These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (2024)

Knowing how to repel bugs is key to maintaining a clean and ick-free home where you can live, eat, and sleep in peace. But keeping bugs away doesn't have to cost the earth or involve harsh chemicals.

From ants to mosquitos, pests can be a real nuisance. In this guide, our industry experts reveal 10 things already in your cabinets that will ward off bugs, explain why they work, and share tips on how to use them as free pest-control hacks.

Though knowing how to identify bugs in your home is handy, knowing exactly how to banish them will keep your pad a pest-free zone.

Repel bugs without spending a penny

Just like getting rid of ants in a kitchen, it turns out that there's a surprising number of natural or daily items that can keep your home pest-free, without the need for harsh chemicals or great expense.

Where our pros have recommended products, we've used our wealth of in-house shopping expertise to match highly-rated items from trusted retailers.

All prices were correct at the time of publication.

1. Citronella oil

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (1)

(Image credit: Blanchi Costela/Getty Images)

Citronella oil is one of the most well-known natural bug repellents. Its strong aroma masks scents that attract bugs in the first place, making it difficult for them to locate their targets, especially in summer when you can use it to stop pests coming into the home.

Andrew Greess, owner of QSpray, says, "Citronella oil has to be one of the best natural insect repellents, especially effective against mosquitos and other insects that fly about during warmer weather.

"Derived from various species of citronella grass, its strong citrus-like odor masks the smells of other things that would typically attract bugs — like the scent of humans."

Citronella oil can be found in various household items including candles (these Aottom Store Citronella Candles from Amazon are effective both indoors and outdoors), incense sticks, diffusers (Walmart's Citronella Oil from Diffuse Essential Oils works with steam, reed and ultrasonic diffusers) and aerosols. You can also apply it directly to your skin.

Andrew adds, "On direct contact, citronella oil is an irritant to an insect’s nervous system, discouraging them from landing on you."

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (2)

Andrew Greess

Andrew Greess is the owner of QSpray, pest and landscape equipment experts. Founded more than 30 years ago, QSpray has served more than 27,000 happy customers, priding itself on selling high-quality products at reasonable prices.

2. Peppermint

The fresh scent of peppermint is pleasing to humans but repulsive to bugs, including ants and spiders (learn how else to get rid of spiders in our dedicated guide).

Andrew says, "Peppermint oil can be a great first line of defense against ants and some beetles that might be interested in coming into your home. In addition to masking scents (like the pheromone scent trail ants follow), the menthol and menthone in peppermint oil irritate insects’ nervous systems."

To harness its, you can create a homemade spray by mixing peppermint essential oil and water (Everspring's Peppermint Pure Essential Oil from Target has a crisp, fresh scent).

Karina Toner, operations manager at Spekless Cleaning, adds, "Simply mix a few drops of peppermint oil with water in a spray bottle and spritz around windows, doors, and other entry points."

She adds, "Soaking cotton balls in peppermint oil and placing them in cabinets or other bug-prone areas can also be effective."

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (3)

Karina is an Operations Manager at Spekless Cleaning, a respected cleaning company operating across multiple US states. She has more than 10 years' cleaning experience and is an expert in professional cleaning solutions and helping clients with sustainable and effective cleaning.

3. Citrus peel

Citrus peels, such as those from lemons, oranges, and grapefruits, contain natural oils bugs dislike, working wonders both in the home and in the garden.

Simply save your citrus peels after enjoying a snack and place them strategically around your home.

Karina says, "Citrus peels contain natural oils that are toxic to insects, including mosquitoes and ants. The scent also masks human odors, making it harder for bugs to detect us.

"Simply place citrus peels in areas where bugs are a problem, or by entry points such as doorways and window sills. Boiling citrus peels in water can also create a natural repellent spray."

4. Eucalyptus

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (4)

(Image credit: Anastasiia Krivenok/Getty Images)

Eucalyptus oil is another potent bug repellent with a refreshing scent.

Cleaning expert Angela Rubin, of Hellamaid, says, "Eucalyptus leaves contain compounds like citronellal and eucalyptol, which have strong insect-repelling properties.

"Simply crush fresh eucalyptus leaves to release their oils, then place the crushed leaves in a bowl or sachet and put them in areas where bugs are a problem, such as near windows or outdoor seating areas."

Angela adds, "Refresh the leaves regularly to ensure continued effectiveness."

You can also create a spray by mixing water with eucalyptus oil (this Handcraft Blends Eucalyptus Essential Oil from Amazon has an average score of 4.5/5 from more than 100,000 reviews).

