Tricks That Will Keep Bugs, Mice, And Other Pests Far Away From You

As the weather grows warmer, bugs and mice scurry inside homes. They want shade and water, but nobody wants a swarm of ants or spiders along their walls. So how can you get rid of them without spraying harsh chemicals all over your home?

Fortunately, the internet provides many natural methods to exterminate or repel pests– with some instant mashed potatoes, you have the perfect rat bait. Rubbing a cooking oil on your arm can dispel mosquitoes. If you don’t want pests bugging you, check out these tricks.

Catnip Works More Than Most Insect Repellants

Ground catnip sits in a plastic container.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Although cats love catnip, bugs hate it. In 2001, researchers at Iowa State University compared catnip oil to Diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET), found in most store-bought repellents. Catnip oil was ten times more effective at keeping away mosquitoes and roaches than DEET.

The downside? The catnip oil that researchers used was highly concentrated. You’d either need a lot of catnip or the essential oil to keep away bugs. Still, a catnip plant can do wonders for your home.

Clean Out Pests With Baking Soda

Baking soda containers are seen.
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for ARM & HAMMER
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for ARM & HAMMER

Baking soda, also called sodium bicarbonate, is a natural insecticide. When bugs eat the powder, the carbon dioxide inside kills them, according to the EPA. Use it against ants, slugs, beetles, roaches, and other pests.

If you have an ant-covered mound outside, you can sprinkle two cups of baking soda over it. After a while, pour some vinegar on it to finish the job. For roaches, set out an empty coffee can partially filled with baking soda.

How Borax Destroys The Thorax

Ants swarm a pile of borax.
Sylvie Cloutier/Pinterest
Sylvie Cloutier/Pinterest

If you have an ant problem, break out some borax. Borax is a shorter name for sodium tetraborate decahydrate, a compound mined in deserts. The powder is poisonous to bugs when they eat it. Ants will carry borax back to their hive, and it will gradually kill them.

Borax also works against roaches, fleas, beetles, and silverfish. Sprinkling borax where the bugs are should do the trick. Or, you can mix borax with corn starch to create a bug-repelling paste.

Why People Rub Dryer Sheets On Their Arms

To dispel greenhead flies, a person rubs a dryer sheet on another person's arm.
Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

An old wives’ tale advises people to stick a dryer sheet in their pocket to repel bugs. This tip has some scientific backing. Scientists found that gnats tend to avoid dryer sheets because of their chemical makeup.

Two of dryer sheet ingredients, linalool and beta-cintronellol, are toxic to bugs like mosquitoes. However, we don’t know if dryer sheets can prevent mosquito bites, but rubbing a dryer sheet on your arms may keep gnats and mites away.

Prevent Bug Bites With Coconut Oil

Coconut oil sits on a spoon next to open coconuts.
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Coconut oil makes an effective insect repellent, according to a 2018 study in Scientific Reports. For some reason, insects such as ticks and mosquitoes don’t like the fatty acids in coconut oil. Researchers say that coconut oil’s anti-bug acids are lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid.

Coconut oil is safe to eat and apply topically, and if you rub coconut oil on your skin, it may prevent bug bites. Because it’s a thick substance, you may feel oily for a while.

Instant Mashed Potatoes: A Non-Toxic Rat Bait

Four bags of Idahoan instant mashed potatoes lay on a table.
Getty Images
Getty Images

If you don’t want dead mice all over your home, you can try this non-toxic bait. Sprinkle instant mashed potatoes, sometimes called potato flakes, in spots throughout your home. Usually, these flakes expand with water but don’t mix them quite yet. Just use the dry flakes.

The mice will eat these flakes, and when they drink water next, the flakes will expand. They will die almost instantly from internal bleeding. No mess and no bloody traps.

Cornstarch

A man mixes cornstarch in a bowl.
RITA REED/Star Tribune via Getty Images
Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Recently, researchers have used cornstarch to fight insects. During their study, the powder worked on termites and plant-eating bugs. Some gardeners swear by cornstarch, claiming that it protects their tomatoes from worms and insects.

