Bugs are a part of the world. Actually, they greatly outnumber us. But that doesn’t mean that they have to be a part of your home. Here are some easy, natural ways to keep the bugs where they should be (outside!).
There are some helpful plants that work well for deterring various pests (see the list below). Install window boxes and set planters outside doorways with these plants. Another option is to hang the dried leaves in sachets by each doorway or set a bowl of potpourri near the windows. A florist can also make a door wreath or garland for you using specific plants and flowers upon request. The hanging sachets and wreaths work particularly well when you have other critters in your neighborhood like possums that find your bug-repellents delicious, but you can try covering the potted plants with a net, plant cover, or even a picnic food cover as well.
Cedar chips can also be added to planters for an extra bug-repelling boost, used as a mulch around your landscaping, or simply put in a bowl on the windowsill. The plants listed below often can be found as seasonings, which can be sprinkled on a doormat so that every time you step on the mat, the seasonings are crushed and their scent is released. Here is a list of some good plant choices for the most common bugs you want to avoid:
- Eucalyptus: repels flies, fleas, moths and gnats
- Peppermint: repels flies, ants and fleas
- Basil: repels flies and mosquitos
- Tansy: repels flies, ants and mosquitos
- Bay: repels flies, cockroaches, flour beetles, and moths
- Lavender: repels flies, fleas and moths
- Cloves (sachet only): repel flies, moths, and mosquitos
Use Essential Oils
If you don’t want to hang a whole sachet of eucalyptus on each window or plant a bunch of them around your home, then you can just dab a little of the essential oil onto each window ledge or doorstep every couple weeks. Be sure to test this first on a small hidden area to ensure the oil doesn’t stain the ledge. If it does, try dabbing it underneath the ledge instead.
Eucalyptus and the oils from the other plants listed above aren’t your only options for this either; lemon and orange essential oils are also very good at repelling most bugs, and cedarwood oil can be used as well. Essential oils can be toxic to pets though, so be sure not to put them on a ledge where your pet often walks or sits. Also be sure to follow all safety precautions when working with essential oils as some can be dangerous, especially for someone pregnant.
Make Bug Spray
Any of the plants listed above can be made into a bug spray. Use a handful of the leaves or flowers of your desired plant and steep them in hot water like tea for about 10 minutes. When the tea is ready, strain out the plants and pour it into a spray bottle.
This tea can be used as a household air freshener that also doubles as a bug repellent or it can be sprayed around the outside of your home or in your yard. Always use caution when spraying upholstery or other fabrics to avoid stains. It is a good idea to test the spray on several surfaces, such as carpet, before spraying it around a room. Only a fine mist is needed for the spray to fragrance a room. Essential oils can be used to make a spray instead of the plants, but again, be sure any essential oils used in your home are safe for children or pets.
Keeping your house clean is in itself a way to repel bugs. (Another reason why spring cleaning is so useful as bugs are coming out of their winter hide-outs. Check out our Spring Cleaning Checklist.) Areas that gather dust also emit a scent to bugs that says ‘no one’s using this area’. On floors, many bugs also leave a distinct scent marker that attracts others of their kind (and also others who want to eat their kind), so keeping up with mopping is a great way to get rid of the bug welcome mat that you may unknowingly have out in your home. White vinegar works particularly well for this. Add a cup of it to a bucket of wash water for mopping floors or put an equal amount of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle to wipe down most other surfaces in the home like cabinet shelves, closet shelves, and bookshelves. The equal amount mix can also be used on floors for a more potent cleaning if needed.
Putting away food also helps, so make sure all cracker boxes have a chip clip and consider keeping your fruit in the fridge. Sachets with the plants listed above or deodorizers like an open box of baking soda can be tucked into food cabinets as well.
Check your home for any potential bug doorways that can be caulked, patched or otherwise blocked. Look for any areas where you currently see bug activity or any cracks that may lead into your home. If you can’t caulk an area, spread some diatomaceous earth over the area, which will kill any bugs that come in contact with it. Diatomaceous earth can be found at most hardware stores and some health food stores as well. Be sure to only buy food-grade diatomatious earth as other kinds can have additives, including chemical insecticides that may not be safe to have in your home (airspace) or near your pets. A diatomatious earth chalk can be used to draw a line around windows and doorways to deter crawling insects. Petroleum jelly can be used instead around any small cracks or bug doorways if preferred, but keep in mind that some pets may lick this off.
