How to Get Rid of House Bugs — the Nontoxic Way


What they look like: Dark grey or black body, six legs, wings, and an oval body about 1/4 inch long. Not as much like Jeff Goldblum as we hoped, either.

Typical ‘hood: Everywhere

Home headquarters: Where people are — homes, barns, dumps, etc.

Fave snacks: Garbage, animal poop, and rotting ickiness of all varieties.

Danger zone: Houseflies can spread bacteria and diseases like food poisoning and dysentery. Some kinds of biting flies can transmit illnesses through the spread of human blood.

How to ditch ’em:

  1. Clean up garbage, take out the trash, and mop up spills ASAP. Clean your sink drains!
  2. Put screens on windows and sliding doors to prevent bugs from getting in from outside.
  3. Fashion some homemade traps (sans harmful chemicals) to control flies inside the house. A venus fly trap plant might remove a few of the blighters from your vicinity, too.

7. Lice

What they look like:Lice are grey-white bugs the size of a sesame seed. Nits (lice eggs, which are more commonly seen than full-grown adults) appear as yellow, tan, or brown dots.

Also a fantastic series of rap records by Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman. These, however, are likely to itch less.

Typical ‘hood: All over the world.

Home headquarters: Lice usually hang out on the scalp, although some varieties can infest the rest of the body (looking at you, pubic lice).

Fave snacks: Human and animal blood.

Danger zone: Itching, insomnia, and infected sores due to itching are the worst side effects.

How to ditch ’em:

  1. Lather, rinse, repeat. The best (and most environmentally-friendly) way to ditch lice is by washing all clothes in citrus heights pest control pros hot water and soap. Use tea tree oil shampoo and then follow with a rinse made with equal parts vinegar and water.
  2. Use a special nit comb to go through the hair and remove nits. Spray an essential oil like peppermint or tea tree on the comb before combing and in the hair afterward.

8. Mosquitoes

What they look like: They’ve got a brown body with thin wings and six long, thin legs.

Typical ‘hood: All around the world.

Home headquarters: Mosquitoes typically lay eggs in still water (although some species have adapted past this requirement), so they’re often found near lakes, swamps, ponds, marshes, and tidal areas.

They’re especially active during spring and summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

Fave snacks: Female mosquitoes bite humans and animals and consume blood to provide nutrients for laying eggs. Adult males snack on nectar from flowers.

Danger zone: Nearly everyone’s experienced the most common mosquito side effect — a red, itchy bite. The swelling and itchiness occur as the body’s reaction to mosquito saliva.

‘Skeeters are infamous for carrying and transmitting diseases like malaria, encephalitis, West Nile virus, yellow fever, and heartworm, a serious disease for dogs.

How to ditch ’em: Yes, it is possible to manage mosquitoes without pouring on the DEET:

  1. First, make the house an inhospitable environment for the insects — keep windows closed and install screens, drain any standing water (to prevent breeding), and keep the grass short if you have a yard.
  2. Before hanging out outdoors during the spring or summer, put on long sleeves and pants and apply a natural repellant like lemon eucalyptus oil or another essential oil like lavender, peppermint, or citronella (diluted in a carrier oil or spray, of course).
  3. Since mosquitoes are weak fliers, positioning an oscillating fan in outdoor areas can keep the bugs away without using chemicals. A bug zapper in the yard or on the porch can also work wonders.

If you’re camping in summer, you might want to stock up on DEET though. They are gonna come for you.

9. Mites

What they look like: A grizzly bear — in an invisibility cloak. You might not be able to see these with the naked eye (in that you definitely won’t, because they’re too small).

Typical ‘hood: All humid environments.

Home headquarters: Where people and animals spend a lot of time — particularly in the bedroom and pet bed areas.

Fave snacks: Dust mites are omnivorous but not parasitic. They chow down on shedded human skin flakes, pollen, fungi, bacteria, and pet dander.

Danger zone: While mites themselves aren’t dangerous, many people are allergic to them. Most people allergic to “dust” are actually reacting to mite feces and body parts (brings new meaning to the phrase “I mite poop”).

How to ditch ’em: Getting rid of mites can be tricky, given that they’re invisible.

  1. Step one should be reducing humidity by grabbing a dehumidifier.
  2. After that, a little bit of elbow grease is the best way to rid a home of mites. Vacuum and mop human and pet sleeping areas often to reduce dust.
  3. Regularly wash bedding, curtains, and any other textiles in bedrooms. Consider zipping the mattress and/or pillows into bug-proof covers.
  4. Consider the mite situation before buying new stuff — choose washable or nonfabric furniture, décor, and floor coverings that make dust management easy.

10. Meal moths

What they look like: Meal moth larvae are 1/2 an inch long and off-white. Adult moths are about the same length, but grey and reddish-brown colored with long wings.

Typical ‘hood: All around the world.

Home headquarters: In cupboards and pantries, especially in and around packages of grains, pet food, candy, and dried fruit.

