Say goodbye to bugs in your house with these simple tricks

I think it's safe to say that we all love when the summer months hit. Between extra daylight, warmer weather, walks outside, garden fresh produce, the ice cream truck, and — of course — days at the beach, each of us can find something about this time of year to look forward to. With all those wonderful things though, also come heavy humidity, sunburns, and likely everyone's least favorite: an onslaught of insects. 

Spiders, ants, and mosquitos are coming out of the woodwork, quite literally, as they hunt for food and warmth, and as some take residence within our homes. But, they're really not welcome, which means it's not only time to find ways to say goodbye to these pesky pests, but it also means taking the best preventative measures for now, and in the future. 

Use cinnamon essential oil for ants

For most of us, ants are the biggest perpetrator. As soon as the weather warms up, these generally small bugs start to creep out of hiding. If you've ever had to kill an ant or two in your home, then you know that where you find one, you will ultimately find many more. 

Backyard farming expert, Maat van Uitert, suggests using cinnamon essential oil as an easy, safe, and non-toxic solution for getting rid of ants. She suggests mixing four or five drops of the oil with eight ounces of water in a spray bottle, and spraying in the area of your home where the ants are taking over.

"Cinnamon essential oil works because it disrupts the neurological system of ants," van Uitert told me, "And they can't communicate with other ants using pheromones, their main method to signal there's food to gather." She continued on to explain that once this disruption occurs, the ants will scurry away to find a new place to get a meal.

Use ingredients on hand to make an ant poison

Another way to rid ants from your home, is to mix up a simple DIY recipe using ingredients you likely already have in your home, as Jake Cain from fightbugs.com, a DIY pest control website, suggests. 

To make this mixture, simply mix water, sugar, and boric acid, then microwave until warm and stir or shake until dissolved. From there, dip cotton balls in the mixture and place on wax paper in areas where you have detected ants. "It may take several days for the colony to be infected, but you will know the ants have been poisoned when no more visit the trap," Cain told me. He adds that the job of the sugar in this solution is to attract the ants to the bait.

Grab the white vinegar

One of my least favorite scents is white vinegar, but I definitely can't deny its place in my home. White vinegar is great for cleaning the tea kettle, essential oil diffusers, microwaves and dishwashers, and freshening the bathroom and shower head, but there's no denying it has a strong and very potent smell. And, according to Russell Hedland, owner of the Las Vegas Pest Control Company, ants don't like the smell, either.

"Spray a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water in areas where you see ants and other pests the most," said Hedland. He went on to add that you can also mop the floors or wipe down the counters with this solution. Cleaning and keeping pests away? Sounds like a solid solution to me!

Save your coffee grounds

Personally, I already regularly save my coffee grounds for the purpose of mixing into the soil of my potted plants for a quick and easy compost, but as it turns out, we have even more reason to hold onto the grounds after finishing our morning brew. 

Hedland suggests emptying coffee grounds onto the colonies to confuse the ants. "This will make them lose track of scent trails," he said. He suggests reapplying with fresh grounds once every year. 

Check for bed bugs

Knock on wood, one pest that I have been lucky to avoid is bed bugs. But I know they can be a real problem and area of concern for many people. Home expert for Mattress Firm, Kelsey Down, explained to me that bed bugs can be quite difficult to exterminate yourself, but should you find yourself in that situation, you can start by washing all bedding and anything else infected, with hot soapy water and a high heat drying cycle. 

She continued on to suggest covering your mattress in a sealed protecter for at least one year, sealing all cracks or crevices in your home, and keeping a decluttered space so the bed bugs have nowhere to hide. "Also, beware [of] bringing old or used furniture into your house before checking it thoroughly for bed bugs," she says. 

Watch the humidity

If you live in the south, midwest, or any other humid environment, then you may have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with dust mites. "Dust mites rely on a high humidity level (around 85 percent) to survive," said Down, "So try either turning off the humidifier in your room or even running a dehumidifier." 

Down went on to suggest sprinkling a mixture of baking soda and a few drops of essential oils all over the surface of both sides of your mattress. After 15 minutes, you can then vacuum off the baking soda, and with it, any dust mites. "Baking soda works so well because it absorbs the moisture," she said, "And that's the one thing that attracts dust mites in the first place." She added that the essential oils are used to help improve the scent!

Update the seals in your home

It's not new information that the seals around the doors and windows of our home are going to crack over time as they age, and as they do so, they can allow bugs and other outdoor elements to enter our homes. 

ADT family safety specialist, Jonathan Johnson suggested, "Run through every room in your home, checking window and door seals for any wear and tear." He added that you can usually do spot repairs with caulk or sealant, which is often enough to fix the majority of problems. He also mentioned that "by fixing these leaks, you can also lower your heating bill, come winter." Sounds like an all around win in my book!

Deep clean your kitchen

We all know it's important to have a clean kitchen with the obvious reasoning to ensure proper safe food handling and avoid illness when cooking for friends, family, and ourselves. But when was the last time you cleaned behind those big appliances like your fridge, dishwasher, and especially the stove? I think it's safe to assume we often overlook those areas, but Johnson assures that we need to make a regular habit of cleaning behind and under these areas. "You may be reluctant to move and clean underneath large appliances like a dishwasher or stove," he said, "Which means that food crumbs can stay there, attracting bugs for months or even years." 

If you're like me and you rent an apartment, I think it's important to add that this should be one of the first places we clean upon moving in since you don't know if it was ever done by the previous tenant!

Don't forget the trash can

We all know that trash cans can get pretty gross pretty fast, but most of us wait until a trash bag breaks or leaks nasty juices in order to give our trash can a cleaning. I have personally been known to take my trash can outside for a good spray down with the hose, from time to time, but that may not be enough. And we don't want to provide any reason for bugs to investigate the premises. 

"Over time, garbage cans can become grimy with food waste and attract flies," said Johnson. "Clean your trash can regularly with borax and don't be afraid to replace it if it's too far gone." While my trash can definitely has some life left in it, I do think it's a bit overdue for cleaning with more than just a little warm water!

Be proactive!

Bugs are often referred to as pests for a reason: they're terribly annoying. But I think there are two main takeaways from these experts' advice. The first, was that we don't necessarily need to panic and grab the biggest can of toxic spray the moment we see a bug in our homes. Sure, sometimes we need to call in the professionals, but there's a lot that we can do on our own, to take care of the solution from the get-go.

My second takeaway was to be proactive. Keeping an overall clean and decluttered home, repairing any cracks or broken seals, and then taking action at the first sign of a problem, are all simple things that every single one of us can start doing immediately to make those warmer months a lot more pleasant — and, keep the bugs away!