Recently, a friend sent me an S.O.S. asking if I knew of any natural way to rid an apartment of fleas—a method that would not be toxic to small children.

Treating their pets and animals would be the first step, but surprisingly these folks have no animals. The truth is that flea infestations often occur simply because neighborhood cats or dogs like to lounge near their home or they have purchased an infested piece of furniture from a yard sale.


I headed right for my collection of pest control recipes and retrieved the perfect solution for fleas. I thought you might enjoy knowing that one, plus remedies for all kinds of home and garden pests.

All-Purpose outdoor insect spray. Mix one chopped garlic clove, one chopped small onion, and one tablespoon cayenne powder with one-quart water. Allow to steep one hour, then add one tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap, like blue Dawn or Ivory liquid. This all-purpose insect spray remains potent for only one week, so use it up by spraying the exterior perimeter of the house.

Ants. Repel an ant invasion by washing countertops, cabinets and floors with equal parts water and vinegar. 

Aphids. Mix 1-gallon water, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and 2 tablespoons ivory liquid. Spray on plants where aphid damage is evident.

Bugs, spiders, ants. To prevent ants, spiders, and bugs from entering your home or other structures, spray the foundation and the grout within a foot of the wall with a mixture of 1/2 cup ground lemon (you can puree the lemon in a blender or food processor) including the rind plus one gallon of water. Apply with a garden sprinkling can. Not only is the weak solution versatile, but it’s also mild, cheap and environmentally sound.

Cockroaches. Mix 1/4 cup shortening with 1/8 cup sugar. In a separate container mix 1/2 pound powdered boric acid (available at pharmacies) and 1/2 cup flour. Add to shortening mixture. Stir well with enough water to make a soft dough. Form into small balls the size of marbles and hide in those out of way places roaches love to hide. This recipe works far better than commercial products. Just make sure you keep this out of the reach of children.

Flea treatment for the home. Commercial flea exterminators charge anywhere from $300 – $1100 to treat your home with a product called food grade diatomaceous earth. You can do this yourself with a flour-sifter and a 5-pound box of diatomaceous earth for about $20. Sift onto your carpet with the sifter, brush or pound it in with a broom. Leave for 24-36 hours and vacuum up. This is a non-toxic and environmentally safe treatment but wear a face protector because it is fine as powder. The diatomaceous earth you get from a pool supply is NOT food-grade. It has been chemically altered and does not kill fleas. Check with a garden supply store or order online.

Fly and insect spray. Rubbing alcohol makes a great fly and insect spray. Fine mist evaporates quickly and is not harmful to anyone but the pests. This doesn’t necessarily kill them but anesthetizes the little guys, so once they’re asleep, dispose of quickly.

Fruit flies. Set out a small dish of apple cider vinegar (white vinegar will not work, it must be apple cider vinegar) to which you’ve added a few drops of detergent. Cover with plastic wrap then pull back the wrap along part of theedge too give an entrance point. Fruit flies fly in and never come out.

Garbage cans. Sprinkle powdered detergent soap or borax into garbage cans after they’ve been washed and allowed to dry; it acts as a repellent to flies.

Mice. Use peanut butter as bait for your mousetraps. You can reset the traps and catch several mice before you need to add bait.

Mosquito repellents. Plant basil around the patio and house to repel mosquitoes. Keep it well-watered so that it produces a stronger scent. 

Moths. Make sachets of dried lavender or equal portions of rosemary and mint. Place in closets, drawers, or closed containers to mothproof garments.

Silverfish. To get rid of silverfish, put about 1/4 inch of flour in a small, straight-sided glass. Run a strip of adhesive tape from bottom to top on the outside. Silverfish will travel up the tape and drop into the glass, but they won’t be able to get back out. Place one of these traps in each room where you’ve seen silverfish.

Snails and slugs. To keep snails and slugs out of your garden sink pie pans in the garden so the rims are flush with the ground. Fill with beer. The slugs and snails will be attracted to the beer which will be their final undoing and a lovely object lesson for kids who think it’s cool to drink beer. Simply empty the pie pans when they get full.

Snails. Snails will turn around and go the other way rather than cross a protective border of sand, lime, or ashes.

Spiders. To discourage spiders spray rubbing alcohol on windowsills.

Tacky fly swatter. For fruit flies and other tiny flying insects that a regular fly swatter just seems to miss, put a few strips of double-backed tape on your flyswatter.

Tape that sucker. Don’t squash a bug crawling on your wall, drapes or anywhere else it can stain. Just “apply” a strip of tape; the bug adheres to it and can be disposed of.

Wasp repellent. Toilet-bowl deodorizers nailed by the door, placed near wastebaskets or set on a windowsill will keep wasps away. They hate the smell.

Question: Do you have a favorite pest control potion, trick or tip. You can share it in the comments below.