40 Ordinary Items That Can Stop Pests

by Tommy Grant

Pests are one of those things that aren’t just annoying, but they can be a serious problem in your home and garden. Pests such as ants can damage wood by tunneling into it. Pests like cockroaches and rodents carry diseases and can contaminate food, leave behind feces urine, bacteria, and viruses that you can’t see, but will still infect you. In the garden, pests destroy your crops. 

It isn’t always safe or an option to use a powerful chemical to deter or kill pests. Chemical deterrents carry risks for humans and pets. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to live alongside the nasty little creatures that no one wants around. 

There are some fairly safe ways to deter pests with items you can pick up at the grocery store. Most of these options are safe to use around humans and pets. Although, pets or tiny humans might be curious about what you’ve put down and will need to be kept away. 

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Aluminum Foil

Birds and rodents get scared by the reflecting light from the foil. It’s believed rodents don’t like to walk on the foil as well. Hang strips from fruit trees or around your garden. Placing the foil under a sink or an area where you suspect mice are coming in can help keep them out. 

Alum Powder

Sprinkle around windowsills and door jams to keep out ants. The ants gets thrown off their trail and won’t find their way back inside. 

Baking Powder

Sprinkle baking powder around areas you think you have ants and cockroaches. They won’t want to cross through it and will stay away.


The pungent herb is an excellent mosquito repellent. Flies and other pests will avoid it as well. Grow basil in a kitchen window to keep out pests and in the garden.  

Bay Leaves

Put a bay leaf or two at the bottom of containers of dry goods. This is especially helpful if you’re storing flour, rice, beans and so on. The bay leaves have a pungent aroma that repels weevils and moths. 

Bone Meal

You probably know this is an excellent fertilizer made from ground up animal bones, but it can also deter cats and dogs from digging in your flower beds and gardens. 

Boric Acid

Sprinkle boric acid in areas where ants and cockroaches are an issue. Only use this in areas where pets and humans won’t get into it. 


Ants, cockroaches and mosquitoes don’t like catnip. You can grow it in your garden or in pots to repel the pests. Making a spray solution with catnip leaves and water is another option.

Cayenne Pepper

Sprinkle cayenne pepper around cracks, doorways and windows to keep out ants and cockroaches. 


Cedar chests are excellent for keeping clothes safe from pests. However, you can add cedar blocks or chips to a dresser or closet to keep out ants, fleas and moths.


Ants hate chalk. Draw a chalk line around your patio, your floors or windows to keep ants from coming across. They don’t like the texture of the chalk and will say away.

Cinnamon Sticks

Put cinnamon sticks on pantry shelves and in drawers to prevent moths, ants and weevils. The strong scent repels the pests.

Citronella Oil

This is a very common substance used to keep mosquitoes away. You can buy citronella oil and dab it on a cloth and hang in windows and doors if you don’t want to burn a candle in the house. 

Citrus Peels

Save the peels from your oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes. Chop them up and use as a mulch around your garden beds. They deter ants, aphids and slugs and will ultimately turn to compost and feed your plants. 


Place whole cloves in pantries or in areas where you see pests. You can also make a sachet and hang in your cupboards to deter cockroaches. 

Coffee Grounds

Used coffee grounds specifically, sprinkles around plants in the garden and entryways can keep out ants, slugs and snails.


Cornmeal may not deter pests but it can kill ants. Ants will eat it and it will kill them.  

Cucumber Slices

Ants, cockroaches and silverfish don’t like the bitter scent of cucumber and will avoid the area. You’ll need to refresh the slices to keep the bugs away. 

Diatomaceous Earth

Food grade is the best option. Sprinkle this in the bottom of your dry food containers to deter pests. You can sprinkle around windows and doors to keep them out. If you’ve got a flea infestation, sprinkle on your carpet and pet beds. Sprinkle on the dirt or bedding where animals might lay.

Dish Soap

Dish soap isn’t as much a repellent as an insecticide. A few drops of soap in a spray bottle filled with water can be sprayed directly on aphids, spider mites and whiteflies in the house or on your fruit trees. 

Eucalyptus Oil

This is a powerful repellent that will keep aways just about anything. A couple drops of oil in a water sprayed around doorways and windows will keep away insects. Mix it with a carrier oil and rub on skin for an insect repellent.

Fish Emulsion

This fertilizer is also an excellent deer and rabbit deterrent. They hate the fishy odor. 


Garlic isn’t just for keeping out vampires. Other bloodsuckers, like mosquitoes, hate it as well. Crush some fresh garlic and steep in water overnight. Strain the garlic out and spray on screens, plants and entryways to keep out ants, aphids and mosquitoes.

Human Hair

Yep, next time you clean out your hairbrush or get your haircut, save the clippings. Human hair is a strong deterrent for deer, rabbits and rodents when places around your garden.

Lavender Sachets

These not only smell great but are great at repelling moths and other annoying critters that get in your closets. You can make your own and hang in the closet or buy them. 

Lemon Juice

Citric acid is a powerful repellent that keeps ants, flies and spiders at bay. Add a couple teaspoons to a bottle of water and spray areas where pests are an issue.


These are often used in drawers to deter cockroaches, moths and silverfish. You can also put them in the pantry where these pests like to invade. 


Slice up some onions and place around entryways to keep out most pests. If you have dogs—don’t leave the onions in a place the dogs can get them. Onions are toxic to dogs. 

Oregano Oil

A lot of essential oils have deterrent properties. Oregano oil mixed with water, give it a good shake to mix and then spray on plants to deter aphids, beetles and mites. 

Peppermint Oil

The powerful scent of peppermint is an effective way to keep out ants, spiders and rodents. It also works great in the garden and orchard. Applying a few drops directly to a windowsill and doorway is one way.

You can tear strips of cloth dabbed with peppermint oil and hang from windows or tree branches. Growing peppermint is another way to keep out flies and other insects in the kitchen and garden. 

Pine Sol

Mix some Pine Sol and water in a bottle and spray around doors and windows where ants and other bugs like to congregate. They won’t like the spray and will avoid it.

Powdered Milk

Sprinkling powdered milk around your garden can help deter rabbits and deer that would normally feast on the plants. The scent of the milk is powerful enough to diminish the scent of the veggies. 


Fresh rosemary can be hung from a window to deter pests. When dried, make a sachet to hang in the pantry or placed in your drawer. Making a rosemary tea and then spraying around entry points will keep out ants, cockroaches and moths. 


Sage leaves repel ants, flies and moths. You can place sage leaves in the pantry or create a sachet and hang in the pantry or storeroom. Burning sage is another option if you liked the smell.


Spread salt around plants to deter slug and snails. You can also sprinkle salt directly on slugs to kill them. 


Mix table salt and water and spray directly on the nuisance pests to kill them. You can also spray around an area to deter the pests.

Steel Wool

Stuff steel wool around pipes that come into the house and every other hole that’s bigger than a quarter to keep the rodents out.


A vinegar and water solution sprayed on counters and areas were fruit flies, house flies and mosquitoes are an issue will deter them. Spray window screens to keep gnats from getting into the house. 

Vodka Spray

You can buy the cheap stuff and it will work the same. Mix vodka and water in a spray bottle and spray on plants to deter and kill aphids and mites. This works for garden plants and houseplants. 


Wormwood has a bitter smell that is very unpleasant to moths, flies and fleas. Burning wormwood incense or hanging sachets of dried wormwood can help keep these pests out of the house.

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