What is the most effective way to prevent pests from entering my house?

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Home Improvement

Shoo fly! Get out of my house! See more insect pictures.

In the popular 1995 comedy film “Houseguest,” Sinbad portrays a con artist on the run from the Mafia. To avoid being caught, Sinbad poses as a long-lost friend to an unsuspecting suburbanite played by Phil Hartman and moves in as a houseguest. Sinbad’s antics charm the family; however, he eventually becomes an unwelcome house pest when the Mafia locate him at the family’s residence [source: Rotten Tomatoes].

Pests such as insects and rodents are not always as obvious but can be just as bothersome. Imagine waking up to a tick burrowed in your skin or a rat that has eaten all of your cereal.

Once pests have made your home their own, there are many ways to get rid of them, from raccoons to cockroaches. Exterminators are the preferred choice among Americans, with the pest control industry in the United States generating about $7 billion in annual revenue [source: Hoovers]. Although exterminators typically use poisonous chemicals to kill pests, these chemicals can also be harmful to humans. A 2003 study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that the average person has at least 13 different pesticides in their body, some of which have been associated with health issues such as cancer and nerve damage [source: CDC].

However, what are the alternatives to pest control? Besides calling in an exterminator, how can you prevent pests from entering your home? Actually, a green alternative may be the best option. Learn about a very eco-friendly way to keep your home pest-free on the following page.

Do-it-yourself Pest Control

Pests like rats and insects can easily find ways to enter your home that you may have overlooked.
Harold M. Lambert/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The best way to keep pests out of your house is to prevent rodents and insects from entering in the first place. If you take a closer look at your home’s envelope (exterior walls, doors, windows, and roof), HowStuffWorks.com guarantees that you will find some surprising entry points. Bugs and rodents can come in through cracks in your foundation, unsealed windows, and gaps between your walls and floors. Sealing these areas with caulk can help prevent pests from entering and also save you on home energy costs.

Despite your best efforts, household pests may still find their way inside. However, you can make your home as inhospitable to rodents and insects as possible to combat them once they’ve entered.

Insects require food, water, and shelter to survive. They don’t get these resources from the faucet or grocery store like humans, but rather from overlooked sources. For example, standing water in a dish under a potted indoor plant is a watering hole for pests like cockroaches, mice, and flies. Check your house for other areas with standing water, remove this source, and pests will not want to live there. Pantry items like cereal, pasta, and cookies are a feast for pests, and they can chew through cardboard packaging. Keeping these items in hard metal or plastic canisters will discourage hungry pests. Cleaning your house regularly, especially where food is prepared and eaten, will also discourage pests from sticking around. Removing clutter and stacks of old newspapers and boxes will also reduce their living space. However, not all creatures are pests. Spiders and lizards, for example, can help control the population of household bugs.

Additional Information

Related Articles on HowStuffWorks

  • Learn about Cockroaches
  • Discover How Fleas Work
  • Browse through the Bugs Library
  • Explore the Rodents Library
  • Understand Ticks and How They Work
  • Find Tips on Making Your Home Energy Efficient
  • Get a Guide to Vegetable Garden Pests
  • Learn about the Controversy Surrounding Figs and Wasps
  • Discover the Most Effective Way to Save Energy in Your Home

More Useful Links

  • Visit PestWorld.org for More Information on Pest Control
  • Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Explore the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Website

Sources Cited in this Article

  • Tucker, Easter H. “Dealing with Household Pests.” University of Arkansas. 1999. http://www.kidsarus.org/volunteers/Volunteer_Leader_Training_ Guide/1999/PDF/Household%20Pests.pdf
  • “Geckos Lick Pest Control Problem.” BBC. September 27, 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/devon/3693414.stm
  • “Household Pests: Tips to Rid Your House of Insects and Rodents.” Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency. December 2001. http://www.pmra-arla.gc.ca/english/consum/householdpests-e.html
  • “Industry Overview: Pest Control Services.” Hoovers. http://www.hoovers.com/pest-control-services-/–ID__144–/free-ind-fr-profile-basic.xhtml
  • “Pull Welcome Mat In, Keep Pesky Guests Out.” California Department of Pesticide Regulation. June 2003. http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/dept/factshts/pull2.pdf
  • “Study Finds High Pesticide Levels in Americans.” Associated Press. May 11, 2004. http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2004-05-11-pesticide-study_x.htm



1. What are some common household pests?

Common household pests include ants, cockroaches, mice, rats, bed bugs, termites, and spiders. These pests can cause damage to your home and pose health risks to you and your family.

2. How can I prevent pests from entering my home?

To prevent pests from entering your home, make sure to seal any cracks or gaps in your walls, windows, and doors. Keep your home clean and tidy, and store food in airtight containers. Dispose of garbage regularly and keep outdoor areas clutter-free.

3. What should I do if I find pests in my home?

If you find pests in your home, it’s important to act quickly. Contact a pest control professional to identify the type of pest and develop a treatment plan. Avoid using DIY pest control methods, as these can be dangerous and ineffective.

4. How often should I have my home inspected for pests?

It’s recommended to have your home inspected for pests at least once a year. This can help identify any potential pest problems before they become a major issue. If you live in an area with a high risk of pest infestation, you may need more frequent inspections.

5. Are there any natural pest control methods?

Yes, there are several natural pest control methods that can be effective. These include using essential oils, such as peppermint or tea tree oil, to repel pests. You can also use diatomaceous earth, a natural powder that can kill insects, or sticky traps to catch pests.

6. How can I protect my pets from pests?

To protect your pets from pests, make sure to keep their food in airtight containers and dispose of any uneaten food promptly. Keep your home clean and tidy, and regularly groom your pets to prevent fleas and ticks. You can also use pet-safe pest control products to keep pests away.

7. Is it safe to use pesticides in my home?

If used properly, pesticides can be safe to use in your home. It’s important to follow the instructions carefully and use only the recommended amount. If you’re unsure about using pesticides, it’s best to contact a pest control professional.

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