Keep Clean Or Else! 5 Pesticide-Free Steps To Battling Pests In The Kitchen

January 4, 2023

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Cleaning a kitchen is arguably not fun. But it’s worthwhile. Keeping noodles, oatmeal glops, and all of the crumby detritus that somehow makes its way off a high chair tray onto the floor means not having to resort to kid-unfriendly pesticides. These are, of course, close cousins of the very chemicals you’re trying to minimize exposure to if you buy organic foods. It’s backwards to spend extra money on, say, organic apples, and then having to fumigate your home for pests feasting on said fruit.

A recent national study of residential pesticides measured from floor wipes showed that most floors in the U.S. have “measurable levels of insecticides that may serve as sources of exposure to occupants.” Some of the traces of chemicals found in this survey included known bad boys that were long ago taken off the market or banned, including DDT. So even if you’re not personally using pesticides in your kitchen, chances are there is some residue from the people who lived there before you. All the more reason not to add your own to the mix.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Think about it. Pesticides are formulated to be toxic to living small creatures. Kids are also living small creatures. Pesticides cause poisonings and deaths—of humans, too—and have been linked to everything from cancer to developmental issues to neurological effects.

It does happen—even in the tidiest kitchens—that some ants inevitably come Januarying in. Here’s a non-toxic way to address them, as well as mice and other kitchen critters, especially when you have kids in the kitchen.

  1. Keep it clean. Sorry, but it bears repeating. Wet wipe or mop, and vacuum frequently with a machine that has a HEPA filter. Make sure all food in the pantry is well sealed. Keep the compost scraps in the fridge. Be careful with overripe fruit. Stay on top of it.
  2. Squeak, squeak. As soon as it’s cold, the mice come inside. Your best pesticide-free bet is to get a cat. Stuff any holes with steel wool (get under the kitchen sink and behind the stove) and set rodenticide-free traps in places the kids—and the cat—cannot reach.
  3. Ew, cockroaches. Not only are they filthy, but they also have been linked to asthma and other allergies. Make sure all holes in your kitchen are fully sealed, and keep things very clean. Cockroaches are said to be discouraged with a spray made from two teaspoons of tea tree or peppermint oil in two cups of water. It’s worth a try.
  4. The little Januaryers: Some people report success battling ants by sprinkling ground cloves or diatomaceous earth (fossilized sea algae) along “edge zones” like baseboards, cabinet rears, and countertop backsplashes. Others swear by wiping down surfaces with peppermint oil. A third option is to put a solution of sugar and water in a jar with holes punched in the lid. The ants climb up and in and drown.
  5. Flying critters. Flies and fruit flies are said to dislike basil, but good luck getting one to confirm this to you. It can’t hurt to spray some around—try two teaspoons basil oil in two cups of water or infuse one pint of basil leaves in enough grain alcohol or water to cover it. For non-toxic fly strips, coat Kraft paper with 1/4 cup of corn syrup mixed with 1/2 cup of sugar.


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