Household Products that Can Kill Pests

Assorted cleaning productsProfessional pest control is the best way to eliminate pests. Pest control that you buy in the store can also be useful. But there are some situations where you have to kill a pest and have nothing in your home designed specifically for that purpose – for example, you have no pesticides in your house and are face to face with a house centipede or large house spider.

These are situations where you need something fast, especially if you have any phobias. Luckily, while they’re not the best tools for eliminating pests, there are many household products that you likely already have inside of your property that you can use to kill or attack a pest that you see inside of your home.

An online search for DIY pest control will provide a nearly endless list of solutions with almost every household product, from food to cleaning supplies to beauty products and more, having been claimed to be used at some point to control pests.

Some of these products are based in science while others can have more uncertain outcomes. This means that while household products may be promised to work, your results may vary. When you are looking for a convenient and affordable DIY solution for insects at your home, these are some of the different solutions you can try and what results you can expect.

Which Types of Pests Can You Get Rid of With Household Products?

Even when using DIY solutions, knowing the type of pests you are dealing with is important. Many household products and DIY pest control recipes will work against several different types of insects, but they are most effective when you apply them in the right way for the specific pest you’re dealing with.

Flying insects will need different solutions than crawling insects, and insects of different species often occupy distinct areas of your home. Taking some time to understand your specific pest can help guide which household products will work best and where you should apply them.

Still, you can prevent or kill most pests with some of these household items, including:

  • Spiders
  • Cockroaches
  • Ants
  • Centipedes
  • Flies
  • Mosquitoes

Most pests can be at least damaged or stunned by many of these products. Others can be repelled. But almost all homes have at least one product on hand that can help them eliminate a spider or clear away a line of ants with ease.

Top Household Pest Control: Cleaning Products

Before we begin, it is important to note that there are very few studies on household products for pest management. In general, because pesticides are safe and effective, researchers do not typically look into other products to see if they work. That means that we cannot necessarily verify which products work well and which do not.

That said, there are some products that we know for a fact are effective for eliminating pests, and those items all seem to be related to cleaning products.

Cleaning Products that Get Rid of Pests

Cleaning products should often be your first line of defense in pest control. Indeed, part of your own DIY pest control strategy should be to use cleaning products to… well… clean.

That is because a clean house will have less crumbs, moisture, and clutter to attract pests and give them places to hide. When you want to prevent pests or get rid of them, some of the best results will come from wiping down surfaces with your preferred cleaners and sweeping and vacuuming floors.

This will help you start to limit pests’ food sources, make it less likely for more bugs to come into your home, and potentially slow down reproduction, helping you to control their numbers.

But you can also use some cleaning products as more targeted DIY pest control solutions. Many household cleaners are very toxic to pests, and can be used at a moment’s notice to eliminate a pest you see in your property. These include:

  • Windex – Windex is one of the most common and most effective DIY household products for pest control. Windex is toxic to most pests, especially spiders. Spraying window cleaner directly onto small insects like ants or mosquitoes will kill them within a few moments. For cockroaches, window cleaner can make them temporarily unconscious so that you can squash them. This works on initial contact, but Windex will not continue to kill bugs after it has dried.
  • Laundry Detergent – Dilute a few drops of laundry detergent or dish soap in water and use the mixture as a spray. This works particularly well against flies when you spray the mixture into any areas where you have noticed flies or other insects. There are also traps you can make for fleas and other bugs by placing dish soap in water, which can break up surface tension and drown the pests.
  • Fabric Softener Sheets – Many fabric softener sheets have the ingredient linalool in them which is a compound some claim repels flying insects, including mosquitoes. Dryer sheets may also work against mites, German cockroaches, fungus gnats, and pantry beetles. You can place a dryer sheet anywhere bugs are active and it should repel them. You can even use dryer sheets that have already been through the wash since they will still contain trace amounts of linalool, giving you an eco-friendly way to get more out of each dryer sheet.
  • Boric Acid/Borax – Boric acid and the brand name product Borax, both different formulations of the same compound are often sold as laundry powder, but they work especially well against ants as well as a few other crawling pests. You can make a boric acid ant trap by mixing borax and sugar together. The sugar will encourage the ants to take both substances back to their nest where the borax will kill the entire colony. For cockroaches, you can sprinkle boric acid where roaches are active. The powder will cling and the cockroaches will ingest it when they groom themselves, at which point it will kill them.
  • Mothballs – As the name suggests, mothballs are an effective way to keep moths away, but you may also see them recommended for other pests like cockroaches, silverfish, and rodents. While the naphthalene in mothballs, the active ingredient, will work against these pests, it can be harmful to people as well when it vaporizes. You should only use mothballs in enclosed spaces, like cabinets, drawers, or garment bags and never in an area where people, pets, or other animals could come into contact with them.
  • Bleach Cleaners – Bleach cleaners are not always the best choice to spray around your home, since there is a risk that they may bleach parts of your property. Nevertheless, bleach can injure or kill pests on contact.

