Natural Ways to Keep Household Pests Away

Keeps insects, rodents and other pests out of your home this season with these DIY deterrents.

Indoor pest problems? It can be a year-round issue for some, and a seasonal issue for others. With spring and then summer upon us, learn how to keep bugs and animals out of your house the natural way – that is, without harsh chemicals or professional exterminators. From simple home maintenance practices that will help keep those little bugs from breaking and entering, to using ordinary scents as deterrents, read on for lots of tips for you to try in your own home. 

Gray Mouse

Gray Mouse

© National Gardening Association

National Gardening Association

Mice 

  • If you don’t have a cat, the scent of peppermint and cloves are natural repellants for mice. Soak cotton balls with either clove or peppermint essential oils, and place them where you believe they are accessing your home. (The essential oils also have the nice side effect of making your home smell great too). 
  • Cayenne powder sprinkled outdoors at an entry point will deter a number of pests, mice included. 
  • If you know exactly where the mice are entering, wedge copper wire mesh or balls of aluminum foil into the small holes to block and deter entry (mice don’t like chewing through those materials).
  • If the mice are already inside, it’s time for a mouse trap. Kill traps and humane traps are readily available in the home goods and cleaning section of most stores.

Ants

  • A clean house is the first step to ridding ants; keep dishes clean, rinse recycled jars and containers, and place a tight lid on the garbage can. 
  • If you find ants trailing through your house, it’s likely that they are following the scent of their predecessors. Use a white vinegar spray and soapy sponge to clean their scent from this pathway. 
  • Ants also dislike peppermint, so if you know where they’re entering you can use a cotton ball soaked in peppermint essential oil to deter them.
  • To eliminate a colony, bait and kill them using a sweet but deadly concoction. Different ants have different palettes, so start with these two: a mix of equal parts powdered sugar and borax, and a separate mix of peanut butter and borax. Prepare small quantities of each recipe, and place them outside of the home in tiny containers like bottle caps where you expect they are entering. The ants will be attracted to the snack (they won’t need to come indoors to find their fix), and they’ll gradually take tiny mouthfuls back to their colony, where the borax will gradually kill them. 

Ladybugs

  • It’s worth noting that ladybugs don’t do damage once they’re inside the home, but if you’ve ever found one in your home, you’ve probably also found a dozen or more of their closest friends.
  • Are the ladybugs already taking up residence indoors? Go crazy with the vacuum cleaner, and deposit the collected bugs and dust outdoors. Chances are, the trapped ladybugs just can’t find a way back out of the home. 
  • Prevent them from coming indoors by checking for cracks in your window screens, repairing caulking and working to plug other entry points to the home, like door jams and cracks in the foundation. Various insecticides like D-Fense SC and D-Fense Dust are available as preventatives, but sealing the home and eliminating their points of entry is the best defense. 
Ladybug

Ladybug

Stink Bugs

  • These obnoxious little guys will find their way into your home much like ladybugs, so check for missing caulk, and cracks in screens and door jams. 
  • If you have stinkbugs indoors, you’re best bet is to grab them gently in a piece of toilet paper and flush them. Be careful not to crush these bugs though, that’s when they’ll emit their pungent odor.
  • If the bugs are already in your house, keep in mind that they lay their eggs in trees and plants. Take a moist, soapy cloth to your houseplant leaves to rid them of eggs.
  • Strong smells, like catnip, mint, and garlic are a deterrent for stink bugs. Try mixing 2 tablespoons of garlic powder in 1 cup of water and leave it in small containers at expected entry points outside your home. Cotton balls soaked in a peppermint essential oil will also deter stink bugs.

Fleas

  • Once you find fleas indoors, go on a cleaning rampage. Placing all pet beds and toys in a dryer on a hot air setting for 15-30 minutes will kill fleas and eggs.
  • Use a carpet cleaning powder with borax or baking soda additives, and settle it into the rug using a broom. Vacuum all carpets thoroughly, and discard the dust and fleas picked up in a sealed plastic bag, in the garbage, preferably outdoors so they can’t finagle re-entry.
  • Make a vinegar spray for other surfaces, like countertops and tables – it’s also safe for fabrics if you want to periodically spray the surface of your couch or pet bed.
  • Dehumidify your home. Allegedly, fleas and their larvae won’t survive in a room with <50% humidity.
  • Wash your pet with gentle shampoo, and monitor his outdoor activity (it’s possible he picked up the bugs from his favorite resting spot outside). If you spot a nest in his fur, you can also treat it by massaging in a wet pinch of salt every day (just keep an eye on it at first to make sure it doesn’t aggravate his skin).
  • Don’t be surprised if you find fleas in your lit candles; the heat and light are attracting, and you might find them drowned in wax. You may also be able to trap them if you place a glass with 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of colored dish soap on a table with a light or on a warm sunlit windowsill near where you pet sleeps.

