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26 Tips for Controlling Pests In and Around Your Home

Don't let pests take over your home this spring and summer. Keep these simple and effective solutions handy, so you can act fast if a pest problem arises.

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spray foam to seal gaps

Seal Gaps

Look not only for larger gaps in your attic or garage, but watch for small, unsealed gaps where electrical lines and pipes enter your house. Bugs, mice and other pests love these small gaps. So caulk them closed or use expanding foam insulation to deny entry.

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firewood Zhukova Valentyna/Shutterstock

Store Firewood Away from the House

While firewood may be an important summer staple for your backyard fire pit, it’s also a magnet for pests that will happily make the jump into the house. So store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house to keep house pests away.

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rosemary herbskaiskynet/Shutterstock

Fresh Herbs

Mosquitoes crash your backyard bonfire? Throw some fresh rosemary or sage on the coals to keep mosquitoes away. Check out other concoctions for homemade mosquito repellent for your yard here.

Follow these tips to build an outdoor fire pit.

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repair torn screenFamily Handyman

Repair Torn Screens

Windows screens, mosquito nets and similar barriers protect against inquisitive summer pests, but only if they provide complete protection. And as long as the frame is in good shape repairs are easy and can be done in a few minutes. Here’s how to make your screen door or window look good as new.

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bird seed for pest controlAlexander Mogilevets/shutterstock

Alternative Food Sources

For the kinder homeowners, there’s another humane pest control option that could save your garden: Provide other food sources. If you set up bird feeders (which nearly every animal in your yard will be drawn to) at the opposite end of your home, you could attract animals to that side and make sure that’s where they head in search of food, leaving your plants alone. This works best with smaller animals and requires a constant supply of food, but it isn’t always dependable. Wild animals have an instinct to forage and explore, which means they will often end up in your garden anyway.

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white vinegar for pest controlfocal point/Shutterstock

White Vinegar to Deter Ants

Ants leave a trail which makes it easier for other ants from the colony to find their way to food. To wash away the trail, use a solution made from 1/4 cup white vinegar, 2 cups water and 10 drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil and help eliminate house pests.

Some oils can also be used to clean furniture and fight odors.

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weatherstripping

Keep Weatherstripping in Working Order

Weatherstripping refers to the bristles and felt around your doors and windows. So replace any worn-away weatherstripping so there are no gaps. And keep windows tightly closed unless they have screens.

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onionNUM LPPHOTO/Shutterstock

Spiders Don’t Like Onions

It may be an old wives’ tale, but it’s worth a shot! To keep spiders away, slice up some onions and toss them in a bowl of water. Place the bowl where spiders enter your home and they’ll stay away.

Prevent other pests from getting in your home this fall with these tips.

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cage over vegetable plantPeter Turner Photography/shutterstock

Wire Cloches for the Garden

A cloche is a bell-shape covering that you can put over a plant you want to protect. Wire versions are common, affordable and easy to find. Simply place them over growing plants, and animals will have a hard time reaching those delicate leaves. It’s an excellent solution if you have one or two particularly vulnerable plants in your garden or planters that require protection. If you have some chicken wire laying around, you can make your own rough tube cloches, but they won’t be nearly as aesthetically pleasing or easy to salvage afterward, so there is a trade off to making them yourself.

The problem comes when you have many plants in the same area that need to be protected. If your plants are in a row, then using one long, low loop of chicken wire to cover them all is an elegant solution. If not, you may need to investigate other options.

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copper mesh for pest control

Plug Holes with Copper Mesh

Find a hole where pests can enter your home? Stuff in a generous amount of copper mesh with a screwdriver, leaving about half an inch of space for expanding foam sealant. Seal gaps with foam to keep house pests out. 

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apple cider vinegarfocal point/Shutterstock

Remove Fruit Flies Naturally

If those pesky fruit flies are invading your kitchen, grab a small bowl and pour in a little apple cider vinegar. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and punch a couple of pencil-lead-sized holes in the plastic. The fruit flies will be attracted to the vinegar and they can get in but not out.

Vinegar can also be used to make a natural cleaner.

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squirrel on garden fenceMatt Browne/Shutterstock

Baffles

You may already have experience using baffles, the cone- or cylinder-shape objects that attach to posts or poles to keep squirrels from climbing up to bird feeders or into fenced gardens. If you have planters on or near posts or poles, baffles are a great option for deterring squirrels and preserving your plants.

Check out a squirrel-proof bird feeder that’s easy to fill and a great addition to your backyard.

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spider control

Simple Spider Solution

You can virtually eliminate spiders in your basement by using a dehumidifier to maintain a 40 percent humidity level and vigilantly sweeping down cobwebs whenever they appear. Keep the basement windowsills brushed clean too. In a matter of weeks, the spider population will die down significantly and you wont have to worry about house pests.