Although household products often have a reputation for being safer for killing pests, cleaning supplies are not necessarily 100% safe. Many of these cleaning materials are diluted enough to be safe for people to touch, such as detergents, dryer sheets, and borax. But these items still should not be consumed. Be careful with pest control anywhere that a child or pet may be able to get to it, or anywhere around your kitchen or places where you eat.

Other Available Household Pest Control Items

The rest of the items on this list have received minimal to no research, but many people swear by their effectiveness. Some have been studied – for example, cedar oil is known to eliminate pests – but similar products may not have. Many are also known in the community for “repelling pests,” rather than eliminating them, which is harder to study.

Keep that in mind in case you use a product and find that it does not seem to work. That particular product may not be as effective as others.

Essential Oils to Deter and Kill Bugs

Essential oils have a range of aromatherapy and health benefits, leading many people to keep a few different scents on hand. But many believe they can also be useful in repelling bugs, and a few oils are even able to kill bugs.

There are a few different ways to add essential oils to your space. You can make an essential oil spray by mixing between 15 and 25 drops of your chosen essential oil(s) into a quart of water. Put the mixture into a spray bottle and spray over any surface where bugs are congregating. Outdoors, this includes on plants, around patios, and on porches. Indoors you can use your essential oil spray around doors and windows, along baseboards, under cabinets, and at locations where bugs are getting in.

Another solution is to put 3 to 5 drops of essential oils onto a cotton ball and place the cotton ball in an area where you do not want pests. The scent will disperse over time and continue to repel bugs.

Some of the essential oils that tend to work best for repelling bugs include:

  • Lavender Oil
  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • Peppermint Oil
  • Clove Oil
  • Citronella Oil
  • Garlic Oil
  • Citrus Oil
  • Tea Tree Oil

Cedar oil is another powerful essential oil that will actually kill bugs by dehydrating their exoskeleton to the point that the bug dies. Cedar and other essential oils can impair bugs’ mental capacities as well, making it difficult for them to escape an area that you have treated with cedar oil.

Mixing a few oils, especially peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, citrus, or clove, can strengthen your mixture further. Additionally, many of the scents will also make your home smell great.

You will need to respray areas every few days or replace your cotton ball from time to time as the scent begins to fade and stops being so effective. Before using essential oils, you should be wary of all of the risks. If there is anyone with allergies in your home or you have any pets, be sure that the oils you are using are safe.

You should never spray certain oils, like cinnamon oil, inside your home as they can be severely irritating, but you can use cinnamon leaf oil on a cotton ball, which is sometimes effective in killing ants.

Keep in mind that studies of essential oils are slim. Most of the evidence is anecdotal. But some oils, like cedar oil, do appear to have very real benefits for eliminating pests.

Using Herbs and Spices to Repel Bugs

Part of what makes herbs and spices so good in food is how pungent they are. This may also work against pests. Like essential oils, there is only a little bit of evidence supporting using herbs and spices to repel bugs. Nevertheless, they are a popular choice for many property owners.

Growing certain herbs in your garden or on your kitchen windowsill can help keep pests away from those areas. But you can also put a few sprigs of herbs or some spices in areas where pests are present.
Herbs and spices will start to lose their odor as they dry out, so you will need to swap them after a week or so to keep them potent.

The kind of herbs that work best include:

  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Chives

You can also use a few different spices. In the same way that clove essential oil works well, just setting out a few whole cloves can have a similar effect. Garlic can also be helpful. You can place cloves of garlic in various areas around your home. You can also add either garlic or cloves to a spray bottle of water, let it seep for a few hours, and then spray it like you would the essential oil spray.

For ants, you can sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and cayenne around any entry points where ants are getting in and the scent of the spices will deter them.

Salt is a natural pest control product that works to kill fleas. If you know you have fleas, you can sprinkle it over your carpet where you have noticed the bugs. The salt will dehydrate any fleas and eggs there. After 24 hours, you can vacuum up the salt and any dead bugs.