Bats

Traps and repellant products aren’t as effective on bats as they are on other pests that enter your home. Bats can enter the home through the smallest of cracks, like a torn or poorly fitted window screen or a gap in the flashing of your home. Correcting these issues is first and foremost the most important step to keeping bats from getting in your home, and this is one instance when we do think consulting a hired specialist is worthwhile. They will know exactly what to look for (they also might work at night, on your roof wearing a headlamp to identify points of entry and exit). One thing you can do is make and install a bat house in your yard to give the bats a place to live that isn't nestled in your dormer.

Professional options aside, when there’s a bat in your house at 3 a.m., you’re on your own. Gradually turn on all of the lights in your home, and contain the bat – and yourself – into a single, small room with at least one window. The lights will disrupt the bat enough to keep it in flight in the short term while you organize the exit strategy, and the light will also make it easier to spot if it anchors itself to a wall or lamp. Open the windows and remove the screens if necessary to create the most open exit possible, and do your best to keep an eye on that fast flying pest. Do be aware that you'll probably attract night moths through your open windows thanks to the lightbulbs, but consider that a smaller problem, OK? It is 3 a.m., after all. Does it sounds like I've done this before... a few times? Flag the bat towards the window with a towel, and when you see it escape, immediately close the window to prevent re-entry. If you’re not sure whether or not it escaped, don’t stay up all night – close the door to the room, put a towel at the door's threshold to prevent escape, and look for it in the morning.

If there’s one bat in your home, there could easily be more. Bat removal in an attic, for example, has a lot to do with timing and whether they’re hibernating or caring for young. An expert will be able to advise on how to remove them in the most natural way possible, and can tell you more about home maintenance preventatives like sealing cracks and creating a one-way exclusion device.

Additional note: Whether a full-on cedar-lined closet, or a DIY cedar drawer insert to surround and store your winter woolens, this easy-to-source wood is a natural pest repellant. Use it to keep moths and other bugs away from your clothing.

Common Garden Pests

See All Photos
Some wildlife can greatly benefit your garden; others may cause some harm. Be on the lookout for these bad guys.

Aphids Weaken Plant Growth and Carry Diseases

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Grazing Rabbit

Rabbits can be a nuisance in the garden if you don't take the proper precautions—or plant the right flowers and plants—to keep them away.

Pea Moth Caterpillars Lay Eggs Inside Pods

PSC: LOW-RES PROOF REQ? = NO

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Make Your Own Windshield De-Icer

Check out the best method for de-icing a car windshield, plus learn how to make de-icer from simple household ingredients.

How to Rewire a Vintage Lamp

Learn how to gently clean and rewire an antique brass lamp.

How to Clean Your Coffee Maker

Keep your single-serve coffee maker (like a Keurig) clean inside and out with these easy steps.

How to Host a Memorable Awards Show Party

Celebrate awards show season with your friends by throwing a fun theme party, complete with wardrobe, voting, and delicious cocktails.

5 Ways to Survive Your Snow Day

Don't get bored on a snow day. Here a few suggestions on how to use the extra time wisely or just have fun.

6 Fabulous Ways to Decoupage Pumpkins

Break out the Mod Podge, it's time to decorate.

Keep It Clean: How to Make Dry Dog Shampoo

Keep your dog smelling fresh in between baths.

How to Upcycle Salvaged Tiles Into Pineapple Coasters

Craft some adorable coasters to gift or to keep.

What We're Loving Now

We're crushing on these trends, recipes and DIYs.

More From the Archives

Browse through our archives to discover "why-didn't-I-think-of-that" projects, cool hacks and  genius DIY ideas.

Read Our Previous Posts

Meet the Team

About the Team

Get to know the crafty, creative writers and editors behind DIY's Made+Remade blog. 

Go Behind the Blog