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (5)

Angela Rubin

Angela Rubinworks at Hellamaid, a top-rated cleaning company in Canada. Hellamaid are industry experts, specializing in residential and commercial cleaning services.

5. Lavender

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (6)

(Image credit: Iryna Veklich/Getty Images)

Lavender not only has a pleasant aroma but also bugs hate it, making it one of the 10 top plants that repel mosquitos.

Angela says, "Lavender contains essential oils like linalool and linalyl acetate, which have natural insect-repelling properties. Furthermore, the scent of lavender is known to repel mosquitoes, flies, and moths."

It's one of the reason you'll find this ingredients in mothballs, a great way to get rid of moths.

"To use, place dried lavender flowers in small sachets or bags, before hanging or placing the sachets in areas where bugs are a nuisance, such as closets, drawers, or outdoor seating areas," Angela adds.

You can also purchase lavender essential oils, diffusers and air fresheners for your home, such as the Air Wick Essential Mist Lavender & Almond Blossom Air Freshener from Target, which runs for an eight-hour spray cycle before going into standby mode overnight.

Angela adds, "Alternatively, you can make a lavender-infused spray by steeping dried lavender flowers in water."

6. Listerine

Believe it or not, the mouthwash you use to freshen your breath can also keep bugs away. Listerine contains ingredients like eucalyptol, thymol, and menthol, which bugs find unpleasant.

Amy Poulton, DIY expert and editor at Hometalk, says, "To make a quick DIY mosquito repellent solution, simply fill a spray bottle with Listerine and mist yourself or your household surfaces.

"The primary active ingredient in Listerine is eucalyptol, a derivative of eucalyptus oil, which mosquitoes dislike. However, the repellent effect only lasts 30-40 minutes, so re-application is needed."

You can also use Listerine-soaked cotton balls as a deterrent near common entry points such as window ledges.

This Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash from Amazon has that extra-strong smell you want when ridding your home of unwanted intruders, including roaches, which our experts have shared how to get rid.

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (7)

Amy Poulton

Amy Poulton is a DIY expert atHometalk, a DIY home and garden website for those passionate about DIY projects, decorating, cleaning hacks, and home improvement, reaching 23 million DIY enthusiasts.

7. Used teabags

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (8)

(Image credit: Ian Nolan/Getty Images)

Don't throw away those used teabags just yet — they can serve as effective bug repellents!

Tea contains tannins and caffeine, which are compounds bugs find unappealing. After brewing your tea, allow the used tea bags to cool, then place them in areas where bugs tend to congregate.

Amy says, "One clever and natural way to repel pests is by using dried tea bags, particularly peppermint-flavored ones. Many pests, including insects, don't like the smell of peppermint, lemon and cinnamon, so those are the best flavors to go for.

"The tea bags can be placed or hung around your home to deter insects and rodents with their scent."

These Bigelow Vanilla Chai Black Tea Bags from Target brings the perfect combination of delicious flavour for you, and potent pest-repelling scent for those pesky uninvited guests.

For more rodent, solutions dive into our expert guides on how to get rid of mice and rats.

8. Coffee grounds

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (9)

(Image credit: Gabi Musat/Getty Images)

We all love a great cup of coffee. But coffee grounds are not just for brewing your morning joe — they can also serve as an effective bug repellent.

Bugs like ants, slugs, snails and mosquitoes are repelled by the strong scent of coffee grounds, making them a good natural deterrent.

To use coffee grounds to repel bugs, sprinkle them around the perimeter of your home or garden, focusing on areas where bugs are likely to enter. You can also create a barrier of coffee grounds around plants to protect them from pests.

Additionally, you can use brewed coffee grounds as a spray by diluting them with water and applying the mixture to surfaces where bugs are present. The caffeine in coffee grounds acts as a natural insecticide, making it an effective solution for controlling bug infestations.

This Lavazza Qualita Rossa Bag of Espresso Beans from Amazon averages 4.5/5 from more than 24,000 reviews and is great if you want to combine drinking great coffee with repelling bugs from your home.

9. Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is renowned for its natural antimicrobial properties, but it's also an effective bug repellent.

Vanessa Bossart, founder of GreenTerra Cleaning, says, "We've had considerable success using tea tree oil as a potent bug deterrent. Mixing a few drops of tea tree oil with water in a spray bottle creates an effective natural repellent.

"Spraying this solution around the home, especially near entry points and ant trails, helps keep bugs away without resorting to harsh chemicals."

