16 Natural Pest Repellents
Crawling critters love to make their way into your inviting home, quickly setting up camp and taking over your space. From spiders to insects to rodents, make your house a little less welcoming with natural pest repellents.
Even in nature, pests of all kinds have scents and colors they are attracted to (think hummingbirds to red) and sights or smells they turn away from. Instead of taking the chemical route, choose organic options like vinegar, herbs, and live predators.
1. Diatomaceous Earth
Any discussion on the topic of pest control should include diatomaceous earth (DE). It’s a long name for a substance that is non-toxic but it's safe to use around children and pets. Plus, it’s inexpensive, easy to find, easy to use, and hated by many of the creepy crawlers in your house.
Fleas, cockroaches, dust mites, ants, bed bugs, earwigs, stink bugs, spiders, and more can be eliminated with the use of DE.
It works through dehydration. The goal is to leave trails of DE in areas the pests frequently traffic. You want them to stomp through the DE. Once exposed, they will go back to where they came from, dehydrate, and die within a few days.
You can apply DE in your crawlspace, on carpets, around the outside border of the house, on mattresses and furniture, in the back of cupboards, in window sills, and along baseboards.
Focus on areas where you’ve seen pest activity and those spaces infrequently visited by the vacuum. When applying DE, create thick lines in focused areas rather than lightly spreading it.
Boric acid deters many pests. For insects that like to perch in high places like cockroaches, apply the boric acid above cabinets. Boric acid is toxic to ingest so keep it away from children and pets.
For sugar ants, mix one part Borax with three parts powdered sugar and put it in a container with small holes to provider access for ants but a blockade for other animals.
Your vacuum is one of the best deterrents you own. Use it frequently and target baseboards, the top of curtains, bed mattresses, and under furniture in addition to the main traffic areas.
There is some dispute as to the effectiveness of herbs like mint, rosemary, lavender, cinnamon, cloves, bay, eucalyptus, and basil in repelling pests. There’s no harm in trying them out. Make satchels to put inside drawers or soak cotton balls in essential oils and leave them in areas where you suspect pest activity.
Many sensitive rodent noses will avoid strong scents from spices too. Use cayenne pepper, pepper, and cloves to deter them.
6. Cider Vinegar
An age old recipe for getting rid of fruit flies is apple cider vinegar with a few drops of dish soap in it. It attracts flies, but does not allow them to escape. You can also attract them into a jar filled with some red wine or fruit. Cover it with plastic wrap and puncture a few small holes as an invitation.
Ammonia resembles the smell of animal urine and can keep threatened pests away. Fill small caps with it and leave it out near doors and other entrance points.
8. A Cat
If mice are your problem, a cat is your solution.
9. Steel Wool
Plug any open spaces, holes in cupboards, or entrance points around your furnace with steel wool. It is about the only thing that mice won’t chew through.
10. Fabric Softeners
Fabric softener sheets are said to deter mice so you can lay them out in cupboards or drawers. Mosquitos may also be repelled by the scent so tuck one in your pocket during the height of the season.
11. Snake Feces and Cat Litter
Yep, it sounds weird, but mice are smart. They know who their natural predators are. So leave your cat’s litter box in trouble spots or pick up some snake feces at the pet store to leave an unwelcome scent in the area.
In addition to frequent vacuuming, cleaning the surfaces of your home is one of the most effective pest repellents there is. Pests that crawl, wiggle, scamper, scurry, or otherwise enter your space, are primarily drawn in by anything that is stinky, sticky, rotting, tasty, or any of the above combined with easy access.
Store open packages in sealed containers, frequently wipe down counters, cabinets, appliances, and floors with a citrus or herb-infused cleaner, and remove garbage from the house in a timely manner. White vinegar or soap and water also do an effective job.
13. Neem Oil
Neem oil is incredibly effective against a wide variety of insects, yet doesn’t harm beneficial insects such as ladybugs and butterflies.
Since it is an oil, it basically suffocates leaf eating insects like cabbage worms, squash bugs, nematodes, and grubs. Neem oil is easy to find in any garden center or online, however, it can require repeat applications to be effective.
You can also create your own oil mixture by combining one cup vegetable oil with a tablespoon of liquid soap. Hold onto your mixture. When you’re ready for application, mix two teaspoons of the mixture with one quart of water and apply directly.
14. Absence of Water
Not so much a repellent as a deterrent, removing all water sources from your yard helps keep the mosquitoes and other insects from moving in. Come to think of it, making water unavailable is also a way to uninvite other thirsty critters like rabbits, squirrels, and deer, who will also accept a free lunch from your garden.
Ever notice that when the campfire is burning, the mosquitos seem to stay away? You don’t have to feed wood into the flames to create the effect when you can easily locate and order smoke-creating devices that deter mosquitoes and other pests in a natural way.
