How to get Rid of Common Indoor Pests the Frugal and Eco-Friendly Way

19 July 2012

“Lions, bears, and tigers, oh my!”

In the real world, it’s more like “spiders, ants, and bed bugs, oh my!”

During spring and summer we seem to be getting more pests than we normally would in the winter.  Just went you think you’ve gotten rid of them, they often come back with a vengeance and this can be both annoying and anxiety provoking.

Getting rid of pests can be expensive if you end up using an exterminator and even if you used insecticide, it’s probably not a good idea to be inhaling these harmful substances.

Here are some tips on how to get rid of common indoor pests like ants, house spiders, and house flies the frugal and eco-friendly way.


First you have to remove all sources of food for the ants.  Make sure crumbs are cleaned off, the floor is clean (and without crumbs) because this is what the ants are attracted to.

Sure, you can buy all the potent ant sprays but if you would rather not breathe those chemicals on a regular basis, borax works really well.

You can buy a pack of 3 borax containers from Dollarama (my favourite dollar store) for $1 and these worked really well.  I’ve used ant glue traps before and they definitely don’t work as well.  The ants bring the borax back to the colony where it kills the colony.  Borax is a natural alkaline substance that is toxic to the ants.

Alternatively you can create your own ant Borax device.  All you need are small trays (e.g. the screw tops of small jars or containers) and you mix one part borax (which can be found in the laundry aisle at your local supermarket) and equal parts sugar.  The ants will be attracted to the sugar but will carry the borax back to the colony.

Finally, cinnamon works really well in repelling ants and you can sprinkle cinnamon at your back door or front door or wherever the ants come in.

You’ll have a fresh cinnamon bun smelling ant-free home!

House Spiders:

Although scary looking (they can get really large and disgusting looking… yeuch!) they are actually helpful in some respects because they eat the bugs, flies, and other pests in your home.  House spiders like to keep cool so you might see them more often in the summer in your basement.

They are resistant to pest control companies and extermination anyways because they walk on their feet, their body doesn’t touch the ground at all, and the pesticide doesn’t touch them.  However, if you spray Raid or Black Flag directly on them this will kill them (but we wanted eco-friendly so this is out of the question).

To get rid of them, you can either catch them and set them free (the cup and paper under the cup method works the best), or try and get rid of them for good.

To do this, you will need to vacuum regularly, and this also means vacuuming the cobwebs away.  Vacuuming gets rid of any spider eggs that might be lying around waiting to hatch.  Making sure there are not other bugs in your home is really important too.  If you eliminate the spider’s food source (bugs) then they have no reason to come in.

Another thing I am going to try is the ultrasonic device that you can plug into your wall.  The way this works is that it creates a high frequency sound that pests including ants, spiders, and even mice cannot tolerate (but that human ears can’t hear).   It takes a few weeks to work.  I ordered it and haven’t received it yet so will let you all know if this works for us.

Bed Bugs

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite!”  I used to think that this was just a saying but now realize there is such thing as bed bugs.  And they’re more common than you think (be wary if you are backpacking or traveling through hotels often) and very difficult to get rid of.

This is a terrible thing to have in your home and in your bedroom.  We are lucky not to ever had this pest but certainly are wary of the possibility some day.

The pesticides the exterminators use are very toxic, very costly, and there is current discussion that bed bugs may be becoming resistant to these sprays.

Bed bugs feed a few times a night and they bite in a “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” pattern.  You can see if you have bed bugs by checking the headboard, the crevasses of the mattress, and the box spring.  They like to hang out in dark areas and come out at night to feed on you.

There are three ways the bed bugs can be killed without chemicals.

1)      Throw away the mattress and possibly even the bed frame (and use a plastic cover sheet in the future) - Unfortunately this is costly

2)      Heat - depending on how bad the infestation is, you might need to call pest control for this

3)      Extreme cold (below freezing)

To prevent bringing bed bugs home, be wary of sitting on any fabric material in public places.  Recently bed bugs have been found at a local movie theatre, so just be careful!

Bargainmoosers, now that we have you all itchy from the thought of creepy crawlies, do you have frugal tips on how to get rid of these or other pests?

