Using safe, non-toxic means to control household and garden pests gives many homeowners and organic gardeners peace of mind. The fear that commercial pesticides may be harsh to family and pets, as well as toxic to beneficial insects, makes the idea of homemade pest control sprays appealing to many. Unlike chemical pesticides, homemade pest control recipes use familiar household ingredients, such as mint, soap and cayenne pepper, that are non-toxic to humans. They are also easy to make and often less expensive than commercial products.
One of the most dreaded of all household pests is the cockroach. Though they can be controlled to an extent through proper food storage and stringent cleaning practices, other measures are often needed as well. One option, suggested by Eartheasy.com, is simply keeping a spray bottle of soapy water on hand. Spraying individual roaches, according to the site, will kill them on contact. Soap and water solutions containing lye soap may be more effective than regular household soap. Though lye is toxic if swallowed, lye combined with soap is mild, safe and can penetrate cockroach armor, killing it on contact. Soapy water spray can also be used to control ants.
The website also offers catnip tea is an option, a method that has been backed by researchers at the University of Iowa. Apparantly, the pungent herb contains a chemical called nepetalactone, which repels cockroaches. To brew catnip tea, simply add 1 tsp. of dried catnip leaves to 6 oz. of boiling water and let seep for seven to eight minutes. Spray around baseboards, countertops and other problem areas.
Ingredients commonly used to repel ants, on the other hand, include vinegar, peppermint, cinnamon oil, cayenne pepper and clove oil. Combine 2 cups of vinegar with 2 tsp. of cayenne pepper and spray areas where ants enter your home. Or, brew a tea using dried peppermint steeped in water to treat problem areas as well.
Though not a spray, cornmeal left in infested areas can be lethal to when eaten by ants.
Use several homemade sprays to control garden pests. For aphids, mites, mealy bugs and other soft-bodied insects, Eartheasy.com suggests mixing 1 tbsp. of canola oil and two to three drops of soap into 1 qt. of water. Simply spray leaves of affected plants to smother pests without the use of toxins. It also suggests using a soap-and-water mixture with hot pepper sauce to repel mites.
To repel Japanese beetles, caterpillars and even rodents from vegetables, roses and fruit trees, organic farmer Stephanie Lowell-Libby suggests a mixture of onion, garlic, cayenne pepper or hot sauce, and water. For aphids, she suggests steeping lemon peel in hot water overnight and straining into a spray.