Topic Overview

Before using any pesticide, make sure you really
need to use it.

  • Keep your food in well-sealed containers so that
    insects such as ants can’t get at it.
  • Block
    off ways that bugs can get into your house. Keep plants, firewood, and other
    plant material at least
    18 in. (46 cm) from your
  • For your gardens and yard, choose
    healthy plants suited for your area and use proper cultivation methods. Pests
    in your garden often can be controlled without pesticides by picking the pests off
    plants or by mulching.
  • Realize that your lawn
    does not have to be completely free of weeds and that many insects are

you do use pesticides, read the label carefully. Do not mix or
dilute pesticides indoors. And only use them outside or in
a well-ventilated area. Mix only as much as you need.
Limit your exposure to pesticides by doing the following:

  • Avoid using pesticides indoors.
  • Use nonchemical pest control whenever possible. Some
    choices include:

    • Helpful insects, such as ladybugs or praying
      mantises, which eat some pests.
    • Detergent
      pesticides, such as Safers.
    • Traps that use
      natural chemicals (pheromones) to attract
    • Biological
      controls, such as Bacillus thuringiensis (helps with moths such as cabbage moths
      and gypsy moths).
  • Always wear the
    right protection when spraying pesticides. That might include goggles, gloves,
    a dust mask, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and a
  • Never spray pesticides on a windy day. Be
    careful to avoid spraying flowers and bird nests, because many pesticides can
    harm bees and other pollinators and birds.
  • Make sure you and your pets do not track outdoor pesticides into your house.
  • To prevent problems with termites, do not store wooden
    building materials against soil.
  • Dispose of used pesticide containers according to the
    directions on the label. Do not throw away leftover pesticides in the regular trash. Dispose of unused pesticides only on days that your trash collector designates
    for hazardous waste collection, or go to a hazardous waste drop-off site.
  • Never store pesticides in
    a soft drink bottle or other container used for food. Children may think it is
    something to eat or drink.
  • Clean up any
    pesticide spill right away by soaking it up with sawdust, kitty litter, or
    vermiculite, sweeping it into a trash bag, and disposing of it as directed on
    the pesticide label. Do not wash the spill away.
  • Limit
    your exposure to moth repellents. Paradichlorobenzene is a common ingredient in
    moth repellents and air fresheners. Avoid breathing any vapors containing this

If you use a pest-control company, ask for a written contract
that lists pests that will be controlled and the chemicals that will be used.
If you have questions about a product you or a company plan to
use, call the National Pesticide Information Center
toll-free at 1-800-858-PEST (1-800-858-7378), or visit their website at

Related Information


Other Works Consulted

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2005). Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. Available online:


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP – Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology

Current as ofMay 7, 2017