How to Get Rid of 12 Household Pests for Good

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Photo: Dana Gallagher

No matter how much extra room you've got, there's no need to put up with unwanted guests. Here's how to nix your pest problems for good.

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Dana Gallagher

Of all the things that can have you feeling uneasy in your own home, discovering you have a pest problem is high up on the list. Not only do you have to figure out where the source of the problem is, but you should also be checking if the problem has spread to other areas around the house. Furthermore, finding a way to get rid of pests that isn't heavy on the use of harsh chemicals or expensive (like hiring an exterminator) can help eliminate any additional stress. To that end, we've rounded up the best tips from Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook to bid common household bugs farewell. Plus, several ways you can prevent them from paying you another visit in the future.

Suspect you may have a termite problem? Fear not. You can apply soil and wood treatments around the perimeter of your home to help deter those pests, who like to live in warm, moist soil near wooden sources and fallen trees. Less damaging but equally a nuisance, an ant infestation can also be omitted with regular cleaning, a bit of petroleum jelly or silicone caulking (to block holes), and even a mix of essential oils, like peppermint and citronella. And if you keep spotting spiders in the nooks and crannies of your home, consider leaving scraps of soap, preferably eucalyptus-scented, where webs appear to help deter the crawlers. You can also spray cotton balls with a bit of pennyroyal oil and rub these along windowsills and baseboard to keep the critters at bay.

However you decide to do it, these solutions will help ensure your pest problem persists no more.

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These small bugs can enter buildings through gaps in masonry as small as 1/32 of an inch. Even in homes with little wood in the framing or walls, termites may target wooden doors, window frames, cabinets, or shelves. The solution? Consider bait systems or special soil and wood treatments.

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bug repellent deflector
Kate Mathis

Especially in warmer weather, keeping food covered (with mesh domes, for example), or running an electric fan can help keep these bugs out of your home. We also like this artistic deflector, inspired by a Mexican street vendor trick, which shoos flies naturally: Sunlight reflecting off the water-filled glass bulb confuses flies and repels them.

De La O "Anti-Fly Sphere 3.0," $85,

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toast on the floor
Patrick Strattner / Getty Images

Many species of ants are beneficial, as they eat other, more harmful insects, such as fleas and bedbugs. The problem with ants is largely a matter of comfort; they're not likely to cause disease. When ants invade a house, they are generally just looking for food. That said, ensuring your home is swept clean of any crumbs and food residue can help keep these pests away.

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Spider Mites

Annie Schlechter

A common problem for both indoor and outdoor plants, especially when plants are stressed from heat and dehydration, these tiny members of the arachnid family can often be nixed with the help of gentle insecticidal soaps.

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You should always avoid hosing wasps as this can make them more aggressive. Instead, aim to remove the nest by hiring a professional exterminator.

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Mosquitoes love swampy air and humid weather. They can carry diseases, including West Nile virus, so it's best to take measures to keep them away. Eliminating standing water and cutting tall grass are the most effective preventative measures.

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bedroom closet with refurbished door and blue floral wallpaper
Björn Wallander

These tiny silver-gray wingless insects often seek dark, warm, moist environments, such as attics, closets, and baseboards and around bathroom fixtures. Boric acid dust, which is long-lasting and low in toxicity, can be a helpful solution.

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a vetiver sachet
Peter Ardito

Moths live in dark, undisturbed areas such as closets, basements, and attics, and tend to gravitate toward the corners or folds of fabrics. To help keep them away, use Vetiver, a South Asian grass with the pleasant, earthy aroma of an uncut meadow, that moth's hate. Tuck a bundle into a linen sachet and put it in a drawer, or slip it over a hanger in your coat closet to welcome guests and repel pests. Other good choices: Lavender-filled sachets or red cedar.

South Side Naturals Chrysopogon Zizanioides (Vetiver) Roots, $8.25 for 2 oz.,

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Pull-Out-Trash-Drawer-with-storage.jpg (skyword:232402)

October through February is the peak time for mice to enter the home. Mice droppings, nests, evidence of gnawing, stale odors, footprints, and, of course, mouse sightings are evidence of an infestation. If you have a problem, pay special attention to food and garbage cans, and seal off holes and gaps.

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Fruit Flies

vase insect trap
Peter Ardito

Like other flies, fruit flies develop from larvae, and fruit-fly larvae must have moist, fermenting organic matter in order to survive. Therefore, the best protection is to throw away spoiled produce and unclog drains. Creating a DIY trap of balsamic or apple cider vinegar and water can also help.

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Roaches usually enter homes in paper products such as bags or cardboard boxes, and they prefer to seek refuge in dark, damp places with plenty to eat. A non-toxic way to deter them? Make a mixture of equal parts boric acid and sugar.

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