Natural Ways to Keep Bugs Out of Your Kitchen

pretty bay leaves in a wooden bowl

Why would you ever want to spray poisonous chemicals in your home? And especially in your kitchen? Bugs in the kitchen are unsavory, but before you reach for that can of bug spray, take a look at a few natural pest control methods to keep pests at bay without resorting to dangerous toxins.

Speaking of Keeping Pests at Bay...

You can help discourage bugs from visiting your kitchen with a common herb almost everyone has in their pantry. We're talking about bay leaves. That's right—it's not just for spaghetti anymore.

The aroma of bay leaves may pleasantly add to that lovely meat sauce simmering on the stove, but bugs aren't so hungry for it. The bitter scent repels creepy crawlies like weevils, moths, flies, and roaches.

Leaves can be either fresh or dried, but dried herbs are much more potent. Protect your dry goods by placing a few bay leaves into your tightly sealed containers of flour, rice, and grains before storing them in the pantry.

You can also put leaves directly on cabinet and pantry shelves as an added deterrent before weevils or moths get into your containers.

If you've already added an edible landscape to your garden, you'll have plenty of fresh bay leaves for the picking. These slow-growing plants are somewhat tolerant of different soil conditions and can adjust to varying degrees of sun and shade.

When it's time to prune, save the trimmings to freshen your larder, and share any excess with your neighbors. They'll thank you for it!


Citrus has many uses in our lives, producing not just fruit but oils and juices that go beyond the purpose of fresh eating. Though they're partial to warm weather, some varieties can be grown with special care taken to protect them from plummeting temps.

As much as we love our citrus fruits, it's not surprising that bugs like spiders, ants, and mosquitos despise them.

Strongly scented and acidic like vinegar, citrus is much nicer smelling, unless you're partial to pickle juice. Hey, no judgement—we love pickles. In fact, we've got some great ideas for winter pickles if you're interested.

Use some of the extra fruit from your backyard orchard to create a solution of lemon or lime juice with water. Decant into a spray bottle for a deliciously scented bug deterrent you can safely use in the kitchen with no worries of contaminating any food sources.

Swipe it on countertops, windowsills, stovetops, and any place else bugs are likely to congregate. An added bonus is after you've cleaned the kitchen, spray the solution to dispel the smell of dinner still hanging in the air.

Peppermint Oil

You may enjoy the benefits of its aromatherapy, but in addition to its refreshing scent, peppermint is another natural deterrent to pests we happily use in the kitchen.

Spiders are particularly vexed by the use of this essential oil. And though spiders are among the many beneficial insects that inhabit our world, we don't necessarily like seeing them in the kitchen, especially in the middle of a pleasant meal.

The application can be done in a couple of ways. One way is to moisten a cotton ball with a few drops of 100% peppermint oil and place it on the windowsill, near a door, or any other source of ingress.

Another option is to create a solution of peppermint oil and hot water, and pour it into a spray bottle. Anywhere from 5 to 10 drops of essential oil is a good rule of thumb. Spray window blinds, curtains, cabinet tops, and other hard-to-reach areas where the eight-legged creatures may hide.

Store the spray in the fridge between uses. Shake well before use, so it's properly mixed and at its greatest potency.

Eucalyptus Oil

eucalyptus oil

In the summer months, flies may be the issue—or year-round if you live in a tropical locale. Enter the magic of eucalyptus. Another essential oil valuable in aromatherapy, it's been found to be more than a good way to relieve inflamed sinuses when you have a cold.

Try dabbing some oil onto a cotton ball or cloth and leave it in places where flies gather: kitchen windows, patio screens, and heck, any place in the house since the last thing we'd ever want to see is one swimming in the bottom of a bowl of soup or sneaking out from under a sandwich. Talk about losing your lunch!

While it may not be as quick working as a ribbon of adhesive fly tape, at least you won't have to stomach the completely unappetizing and unsightly strip of fly corpses dangling in your kitchen.


Vinegar is a tried and true household cleaning agent with some antibacterial benefits. In addition to cleaning with it, use it to combat ants and colonies of fruit flies.

The power of vinegar affects these two bugs in different ways. For the lone ant scouting around on the counter, it acts as a deterrent. Once that scout finds a food source in your kitchen, it'll soon be joined by a horde of counterparts following a pheromone trail. Wipe down your counters with white vinegar to erase that trail and prevent an invasion from taking over your countertops.

