Home Maintenance and Pest Control

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The best method of pest control is not the application of poisons, any more than the best method of medical care is swallowing pills. The key is prevention—having conditions where the problem doesn’t occur, or at least doesn’t get worse, in the first place.

Proper home maintenance and cleanliness is the first step to wards effective pest control. The best exterminator and the deadliest poisons won’t be able to control pests under unsanitary conditions.

Start by giving your home a complete survey. Look at the surroundings. Is the yard cluttered, or overgrown with plants, grass, and weeds? Are there potential nests around your house? How about sources of food and water?

Does your house have cracks or holes where the pests can gain entry? Are the screens tight and in good repair?

Is the inside clean? This means behind and under objects as well as the counter tops. If grease or dropped food can accumulate behind the stove, you can bet that you’ve just invited all sorts of pests to dinner.

Most pests come in from the outside. This is probably where you’ll want to start your repairs. If you live in an area that has dangerous pests (scorpions, black widow spiders, poisonous snakes, etc.) be extra careful. Use a stick to turn over boxes, boards, and rocks. It might also be wise to wear heavy gloves.

Cluttered, unkept areas are natural hiding places for pests.

Should you feel something crawling on you, never slap. Brush. Slapping can drive a stinger into the skin. By brushing, you’ll push the creature off, and reduce the chance of injury.

Remove all debris from the yard. Stack wood neatly, and at a distance from the house. If at all possible, elevate it. Even then, you’ll have to pay special attention to this area. It’s an open house for many pests. Check it regularly.

Weeds should be torn out, and the grass kept clipped short. Dead and decaying vegetation must be removed. A bag to catch lawn clippings is a cheap investment.

Plants close to the house are particularly bad, especially when they are neglected. A rake is wonderful for keeping dropped leaves away. Use it regularly.

There isn’t much you can do about the crack where the ground meets the house. Many insects love this spot. But if the area around it’s kept clean, they won’t be quite so enthusiastic about living there.

Leaky faucets should be fixed. Usually it isn’t difficult. A washer will cost only a few cents, if you don’t have one lying around already. A wrench and screwdriver, and about 10 minutes, is all it takes. Even if the entire faucet needs replacing, it’s worth the effort. Changing one is easy. Not only will you be saving water, but you will also be taking away an essential supply of water for insects and rodents.

Holes at all heights should be repaired. A box of patching plaster, or a tube of caulking will do the trick nicely in most cases. Larger holes may need a piece of wood or metal. You’ll eliminate many nesting areas, and cut your heating and cooling costs. This well- invested time will also prevent pests from coming into your house.

Windows and doors must be sealed for the same reason. A scorpion can crawl through a crack of only ‘/i6 inch. Many pests can creep through even smaller holes. The best chemicals take time to kill. In the meantime, the pest can make a considerable nuisance of itself.

Screens with holes or breaks need to be repaired or replaced. They are designed to allow you to let in air without letting in the bugs. If they have openings, they are useless.

Attic vents usually have screens across them. These should be checked occasionally. If there aren’t any screens on yours, put some on. Screening isn’t all that expensive. And, chemically treating the vent just won’t work.

Anti-bug lights will help decrease the number of insects at night. Don’t expect miracles from them, but they will keep away about 80 percent of the flying insects that come to a normal light.

Garage doors are famous for having huge cracks around them. If you try to seal up the openings, be sure that you aren’t interfering with the operation of the door.

Inside the home, the process is basically the same. Look under the sinks where the pipes come in. Most have holes around them like the Grand Canyon. If you have a gas stove you may have to move it out (carefully) to check the gas pipe. If there is a hole around it, repair it. Around all pipes, don’t just assume that the metal ring means that the pipe is sealed. The primary function of that ring is to hide a hole.

And while the stove is out, clean behind it. Wash down the wall with a good cleaner to cut the built-up grease.

Cupboards may also have cracks where they meet the wall. Caulking compound will seal these quite well, and eliminate one of the favorite homes of roaches. If they don’t have a place to nest, they won’t be able to infest your home.

The caulking won’t show in most cases. For those spots where it does, use a caulking that accepts paint. A small brush, and a few minutes, and you have what looks like a professional job.

Leaking faucets can cause damage as well as provide a source of water. They will have to be repaired in any case. The counter top may also have come loose from the water. After the wood underneath has been given a chance to dry, a good linoleum glue will tighten it up. Then, caulk the edges if there are any openings.

The area under sinks has a tendency to be a “catch all” for whatever doesn’t fit elsewhere. At least keep it clean and dry. If you keep the trash there, use a plastic container, preferably with a tight fitting lid. Wet trash won’t leak out, and water (and insects) can’t get in.

The rag that many people drape over the water pipe should be clean, and as dry as possible. Better yet, avoid the habit. If left there for long periods of time, bacteria will grow, providing a delicatessen for insects. (You’d also be wiping your counters with an unsanitary cloth.)

Don’t leave dirty dishes around. This is especially important if you already have a roach problem. Wash them immediately, and thoroughly. Badly washed dishes are almost as bad as unwashed dishes.

Spilled food should be cleaned up immediately. It’s easy to ignore it, saying you’ll get it later. Don’t do it. The same for counter tops. Keep them wiped clean. If grease is a problem, use a detergent first, then use clean water, and then dry the counter.

Basically, this all breaks down to cleanliness and good sanitation. Even without insect problems, the reduction of bacteria, and possible food poisoning, makes it worthwhile. It might seem tedious, even phobic, but in a very short time it will become a habit. If kept up, the kitchen will always be clean. The time you spend there cooking and eating meals will be more pleasant.

Any place where water comes into the house will have many of the same problems as the kitchen. Check around pipes for holes. Lint might gather in the laundry room, and make excellent nesting material for many insects, and for mice.

The vent for the dryer is another spot where insects might come in. Be sure it fits tight. Any cracks should be sealed. If you put a screen over the vent, make sure it can be removed for cleaning. Lint will probably gather there, and unless you can take it off to clean it, it will cut the efficiency of the dryer.

Basements require special attention. They are often dark and damp, and make good homes for pests. Keep yours as clean as possible. Try not to let it become a cluttered mess. Water leaks must be fixed. Sometimes water will leak through the walls. A building supply store can tell you what to use on yours to stop this.

Attics don’t usually have water problems unless there is a leak in the roof. (If so, repair it.) But, they are often left alone for years on end. If you seal any holes, you’ll keep the insects out, and the pest problems to a minimum.

Finally, spend a little time in the crawl space, if you have one. Repair any holes or cracks. For mobile homes, duct tape will seal most of them, if they aren’t too large. Check where pipes and ducts enter the house, and seal them. ( You might also want to screen over where these vent inside the house.)

No matter how well you seal your house, insects always seem able to find a way in. But for each crack or hole you seal, that’s one less chance they’ll have.

The same rule applies to cleanliness. It might not completely prevent insects from finding food, but it will cut down the source considerably. Besides, good sanitation is its own reward.

Throughout your cleaning and repairing, remember what you are trying to do, and you’ll know more exactly what to do. Eliminate the four things that pests need: food, water, nesting, and entrance.

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