The Spring Valley 100% Tea Tree Oil from Walmart boasts great results as both a skincare product, and insect repellent.

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (10)

Vanessa Bossart

Vanessa Bossart is founder of GreenTerra Cleaning, which has made more than 28,000 American homes sparkle and aims to redefine cleanliness as the cornerstone of healthy, sustainable living. With 18 years’ experience in the cleaning industry, Vanessa is passionate about promoting eco-friendly cleaning practices.

10. A clean home

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (11)

(Image credit: Carlos Barquero/Getty Images)

Perhaps more effective than any one repellent, maintaining a clean and clutter-free home is essential for keeping bugs at bay.

Bugs are attracted to food crumbs, spills, and standing water, so be sure to clean up spills promptly, empty trash bins regularly, and store food in sealed containers. Vacuuming and sweeping floors regularly can also help eliminate bugs and their eggs, reducing the likelihood of infestations.

Vanessa says, "Bugs like ants are in constant search for food and water, so it's vital to eliminate these attractants by storing food carefully and maintaining a rigorous cleaning schedule, including deep-cleaning your kitchen.

"Wipe down all kitchen surfaces with a homemade solution of water and vinegar to dissolve food residues and sugary spills that ants find irresistible. Put extra emphasis on cleaning under appliances and in corners where crumbs tend to accumulate."

This Good & Gather Distilled White Vinegar from Target is a high-quality option and rated five stars by thousands of shoppers.

Shop commercial sprays

For those who prefer a ready-made chemical solution, there are plenty of commercial bug sprays available that use natural ingredients to repel bugs. Look for sprays that contain ingredients like citronella, peppermint, lavender, or eucalyptus for maximum effectiveness.

When using commercial sprays, read and follow the instructions carefully. and apply them to areas where bugs are likely to enter, such as doorways, windows, and outdoor seating areas.

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (12)Long lasting

OFF! FamilyCare Insect Repellent

Price: $4.43
Size: 2.5 FL. OZ

This powder-dry formula with 15% DEET effectively repels bugs including gnats, ticks, chiggers, fleas, and mosquitos. It's non- greasy skin-safe formulation can be applied to adults and children, as well as most clothing as it doesn't damage cotton, wool or nylon. Check the manufacturer's instructions for how to use it, especially when applying to children as the steps are different to applying to adults.

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (13)Best-seller

Mighty Mint Insect & Pest Control

Price: $19.98
Size: 16 FL. OZ

Made from plant-based ingredients and free from sodium lauryl sulfate (which can block pores and cause acne in some people), when used as directed, this effective, natural repellent spray can safely be administered near children and pets. It was bought 30,000 times last month, with reviewers that were tackling ants and roaches praising its potency.

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (14)Fragrance-free

Raid Ant & Roach Insect Killer Spray

Price: From $5.99
Size: 15.5 or 35 FL. OZ

This spray's special formula kills pests on contact and keeps killing with residual action for up to four weeks. Effective on variety of bugs including ants, roaches, and household spiders. Real Homes editor Punteha van Terheyden loves this item, having used it to tackle multiple ant infestations in different homes with great results. She says a few days worth of cleaning and tackling ants with this spray in the summer stopped them coming back for good.

Now you're armed against pesky invaders, learn more about how to prevent bed bugs, how to get rid of flying ants and the pest control mistakes you must avoid.

These 10 household items repel bugs — and you probably have them at home already (2024)


What household item keeps bugs away? ›

Mint repels all kinds of critters, including ants, flies, mosquitoes and mice. Leave small sachets of crushed mint — or even mint teabags in a pinch — around the house.

What smell do bugs hate the most? ›

Bugs hate the smells associated with repellency, such as lavender, citronella, vinegar, peppermint, and geranium. These oils are considered a natural way of driving away bugs from your home without harming you, your family, and other animals.

What smell kills all bugs? ›

Citronella, lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint are scents that bugs hate the most. These scents repel bugs due to their overwhelming and unpleasant smells, as well as their insecticidal properties. Citronella is scientifically proven to repel bugs and is commonly used in bug control.

What's the best natural bug repellent? ›

10 Natural Insect Repellents For Your Home
  1. Citronella Oil for Mosquitoes. ...
  2. Chalk for Ants and Slugs. ...
  3. Beer for Slugs. ...
  4. DIY Spider Repellent Spray. ...
  5. Cinnamon, Paprika or Garlic to Keep Out Ants. ...
  6. Diatomaceous Earth for Most Insects. ...
  7. Essential Oils for Ticks. ...
  8. Garlic Solution on Strips of Cloth.