Pests don’t like the chemicals and smell of it. The fine powder can also suffocate them. Some pesticide companies add cornstarch to their formulas, but you can also sprinkle the powder around your garden and home. You can rub it on your body, but not your face.

Mice Actually Hate Cheese

Two white mice eat a small block of cheese.
Alfred Schauhuber/McPhoto/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Alfred Schauhuber/McPhoto/ullstein bild via Getty Images

TV shows tell us that mice will enter a trap if you place cheese there. But a study by Manchester Metropolitan University found that mice actually hate cheese. Because cheese has such a pungent odor, mice would rather eat other animals and even humans.

According to the researchers, mice prefer high-calorie and high-sugar foods that give them more energy. Peanuts, fruit, and bread make ideal mouse trap treats. On the flip-side, you can place cheese in places that you don’t want mice to eat.

Stall Ants’ Tracks With Chalk

A gymnast dusts his hands with chalk.
Dan Istitene/Getty Images
Dan Istitene/Getty Images

In 2018, a viral Twitter video showed a circle of chalk repelling ants. There’s nothing in chalk that ants don’t like. Instead, the texture of chalk stops their path, and they have to wander around the drawn area confusingly. It also removes scent trails from the ground.

If you’re eating outside, you can draw a chalk circle to ward off ants briefly. It won’t last long, but it could save your lemonade. Although insecticidal chalk exists in China, it is illegal in the U.S.

What Do Ants Hate? Cucumber Peels!

Cucumber slices lay on a wooden cutting board.
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Did you know that ants avoid cucumbers? Specifically, they dislike the peels. Cucumber peels have a compound called trans-2-nonenal, which is used in commercial insecticide foams. In simpler terms, it’s too bitter for ants.

To get rid of ants, peel a few cucumbers. Find any entrance areas that ants crawl through, such as windows or holes around the door. Wipe the walls or floor with the cucumber skin, and then leave the peel there. You won’t find any more ants.

Create A Wormwood Mosquito Barrier

A gardener harvests wormwood.
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Wormwood is a perennial silvery herb that mosquitoes hate. It has a strong smell and is toxic toward most insect larvae, according to Planta Medica. If you plant a wall of wormwood outside, it may guard against insects.

This only works with common wormwood, or artemisia absinthium. Never rub wormwood against your skin; it could cause irritation or a rash. You can burn wormwood, but know that it has a slight hallucinogenic property. It’s best to keep the plant as-is.

Wash Bugs Away With Mouthwash

Bottles of mouthwash line the stores of a supermarket.
Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Although it sounds unlikely, some people swear that mouthwash makes a solid insect repellent. Some brands, such as Listerine, contain repellents such as eucalyptus oil. Although mouthwash hasn’t been tested against insects, people still use it.

Before you spray things with mouthwash, dilute it so your area won’t smell too minty. Fill a spray bottle with 3/4 mouthwash and 1/4 water. You can spray it around the area’s perimeter and furniture legs since it won’t disintegrate paint.

Citronella Isn’t Effective; Lemon Eucalyptus Is

Wood ants crawl all over a man's hand.
Ali Atmaca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Ali Atmaca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Although some people advertise citronella oil as an insect repellent, it may not work. Citronella, a naturally occurring oil found in two types of grasses, can only repel insects for a maximum of two hours. And most citronella candles have less than 5% of the oil, making them ineffective.

Instead, use lemon eucalyptus oil, says Eric Hoffer of Hoffer Pest. Lemon eucalyptus stems from the gum eucalyptus tree, and a 30% oil concentration can stave off insects for hours.

For A Nice-Smelling Bug Repellent, Try Lavender Oil

A woman enjoys herself in a field of lavender flowers.
Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Lavender oil not only smells good; it’s a natural insect repellent. Its sweet smell comes from linalool, a compound that bugs don’t like, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Studies find that this compound is just as effective– if not better– than commercial insecticides.

Before applying lavender oil, dilute it with a carrier oil such as almond or jojoba. Add one drop to every tablespoon of lavender oil. For mosquitoes, combine it with cinnamon or tea tree oil, says Colorado State University.

