Struggling With Pests at Home? Here’s What To Do
DIY Pest Solutions, Integrated Pest Management, and More
Everyone wants to have a place to call home, somewhere you can eat, sleep and hangout with your friends and family. But people aren't the only ones who want a home - rodents, ants, mosquitos, flies and cockroaches do too! If you suddenly find yourself with a few new creepy crawly roommates, your default reaction may be to pick up the phone and have an exterminator come into your home to shoo them away.
However, let's first think about what that means for your home and health. Traditional exterminators may use many toxic chemicals to get rid of pests and should be your last resort instead of your first.
Thankfully, there are safer methods to clear your home of pests.
The Issues With Exterminators
Most exterminators will go over the active ingredients in their pesticides and some will go over potential health effects, but that might not give you the full picture. It's super important to do your own research before hiring someone.
Pest exterminators can spray pesticides, herbicides and insecticides throughout the home (either inside and/or outside (16)) which can cause damage to health, particularly for children (13) and infants (8,14).
The most common active ingredients in insecticides are pyrethroids and pyrethrins which have been linked to increased risk of childhood cancer (11). And many insecticides are also composed of organophosphates and chlorpyrifos which have been linked to chronic neurological function (1), and neurodevelopmental issues (8).
If an exterminator tells you the products they use are safe after a couple of hours, that may not necessarily be true. Studies of chlorpyrifos have shown that residues persist for up to 2 weeks after a single broadcast application, with potential exposure to young infants reaching levels 100x greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended levels (15). Residual pesticide exposure is especially important if you have infants in your home, since minimal exposure can result in levels above the threshold of toxicological response in infants (12). Studies show this chronic level of exposure has been linked to risk of childhood leukemia (10).
The work done by pest control professionals - the routine extermination procedure and home treatment such as spraying pesticides - has shown an overall link between pesticide exposures and childhood cancers (10). We definitely don't want these chemicals unless we really have to.
DIY Solutions to Keep Pests Out of Your Home
It's easier than you think to prevent pests! Sometimes simple upgrades to your house or a new product are all you need. Here are some simple solutions for how to prevent pests at home and what to do if you have them.
1. Block Any Entry Points for Pests
Show your home some love. Take a day off and spend time doing the following:
- Seal gaps and plug holes with copper mesh.
- Repair torn screens, keep weatherstripping in shape (a.k.a. make sure there are no gaps around doors and windows).
- Make sure the damper on your dryer vent is properly closed.
- Trim plants against your house.
Not sure where else pests could be coming from? Sometimes pest control professionals can help you identify their entrypoint and help you plug it up without having to fall back on spraying. Integrated pest management professionals (see below) are especially good at this.
2. Update Your Cleaning Routine
Pests seem to have a sixth sense for clutter and crumbs! A deep clean can help stop these unwelcome critters from getting too cozy.
- Keep your kitchen sparkling clean by sweeping regularly and be sure to dry up damp areas.
- Immediately clean up any crumbs or spills from countertops, tables and shelves, and dispose of garbage regularly. Avoid walking around the house while eating, as you may leave crumbs in unwanted places such as your couch, bed or carpet.
- Store ingredients and snacks properly in containers with an airtight seal to prevent pests from getting inside. While you're at it, check out these tips on how to Stock Your Pantry Shelves With Non Toxic Packaging Materials. If you have a pet, be sure to store away their food overnight.
- When at the grocery store, inspect packaging for any holes before purchasing to avoid bringing any pests home with you.
- Check the expiration dates on ingredients before use. Throw out items stored for an extended period of time.
- Clean up clutter, especially stacks of newspapers, cardboard boxes, and paper bags as these can be a favorite home for pests.
- Avoid dampness in your home by keeping it well ventilated. Pests thrive in humidity higher than 70% (9). Measure your bedroom's humidity levels and use a dehumidifier if necessary. Here's a compact dehumidifier and a rechargeable dehumidifier.
3. Invest in Some New Products
We did some research and found some recommended safer products to use on your own:
- Ants always take the same path, wash away their path with a solution of water, vinegar and eucalyptus oil.
- Ortho® Home Defense® Crawling Bug Killer with Essential Oils - safe to use around kids and pets, read more about the product here.
- Insect Dust Diatomaceous Earth - kills fleas, ants, cockroaches, bedbugs and all crawling insects around your home using safe and effective natural ingredients.
- Look for sticky traps or bait traps for non-rodent pests. There are many insect traps made with borax that are considered safer. Just make sure that kids cannot access sticky traps and bait traps.
Know When to Call an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Professional for Help
If you live a busy life-style and don't have time for DIY's or if it's too late to take matters into your own hands, don't worry. IPM has your back.
What's IPM? It's a cost-effective holistic approach to eradicating pests from your home by taking into account which pests are in your home, how they got there, why they are there, and where they're coming from. IF chemicals are necessary, then companies will use products that are just as effective on the bugs but safe for humans and pets. But again, always do your own research! Look into any products an IPM company is recommending to make sure it's actually a safer choice or an EPA registered product. Studies have shown success in the implementation of IPM (3). Check out the WSPEHSU's helpful toolkit to avoid traditional chemically invasive pest control.
Dealing with pests can be overwhelming and frustrating but it's important to remember you have options! Calling an exterminator to spray your home with pesticides is not the only solution to getting rid of pests. There are better, safer solutions!