What bugs does white vinegar repel? ›

Vinegar is one of the best ingredients to make a pest control spray. It is effective in repelling ants, mosquitoes, fruit flies, and many others. Creating a mix is quite simple and is considered safe for humans and pets. Acidity of the vinegar is potent enough to kill many pests.

What homemade spray keeps bugs away? ›

Make an All-Purpose Insect Repellent

Lemongrass or citronella oil, and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar. 1 cup isopropyl alcohol, 1 cup water, ½ tsp. catnip oil.

Do dryer sheets repel bugs? ›

Dryer sheets typically contain chemicals such as linalool, beta-citronellol, and geraniol, which are known to have some insect-repellent properties.

What color do bugs hate? ›

Bugs naturally are attracted to vibrant colors such as orange, yellow, or white. Colours such as blue and green will not register as vividly when viewed in the ultraviolet spectrum, which deters bugs away from those colored items.

Does pine sol keep bugs away? ›

Create a fly and wasp repellent.

Pour equal parts water and Pine-Sol in a spray bottle to spritz on outdoor furniture, the deck, and indoor areas where flies are most likely to flock, such as kitchen countertops.

How do I permanently get rid of bugs? ›

How to Get Rid of Bugs Indoors
  1. Don't Let Bugs Feel at Home. ...
  2. Seal Up Cracks & Openings. ...
  3. Clean Up the Kitchen. ...
  4. Dry Up Damp Areas. ...
  5. Clean & Sweep Regularly. ...
  6. Keep the Outside Free of Debris. ...
  7. Kill the Bugs You See. ...
  8. Create a Barrier to Keep Bugs Out.

What does cinnamon keep away? ›

Cinnamon acts on pests mainly as a repellent, although in higher doses it has a biocidal effect and prevents egg-laying. Cinnamon and its compounds effectively hinder bacterial and fungal growth, and the phytotoxic effects of cinnamon make it a possible herbicide.

What smells attract bugs? ›

What scents attract insects?
  • Sugary drinks. When outdoors, as soon as you pop a top, bees also want to take a sip. ...
  • Carbon dioxide. Mosquitoes and moths are most active at dawn and at dusk. ...
  • Perfumes and lotions. Floral smells will trigger bee and mosquito senses. ...
  • Pheromones.

What can you drink to keep bugs away? ›

If all else fails, drinking apple cider vinegar can actually have an effect on the smell of our sweat, making it less interesting for mosquitoes. As mentioned above, drinking cider vinegar can keep mosquitos away from you.

What can I put out to keep bugs away? ›

Add natural bug repellant plants

Some plants, like lavender, marigold, citronella grass, rosemary, and basil, naturally repel bugs. Lavender is particularly popular as a natural, people-and-pet-safe pest control plant. The aroma of lavender is too strong for small insects and discourages them from flying near the area.

Does Vicks Vapor Rub repel mosquitoes? ›

The Myth Behind Vicks Vaporub and Mosquito Repellency

While there has been a long-standing controversy surrounding the effectiveness of Vicks Vaporub as a mosquito repellent, scientific studies have consistently shown that it is not an effective solution for keeping mosquitoes at bay.

What keeps bugs away outside naturally? ›

Spraying a peppermint oil solution around your outdoor patio space is one of the best ways to repel ants, spiders, caterpillars, ticks, beetles and flies. Rosemary oil is another essential oil solution known to repel flies, mosquitoes and ants, as well as spider mites and aphids infesting garden plants.

How to get rid of bugs in house fast? ›

Fast Facts
  1. Clean counters after food preparations and keep food in tightly sealed containers.
  2. Don't leave dirty dishes in the sink.
  3. Empty trash cans regularly.
  4. Eliminate clutter where pests can shelter.
  5. Keep the foundation of your home clear of vegetation.
  6. Keep window and door screens repaired.
Aug 27, 2023

Does Dawn and vinegar keep bugs away? ›

The theory behind using dawn and vinegar is that bugs are repelled by the strong scent of vinegar and the acidity disrupts their sensory receptors. Scientific studies have shown that a mixture of vinegar and dish soap effectively repels mosquitoes, fruit flies, and house flies.

How do you make homemade pest control? ›

To make a basic oil spray insecticide, mix one cup of vegetable oil with one tablespoon of soap (cover and shake thoroughly), and then when ready to apply, add two teaspoons of the oil spray, mix with one quart of water, shake thoroughly, and spray directly on the surfaces of the plants which are being affected by the ...


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