Spiders Hate Peppermint Oil

Peppermint leaves lay around a vial of peppermint oil.
@stefantakespictures/Unsplash
@stefantakespictures/Unsplash

Many have found that peppermint essential oil keeps spiders away. Why? We’re not really sure. Some people think that since spiders taste with their legs, they stay away from strong-smelling oils.

Whatever the reason, you can use peppermint oil to spray away spiders. Combine water, a splash of dish soap, and five drops of essential oil in a 16-ounce spray bottle. Coat the openings around windows and doors. Apply once a week or every few days as necessary.

Insects Run From Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is seen against a black background.
Ryan Hyde/Flickr
Ryan Hyde/Flickr

Just as rubbing alcohol can kill germs, it can also destroy bugs. Many blogs have advertised that rubbing alcohol can prevent bedbugs. However, you have to apply isopropyl alcohol directly to your sheets, which isn’t very practical.

You may want to use rubbing alcohol as an insect repellent. If you spray it in a well-ventilated area, bugs won’t approach it. It won’t work 100% of the time, according to one study. But it may work as a temporary DIY solution.

Use Eucalyptus Oil Against Mice

A person holds a bottle of eucalyptus oil that drips.
Carlos Chavez/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Carlos Chavez/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Eucalyptus essential oil can ward off many critters. According to The Scientific World Journal, eucalyptus oil can repel mites, honeybees, moths, and termites. If used correctly, you can also use this oil against mice.

Drip eucalyptus oil onto cotton balls and place them around the house. You can also dilute it in a carrier oil (such as almond or jojoba oils) and spray the mixture around your home. Reapply it every day, and you may not see pests.

Cinnamon Oil Kills Mosquitoes

Cinnamon sticks fill a black mug.
@picoftasty/Unsplash
@picoftasty/Unsplash

A Taiwanese study found that you can kill mosquito larvae with cinnamon oil. As an anti-bacterial, cinnamon essential oil can defeat mites, fungi, and termites as well. It can also keep bugs away from the area.

“We think that cinnamon oil might also affect adult mosquitoes by acting as a repellant,” says lead study author Peter Shang-Tzen Chang. Mix two drops of cinnamon oil with lotion or carrier oil before applying it to the skin.

Spread Shredded Cedar Chips Throughout Your Garden

Wood chips rain down cut cedar logs.
David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images

Cedar chips can combat bugs both inside and outside. Because wood chips are moisture-resistant, you can sprinkle them in your garden to ward off ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and mites. Cedar is one of the few types of wood that bugs don’t like. You’ll want Western red cedar mulch, chips, shavings.

If you want to guard clothing against cotton moths, place cedar chips in a drawstring bag. Keep them with your folded clothes; it will prevent insects from munching your fabric during summer.

Plug Openings With Steel Wool

A close-up shows steel wool.
JMacPherson/Flickr
JMacPherson/Flickr

Many pests enter through cracks around your home. To block these cracks, use steel wool. Unlike other fibers, bugs and rodents can’t chew through steel wool. Although none of the ingredients repel pests, steel wool is tough enough to last for a long time.

Stuff steel wool into cracks around pipes, cement, porches, gardens, and windows. You can buy steel wool rolls to close every gap around your home. If you don’t want to trap or poison pests, you can use this technique.

Vinegar Removes Scent Trails

A person pours vinegar into a vial.
Paolo Picciotto/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Paolo Picciotto/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you need an inexpensive bug repellent, use vinegar. The oil’s strong smell and taste deters spiders, and it removes scent trails that ants use to find food. However, fruit flies enjoy the scent of vinegar– especially apple cider vinegar.

For spiders and ants, dilute white vinegar with water, using equal parts of both. For fruit flies, create a vinegar trap. Pour some vinegar into a bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap. Poke some holes in the wrap to let flies in.

Clove Oil Is The Number One Bug Repellent

Whole cloves lie in a pile.
Ajale/Pixabay
Ajale/Pixabay

Clove oil is the most effective natural ingredient against bugs. In 2008, scientists compared 38 essential oils and their abilities to repel pests. Clove oil was the best by far; it kept away three different types of mosquitoes for up to four hours.

Undiluted clove oil works best against ants, moths, and flies. Place some drops of oil on cotton balls to drop around the house. Never apply clove oil to the skin; drip it on clothes instead.

