Illustration showing bugs and rodents that can be repelled with natural pest control

How to Make Your Own Non-Toxic Natural Pest Control

Recently, a friend sent me an S.O.S. asking if I knew of any natural pest control 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.

Illustration showing bugs and rodents that can be repelled with natural pest control

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. 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 with this natural pest control: Wash countertops, cabinets, and floors with equal parts water and vinegar.

MORE: 10 Quick and Easy Ways to Get Rid of Pesky Ants

Aphids

Mix 1-gallon water, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and 2 tablespoons liquid dishwashing detergent. 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 up lemon including the rind (puree in a blender or food processor) 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 (also 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 and pets.

Flea treatment for the home

Commercial flea exterminators charge anywhere from $300 – $1100 to treat your home with natural pest control—food grade diatomaceous earth. You can do this yourself with a flour-sifter and a 5-pound box of diatomaceous earth.

Sprinkle the food grade diatomaceous earth onto your carpet with the sifter, then brush or pound it in with a broom. Leave for 24-36 hours then 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 get my favorite, Harris Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth 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 them 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 drop of liquid dishwashing soap. Cover with plastic wrap then pull back the wrap along part of the edge to give an entry point. Fruit flies fly in and never come out. The detergent breaks the surface tension of the vinegar so they can’t just sit on top of it—they’ll fall in.

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 or masking tape from bottom to top on the outside to provide traction. 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; 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. Disclaimer: This one isn’t completely natural, but it really does work.

Updated 6-15-19


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19 replies
  1. Megan Hildum
    Megan Hildum says:

    I think you’re right, for just plain old killing, something like alcohol would be great. It kills them and doesn’t leave a chemical residue. It might stain fabric and stuff like that, though.

    Reply
  2. Joyce Wright
    Joyce Wright says:

    When we were building our house we dusted diatomaceous earth in the walls and under the cabinets before everything was closed up. It will last forever as long as it is kept dry. We used a bellows duster puffer to puff around and under the studs and cabinets. Diatomaceous earth is my go-to for pests but must be used sparingly in the garden since it will kill the good bugs along with the bad. Definitely wear the respirator or dust protector that Mary recommends.

    Reply
  3. Donna Vaughan
    Donna Vaughan says:

    I have had great results in getting rid of ants with Enviro-Magic Cedar wood Closet Enhancer (from Amazon). It is Cedar Oil and Mineral Oil. My wood cabinets drink it up and it smells like cedar, which I like better than vinegar smell. I have also sprayed it on my beige walls. It slightly stains at first, but dissipates in a day. Ants will try to come back after a couple of months, but I keep the oil handy.

    Reply
  4. Gehugh
    Gehugh says:

    Ants won’t cross a chalk line. Diatomaceous Earth (all those little sea creatures from long ago) is great for most crawlers. Lemon verbena, citronella and rosemary essential oils mixed in a spray bottle with water makes a nice mosquito repellent. Cotton balls soaked with a syrup made of boric acid powder and water placed around the perimeter of your home is a first step in carpenter ant control. Bats and dragonflies are great for mosquito control!

    Reply
  5. James Wilson
    James Wilson says:

    Thanks for your recent column n insect controls. I have a question about the section on All-Purpose outdoor insect spray. Does this spray work as in insect killer or an insect repellent? Even more importantly, what insects does it work on? If I spray this on my cucumber plants and expect it to repel/kill cucumber beetles, I could lose precious time in applying something that I know would work.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      It is an insect repellent. It has a strong odor that will send most insects away. I cannot guarantee it will kill or prevent cucumber beetles, specifically. I don’t want you to lose your cucumbers!

      Reply
  6. bjorn
    bjorn says:

    thank you for the great article. What about bunnies holed up under our shed? Any suggestions? I would prefer not to kill them, but would like them out of there.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Hi Bjorn … Rabbits detest the smell of WD-40 and also moth balls and it repels them quite successfully. I’ve had short-term success with both, although the pungent smell of moth balls lasts quite a long time, even through rain. My best long-term treatment is chicken wire on the lower 18-inches of the fence that surrounds our property. But I can’t say that is either quick or easy.

      Reply
      • Mary Hunt
        Mary Hunt says:

        I buy them from Home Depot and they come enclosed in small mesh bags. I don’t open the bags but instead set them in the bushes and places I’ve seen rabbits go in, settle down and come out with litters of babies. I’d hang them up out of reach. The smell is so AWFUL I can’t imagine any animal wanting to come near, but I’m no vet. That is only my opinion so follow your own best judgment.

