10 Cheap, Effective Ways to Pest-Proof Your Home

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Pest control employment is expected to boom by 26 percent through 2020 according to the United States Department of Labor, suggesting Americans are having a problem keeping critters outdoors where they belong.

But exterminators should be your last option. If you take steps to create a hostile environment for bugs and other pests, you won’t be spending big bucks on the bug man this summer. Here’s a quick video Money Talks founder Stacy Johnson put together about keeping mosquitoes away. Check it out, then read on for more.

Now, 10 ways to keep your home bug and pest-free.

1. Seal and repair openings

Check your basement for cracks and gaps, especially where pipes exit through the wall. Go outside and look for openings around exterior outlets, laundry vents, and utility meters: These areas are likely to have invitingly large cracks for bugs. Check weather stripping on doors and windows, and repair holes in screens (I’ve used these $4.58 adhesive patches for a quick fix). Also make an effort to keep your garage door shut.

2. Give your pets a dining space

I left my dog’s pet food in a bowl on the floor once. Big mistake. Bits of food he knocked out of his dish ended up across the room (I must have kicked them) and attracted ants. Make it harder for ants to get to pet food by giving your pet a dining area on a rubber mat. This will make spilled food easier to spot and clean up.

If you’re having an ant problem with pet food left on the floor, put the food bowl into a larger bowl with water in it – the ants can’t cross the “moat” to get to the food.

3. Keep a clean kitchen

Since just about every unwanted pest is attracted to leftover bits of food, keeping a clean living area is important to keep bugs out. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Keep all leftovers stored in lidded containers. 
  • Check for sugar spills near the coffee maker.
  • Wipe residue off containers containing sugary stuff like peanut butter and jelly.
  • Keep fruit out of direct sunlight and check frequently for spoiled produce. 
  • Vacuum or sweep regularly.
  • Rinse containers before putting them in the recycling bin.

4. Keep a dry home

Insects love damp environments, so eliminate moisture and wet spots. As we mentioned in 5 Cheap Do-It-Yourself Home Repairs, a caulk line can fix leaks around tubs and sinks. In your basement, check for stains on the ground that indicate dripping pipes and inspect above for cracks or loose fittings. Look for water spots in your ceiling that could mean a hole in your roof; in addition to an obvious roof issue, holes can also be an entry spot for bugs.

5. Clean up the yard

Insects are likely to congregate under grass clippings, compost heaps, and decaying leaves. They will also use branches touching your home as pathways, so trim branches and shrubbery to keep insects confined to plants. Clean up pet poop, and keep trash bins and compost heaps securely covered and away from your house.

6. Invite birds

Birds are prettier to look at than bugs, and like to eat them. Consider getting a bird feeder – it’s cheaper than a birdbath and it won’t create stagnant water. Or you can make one free; check out Audubon.org for six examples. Nice weekend project for the family!

7. Store firewood away from the house

Termites, ants, and cockroaches like to hide out in woodpiles and the damp ground underneath. Keep firewood stacked on an elevated surface and stored away from your home. If you have lots of wood, you may want to look into an adjustable firewood rack, such as this one for $23.11 at Amazon; if you don’t, just stack wood somewhere like a wheelbarrow or bench and cover it with a tarp.

8. Make a homemade flytrap

I hate fruit flies. They pop up wherever there’s something sweet and seem to linger forever. So after I got tired of running after them, trying to crush them in my clapping hands while yelling “fruit fly!”, I took to a more scientific approach.

I’ve tried several homemade flytraps, but I’ve had the most success with this: Add a squirt of dish soap to half a cup of apple cider vinegar in an open container. The flies are attracted to the sweet-smelling vinegar and the soap breaks the surface tension, drowning the fly. Apple cider vinegar is dirt-cheap: $3.83 for a gallon at Walmart, although you can buy a smaller bottle for about a buck. Put a few of them around the house where you see the pests, but don’t put them near open windows; it encourages more to come in.

9. Don’t kill mice, trap them

I don’t like killing mice because their dead bodies are a breeding ground for insects and bacteria. Instead, try this simple trap at Amazon for $5.13, which has a 4-star average review and is reusable. There’s also this slightly more expensive trap for $13.49, but it has even more positive recommendations and its transparent walls let you see if a mouse is caught. To prevent mice from getting inside in the first place, plug up holes like those found near baseboard heaters and dryer vents with steel wool.

10. Practice mosquito management

Mosquitoes are annoying bloodsuckers that, at worst, can transfer disease; at best, they leave itchy red welts. We discussed ways to ward off the annoying bugs in 5 Cheap Steps to Eliminate Mosquitoes, like:

  • Get rid of standing water: Mosquitoes lay eggs in stagnant water, so take away their breeding ground by overturning water in open containers and throwing mulch or soil over yard puddles.
  • Place minced garlic around your porch. Garlic’s odor acts as a natural repellent to many insects, including mosquitoes.
  • Adding citronella, eucalyptus, cinnamon, or castor oils to sunscreen can repel mosquitoes for when you need to work outside – just be sure to follow the instructions and not dump a cup of citronella on your face.
  • When you’re sitting outside on the porch, use an oscillating fan. You love a nice breeze – wind is a mosquito’s enemy.

What do you do to eliminate bugs at your place? Tell us below or on our Facebook page!

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  • Claire Kaczmarek

    DIY pest control tips like this are great for someone on a budget, or who are only experiencing minimal pest problems. Our home experienced a fruit fly issue during the summer months, and tried the fly trap (although we used red wine instead of apple cider vinegar) and it worked well. We will keep these tips in mind incase we have any other unwanted visitors!