Fave snacks: The list is pretty extensive — meal moths certainly live up to their name:

  • rice
  • pasta
  • cake mixes
  • granola
  • dried fruit
  • birdseed
  • cereal
  • dog and cat food
  • flour
  • crackers
  • nuts
  • powdered milk
  • popcorn
  • spices
  • other dry goods

To be honest, you should try recommending the keto diet to a meal moth. It’ll be gone in a flash.

Danger zone: Bugs’ waste and secretions contaminate food, and some people experience allergic reactions as a result. In humid climates, food bugs can secrete compounds that are carcinogenic.

How to ditch ’em: Luckily, pantry and meal bugs are fairly easy to get rid of.

  1. Once you pick up on an infestation, put on the rubber gloves and start cleaning.
  2. Toss any packages with bugs and carefully inspect even unopened packages for larvae or adult bugs — meal moths are more than willing to chew through cardboard or aluminum foil to get to the goodies.
  3. After everything’s been cleared, vacuum the crevices of cabinets and wash them with hot, soapy water.
  4. If bugs are a recurring problem in your kitchen, consider storing nonperishables in the refrigerator or in glass, metal, or plastic canisters.
  5. Clean the kitchen regularly to prevent future infestations.

11. Spiders

What they look like:You know the drill: eight dang legs, with bodies that can be brown, black, gray, yellow, or beige.

Typical ‘hood: All over the world.

Home headquarters: Spiders live pretty much everywhere, so it’s hard to generalize. Spiders in houses tend to hang out in nooks and crannies, in cupboards, closets, chests, woodpiles, and under furniture.

Fave snacks: Other insects, smaller spiders, and various tiny invertebrates. Spiders are carnivores, but their teeny-tiny mouths can’t harm humans or other large mammals — unless they’re poisonous, but this is rare.

Danger zone: Although many people are afraid of spiders, they’re usually largely beneficial.

The creepy-crawly arachnids eat other insects, including other spiders, roaches, earwigs, flies, moths, and mosquitoes.

Black widow spiders and brown recluse spiders are the only poisonous species in the U.S. and the others are mostly chipping in to help your pest problem.

How to ditch ’em: Most of the time, spiders keep to themselves and can actually reduce populations of other pests. Even if you’ve got arachnophobia, see if you can leave them alone.


  1. If you’re concerned about poisonous spiders, call a local pest control organization, since they can be dangerous when disturbed.
  2. Clear away clutter in the house, trim long grass or vegetation outside, and get into the habit of cleaning and vacuuming storage areas regularly.
  3. Discourage regular spider populations from getting out of hand by spraying nests with saline solution.
  4. A spray made with crushed chestnuts or essential oils can also be effective in getting rid of arachnids.

12. Cockroaches

What they look like: 0.5 to 1.5 inches long, with six legs and long antennae. Roaches are brown with light-colored or black markings on the back of the head (depending on which specific species it is).

Typical ‘hood: All over the world, particularly in densely populated cities.

Home headquarters: They set up base in warm, humid areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and basements, as well as heating pipes and drains.

Fave snacks: Pretty much everything, but they particularly love to chow down on starches and will eat paper, cardboard, boxes, and any food scraps.

Danger zone: Roach saliva, feces, and body parts can cause allergic reactions, particularly in children. People with asthma are especially susceptible to cockroach allergies.

The creepy-crawlies can also transmit bacteria like E. coliSalmonella, parasitic worms, and other pathogens.

How to ditch ’em: Since roaches are largely nocturnal, they often crawl around unseen — spotting one roach, unfortunately, usually means that its buddies are hiding around somewhere.

They’re stubborn (it takes some chutzpah to survive nuclear war, after all), but not impossible to get rid of.

  1. Prevent an infestation by keeping counters clean (wipe ‘em down with white vinegar), draining sinks, and storing food in the fridge or in sealed glass or metal containers.
  2. Seal any big gaps in walls and floors with caulk and plug up sinks with drains.
  3. Roaches hate boric acid, so use borax to thinly line the perimeters of rooms and existing cracks.
  4. Whole bay leaves can also deter cockroaches.

13. Ticks

What they look like: They’ve got eight legs with a small, round, reddish-brown body. Ticks measure between 1/4 inch and 1 inch long.

Typical ‘hood: All around the world. In the U.S., they’re particularly prevalent throughout the East Coast and California.

Home headquarters: Ticks can’t fly but are great jumpers, so they hang out on shrubs and in tall grasses, where they can hop onto passing mammalian hosts. They usually live in wooded areas with plenty of grass and natural debris on the ground.

Fave snacks: Human and animal blood.

Danger zone: Ticks are infamous carriers of numerous serious diseases, from Lyme disease to various fevers and even encephalitis. Lyme disease can become chronic, which is especially nasty.

How to ditch ’em: Ticks can’t get into a house without jumping onto a host, so the best way to get rid of them is to prevent them from entering in the first place.

  1. When walking through areas known to have ticks (forests, fields, etc.), wear long pants tucked into tall, light-colored socks.
  2. Avoid yard ticks by keeping grass and shrubs trimmed.
  3. After outdoor activities, do a thorough tick check (and be sure to check children and pets, too!) and carefully remove any little suckers.