Tea Tree Oil Helps Your Skin And Pest Problem

A woman holds tea tree and almond essential oils.
@Gee2_1/Twitter
@Gee2_1/Twitter

According to a 2016 study, tea tree oil can repel some insects. The essential oil, which appears in many skin products, is toxic to beetles and ants. Bugs really don’t like the oil’s compound, 1,8-cineole.

To make a spray, combine 1/4 cup of almond oil with three drops of tea tree oil. You can also replace almond oil with vinegar (the vinegar smell goes away quickly). Spray it around your area or skin to repel mosquitoes and ants.

Mice Love Chocolate, Too

Two chocolate bars sit by their respective packaging.
Alexander Blum/picture alliance via Getty Images
Alexander Blum/picture alliance via Getty Images

As it turns out, mice enjoy chocolate as much as humans do. Mice prefer foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugar, and chocolate fits the bill. In fact, UK scientists developed a chocolate mousetrap for this purpose.

Scientists combined plastic and chocolate that would attract mice and poison them. But you don’t need to do that to use chocolate to your advantage. Place it in traps or keep it outside of your home to lure pests away.

How Dead Plankton Kill Bugs

A solid Diatomaceous rock is seen.
James St. John/Flickr
James St. John/Flickr

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a white powder created from fossilized phytoplankton. It’s also a natural bug-killer. When pests breathe in the dust, they suffocate. When they walk over it, they get cut. It’s effective against fleas, beetles, worms, slugs, and small spiders.

Most people sprinkle DE in their garden. For the best results, use “food grade” DE and apply it after rain or watering. DE is safe to use, but try not to inhale it.

Keep Your Eggshells

A man lines growing plants with eggshells.
Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images
Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images

Many gardeners add crushed eggshells to their soil for extra calcium. But this compost can also remove pests. When worms, slugs, and insects crawl over the eggshells, they get cut.

But eggshells have a few downsides. One is that they break down quickly while feeding your garden. Second, rodents seem to love the smell, so don’t keep them close to your house. After cracking an egg, rinse the shell, let it air dry, and crumble it into the soil.

It’s About Thyme

Thyme grows in a pot.
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Thyme contains chemicals that mosquitoes don’t like. In animal studies, applying thyme oil to the skin removed 91% of mosquitoes. You can also burn thyme leaves in a campfire. A study in BMC Malaria Journal found that this will repel mosquitoes for up to 90 minutes.

If you have thyme oil, you can make a spray; don’t use it on your skin. According to plant fragrance specialist Arthur Tucker, you can crush thyme leaves and rub them on your skin.

Don’t Toss Your Orange Peels

One clementine is slightly peeled.
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Save your orange peels; they could save you from an infestation. Scientists from the University of Georgia found that orange peel oil can remove flies, ants, fleas, crickets, and wasps. One tiny drop can kill a fly almost instantly.

If you don’t have orange oil, you can boil down the peels. Boil them in water for five minutes and let them soak for 24 hours. Remove the reminds, and apply the solution through a spray bottle.

Bugs Don’t Like Spicy Pepper

Five peppers sit on a log plate next to a spoonful of powdered cayenne.
Kurashov/Pixabay
ChiliDrache/Pixabay

The compound that causes cayenne’s spice, capsaicin, is harmful to bugs. It’s especially effective against spider mites because it can damage their nervous system. By boiling cayenne peppers, you can create an anti-spider spray.

Cayenne pairs well with soap, which dissolves the wax coat off of spiders. Add six drops of shampoo and two tablespoons of cayenne powder with one gallon of water. If you spray your plants with this solution, the spiders will steer clear.

Neem Oil: A Plant-Based Insecticide

A gardener sprays his plants with neem oil.
Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Neem oil comes from the leaves of an Indian neem tree. Businesses place this oil in cosmetics, but you can use it as an insecticide. According to the EPA, neem oil contains azadirachtin, which deters many insects like locusts.

Simply mix two tablespoons of neem oil into one gallon of water. Spray your plants to keep pests away. Don’t go overboard, though; too much neem oil can harm bees, and we want them to stick around.