Your home is supposed to be a safe place for you and your family, but unfortunately, insects do not understand property rights or your personal boundaries. Some are more than just a nuisance and can carry diseases or activate allergies.

Dousing your home in chemical pesticides may get rid of the bugs, but potentially toxic substances don’t have to be your first line of defense. Controlling infestations without exposing yourself to harmful pollutants is entirely possible.

Keep reading for some natural pest control strategies to prevent vermin from targeting your home.

Removing Attractants

metal kitchen sink and drainboard with plants on windowsillLike any organism, pests need a healthy environment to thrive and multiply. Food crumbs and spills attract ants, cockroaches, and flies. Dust and debris encourage mites and create places for other small bugs to hide.

To cut down on the number of these pests, clean your home regularly, and wipe your countertops clean after preparing a meal. Keep your garbage in a closed container, and remove full trash bags promptly.

Wet and damp areas also attract insects. Humid conditions caused by plumbing leaks or sweating pipes are irresistible to ants, cockroaches, and termites that need the moisture to survive. Attend to any leaks promptly, and do your best to ensure good seals on windows and doors.

Moisture problems are common in basements and other subgrade spaces, so if you know this is the case in your home, use a dehumidifier to remove the excess moisture from the room.

Natural Deterrents

essential oil bottle with orange peel and thyme sprig on white background1. Cedar oil

Cedar oil, an essential oil made from the different varieties of cedar trees, is most often used as a flea repellent, but mosquitoes and ticks aren’t big fans of it either. Use cedar oil as an ingredient in homemade bug spray, or line your garden and planting beds with cedar bark mulch.

2. Citrus oils

Lemon eucalyptus and bergamot essential oils repel mosquitoes and other annoying insects. Extract your own lemon oil by boiling water and pouring it over unpeeled, sliced lemons—the resulting lemony water can be used as a flea and insect repellent.

3. Catnip

Catnip has been shown to ward off mosquitoes, and it is also a powerful natural cockroach repellent. Catnip oil is the most potent form and will give you the best results, but you can also cultivate a few catnip plants in your garden or on a windowsill.

Homemade Bug Sprays

closeup photo of mosquitoTry your hand at creating bug sprays from natural ingredients that you may already have in your kitchen. These nontoxic alternatives to DEET and other conventional pesticides are safe for the whole family and can be used control a variety of pests.

Make a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar to stop the spread of ants. Use the vinegar spray wherever you see ants—the solution masks the scent trails the ants leave behind for their compatriots.

Citrus sprays repel spiders that might be lurking around the house. Combine citrus oils with vinegar and other essential oils to make your own all-purpose bug spray.

Create a dust mite repellent by adding cinnamon oil to equal parts water and denatured alcohol. Dust mites hide in fabrics and other porous, dust-prone surfaces, so spray this solution on pillows, mattresses, and upholstered furniture.

Preventing Infestations with Barriers

cucumber slices isolated on white backgroundIf possible, identify where insects are gaining entry to your home—this will help you pinpoint the areas that may need natural barriers.

Stop ants from entering your home by placing cucumber slices at cracks or other small openings where you’ve seen ants lining up. Be sure to throw the cucumber slices away or add them to your compost pile before they start to get icky (and attract a different type of pest).

Food-grade diatomaceous earth is one of the most effective nontoxic insect killers available. It works especially well as a natural cockroach repellent. Diatomaceous earth is essentially powdered silica, a naturally-occurring substance, and it’s found in many household goods.

Though harmless to people (but do avoid breathing the dust), the tiny silica particles are quite sharp to cockroaches and other small bugs. The powder cuts the insect’s exoskeleton, leading to complete dehydration within a couple of days.

Chemical pesticides are often effective, but their environmental impact and potential negative effects on your health make them a last resort. Try a nontoxic approach first.

It may take patience and a little trial and error, but you’ll soon be able to regain control of your space from invading pests without exposing yourself to harmful chemicals.