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Get a Rest from Pests, Naturally

By Chantal O'Keeffe
August 25, 2010
File under: Health, Home, Pest Control


Are household pests beginning to take their toll on your stress level? If you’re like me, and millions of other Americans, you’ve probably come home from work to find a trail of ants leading the charge, or an errant mouse hopping out of your sink of dirty dishes, as surprised as you are that someone else is there.

As much as it pains me to admit it, I’ve been there more times than I’d like to remember. The first, and probably most important thing I’ve learned is that prevention is key. In most cases, prevention is code for keeping a very clean, very organized, and crumb-free home. No exceptions.

But even with prevention as rule number one, there are still circumstances that are beyond our control. I once lived in an apartment in Austin, Texas, where roaches ran rampant. It was at this very apartment that I began my habit of wiping down counters obsessively, vacuuming at 3 a.m., and keeping every food item in an airtight container.

It was all for naught, though, as the apartments above, below, and next to me were not quite so fastidious, and roaches, ants and mice found their way through air vents and teeny tiny cracks I didn’t even know existed.

So when all else fails, here are some tips for when prevention alone doesn’t quite cut it.


I love the site The Frugal Life for all sorts of neat remedies, but I especially love their help with household pests. Remedies for ridding your home of ants include baby powder, cinnamon, or even pepper! Someone also mentions the Bay Leaves method, which I can attest to firsthand for dispersing a mild ant invasion. Of course, ants are usually looking for food, or water during a drought, so start with taking out your trash, emptying your compost, giving your home a good wipe-down, and emptying any standing water.


I hate fleas, and having lived in my share of homes filled with roommates and their pets, I’ve certainly had some bites or three. Sandbeck’s Green Housekeeping clued me into the salt or borax remedies. I’ve seen boric acid in action and I am here to tell you that it works!

My personal favorite is The Frugal Life’s mix of borax and lavender oil, which is an oil known to repel bugs.  My mom lightly sprays her carpets and wood floors with a mix of water and lavender oil, and for my dog, I intermittently spray her and her bedding with the same concoction. So far, we’re happily flea free.


I know there are a few of you out there who are repulsed by mice; I am not one of you. I think they’re adorable, maybe because I grew up with a gerbil. That said, like you, I do not want them in my house. They can wreak havoc in your walls, chew up your wires, which is a fire hazard, and their droppings can spread disease. I don’t, however, want to kill myself with fumes, or come down to breakfast and find a half-dead mouse with its cute little lower half broken under a mouse trap, thank you.

If you have a mouse problem, double up on your clean house routine: air-tight containers, no crumbs, and clean dishes only… after that, well, it’s time to get to work.

My favorite is the catch and release. You can use peanut butter as bait, and then the next morning, take the mouse into the woods, a park, an alley (depending on where you live) and release! Click here to view a video of The Better Mouse Trap in action.

You can catch and release mice until you’re old and gray, but if you don’t seal their entrances, you’ll always be battling Mother Nature. Find out how they’re getting in, remove them first, and then seal, baby, seal.

Click here for some additional tips for keeping the vermin at bay from The Frugal Life.


Again, a clean house, plus boric acid to the rescue (and there are several recipes out there to try). If you’re going for simplicity, you can spread a thin layer of boric acid or borax where roaches like to hide (dark, cool places). Green Housekeeping informed me of a study completed at Iowa State that used catnip oil to successfully repel roaches. In my case, the only thing I could do to live roach-free was move. Eradicating roaches in multifamily buildings can’t happen with just one grossed out tenant.

Chantal O’Keeffe is a writer and animal lover. She has worked previously as a copywriter, photographer, and production assistant.  She spent half of the last decade working with rescue dogs for a sanctuary in the Bay Area, and just adopted her first dog, Mou Mou. She recently completed Level 1 and 2 of the Canine Behavior Academy at the Marin Humane Society.

Chantal has an MFA in Writing from the California College of Arts, and lives in San Francisco.

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Comments (2) Email Link
  1. Sarah Cross
    September 15, 2010 3pm UTC

    Thanks for the tips – very helpful! I have to say that I think the best deterrent for mice is a cat. I’ve had mouse problems in almost every place I’ve lived, but since getting a cat there’s no sign of them!

  2. Make Your Own Natural Beauty Products :
    December 5, 2010 3am UTC

    [...] drops of lavender oil, and shake.  This mix is also great for ironing, and spritzing the dog bed, for more reasons than one. Categories: Beauty & Fashion, Gold Dust Woman Click here to cancel reply. [...]

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