(Image credits: pangalactic, kthpryn)


  • Nat
    We get infested with spiders twice a year, I'm talking 3 per room, replacing their fallen brethren day after day, running around all over the walls and across my duvet as soon as the lights are out. Nightmare stuff. I finally came up with the idea of spraying a natural lavender essential oil air freshener along every edge, corner and vent. I remembered that in some French film (Chocolat?) they had lavender in the window to ward off scorpions. Anyway, from one day to the next the spiders haven't come back. Amazing. Thought this was a good place to spread the word!
    • Clare
      @Nat- Thanks for the great tip- I LOVE lavender! I'll try that for sure.
  • Dakaki
    This is not a great blog post, especially when related to Bed Bugs. Bed bugs are not simply gotten rid of by Extreme Cold. Bed bugs live in the mattress at times, but they also will live in light switches, wall outlets, and I've seen in some cases behind pictures/mirrors if the infestation gets really bad. Due to the spreading nature of bed bugs, don't mess around. The frugal way is getting an exterminator early so your neighbors don't get them and your landlord doesn't start looking to evict.
    • Clare
      @Dakaki- Sorry you feel that way, but I definitely appreciate your comment and the great tips. Good point about the landlord etc. I was looking at it from a homeowner's perspective which is obviously not a representative perspective!
  • Angela
    Actually, I thought the tip about cinnamon and borax was very helpful. Also, you can take a jar, put in honey and water (or another sweet mix), or something savoury (every notice how wasps like to hover around BBQs), then put a lid on it, poke holes in it and set it out away from your picnic area. Wasps, flys will go in and not be able to get out. The also works very well with 2 litre pop bottles. Here is an excellent site:
    • Clare
      @Angela- Thanks Angela! I've actually seen that in Nepal was I was traveling there. It really works!
  • Katy
    Liked the idea about cinnamon for ants, but checked and cats can be allergic. I am sure that the borax is probably not good for pets too, so I'd add that warning. Wonder if the ultrasonic device you ordered would also have a negative effect on pets; their hearing is far more sensitive than ours and if it does, as you say, affect mice, it will probably affect dogs and cats. Thank you Nat for the lavender idea; will try that.
    • Clare
      @Katy- Reports have indicated that some pets may find the sound irritating, but that they show indication of this if you turn it on. The ultrasonic device has been on in my house for a while and my dog hasn't noticed it at all. :)
  • Anna Waters EDITOR
    I sometimes have a problem with fruit flies in the warmer weather. I found a tip online about a little jar or glass with some liquid at the bottom - cider vinegar and a dash of washing up fluid. It works!
  • Avigayil M.
    We had pharaoh ants... found them in our apartment within a month of moving in. The building had to come in and exterminate twice. If the insects are not your fault... as in a pre-existing condition, the building should be responsible for getting rid of them. I once lived in a basement suite with an infestation of mice. They chewed through everything... including some of my favourite clothing. I found one on the bed once. I ended up moving because we were only catching the babies via traps.
    • Kerry
      Borax is OK if it's definitely out of the pets' reach. There are no toxic fumes or dust. It kills bugs because they have different coverings than mammals's skin. However, Borax is toxic if eaten, so you may have to ask your pharmacist for it because it's often behind the counter. I'd avoid this treatment if you have children but, again, if your pets can't get at it they'll be fine.
      • Clare
        @Kerry- I've gotten Borax from the supermarket (In that pale turquoise packaging). I wonder if it's a different type of Borax?
        • Kerry
          Maybe it's the Borax laundry detergent? Check the ingredients. It might work though.
    • Clare
      @Avigayil- Ughhh... mice on the bed?
      • Avigayil M.
        Haha. Ya, not pretty. A note: if you have pets and are getting an extermination done, see if you can send them off to a friend or family for a few days. We have a wonderful friend of my hubby's who takes care of our cats when we are on holidays, and for both exterminations she took them. Don't want to poison your pets!
  • Kerry
    My husband's an exterminator specializing in bed bugs. He treats infestations by heating homes to about 135 degrees (no chemicals). The heat kills everything and his clients can keep their furniture. Yes, treatments like this are expensive, but think of the cost of replacing everything you own after you throw it out - especially if the bed bugs come back and you have to throw out your second set of furniture! He's seen people throw out brand new furniture when an infestation returned after being treated by non-professionals. The problem with chemical and heat treatments is that they only work if you have a detached home. Otherwise the bugs will keep coming back from attached units. That's a big problem, especially with apartment buildings. My best (cheap) advice is: - Don't bring home furniture that you find discarded by the road side - Use an anti-bed bug mattress cover (they don't always work though) - Wash and fold your clothes instead of leaving them in piles where bugs can multiply. Keep them in plastic bags after you wash them if you have a severe infestation. - Wash your sheets frequently - - Use a home steam cleaner to blast your sofa cushions periodically Report any problems to your landlord and keep bothering them until they take action. If they don't respond, contact your local health department. Most of all, remember that bed bugs affect people from all ethnic and economic classes. My husband treats public housing and private mansions. He keeps telling me that these infestations would be less severe if people acknowledged that they had a problem instead of being embarrassed to get help quickly. Talk to your neighbours. Are they having problems too? If so, work together to find a solution to this problem before it gets out of hand.
    • Clare
      @Kerry- Thank you so much for sharing your experience and expertise! :)

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