DIY your way to a pest-free home
Have unwelcome guests showing up at your home? (No, we’re not talking about your neighbor.) DIY pest control is a budget-conscious option that can often do the trick, although there are situations where a pro will need to pick up where you left off.
Here’s what to know about do-it-yourself pest control and when you might need professional pest control services instead.
Why Do You Have Pests in Your Home?
Where there are pests, there’s a way they got in, and your first step in DIY pest control is determining where that is. Insects can find their way in through the tiniest cracks, while a mouse or rat can fit through impossibly small gaps and crevices—anything wider than 1/4 of an inch in diameter is generally fair game for rodents.
Potential Points of Entry
Keep a close eye out for these potential entry points:
Holes, cracks, and other penetrations in the walls
Gaps where walls meet the floor or ceiling
Spaces between adjoining walls and foods
Gaps around vents and utility lines
Worn or broken seals around doors and windows
Torn window screens
Gaps where window trims meet the siding
Gaps near the foundation and siding joints
Grab a flashlight and give your home a full 360-degree inspection, indoors and out. Fill gaps and holes with expanding foam sealant or copper mesh (a rust-proof fine mesh that rodents can’t chew through). Caulk gaps between seams, such as those between window trims and siding. Weatherstripping around doors and windows will also help keep pests at bay.
How to Prepare for Doing Your Own Pest Control
Before you can rid your home of pests, there are a couple of steps you can take to make things easier and safer for you and your family.
Clean Your Home
Once you’ve pinpointed and addressed where the pests are entering, you’ll want to make your home as uninviting as possible. Clear away clutter, place food items in sealed containers, and give your home a deep clean to eliminate any lingering food sources.
It’s also important to fully research whatever method or product you’re trying out beforehand. Always read manufacturer guidelines carefully, as many DIY pest control options can be dangerous to use around children and pets. If you’re not certain you can safely deal with the pest problem on your own, consider hiring a local exterminator.
How to Do DIY Pest Control for Your Home, Lawn, or Garden
Your do-it-yourself pest control plan will depend on the intruder you’re dealing with. Here are your best options for handling these common household pests.
Getting rid of ants can be tricky once they’ve locked down your place, as they leave pheromone trails to guide their nest mates to the food source. To get them to stop coming, you’ll need to take care of the trail as well as the insects.
Here are your best DIY pest control options:
Pick up commercial ant hotels or liquid baits.
Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth wherever the ants are getting in.
Spray vinegar to mask ant pheromone trails.
Repel ants with peppermint, orange, clove, or lemon essential oils.
Among the most-feared household intruders, bed bugs can be difficult to get rid of on your own. You’ll want to call in a local bed bug removal professional for a major infestation, as the insects can multiply fast, hide, and spread throughout your home.
In the meantime, here are your best DIY ways to get rid of bed bugs:
Separate infested items and place them inside sealed plastic bags prior to treatment.
Seal mattresses and box springs in protective covers to trap and kill bugs.
Steam items at a temperature of at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Run items through a clothes dryer on high heat.
Freeze items at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of three days.
Follow the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines for safe, legal bed bug treatment.
You might have heard how cockroaches can survive an apocalypse—unfortunately, their resilience holds true against most DIY pest control methods. Chemical insecticides are often effective, as well as a few other at-home methods, to get rid of roaches.
Still, these treatments might not wipe out an infestation; all it takes is a few surviving insects and they can quickly multiply. For significant roach problems, it’s best to bring in a local cockroach control pro ASAP.
However, if you only see a roach here and there, this is how you can intervene:
Use commercial roach baits and poisons (note that many of these aren’t safe around children and pets).
Sprinkle a small amount of diatomaceous earth near where you’ve seen roaches.
Combine equal parts of boric acid and sugar, sprinkling the mixture wherever you’ve seen roaches.
When it comes to pests in your garden or greenhouse plants, organic pest control methods are the way to go. According to a study on the impact of pesticides, chemical pesticides can harm the environment by contaminating soil and water, plus they can harm or kill pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. These methods should only get used as a last resort when all else has failed.
Here are the best ways to defend your garden safely:
Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth on plant leaves and beneath vegetables and fruits.
Encourage beneficial garden insects, spiders, birds, and other natural predators in your garden.
Spray plants with neem oil, insecticidal soap, or dish soap
Plant mint, garlic, or onion around susceptible garden plants to naturally deter insects and animals.
Spritz plants with water mixed with cayenne pepper powder.
A rodent problem is fit for DIY pest control if you see a mouse or rat here and there—but you should bring in a mouse extermination pro near you if there are more than a few of them around.
You can get rid of mice by trapping and releasing them in a remote area away from your home that has ample food, water, and shelter to prevent them from returning. However, check traps often, so the animal doesn’t die of starvation before you can safely relocate them.
A termite infestation is one of the instances where you should call a termite control pro in your area. Once you’ve noticed the problem, it’s likely gotten serious, and you’re in a race against the clock before the insects can do more damage.
DIY wasp nest removal can be a risky venture, particularly if you or someone in your home is allergic. If anyone has an allergy or has never been stung, it’s best to steer clear and call in a pro to help.
If the buzzing insects on your property are bees rather than wasps or hornets, do not attempt to remove them on your own. The American Beekeeping Federation provides state-by-state lists of local beekeepers to aid homeowners in the safe removal of these crucial pollinators.
Tips for Preventing Future Pest Invasions
Want to keep your home a pest-free zone? Follow these DIY pest prevention tips for a home that’s less inviting to common pests like ants, roaches, and more.
Store food and pantry items in sealed containers.
Clean up crumbs and food spills immediately.
Maintain a clean, clutter-free home.
Store pet food in sealed, lidded containers.
Address areas of excess moisture and hire a plumber to handle any leaks.
Avoid having piles of brush and/or firewood near your home.
Cut back any branches or greenery that come in contact with your home’s walls (especially near doors and windows).
Invest in the cost of sealing or capping your chimney to keep out rodents and other small animals.
Perform regular inspections of your home to spot places where pests can get in.
Inspect and wash your belongings immediately after coming home from traveling.
Do-It-Yourself Pest Control vs. Hiring a Pro
A professional exterminator costs more than undertaking the task on your own ($200 to $600 on average), but that expense comes with the peace of mind that it works. The DIY route also carries the risk of unnecessary spending if it’s unsuccessful, so it’s important not to take on more than you can realistically handle.
Pros have access to the most powerful chemicals and methods available, plus they’re specially trained to eliminate the source, so they’re your best bet for a major infestation.
Frequently Asked Questions
This varies based on the circumstance. Chemical-based pest control baits and poisons are usually the most potent, but they are unsafe to use around children and pets, so they won’t be a fit for every household.
Safer alternatives, such as boric acid and food-grade diatomaceous earth, can work as well, though they should still stay out of reach. Aside from that, the best thing any DIY-er can do is make their place uninviting by sealing off entry points, eliminating clutter, and maintaining a clean home.
Professional pest control works faster than any DIY method, so it’s the way to go if you want your pest problem gone ASAP. A basic treatment can take place in under six hours, while larger fumigations may take up to a week. You should start noticing a significant reduction in pests within a couple of days, with full results in about a week on average.
To find a quality professional and avoid pest control scams, do your homework before you hire. Read customer reviews or get a direct recommendation from a friend, neighbor, or family member. Once you’ve narrowed your list down, verify that the pro is licensed and insured. It’s always a good idea to get multiple quotes from vetted pros in order to find the best deal.