      • Anissa Jackson
        Anissa Jackson says:

        I saw some that will hang in the tree, maybe I will try those. One of my dogs will probably think it’s a snack so I try to be safe and just keep things out of his reach 🙂

        Thank you!

      • Anissalou
        Anissalou says:

        I have the SAME problem. I am going to give moth balls a try, I’ve tried EVERYTHING and I can’t seem to keep them OUT of my garden for any length of time.

  7. Shannon Robbins
    Shannon Robbins says:

    For the drosophila (fruit flies) you can use a bottle or jar with ACV and a cone or funnel. They can fly in but can’t figure out how to fly out and get trapped. I used to work in a lab that used the drosophila for experiments and that’s how they trapped them in the offices and lab when they escaped. (It was awful. The students would bring in boxes of donuts to leave in my work space and I was just like “WHY?! Why would you bring it in here and WHY on earth would you eat one after the box had been there for hours?” Yuck!)

    Reply
  8. PatriotPeg
    PatriotPeg says:

    i live in northern FL.. recently we have had an influx of frogs. i do not want to kill them, i want to deter them from defecating allover my house. yuck! i have books on pest repellent, i have your page. however, i see no reference on repelling frogs. any thought from u guys out there? any advice would b welcome. thanx.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Oh my … frogs? In your house? I’m getting a slightly creepy feeling just thinking about that! Here’s what I know: it’s not easy to repel frogs without killing them. There is something you might want to try that will make their little feet burn and sting—not harm them—but send them running I mean hopping: vinegar spray. Mix equal amounts of vinegar (or lemon juice) and water and spray around areas where frogs tend to gather. The vinegar mixture will discourage them from returning to that area. Just don’t spray it onto plants as vinegar will most likely kill them.

      Reply
      • PatriotPeg
        PatriotPeg says:

        no, not inside, outside. they hang out at night, near the lights. outside is bad enuf, if inside i would run away. thanx for your tip, i am trying it today!

  9. sadnana
    sadnana says:

    We bought a new wool area rug from a business everyone reading this would recognize. Somewhere along its journey to us it acquired a population of moths and before we knew it we had an infestation. It was as though someone flipped a switch and suddenly they were everywhere, in every rug, drawer, and closet in the house. I read everything I could find to learn the best way to get rid of them. Toxic pesticides were out so we had to do it the hard way. The first thing we did was to go through every item in every closet to remove the moths. Then we washed and dried every piece of clothing, sheets, towels, etc., and sealed them in plastic bags. Next we washed down the insides of our drawers and the floors and walls in the closets with a mix of vinegar and Blue Dawn. We vacuumed all the floors at least 3 times a day for weeks (necessary to stop the breeding cycle) until we saw no more moths. They tend to hide during the day and become active at night so every night we chased down and killed every moth we saw on walls and ceilings. In addition to all of this we used non-toxic moth traps and linen sachets and open bowls filled with whole cloves. We found that moths absolutely hate the scent of cloves and started to buy them by the pound. We’re not dirty people. Our home was clean. Our clothes were clean. I think the moths appreciated that. The point is that getting rid of moths is a huge undertaking. They hate cloves but simply leaving a lot of cloves around the house wouldn’t work. You must interrupt the breeding cycle by physically removing as many moths as you can find. They love to hide and breed under things like laundry baskets, the undersides of upholstered furniture, and coffee tables. They get into the tiny spaces between the walls and trim. They like lint. Thank God we got rid of all of our wall to wall carpeting before this happened. I’ll never buy another wool rug. It’s not worth the risk. And the process of getting rid of moths is exhausting and time consuming, but unless you want to use pesticides it’s the only way to get rid of them.

    Reply
  10. guest123
    guest123 says:

    absolutely priceless information….haven’t been following you everyday but i see i got back in time lol….

    Reply
  11. PNW Jenn
    PNW Jenn says:

    Be careful about using vinegar on natural stone countertops like marble. Check with an expert,

    I make fruit fly traps from glass jars:
    1/2″ apple cider vinegar (attracts the flies)
    few drops detergent (reduces surface tension on the water so flies sink)
    water to the rim

    Replace every few days.

    Reply

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