Making Healthy Decisions in Your Home
You can limit the pesticide exposure of you, your family, and the environment by making healthy decisions in your yard and home. Pesticides can enter our homes on our shoes and clothes when we walk through chemically treated lawns, when we use chemicals to control pests like ants and cockroaches, and when we purchase certain foods. Reducing exposure to these toxic chemicals begins at home and you can start by following these simple tips. To view a full list of all of our resources click here.
Stewardship Begins in Your Backyard
Lawns comprise nearly one-quarter of urban and suburban landscapes. Caring for them responsibly by limiting the amount of water, fertilizers, and pesticides we apply can have a huge impact on our health and environment. For in-depth information, please see our resources page.
- Start with a soil test. Test your soil every three to five years to help determine exactly what you need to keep it healthy.
- Fertilize organically. Switch to an organic fertilizer made from plant or animal materials. These fertilizers allow the grass to absorb nutrients gradually because excess nutrients bind to soil rather than running off into our sewers, lakes, and rivers.
- Diversify your lawn. Turf grass requires lots of maintenance because it is not native to our region. Plant other ground cover, bushes, and trees more suitable for our climate and light conditions.
- Water properly. Water deeply and infrequently early in the morning to minimize evaporation and safeguard against fungus. Ideally, you want one inch of water delivered once a week.
- Mow correctly. Mow your lawn to at least three inches high. Correct mowing will increase the strength of the root system and naturally shade out weeds.
- Banish weeds naturally. All of these proper lawn care tips will help banish weeds naturally. Other products such as corn meal gluten applied in early spring can also help.
- Hire a natural lawn care provider. Midwest Pesticide Action Center works with landscape contractors across the Midwest to provide training and resources.
Control Indoor Pests in a Smart Way
Over the years, many Americans have relied on synthetic pesticides to control pests. Integrated Pest Management is a smarter, safer way to deal with pests. By blocking a pest’s access to food, water, and shelter, you will have fewer pests in your home and need fewer pesticides. For in-depth information, please see our resources page.
- Keep pests out. Caulk, cement, or otherwise seal cracks and holes on the outside of your home, install door sweeps and avoid propping doors open. Make sure window screens are free of tears.
- Remove access to food and water. Practice good sanitation, especially in areas where food is cooked, stored, or eaten. Clean behind appliances often, and seal food in pest-proof containers. Make sure all garbage cans have tight-fitting lids. Repair leaky pipes and remove standing water. Keep drains clean and unclogged.
- Reduce shelter. Get rid of clutter. A messy room provides many hiding places for pests. Seal holes in the walls including intentional ones for plumbing or electrical cords. Seal gaps along baseboards or backsplashes around sinks. Use open shelving that is easy to clean under.
- Routinely monitor for pests so you can you spot a problem early. Place sticky traps in the pest prone areas of kitchens, bathrooms, pantries, closets, or problem areas and check them often.
- Treat existing problems. Stop routine pesticide spraying. Only use pesticides after completing the above items. Choose least-toxic approaches first, like traps and bait stations, over sprayed or dusted pesticides.
- Hire a qualified pest control operator. You may need more than these recommendations. A qualified pest control operator can be a great asset in controlling pests safely and effectively.
Hiring a Pest Control Provider
If you have consistent pest problems, or manage a multi-unit building, we recommend you contract with a licensed pest control provider. They can help identify problem areas in your home and coordinate a monitoring and treatment plan that utilizes the practices of Integrated Pest Management. Midwest Pesticide Action Center has developed the following factsheet to help you make an informed decision when selecting a pest control operator. How Do I Know I’m Receiving Integrated Pest Management?
Beat Back Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are one of the most persistent problems to plague our homes. Bed bugs are small, flat insects that feed on us as food. Spotting bed bugs early is the key to preventing their spread. Below are some practices to help catch a bed bug problem early. The smaller the infestation, the easier to control. For in-depth information, please see our resources page.
- Be on the lookout for signs of infestations especially around sleeping areas. Signs include: live bugs, dark brown or black spots on bedding, carpets, walls and furniture.
- Launder bedding often. A hot clothes dryer will kill bed bugs in all stages of development. Use it for pillows, stuffed animals, and even “dry clean only” items.
- Paint and caulk around sleeping areas such as baseboards, windows, and bed frames to seal hiding spots.
- Inspect used furniture or other items closely before bringing them into your home. Look for signs of infestations in cushions, zippers, seams, and underneath including springs and frames.
- Take extra care when traveling or staying in a new place. Bed bugs can hitch a ride home on your clothing or luggage.
- Hire a professional if you think you have an infestation. These pests are tenacious and are best left to the professionals
Make Smart Food Choices
Much of our pesticide exposure comes from the food we eat. Conventionally grown produce is treated with insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other pesticides. These pesticides can accumulate up the food chain into foods we eat like milk, butter and meat. They also negatively affect the honeybee and other pollinator populations.
- Buy organic produce when possible.
- Thoroughly wash and peel conventionally grown produce before cooking or eating it to remove any pesticides that may be on its surface.
- Trim fat and skin off conventionally fed meat and poultry to reduce your consumption of pesticides that accumulate in animal fat.
- Be especially mindful of what you feed children. Pound for pound, they eat more food and drink more water than adults. Their bodies are still developing and are especially vulnerable to the effects of pesticide exposure.
- Consult the Environmental Working Group’s “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce” to help you make the best food choices for limiting the ingestion of pesticides.
Midwest Pesticide Action Center has developed a number of resources to help you make smart decisions about controlling pests at home, including resources just for renters, building managers, and homeowners on our resources page. Learn More
Photo courtesy of Biodiversity Project