets or children because they can’t access the snaps. Also, if you’re squeamish about dead mouse disposal, these will be a cleaner toss — simply pick up the closed compartment and dispose.
  • Cons: These aren’t reusable, and they could become a more expensive fix if you have an ongoing problem.

Catch and release traps. As the name suggests, these are designed to trap live mice that you can then release into the wild. You place the bait in the trap and set the door to open. When the mice go in to get the bait, the door snaps shut behind them.

  • Pros: These are arguably more humane since you would be keeping the mice alive and then releasing them into a natural habitat.
  • Cons: These traps need consistent monitoring. Since you would be trapping live mice, you would need to check them every day or two. And you also need to be sure that you’re releasing them far enough away from your home that they won’t find their way back in.

Electric traps. These are similar to other traps in that you bait the trap to entice the mouse to enter. When it does, the sensor triggers a high-voltage current that electrocutes the mouse instantly. You can re-bait the trap and reuse after emptying the dead mouse.

  • Pros: These kill fast, so are arguably very humane. They are good for long-term use because they are reusable and last a long time.
  • Cons: These are more expensive than the traditional snap traps.

Glue traps. These traps are sticky and simply catch the mouse as it comes to grab the bait.

  • Pros: These are not dangerous to children or pets.
  • Cons: These can be less effective. It’s easier for mice to grab the bait and escape from glue traps than from other kinds of traps. You might even see footprints or little bits of fur left behind. These seem less humane because the mouse does not die instantly. Instead, they remain stuck to the trap until they die of starvation, or you would have to dispose of the trap with a live mouse.

Finally, there are ultrasonic pest control units. These are not traps. They are small units that look like smoke alarms, and you plug it into an electrical outlet. They give off ultrasonic waves that repel mice within a certain radius. Depending on the size of your home, this method might not cover every area where mice might enter. As well, they are more effective at keeping mice away than getting them out if they are already in your home. You would want to do some research before investing in an ultrasonic repelling device because some work better than others.

There’s a reason why these animals are called “pests” — whether you’re dealing with ants, cockroaches, mosquitoes, mice or something else, they are not welcome houseguests. Keeping them at bay outside will go a long way towards how to get rid of mosquitoes inside the house, mice and cockroaches from entering, and so on. If you find that these solutions don’t work for you, or you have an ongoing issue, you might want to contact a professional for your home pest control, before the situation becomes too big to handle without drastic measures.

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