Food Items that Can Repel and Kill Pests

When you are looking for at home solutions for pests, your pantry can often have a lot of powerful options. The best option will depend on the type of pest you have:

  • Vinegar – Distilled white vinegar can work well against ants. Spraying visible ants with vinegar will often kill them. You can also spray vinegar around openings where you notice ants getting through. Vinegar also works as a disinfectant and odor reducer so if you wipe down any surfaces where ants have been crawling, you can remove their pheromone trails and prevent more ants from following the others inside.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – Vinegars like apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar can create a trap for flies, especially fruit flies and gnats. To make this trap, mix apple cider vinegar and a couple of drops of dish soap in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and poke a few holes in the top. The files will climb through the plastic to get the sweet vinegar, but cannot get back out again and will eventually die.
  • Lemons – The acid in lemons can have similar results to vinegar. If you put lemon juice on surfaces where ants have been crawling, it can get rid of their trails. Lemon rinds can also release a scent that keeps ants away.
  • Onions – Many people swear by onions to get rid of spiders. You can simply cut up an onion into a few slices and place the slices into a bowl of water. Set the bowl on a counter or tabletop and spiders should stay away.
  • Cornmeal – Cornmeal can make a great homemade ant bait. The ants will eat corn meal but they cannot digest it. If you place a bowl of cornmeal near where ants are crawling, the worker ants will carry it to the nest where it can kill off the entire colony.
  • Coffee Grounds – After you are done with your coffee grounds, you can leave them outside of your home near the points where you believe pests are getting in. The lingering smell of coffee should repel pests.
    When you leave food items out, you should keep an eye on them and only leave them for a few days at a time. Items like coffee grounds, onions, and lemon rinds can begin to mold, creating odors and unwelcome mold spores. Cornmeal ant baits can also attract rodents.

You should also be careful leaving any food items where a pet could reach them since foods like onions, coffee grounds, and apple cider vinegar with dish soap mixed in may be tempting to a curious pet, but can make them extremely sick.

Bonus Household Products to Kill Pests

There are two other household products that are often successful in helping with pest infestations. The first is petroleum jelly, which gives many people good results in keeping out ants. You can spread the petroleum jelly across any pathways and around entry points of your home. Ants are unable to cross over any surfaces that have petroleum jelly on them.

The other household product that offers proven results against pests is diatomaceous earth. It also offers a range of other benefits as a food preservative, health supplement, dermalogica exfoliant, cleaning solution, and more, leading many people to keep diatomaceous earth on hand.

The product itself is made from grinding up the fossilized remains of algae into a fine powder. When ground, the microscopic particles in the powder have jagged edges. These are not enough to cause harm to a person’s skin, but will cut the exoskeleton of a bug that comes in contact with the diatomaceous earth. When a bugs’ exoskeleton is cut, the bug will dehydrate and die.

Diatomaceous earth is effective against cockroaches, ants, silverfish, beetles, and many others. Depending on where pests are, there are a few different ways that you can distribute diatomaceous earth around your home where bugs will come into contact with it:

  • Sprinkle It – This is the easiest method, but perhaps the least effective. You can use your fingers to sprinkle diatomaceous earth anywhere it needs to go.
  • Use a Sifter – A flour sifter or a similar kitchen implement like a salt shaker can be filled with diatomaceous earth. This lets you shake a light layer of diatomaceous earth onto a surface for more even coverage.
  • Use a Turkey Baster – A turkey baster or another eyedropper is a great solution for getting diatomaceous earth into the cracks where cockroaches and ants might be hiding.

When using diatomaceous earth, there are 2 types readily available. You should always use food grade diatomaceous earth for any pest control or household needs. The other kind, which is often used for clarifying pools, is not safe to handle. Even food grade diatomaceous earth can become irritating if you breathe a lot of it in.

How to Tell If Household Products Will Work for Your Bug Problem

Mixing up an essential oil spray or sprinkling some laundry powder around your kitchen and seeing a decrease in pests can feel like you have found the ultimate solution for safe, easy, and completely affordable pest control. But before you plan on canceling your existing pest control service or assume you have taken care of your pest problem entirely with just the household products you already have on hand, you should be aware of the different drawbacks and limitations that household products have when it comes to treating pests.

One of the main drawbacks is that many of these household products, when they work, are more effective at pest prevention than at pest extermination, and only temporarily. Of the many of the products we have listed here, the majority of them work as deterrents but they are not actually toxic to pests, and as deterrents they only work for a few hours or a few days.

If you want to manage a pest infestation, you will want to use the household products that kill pests. Cornmeal or borax baits for ants, diatomaceous earth dusting for crawling pests, vinegar traps for flies, Windex for spiders, and other lethal solutions will give you the chance for getting rid of pests.

