Pest control: how to prevent pests

About 75% of U.S. households use some form of chemical pesticide. That also leads to tens of thousands of accidental poisonings, and many smaller exposures. The best alternative to pesticides is to prevent pests. The number one rule of integrated pest management (IPM) is to get rid of food, water and shelter that attracts pests.
  • Eliminate food
    Many pests can get into small spaces where there are crumbs, find left-over pet food, and eat through wax paper, cardboard and plastic food containers.

    1.  Ensure tight-fitting lids to keep pests out of garbage, recycling and compost.
    2.  Store pantry food in canning jars or reusable glass jars with screw-tops, like peanut butter jars.
    3.  Crumbs happen. Cleaning them up behind appliances and under cabinets will help prevent pests.
    4.  Get under the furniture and rugs. Use a swivel-head mop, furniture casters, or other ways to get into tight spots for cleaning.
  • Eliminate shelter
    Indoor pests seek cracks, crevices, piles of paper or cardboard or wood piles—and any way to get shelter! Yard and garden pests find shelter in piles of brush and debris and rotting wood.

    1.  Seal cracks, holes and other places pests hide. Use steel wool to fill large gaps before filling with spackle.
    2.  Get rid of rubbish that may harbor pests. This includes piles of newspapers or cardboard, yard debris and brush, and rotting wood.
    3.  Install controls to keep pests out. This includes door sweeps, window weather stripping, screens over eave and dryer vents, screens on windows and doors, and automatic door-closers on frequently used doors.
  • Eliminate water
    Some pests, like mosquitos, breed in standing water. Others thrive when there are moist environments.

    1.  Use a towel or squeegee to wipe down shower walls after showering.
    2.  Run your fans while showering, cooking or laundering.
    3.  Spend a day fixing leaks and eliminating standing water in the yard (empty buckets, trash can lids, puddles, etc).
    4.  Ensure that downspouts move water away from the walls of the building.
    5.  Take care of mold and mildew—a scrub brush, vinegar and elbow grease will work on shower walls and hard surfaces. Porous materials like drywall and carpet may need to be replaced.
    6.  Purchase a humidity meter at hardware stores for approximately $20. If you regularly have problems with mold, a humidity meter can alert you to conditions that you need to control. A healthy range is 30—50% for humidity.
  • Pesticides
    If your pest prevention comes too late and you have an insect, weed, rodent, mold or mildew problem, chemical pesticides are one tool in the tool box to consider. See how to choose the safest pesticides and tips to avoid exposure.

  • Repellents
    Insect bites are not only a bummer—they can cause allergies or, in some cases, spread disease. Repellents are one tool to prevent bites. No repellents should be used on infants under two months. For older kids and adults, learn more about effective solutions and ways to limit harmful exposure.

The way you maintain your home can make a big difference to your family’s health. Get a healthy homes checkup with our guide and tips.