If You Have a Sandbox, You Need This Trick for Keeping Pests Out

Updated: Jan. 03, 2024

Skip the store and look in your pantry! This simple (not to mention cheap) trick will help keep pests out of your sandbox.

Backyard sandboxes are a fun feature for your kids, and they can also be a lovely addition to your landscape design. Tropical-themed backyards may feature a relaxing, sandy oasis complete with patio hammocks, or you may include a sandbox in your Japanese Zen garden. But while sandboxes can bring calm or playful energy to your yard, they come with a price—the threat of pests like stray cats, spiders and mosquitoes.

But before you buy a repellent, you may want to try something more natural and cost-effective. It turns out that a common pantry spice might be the answer to your pest problem. Here’s what you can put in your sandbox to keep bugs out (and it might even work at deterring larger creatures like felines).

What Can I Put in My Sandbox to Keep Bugs Out?

A natural bug repellent is often cheaper than buying something store-bought, and if you worry about spraying anything toxic around your children or pets, it may also be the safest option. One popular choice comes courtesy of a TikTok video from the DIY community.

In a TikTok video that’s garnered over 1.8 million views as of publication, TikTok creator Danielle Churchill (@dani.elle.marie) shared a hot tip for keeping pests out of sandboxes—sprinkling cinnamon into the sand. In the clip, Churchill mentions a fear of animals using the sandbox as a “litter box,” but this spice tip doesn’t only apply to felines and other wandering fur balls. The spice is also a known bug repellent.

@dani.elle.marie #diyhome #landscaping #homeonabudget #homehacks ♬ original sound – Danielle Churchill

Cinnamon is a common spice, and since it’s safe for humans and non-toxic to dogs and cats, you should have no worries pouring a liberal amount of it into your sandbox.

How Does Cinnamon Work to Keep Bugs Out?

According to current research, the spice’s strong scent commonly repels insects (and some larger animals like squirrels). For instance, Ed Spicer, CEO of Pest Strategies, previously told Family Handyman in an earlier interview that the strong smell of cinnamon (specifically, Saigon cinnamon) is a repellent for ants, and the spice can also serve as an exterminator for the pesky insects.

In addition to fresh cinnamon, one 2019 study concluded cinnamon oil is an effective repellent for mosquitoes. Cinnamon also has some irritant qualities, per Pest Pointers, which makes sense when you think about the time you accidentally rubbed cinnamon in your eyes or the people who have struggled through the cinnamon challenge. So the bottom line is that cinnamon is a natural deterrent for bugs that invade your sandbox, and it’s worth a try since it won’t cost as much as a pro repellent.

Other Natural Pest Repellents for Sandboxes

In addition to investing in a sandbox cover, which can help eliminate some pests from entering your sandbox in the first place, other natural pest repellents can help keep your insect or arachnid problems at bay. They also might help keep cats, squirrels and other unwanted creatures out of your sand.

  • Lavender plants or oil: The pungent smell of lavender will help keep insects away—but it’s toxic to dogs, so keep curious pups away.
  • Citrus oils: If you need to keep stray cats away from your sandbox, try orange or lemon oil diluted with water. Cats don’t like the scent of citrus. Again, this is toxic to dogs, so you may want to skip this if you have a pup around.
  • Garlic and lemon juice: Try combining fresh garlic with lemon juice for an easy home remedy. The combination of these scents repels bugs and may also deter animals like cats.
  • Citronella oil: Citronella is a common ingredient in bug sprays, and mosquitoes hate the smell. Try mixing this with equal parts water and witch hazel. Again, this one can also be an irritant to dogs and even be toxic to them, so use with caution.
  • Peppermint oil and castor oil: Both peppermint and castor have proven insect-repellent properties. Try diluting these essential oils with water and using a spray bottle. However, beware that this potent essential oil can sting little eyes or burn skin, so it might be best to skip this one if you have children in your sandbox.

Enjoy your sandbox and remember to choose the best repellent for you. Keep the safety of your pets or kids in mind before spraying or sprinkling anything in or around the sand.