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remove ant trails

Eliminate Ant Trails

Where you see one ant, you’re bound to see others. That’s because ants leave a scented trail that other ants follow. Sweeping or mopping isn’t enough to eliminate the scent. Instead, mix 1 part vinegar with 3 parts water in a spray bottle, then spray wherever you’ve seen ants in the past. This will stop outdoor nesting ants that entered the house to forage for food (ants that come inside are not necessarily trying to establish a nest).

Vinegar and water won’t stop ants that are already nesting indoors. You’ll need to kill them with ant bait.

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coffee grounds coffee filterNor Gal/Shutterstock

Another Use for Coffee Grounds

Those coffee grounds are good for more than just a cup of coffee. Try using your leftover coffee grounds in spots around the outside of your home where you think house pests are coming in. Many critters can’t stand the smell of the grounds and will steer clear.

You can also use coffee grounds to critter-proof your garden.

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FH08NOV_493_05_011 insulation in crawl spaces air duct inspection fall pestsFamily Handyman

Check Your Crawl Spaces

Take a flashlight and protective clothing into your crawlspaces and/or basement and have a look around. Look for large, obvious nests of shredded material, which indicate rodents. Watch for smaller signs too, like lines of ants or scrambling cockroaches looking for a home. And remove these pests and find out how they gained entry to stop future incursions.

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seal pet food

Close Off Pet Food

Store pet food in a lidded metal trashcan, as mice cannot climb the slick, vertical sides of the can. Sealed plastic containers are also a good option.

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banana peelRein Jongelie/Shutterstock

Bananas Deter Aphids

Are aphids taking over your garden? Just place a banana peel under the soil near the stems of your plants. This will not only deter the bugs, but it will add some nutrients to the soil.

Try these tips for getting rid of garden weeds.

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FH06MAY_CTRPYH_05Family Handyman

Don’t Let Pests in Through the Dryer Vent

Examine dryer vents to ensure the damper isn’t stuck open or broken off completely. Also check that the seal between the vent and the wall is tight to keep house pests out.

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trim shrubsFamily Handyman

Trim Plants Against Your House

Once you kill the ants in your house and yard, take steps to ensure they don’t come back. Trim back bushes, shrubs and trees that brush against your siding or roof and provide a bridge for ants to reach your house. Keep a 3-in. to 6-in. clearance space between the soil around the foundation and the bottom row of siding to prevent ants from nesting in the siding (and make sure the soil slopes away from the house). Avoid stacking firewood next to the house. Firewood makes a perfect retreat for ants. Ants like bare spots in the yard and they like to build nests under layers of thatch. Maintaining a healthy lawn is one way to discourage ants. If anthills pop up in bare areas, spray the mound with insecticide and plant grass in the bare spots. Rake the lawn or bag the grass when you mow to eliminate thatch.

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cornmealMoving Moment/Shutterstock

Cornmeal Deters Ants

Seeing ants? Place small piles of cornmeal down wherever you see ants. Ants like to eat the cornmeal and they will take it back to their colony but they can’t digest it. It may take a few days to work, but if you have pets, it’s a non-toxic solution.

Learn 17 pet care and safety tips.

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FH16JAU_BEDBUG_09-1 vacuum clean mattress disinfect bedFamily Handyman

Do You Have Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs travel easily on clothes during vacation times. Check for bed bugs after visiting others, or being visited by overnight guests. Remember bed bugs can live in couches as well as mattresses. And clean any vacation clothes immediately.

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lavender essential oilsLiliGraphie/Shutterstock

Get Rid of Dust Mites

Make your own dust mite repellent spray with essential oils. Mix eucalyptus, lavender, clove or peppermint oil with water in a spray bottle. Use it to mist furniture and linens and allow the spray to air dry.

Follow these tips to clean your rugs and rid them of dust mites.

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dfh17sep026_650566540_12 washing beddingMy Hardy/Shutterstock

Check Seasonal Clothing for Pests

Do you have seasonal clothes or bedding that you are bringing out of storing? Wash and dry it all thoroughly to kill any waiting bug eggs, and inspect everything for signs of an infestation before you pack it away—or start wearing it.

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fh12oct_532_06_026 protect your chimney gate to keep fall pests outFamily Handyman

Guard Your Chimney

Install a chimney cap and screen to keep out pests like rodents and birds. Not only can they do damage, but they often bring in smaller bugs that will take up residence in your home.

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clovesMamsizz/Shutterstock

Keep Ladybugs at Bay

If ladybugs are taking over an area of your home, place some bags of cloves or sprinkle some clove oil in heavily infested areas. Ladybugs don’t like strong scents and will evacuate quickly. Then vacuum or sweep up the cloves.

Try these tips to get rid of Japanese Beetles in your garden.