Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Controlling Pests

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 17: A Healthy Home > Controlling Pests


Pests, such as cockroaches and rodents (rats and mice), live wherever there are food crumbs, trash, and places to hide. They carry illnesses and are a common cause of allergies and asthma attacks. Unfortunately, the sprays often used to get rid of insects and rodents also cause asthma attacks and other health problems.

Many people use chemical pesticides to control insects and rodents in the home. Pesticides are poison. If they are used at all they should be used, handled, and stored with great care.

The best way to control household pests is to get rid of the conditions that attract them:

  • Sweep and clean regularly to get rid of food scraps, crumbs, and materials in which rodents can nest.
  • Clean and dry surfaces where food is prepared after cooking and eating.
  • Store food in tightly covered containers.
A woman sweeps her cooking area.
  • Fix leaking pipes and keep sinks dry. Cockroaches and other insects like water.
  • Keep household waste in covered containers, and remove it regularly.
  • Fill holes and cracks in walls, ceilings, and floors to prevent pests from entering. Fill small holes with materials such as steel wool, fine mesh screens, mortar, sheet metal, etc.


Many pests can be driven away using organic materials that are less harmful and less costly than chemical pesticides.

Pest control without chemicals

Sometimes keeping the house clean is not enough, and more active pest control is needed.

A cockroach.

For cockroaches, make a mixture of sugar and boric acid or baking soda. Sprinkle it on surfaces where cockroaches crawl. They will eat it and die. OR, mix boric acid with water to make a thick paste. Add corn flour and make little balls. Leave them around the house, but take care that children do not eat them!

An ant.

For ants, sprinkle red chili powder, dried peppermint, or crushed cinnamon where they enter.

A fly.

For fly maggots, soak crushed basil leaves in water for 24 hours. Filter and spray onto maggots.

See “How to make a fly trap from a plastic bottle.”

For termites, make sure wooden building materials do not come into direct contact with the soil. Do not store firewood next to the house.

A rat caught in a trap.

To kill rodents, use traps. Poisons should be used only by people trained in their use, with great care, and with good safety equipment.

Some insect pests, such as “chinches” that cause Chagas’ disease in Mexico, and Central and South America, live in cracks in the floors, walls, and roofs of houses, especially those made from mud, adobe, and thatch. Sealing wall cracks with plaster, and plastering the walls completely or even just the bottom meter of wall, will help prevent insect breeding. (See “How to make natural earth plaster.”) Replacing thatch roofs with tile, metal, or cement, or lining the inside of the roof will also keep the insects out.


How to make a simple roach trap

A roach trap jar.
  1. Fill the bottom of a jar with beer, boiled raisins, or some other sweet substance.
  2. Smear a band of petroleum jelly inside the jar below the rim to prevent roaches from crawling out.
  3. To kill the captured roaches, dump them in hot, soapy water.


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