Holes in window screens can be sealed up with some clear nail polish or covered with a patch (pantyhose works well). Weather stripping can be run along door edges to better secure an entry, or if there is a larger gap in one area only, the weather stripping can be cut to only apply it to that area. Weather stripping can also be applied to the bottom edge of a window that doesn’t quite close all the way. Expanding foam or liquid rubber sealant like Flex Seal can be used in areas too small for weather stripping.
Many bugs, such as cockroaches and silverfish, are attracted to humidity. By lowering the humidity in your home, you make it less welcoming to bugs. This can be accomplished with a dehumidifier machine, a small room dehumidifier like Damp Rid, or even a DIY solution like a plastic container full of charcoal briquettes with holes poked in the container lid. Sprinkling baking soda in areas of your home where silverfish frequent, such as in the base of the laundry basket or under the bed in a carpeted room can also work to lower the humidity in those areas.
Mosquitos breed in water, especially standing water, so look around your home for any excess water that can be removed – this will help to dehumidify the areas as well. One commonly overlooked place to find standing water sources are the dishes of planters; if possible, switch to unglazed clay pots so that the water dries more quickly. Adding a couple drops of cooking oil to a flower vase can help keep that water mosquito-free. Look around outside your home as well for places where water can gather in the rain, such as uncovered trash barrels, upside-down frisbees, or just dips in the landscaping that could be filled in with some dirt or altered to allow for better frainage.
Choose an area in the far corner of your yard to attract bugs to so that they aren’t attracted to your home. Plant bug-friendly plants there, set up a bee pond, and you can even set up bug hotels (these are basically a pile of hollow bamboo pieces or bricks). Doing this will help to encourage more beneficial bugs that will get rid of the bad bugs you don’t want hanging around too. Some good plants to attract beneficial bugs are dill, cilantro, parsley, sunflowers, and broccoli. Putting a few solar garden lights in the area can even help to distract nighttime bugs that would normally only have your porch light to capture their interest.
- If you do get a bug in your house, you don’t have to touch it or clean up its smashed guts. Just put a cup or Tupperware over the bug and slide a piece of mail under the cup. Once contained, the bug can safely be carried outside and released. It helps to use a clear cup so you can keep an eye on the bug while moving it. For bigger or scarier bugs, use a larger Tupperware and a sturdier piece of paper like a folder.
- If you have to clean a buggy area, wear rubber gloves so you don’t get bit or have to worry about them walking on you.
- If you already have a housefly problem, you can use fly-eating plants, but be sure to put them as far away from your home as possible as they strongly attract flies and you don’t want more flies buzzing around your front door or window where they can accidentally get into the house. To be clear, do NOT put the plants inside the house.
- If a dragonfly or other flying bug like a housefly gets into your home, turn off the lights and open a door or window; they will naturally fly toward the light and leave on their own.
- If you want to leave a door or window open during the day but will have flying bugs to contend with, turn off the lights and turn on any ceiling fans or other fans. Empty the trash as well or even move it outside as that will be a strong attractant for flies in particular.
- If you like leaving a door open, there are doorway screen covers that you can buy at supermarkets or online for $20 or less that easily attach over a doorway and have break-away magnetic flaps in the center to allow a pet or person in and out as needed.
- Sprinkling baking soda into the bottom of your trash can will help to keep the odor down and prevent it from attracting bugs. Replace the baking soda once a month.
- If you want to put a bowl of pet food outside, wipe a little olive oil or petroleum jelly around the bottom edge to prevent ants from getting into it. However, only use a thin line because your pet may lick it off and too much petroleum jelly will give them diarrhoea.
- Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond
- Household Hints for Dummies by Janet Sobesky
- The Cleaning Bible by Kim Woodburn
- Natural Alternatives for You and Your Home by Casey Keller
- Homemade by Reader’s Digest
- Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things by Reader’s Digest
- The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques That Save You Money by Richard Freudenberger and Backhome Magazine
- Fix It, Clean It, Make It Last by Gayle Wood
- 99 Cent Solutions by Reader’s Digest