14. Termites

What they look like: They’re between 1/2 and 3/8 inches long, with four long wings and a brown, black, or yellow body. Termites are often confused for ants because they look quite similar.

Typical ‘hood: The United States, South America, Africa, Australia, and Southern Asia.

Drywood termites live in climates where the ground doesn’t freeze in winter, but subterranean termites can survive pretty much anywhere.

Home headquarters: Piles of mulch, decomposing trees, stumps, and houses or other wooden buildings. Mmm, rotting wood, nom nom nom.

Fave snacks: Dead wood, stumps, roots, and mulch. Also, log homes and any untreated siding.

Danger zone: While they don’t carry any diseases, termites are voracious eaters. In the U.S., termite prevention and treatment cost about $2 billion per year.

How to ditch ’em:

  1. Prevent termites by keeping mulch piles and woodpiles far from a house’s foundation (30 feet if possible).
  2. Try to avoid building wooden structures against the foundation or near a crawl space, and keep plant material to a minimum.
  3. Borax, orange oil, and neem oil are effective but nontoxic (to humans and pets, at least) treatments.
  4. Introducing a harmless predatory species, like nematodes, to your yard can also keep termite populations in check.

Essential oils that repel bugs

If you don’t want to use pesticides, you can try using essential oils to help keep bugs out of your home. Essential oils are complex combinations of plant substances that researchers have found to effectively repel a variety of pests.

To use essential oils as a bug repellent, add 10 to 20 drops of each oil to 2 ounces of distilled water and 2 ounces of white vinegar in a glass spray bottle. Shake it gently and spritz it wherever bugs can enter your home, like around windows and doorways

You can also add a few drops of essential oil to cotton balls and put them in these same areas.

Although essential oils are generally safe for people and the environment, be careful not to use them where your pets can reach them, since they can be toxic for cats and dogs if they’re ingested.

These are some of the essential oils that can help keep creepy crawlers out of your home:

  • Catnip oil: This contains the chemical compound nepetalactone, which researchers have found repels mosquitoes 10 times more effectively than DEET.Trusted Source
  • Cinnamon oil: This can kill mosquito eggs and repel adult mosquitoes.Trusted Source
  • Cedarwood oil: This repels ants, fleas, ticks, bedbugs, and other creepy crawlers.Trusted Source
  • Citronella oil: An ingredient in many mosquito repellents, this oil is made from different varieties of lemongrass. Researchers discovered that combining it with vanillin oil can keep mosquitoes away for up to 3 hours.Trusted Source
  • Lavender oil: Although it may be calming for humans, the smell repels ants, moths, bedbugs, and other pests.
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE): This was approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an effective and long-lasting mosquito repellent. Olé!
  • Peppermint oil: This can kill mosquito eggs and keep away adult mosquitoes, flies, ants, and other bugs that hate its minty smell.Trusted Source
  • Tea tree oil: Used since ancient times in its native Australia, this can repel and kill a wide variety of pests, including flies, lice, fleas, ticks, and bedbugs.Trusted Source

Disadvantages of essential oils for bug control

Essential oils are often touted as a cure-all alternative in any situation, but it’s always best to exercise caution.

While these essential oils have been found to be effective at keeping bugs away, their effects won’t last as long as chemicals like DEET or picaridin, so they may need to be frequently reapplied.

It’s important to be aware that unlike pesticides, the government doesn’t regulate essential oils. Their strength may vary, and not all essential oils are of equal quality. Plus some can be quite irritating or even dangerous when applied incorrectly.

Manufacturers of pesticides must provide the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with evidence that the product is effective and will last for a certain amount of time.

With essential oils, you’ll need to do your research on safety and efficacy before committing to a product.

Best home bug spray

Bug sprays are available that repel a variety of bugs or target specific pests.

You should look for sprays containing safe ingredients that have been registered with the EPA and approved by the CDC. These ingredients include:

  • DEET
  • picaridin
  • IR3535 (ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate) (no, you don’t have to memorize that)

The spray should also be free of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), components of aerosol sprays that can deplete the ozone layer. Fortunately, CFCs have been banned in most countries.

Here are some indoor bug sprays that have positive online reviews:

Most organic bug sprays are safe to use around your pets because they contain essential oils instead of chemicals like DEET.

DEET, on the other hand, is a common ingredient in pest repellents that can be very dangerous for dogs, causing problems ranging from conjunctivitis to seizures.

Although these products are safe, you should still keep your pets away while you’re spraying them and until the sprayed surfaces are dry.

These are a few highly rated, pet-friendly bug sprays:

Not all bugs have it in for you, but some are pretty dangerous. Others are just annoying and unhygienic.

Each one requires different methods of repellant and removal, but it’s worth taking the steps to do so. However, some, such as spiders, are helping you remove other bugs. So it’s worth working out if you really need to go Rambo on your arthro-pals.

Plenty of products are available, linked throughout the article, that can help you remove pests without harming the environment or your pets.