9 Everyday Items That Can Help Control Household Pests

Annoyed by ants, gnats, cockroaches or other pests? (Shudder.) Here's how to vanquish them with common ingredients you likely have on hand.
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As a recent renter-turned-homeowner, one thing I took for granted in my apartment days was pest control. It was included in my rent and taken care of while I was off at work, so it never crossed my mind when I moved into my house — until I had to deal with an invasion of ants. Store-bought sprays and baits can be very effective, but what if you have pets or kids and are concerned about their safety? Or what if you want to deal with the problem now without running to the store? Before you reach for the chemicals, try these items you may already have around the house that can help keep ants, roaches, bed bugs, flies and more pests at bay.

1. Vinegar

What can’t vinegar do? In addition to being a great cleaning agent, vinegar is effective in deterring many types of pests. Ants despise the smell of vinegar, and vinegar will wipe out the scent trails they leave around the house to navigate. You can also make traps for fruit flies and gnats using apple cider vinegar mixed with a few drops of dish soap. The insects will be drawn to the smell of the vinegar, but once they touch it, the soap will make it impossible for them to escape.

2. Catnip

Catnip is a natural cockroach deterrent. You can make a “catnip tea” by simmering catnip in water, which you can then spray in areas where you see roaches. Catnip sachets can also be effective, but avoid this method if you have cats at home.

3. Essential Oils

Essential oils, such as peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender, can help keep dust mites and bed bugs under control. Just mix of a few drops with water and spritz on bedding, carpets and rugs.

4. Salt

Kill fleas and flea eggs by sprinkling finely ground salt on your carpet, letting it sit for 24 hours and vacuuming it up. The salt dehydrates the fleas and ultimately kills them.

5. Vacuum Cleaner

If a swarm of ladybugs has invaded your home, the easiest way to get rid of them is with a vacuum cleaner — and you can even release them back outside if you'd like. Secure the toe end of a pair on pantyhose to your vacuum's hose attachment with a rubber band as a trap.

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6. Citrus

Fun fact: Spiders’ taste buds are on the tips of their legs, and they hate citrus. Ergo, they won't want to walk on places soaked in citrus. Mix water with lemon or lime juice and spray around doors and windows.

7. Cornmeal

Don’t have any ant baits handy? Try setting out small piles of cornmeal. The ants will bring it back to the colony as food, but they can’t digest it properly, ultimately thinning their ranks.

8. Petroleum Jelly

If you can see where ants or other insects are getting into your home, create a barrier with a line of petroleum jelly. You can also try chalk, cinnamon or cayenne pepper.

9. Mint

Mint repels all kinds of critters, including ants, flies, mosquitoes and mice. Leave small sachets of crushed mint — or even mint teabags in a pinch — around the house.

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