Natural Household Insect Repellent

Posted on June 27th, 2011 by Tonia 13 Comments

It’s that time of year when a seemingly innocent piece of fruit left uncovered on the kitchen counter can create a massive bug frenzy in the house. Fruit flies and ants galore. We’re fighting back in several ways:

1. The fruit bowl on the counter has been temporarily laid-off. All fruit is safely in the refrigerator, until colder weather permits their freedom again.

2. Spraying kitchen surfaces with white vinegar. Scout ants lead their colony to a food source through scented trails. Vinegar destroys that trail. This does not kill the ants, but diminishes their efforts. And it leaves the counters clean and disinfected.

3. Sprinkling cinnamon at bug-entry-points. The french doors that go from our living room out to the back yard let a lot of beautiful sunlight into the house. And ants. But ants can’t stand cinnamon- they do anything to avoid it. Ever since I put a dish of it by the doors, I haven’t seen any ants!

Left to right: borax and sugar, ground cinnamon

4. Baiting them with borax and sugar. The sugar will attract the bugs, and the borax will kill them via dehydration. Mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of borax; place in shallow dishes, and put them where the bugs are {but keep them out of reach of pets and children!}

There’s no need for pesticides and poisons- these methods are doing the trick for us. Although, I do miss my cheerful fruit bowl. Here’s another great household use for borax.

Completely unrelated to bugs: there has been a recent influx of new readers {some of you came over from Becoming Minimalist} and I want to say welcome! Thank you for leaving comments- it has been a lot of fun to click through and visit all of your blogs as well. My morning blog-reading routine is taking a little longer these days, but you all have such interesting things to say! Thank you and welcome.


  1. I’ve always heard coffee grounds are a good repellent as well but I haven’t seen the success I would have hoped for when I tried it.

    Now if only I can figure out how to get ride of those 2 or 3 pesky flies that have made their way into our house…

  2. Rea says:

    I will have to try the cinnamon, if I can ever figure out where those pesky ants are coming in. Another thing I’ve found that helps is peppermint essential oil in my homemade cleaning solution…ants don’t like mint and spraying it on my counters does seem to diminish them a bit.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blog! (And yes, I came over from Becoming Minimalist…kind of like following a scout ant’s trail, but in a GOOD way!)

  3. BTW – loving your new site design!

  4. Brooke says:

    Wow, I had no idea that cinnamon would repel insects!! How cool.
    Also, I really like your blog! It’s so awesome!

  5. Tonia says:

    @JB: A fly swatter? 😉 I heard coffee grounds too, but it didn’t work for ants and I think it actually attracted fruit flies.
    @Rea: Peppermint oil! I am so glad you brought that up because I recently figured out that peppermint oil works well against mosquitoes, too! I used it as a moisturizer one day, and was amazed when all the mosquitoes left me alone!

  6. Tonia says:

    @Brooke: Yes, and cinnamon is good for people with diabetes. I don’t completely understand why- something about cinnamon slows our body’s reaction to sugar. Isn’t it interesting that sugar-loving bugs would be repelled by a spice that isn’t sugar-friendly?

  7. Pandora says:

    I have sprinkled my floors in instant grits to kill ants, and I just sweep up the remaining grits and dead bugs into the trash. I may try the white vinegar spray, and I would like to try the other methods but I have a dog that eats everything!
    I also found your blog through, and bookmarked it right away! Partially because of the beautiful photograph in your last post, and because I love reading about gardening =)

  8. Tonia says:

    @Pandora: Our dog eats everything, too. There will be more pretty flower photography coming soon…I just came in from outside- the peonies are finally opening up! I can’t wait to share the photos!

  9. Rachel says:

    I’m down in the southern hemisphere so it’s definitely not warm enough for pesky bugs at the moment but these are great tips I’ll have stored up for summer. I also came over from Becoming Minimalist and am instantly hooked. You have a great blog.

  10. Tricia says:

    Some great hints there thanks. I had to move my fruit into the fridge last summer also, but I really don’t like cold fruit, so I ended up making a mesh cover out of an old netting curtain. I simply draped it over the bowl and it kept the fruit fly off.

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving such a lovely comment. I’m looking forward to following your journey. I’m keen to read back through some of your older posts now to find out more about your decision to move from the city to the country. It’s something I think about alot.

  11. Tonia says:

    @Tricia: I have seen those cute little mesh toppers around and they’re so handy! What a good idea to make one…Wish I had some netting laying around.

    I would love to chat with you about our move from the city/city life vs. rural life in regards to living low-impact/etc. There is a lot of trade-off…for example, we’re further now from airports, relatives, shopping centers, etc. so we have to drive our car more. But, we have space to grow our own food, and we live among a lot of organic farms, so we are able to eat a very local diet. I think it would be interesting to really hash out the pro’s and con’s of each situation. I don’t think one is necessarily “greener” than the other, but the ways in which you impact the environment are certainly different.

    It’s great to meet you! A like-minded person on the other side of the planet! :)

  12. Lael says:

    I bought some insect killer last year out of desperation, and when I realized I would have to take it to a special disposal site, I vowed that was the last time. Thanks for all these great ideas, can’t wait until the next infestation!

  13. Tonia says:

    @Lael: Haha! Glad I could inspire you to *look forward to* the next bout of bugs in your house!

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