A clean, pest-free home is essential to your family’s wellbeing. A little natural know-how can help.
Keep a clean kitchen
Ants, cockroaches and pantry moths (weevils) gather in the kitchen because it’s warm and has a plentiful food supply, but this is the last place you’d want to use pesticides containing toxic chemicals. Natural alternatives are just as effective and better value too. Always try the least toxic treatments first.
• Commonsense is the first line of attack in keeping pests at bay. They can’t have a party if there’s nothing to eat.
• Keep kitchen benches spotless and train the family to clean up after themselves.
• Transfer everything in the pantry into pest-proof storage containers. Weevils often come home with you from the shops, and leaving unopened packets around not only provides food for the weevils already in your kitchen, but possibly introduces more to your cupboards.
• Keep an eye on use-by dates and use your groceries in date order. Avoid buying too much and doubling up on items you rarely use.
• Wipe up shelf spills and regularly clean cupboards, washing them out with detergent. Add a few drops of pest-repelling oil of cloves to the washing water.
• Even if you find just one weevil egg or grub in a product, throw the whole thing out. (Flours and grains can be composted.)
• To deter weevils, scatter bay leaves or cloves on cupboard shelves and tape them inside container lids.
Ants are a nuisance only when they decide to move in, so try to encourage them to leave before taking more drastic measures.
• Avoid leaving uncovered food on kitchen benches.
• Wipe up spills immediately.
• Wipe out the oven and grill pan after you’ve used them.
• If you can, keep outside garbage bins away from the house.
• Try placing pots of ant-repellent herbs such as mint, pennyroyal, rue or tansy – or dried bunches of these herbs – near trouble spots.
• Consider creating a barrier at the ants’ entry points. For example, sprinkle a narrow, unbroken trail of cayenne pepper, black pepper or salt across their path. Or draw a line with chalk.
• Frequently wipe the windowsill with oil of cloves or eucalyptus oil. Ants dislike these strong odours.
• Dust cracks in cupboards with diatomaceous earth. The tiny sharp particles of this fossilised silica are lethal to crawling insects, but don’t affect humans or pets. Use food-grade, not pool-grade, which may irritate your lungs.
Don’t put out the welcome mat, and try to disturb them regularly so that they don’t get too comfortable! Fewer places for them to live means fewer cockroaches.
• To deter newcomers, install good-quality screens on all your doors and windows.
• Make sure you promptly fix leaking taps and pipes – cockroaches love damp, dark, warm places. They will even congregate in the cavity of your dishwasher door!
• Thoroughly clear away all food each night, including any pet food and birdseed.
• Regularly move around loose stored items, such as plastic bags, towels, toiletries and under-sink products because cockroaches love to nest among them.
• Place sticky traps near cockroach breeding areas. Try mixing a low-toxicity bait, such as borax, with sugar or jam in a small lid.
• Rather than using surface sprays, environmentally friendly pest controllers use a heat gun to flush out cockroaches from under cupboards and behind fridges. This burns their wings, causing them to die later.
• To discourage cockroaches, save the ends off cucumbers and place them in cupboards. Other repellents are vanilla beans, dried pyrethrum daisies and pyrethrum dust (from garden centres) – although the latter should be used with caution and strictly according to package instructions.
• Smear the inside of a glass jar with oil, then half fill it with beer. They’ll get in, but they won’t be able to get out!