16. Store Bought
If you’re short on supplies, time, or both, there are many options ready for purchase at the store or online. Most are infused with some of the ingredients mentioned above, such as basil, lemongrass, mint, or cedar.
In case you haven’t picked up on it, there are myriad pests that can quickly become problematic inside, or even around the perimeter of, the home.
Mice and Rats
Rodents come to mind, especially considering the amount of damage they can do when chewing on wood furniture or electrical wiring.
In addition, mice and rats leave behind feces and urine, and they can spread disease and carry a big gross factor. Plus, it’s just unnerving to meet up with a rodent eyeball to eyeball, unless it’s a pet of course.
Talk about things that make you jump in the night. There are few things as memorable as flipping on a light during a midnight stupor, only to see cockroaches scurry in every direction.
While they don’t cause structural damage, cockroaches can spread disease by contaminating food, water, and air. As a result, your family can suffer an increased risk of salmonella, gastroenteritis, asthma, E. coli, and other health issues.
Nearly everyone has encountered mosquitos and we’d be hard-pressed to find a single person who appreciates them for any reason.
Not only do mosquitoes spread diseases such as malaria, Zika virus, and a variety of encephalitides, but their bites can cause significant discomfort, pain, and severe reactions.
As soon as winter breaks, tick season begins in much of the country. These little blood suckers will attach themselves to animals, clothing, and your skin. Once they burrow underneath the skin they can cause a variety of ailments.
The CDC reports they are responsible for “Lyme disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever, and tularemia”
Some people don’t mind them; some people are fascinated by them. Let’s be real though, there’s a reason there’s a psychologically-defined fear of spiders called arachnophobia.
Arachnids can bite, and a few are even poisonous, causing mild to severe reactions and possibly even death in rare situations.
On a lower level, spiders are annoying just because the thought of them might keep you from sleeping and they are masters of building unwelcome webs, even after you diligently sweep them down.
Silverfish and Earwigs
The two types of creepy crawlers are actually different, although they are closely related. Neither insect is directly harmful to humans, but they can be a high-quality nuisance as they will chew through paper, boxes, clothing, linens, and other products around your home.
Inside or outside, some species of bees are highly problematic. While many bees, such as honey or mason bees, are solitary and avoid interacting with humans and animals as much as possible, we all think of bees that sting when the animal is mentioned.
Use sweet liquids or meats in a bee trap to drive them away from the outdoor living space and into a device of their demise.
It seems like once one arrives, they become ubiquitous, suddenly appearing throughout the kitchen. Fruit flies can quickly become invasive so take action quickly when you see one.
As they come marching two by two across the room, up the wall, and along the edge of the counter, sugar ants aren’t afraid to make their presence known.
Although they can be a ‘bugger’ to get rid of, with attention to cleanliness and a carefully laid path of vinegar, citrus, herbs, or borax, you can keep them marching the other direction.
You probably won’t see them, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Typically the first tell-tale sign of bed bugs is a rashlike group of bites.
When bed bugs strike, strip everything and put all the linens and pillows in a tightly-sealed bag. Wash or dry clean mattress covers, comforters, sheets, pillow cases and pillows in very hot water--twice to be safe.
While the linens are being cleaned, vacuum all sides of the mattresses, bed frame, and surrounding walls and floor surfaces.
If you’ve ever seen a few stink bugs around your house, you can be nearly certain there will be more in the future. These bugs multiply quickly and since they hide in dark places, you never really know how many there are.
Although not dangerous, the buzzing, flying, stink bugs are certainly invasive. When smashed they emit an unpleasant smell similar to the scent of cilantro. The best natural pest repellent for these difficult to eliminate stinkers is acute attention to blocking openings.
Repair every screen, add insulation around gaps in doors and windows, and putty separations in walls and floors.
When they do get into the house, don’t squish them or throw them out where they can send messages for their friends to join the party. Instead, hold a small jar beneath them. They will jump in and not come back out.
If you have pets, you’ve likely dealt with fleas.
Eliminating them starts with good flea control at the source. Since we’re talking about repellents here, go with whatever topical or oral solution your vet recommends, follow recommended dosages, and use it year round. Fleas can go dormant, living in the cracks of your home for up to six months, so stay on top of treatments.
A Note About Fencing
Many pests are those that hop, climb, or saunter into your garden uninvited. While a half-filled can or cup of beer can entice and capture slugs, larger animals can be blocked access with appropriate fencing.
Make sure to install the fencing material you choose all the way to the ground so critters can’t crawl underneath. If deer are your issue, make sure your fence is six to eight feet tall to keep them from jumping over the top. Also install a gate that closes and latches shut.
Pests are, well, pests. The more you can repel them upfront, the less you’ll have to repair damage and drive them away. While you’re on the top, check out our related article Vanilla Extract: A Natural Insect Repellent. Plus, take a look at 7 Signs You Have Pests.