25 Tips for Controlling Pests In and Around Your Home

Updated: Nov. 24, 2023

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 Any and All Gaps

When you’re looking for all of the potential ways that pests might be sneaking into your home make sure to watch out 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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rosemary herbs

Fresh Herbs

Tired of mosquitoes crashing 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.

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repair torn screen
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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.

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bird seed for pest control
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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 method 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 control
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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 natural solution made from 1/4 cup white vinegar, 2 cups of water, and 10 drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil and help eliminate house pests.

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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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NUM 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.

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cage over vegetable plant
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Wire Cloches for the Garden

A cloche is a bell-shaped covering that you can put over a plant you want to protect. Wire versions are common, affordable and easy to find. Simply place them on top of growing plants and animals will have a hard time reaching those delicate leaves. This is 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 as aesthetically pleasing or easy to salvage afterward.

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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. Finish off sealing the gaps with foam to permanently keep house pests out.

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apple cider vinegar
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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.

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squirrel on garden fence
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You may already have experience using baffles, the cone-or-cylinder-shaped 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.

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spider control

Simple Spider Solution

You can pretty much eliminate spiders in your basement by maintaining a 40 percent humidity level with a humidifier 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 won’t 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 filter
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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 pests
Family 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.

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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 peel
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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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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, make sure to check that the seal between the vent and the wall is tight to keep house pests out.

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trim shrubs
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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 the siding to prevent ants from nesting in the siding (and make sure the soil slopes away from the house).

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Moving 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.

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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 that bed bugs can live in couches as well as mattresses.

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lavender essential oils

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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Check Seasonal Clothing for Pests

Do you have seasonal clothes or bedding that you are bringing out of storage? 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 out
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Guard Your Chimney

Install a chimney cap and screen on your chimney 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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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.