7 Easy Ways to Keep Pests Out of Your Kitchen (Without Chemicals)

published Apr 8, 2023
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Interior photography of a fresh white Hamptons style kitchen with a marble bench top, large window looking out onto a back garden
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The summer months mean the arrival of warmer weather, and in many of our homes, the unwelcome arrival of pests. Most bugs are cold-blooded, which means they don’t tolerate high levels of heat — so they often end up sneaking indoors to find respite from scorching days. 

If you already have a pest problem, an exterminator may be your best bet. But if you haven’t seen any bugs yet, you can take a few key steps to keep them out of your kitchen. Ahead, the best ways to prevent pests all summer long, according to experts. 

1. Keep things clean. 

Among the most obvious and important tips for staving off pests? Keep your kitchen as clean as possible. First things first, be sure to clean up each and every crumb you can see. “Pests tend to thrive on even the smallest bits of food left in the pantry, and removing them reduces their food supply,” says Jordan Foster, a pest control expert at Fantastic Pest Control. Along the same lines, clean up spills on your counters and floors right after they happen, and regularly wash the insides of your cupboards and drawers. 

2. Take out the trash. 

Full trash bins can attract bugs and other pests. Stuart Flynn, owner of Bug-N-A-Rug Exterminators, recommends emptying your garbage can as often as possible — especially if you’re throwing away food scraps — or storing trash in a tightly sealed container that pests can’t easily access. 

3. Seal off openings. 

Seal off any openings where insects and other pests can get in, using caulk or other pest-proof materials. “This will prevent bugs from infiltrating your pantry and causing damage to your stored food,” says Foster. 

4. Keep pet food tightly sealed. 

You probably already know you should be decanting your own food (pests love to chew through cardboard boxes). If you have a pet at home, Flynn recommends keeping dog food inaccessible to pests by sealing it in an airtight container

5. Enlist some pantry ingredients. 

Most kitchen pests dislike the pungent scent of bay leaves, which discourages them from feeding. Foster recommends leaving bay leaves on counter tops, pantry shelves, and in cabinets — whether loose or in a small bowl — to ward off kitchen pests naturally. 

6. Use essential oils. 

Certain natural scents are unappealing to pests. For example, mice don’t like peppermint and ants are deterred by lemon. Foster recommends creating a DIY spray with water and one of these fragrant oils, then spraying it around your kitchen. You can also put a few drops on a cotton ball and leave it in vulnerable areas, such as cabinets or along your baseboards. 

7. Grow a basil plant. 

Insects also despise the smell of basil, so Foster recommends growing a basil plant in your kitchen during the summer months. On top of warding off pests, use the fresh basil to top off salads and pasta, or garnish summer cocktails!