But with any methods where pests are not consuming or coming into contact with the household product, the products have no means of killing pests even when they are toxic. Instead, pests dislike the smell and will stay away from an area. If you do not already have a pest problem, these harmless and relatively inexpensive methods may be a great option to add a helpful layer of protection.

If you currently have pests, any of these methods designed to repel pests can instead make the problem worse, especially if used alone, because you are not killing pests or solving the underlying issue that is bringing them to your home in terms of sources of food, water, and shelter. The only thing that these pest control methods will do is push pests to another part of your home. When whatever treatment you applied begins to fade, they can simply come back to where they were before. This makes the infestation more widespread and harder to get rid of.

These methods can generally only work if you also undergo an extensive cleaning and maintenance routine at your home to make the property completely uninhabitable to pests. This means repairing all leaks and eliminating any sources of excess moisture, while also leaving no food out, including crumbs, grease, or residue. Because of how resilient many pests like cockroaches and ants can be, this level of cleanliness can be nearly impossible in the average home.

Another area where DIY pest control can fall short is due to the fact that it is often not fast acting. With baits and products like diatomaceous earth, you have to wait for all the pests to either ingest or come into contact with the substance.

With ant baits for instance, a single ant colony can contain upwards of 10,000 insects and it can take several weeks for your homemade ant bait to spread throughout a colony. With cockroaches and diatomaceous earth, you will have to wait until each cockroach crawls over the diatomaceous earth, including waiting for cockroach larvae to age into adults. The entire process can take nearly a month.

While you are waiting for homemade pest control solutions to work, populations can continue growing, meaning you may see an increase in activity. If you do not continue to maintain your baits or pest control solutions during this time, you may not be able to achieve a decrease in activity at all.

The final limitation with using household products as pest control, especially anything that relies on odor such as an essential oil spray or garlic spray, is that they have a relatively short lifespan. These substances can be potent when you first spray them on surfaces in your home and plants outdoors, but they will fade generally within a day or two. In order for them to continue to repel pests, you will need to reapply them every few days.

Should You Use Household Products to Kill Pests in Your Home?

For many of these solutions, much of the evidence about their effectiveness is anecdotal. Many people will swear by them, but the science to back them up can be somewhat limited. What works well for one person may have less effect in your home or on bugs you are dealing with.

If you have tried these household products or others and found success in mitigating or killing bugs, there is no reason to discontinue using them as long as they are safe and effective for your family. But you should use caution if you are looking for new ways to get rid of bugs.

Although initially it may feel like it costs nothing but a dollars in household products and a few minutes of your time to try these solutions out, if they do turn out to be ineffective, it could cost you significantly more in the end to get rid of pests with a professional pest control company, particularly if the infestation has time to grow or bugs have become more dispersed throughout your home.

For this reason, if you are receiving professional pest control, you should also never implement homemade pest solutions without first discussing it with your pest control technician to make sure that the two different methods will not interfere with one another.

Risks with Using Household Products as Pest Control

In addition to some of the household products not always getting rid of bugs as well as promised, there are also a few specific risks. Too often, some people conclude that because they are using things they already have in their homes for pest control, it is going to be a safer and non-toxic option than the treatments used by a pest control company.

In many cases, this simply isn’t true. There are many household products that you do not want you, your family, or your pets to touch, eat, or inhale.

Meanwhile, many of the products that pest control companies use – in addition to being fast acting, long lasting, and targeted to specific pests – are often eco-friendly. For almost all insect extermination, these treatments require only a brief drying time – usually 30 minutes at maximum – before the surface becomes entirely safe for people and animals to touch, yet it still remains effective against pests.

Getting the Right Solutions for Your Pest Problems

People have been dealing with pests for millennia. So it is no surprise that nearly every household product has been tried in an attempt to keep pests away. From old wives tales to science-based solutions, there are a number of ideas you can try when you want to get rid of pests in your home. But the most effective method of pest control is always going to be that done by the professional.

For pest control in Northern Virginia, ExtermPRO offers pest control that is eco-friendly and as safe as any DIY pest control solutions you could use. We have carefully chosen all of our solutions based on extensive research and our own firsthand experience, and all of our treatments are applied by highly trained technicians who are knowledgeable about the pests we are dealing with. This ensures that the pest treatments we use can provide dependable results time after time.

Our approach to pest control can both prevent pests all year long and eliminate bug infestations at the homes we work with in Gainesville, Haymarket, Bristow, Centreville, and more. If you are considering how to get rid of pests and keep them away, we encourage you to call our team at ExtermPRO to learn more about how our pest control in Northern Virginia can be a safe, convenient, and affordable way to manage pests at your home.