A Primer in DIY Pest Removal
If your living situation is anything like mine, your landlord probably isn’t taking responsibility for removing unwanted roommates (AKA pests) from your home. That’s a problem they usually leave to the tenant, who must then find creative — and preferably cheap — ways to banish the creatures and return to a comfortable life without fear of creepy crawlers.
I’ve moved once every year for the last eight years, and each new residence has had its own unique critter seeking shelter inside. From mice to rats, to too-many-legged guys like ants, stinkbugs and millipedes — they’ve all found their ways into the warm nooks and crannies of my apartments and houses. Having had a hand in ridding my dwelling of them time and again, I’ve compiled a guide on how to do it yourself in the cheapest and most effective ways possible.
Step One: Stop it Before it Starts
Post move-in, take some time to secure your home by keeping it clean and blocking off any entrances pests could use to get inside. If you prevent the infestation in the first place, the rest of this article will, thankfully, be of no use to you.
Start by cleaning up any standing water and repairing leaky pipes. Excess water attracts pests like mosquitos and cockroaches, so get into the habit of leaving your sink free of dirty dishes and dishwater as well.
Do a scan of your home’s perimeter, and seal (or have your landlord seal) any cracks or openings around the baseboards, windows and doorways.
When putting away your things, try to store food in air-tight containers made of plastic or glass. If you happen to have a fireplace, cover and store your firewood as far away as you can.
Once settled in, try to clean up any spills or crumbs immediately, and sweep regularly. Always dispose of trash and recycling in a sealed container that’s kept away from your home.
Step Two: Know Your Enemy
What’s the itch? If it’s bedbugs, prepare for an entire cleansing of your living space. Rodent cleanup can get messy, depending on your method of elimination. And, a few different homemade concoctions can be used on a variety of insects.
You might notice these bad boys only after they’ve feasted on your blood. Being tiny and flat, they’re naturally good at hiding. They form clusters under mattresses and other crevices, appearing at night to binge while you sleep. Waking up with a new itch or two is a solid sign of bedbugs, so I recommend going on a hunt for their ovular, brown, appleseed-sized bodies.
No matter how clean your home is, ridding it of bedbugs requires an involved sanitation process. Gather all of your sheets, pillowcases, curtains, and clothing, and wash them in hot water. You’ll want your dryer on the highest heat setting, too.
Your mattress will need to be vacuumed, as well as the rest of your home. If you’re uncertain whether the mattress has been fully purged of bedbugs, you can wrap it in a mattress cover. It’ll need to remain there for a year, though, as that’s how long they can go without feeding.
To prevent further infiltration, make sure any other hiding places (cracks in plaster, space between the headboard and the wall, etc.) are sanitized and sealed if needed.
There’s something that’s just unsettling about a fly problem. It feels like a horror film spook. The six-legged beasts are dumb, so they typically herd toward any natural light, incessantly seeking escape to no avail. Their extermination is simple enough.
Past experience with invasive flies has indicated that they’re only coming around because there’s some kind of food or trash lying around. Clean that up, firstly. Then, I’d say round up the roommates and get some good old fashioned housecleaning done. Excessive uncleanliness will only make the fly problem worse, so just slap on some rubber gloves and pretend that your parents are coming to visit.
Next, try any one of a variety of fly traps. Some are basically double-sided tape, which hangs from the ceiling, grabbing flies as they zip around. Others, you can make yourself, using a water bottle and bait made of a sugary solution. (A similar trap exists for stink bugs as well.)
When you’re done, take a look at your windows. Do they have screens? If not, that’s making your home an easy target. Ask your landlord about installing screens in each of your windows. If they’re not willing to do it, Amazon has some cheap ones for as little as $9.
They’re so cute when you’re at Petland, when they’re sleeping in a tiny plastic dome, and not gnawing through your walls and cabinets into the wee hours of morning. Mice (and rats) are not like bedbugs. You’ll know when you have them. If you don’t hear them, you’ll likely find their droppings in corners of your basement, behind your stove, inside your pantry, or any other narrow space they find cozy.
Assuming you’ve already blocked off the potential rat and mouse passages inside your home, try to determine if they’re sticking to a certain area (wherever those droppings are). If so, the humane recommendation is to spray that region of the house with a combination of salad oil, horseradish, garlic, and a generous amount of cayenne pepper. It’s supposed to be a natural deterrent.
An alternative is to fashion your own catch-and-release trap using a large bucket filled with mice treats and a one-way access ramp that leads up to it. Rats drop in and can’t scale the tall, slippery walls to get out. Check on the trap regularly, and release any captives far away from your home.
If you’re not the DIY-er, there are some catch-and-release traps you can purchase. Other kinds of traps are effective as well, but a tad more gruesome. Standard snap traps get pretty advanced nowadays, so minimal mouse corpse contact is achievable. Glue traps get the job done as well, and you can simply discard them when they’ve caught one.
Shy away from poison, especially if you have pets. It’ll affect cats and dogs the same way it affects rodents. Even if you’re pet-less, poisoning is not the ideal tactic. The afflicted mice end up dying in hard-to-reach spaces, decaying within smelling distance. Stick to deterrents and traps.
Unlike flies, fleas don’t care whether your home is white-glove pristine or smeared in garbage. They’re out for blood, human or animal. They’re usually noticeable, as they bounce around, biting you and your pets until you’re all covered in tiny, red sores. Annoying as they are, they can also spread diseases, so dispelling them is not something to wait on.
The most common way fleas enter a household is on the backs of your best furry friends. Start with a good combing and bathing of the animal, focusing on their neck and tail. Pet stores have soaps, sprays and dusts to use in the process.
Once the source of the problem has been neutralized, you can start on the rest of your home. Similar to bedbugs, fleas are tiny and evasive. Declutter your living space, exposing as much of the floor to the vacuum as possible. Make sure to use your vacuum’s attachments to clean baseboards and room corners. When done vacuuming, place the bag in the trash and take it out to the dumpster.
If the flea infestation was mild, a thorough cleaning of your pet’s bedding should suffice. If it is more severe, it’s best to discard and start fresh.
As far as infestations are concerned, ants aren’t the worst you could come across. Though some bite or sting, most that you would find in your home don’t. Mostly, they just want your food.
Ants like damp, warm spots — especially soil — and they can be found nesting in houseplants, under floors and near water heaters and furnaces. They come out to dine on the forgotten crumbs around your sink and on your counters and floors. Repelling them takes just a few items from your spice cabinet.
Chili pepper, paprika, cloves, and pure cinnamon — any of these can be dusted around potential ant entry points as a harmless deterrent. Lemon and white vinegar are effective as well, as they both emit a strong aroma that masks the scent trails left behind by ants.
Step Three: Know When to Call a Professional
If you’ve been dealing with a recurring pest, you might not be getting to the root of the issue. An exterminator may be the person to call on to get the job done once and for all.
Similarly, a professional can eliminate infestations in ways that are safe for children and pets. And, in more dangerous situations like wasp or hornet nests, there’s no need to risk your own safety. If you’re unsure if an extermination tactic you’re using is safe for you or your family, consider making the call.
This article is presented by Hometeam Property Management, Columbus, Ohio. Hometeam has one of the largest selections of single-family homes for rent in The Ohio State University district. All of our homes are newly or recently remodeled with hardwood floors, porches, decks, security systems and much more! Outside the campus area, we also own and manage multiple single-family homes and Luxury apartments around the Columbus area, including in German Village, Hilliard, Dublin, Grandview and Reynoldsburg. For more information, visit www.hometeamproperties.net.