Fruit flies, on the other hand, are attracted to vinegar. Their love affair is fierce, and thankfully so, because once a colony of fruit flies has taken up residence around a bunch of overripe fruit, you'll have stragglers flying around the entire house until you get the situation under control.

Vinegar to the rescue! Cider vinegar to be precise. This includes red wine, balsamic, or apple cider vinegar, which are slightly sweeter than plain white vinegar, and more attractive to the flying vermin. Add several drops of dishwashing liquid, then cover with plastic wrap.

Poke tiny holes in the plastic wrap that will allow flies to crawl in, but make it harder to climb out. Congratulations! You have just created an earth-friendly, non-toxic, and irresistible trap for those annoying little bugs.

Once you've rid your kitchen of the fruit flies, don't forget to toss those overripe bananas on the compost pile. Waste not, want not, we like to say.


basil growing in a kitchen

Basil is one of those plants whose scent is forever synonymous with summer, like tomatoes, the smell of sunscreen, and playtime at the pool. Pureed into pestos, shredded into Caprese salads, and wrapped in Thai summer rolls, it's a culinary herb gift that keeps on giving.

Bringing one of these plants indoors instills in us a sense of joy and ease, not just through its fragrance, but by connecting us to the very basics of our natural world. Bring these fragrant herbs into your kitchen, and your efforts will be rewarded in more than just increasingly flavorful dishes.

Basil has a delightfully distinct pungency--but we are perhaps, a bit biased. As delightful to the human olfactory senses as we think it is, that same aroma has the opposite effect on many dwellers of the insect world.

Crush the leaves on the skin, and you have a natural mosquito repellant. A bottle of the essential oil in the medicine kit can relieve a nasty wasp sting.

Bring that added pest deterring power into your kitchen with a few basil plants. They like warmth and bright light, so if you've got the time and are up for a weekend project, a Spice and Herb Wall might be just the thing.


So many home remedies come from the natural world, and lavender is one of the most well known. That soothing scent does more than help calm you so you can sleep. It has a more sinister effect on annoying pests like moths, fleas, flies, and mosquitoes.

If you're lucky enough to have a south-facing kitchen window that stays on the dry side, you can successfully plant lavender near points of entry to prevent pests from gaining entry.

Luckily, you don't have to keep that pest prevention limited to the outside. For more preventative measures in your pantry and closets, try drying your own lavender flowers and making scented sachets to store inside. It's a simple weekend project that will safeguard against moths that can plague your pantry.

If you don't have the desire to tend lavender plants or dry your own flowers, we don't blame you. We're adults and know where we want to spend our extra time, and for some of us, digging in the dirt isn't a fun or satisfying way to spend the day.

Enter the magical potencies of lavender oil. Its killing power is concentrated in 5 to 10 drops mixed in a spray bottle of water.

You can use fresh stalks if you like (and yes, we like) because they're lovely collected in a large spray on the counter. And that's exactly what you'd need—a large bouquet.

Fresh stems just don't have the same strength as a bottle of lavender oil. Mash the lavender in water, steep, and strain before putting it in a spray bottle. Then spray away!

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a fine, powdery substance often used in the garden for pest control. If you've never heard of it, you'll be surprised to know it's composed of fossilized plankton.

The truly amazing thing is that those microscopic organisms that died millions of years ago can still murder a wide variety of pests. Their fossilized skeletons damage insects' outer layer, or exoskeleton, making them vulnerable to moisture loss and causing them to dehydrate. Sounds like the basis of a sci-fi movie, doesn't it?

If you plan on using DE, regardless of whether it's for indoor or outdoor purposes, we suggest finding food-grade DE. Apply it around openings that can't be sealed up, but use caution when handling.

Gloves and masks are an absolute must. Think about it: if those fossilized creatures wreak havoc on an insect's exoskeleton, you probably don't want it entering the soft tissues of your lungs and nasal passages.


cinnamon dried and powdered

Guess what: it's not just for baking. Whether or not we blew your mind, you have to admit, cinnamon has a powerful scent that may be delicious in cinnamon rolls, but maybe not so much in other situations. The ants will have to agree with that. They find it especially abhorrent, which works out for those of us looking for safe alternatives to toxic chemicals.

You likely have cinnamon powder in your cabinet, but sprinkling that powder around the counter could be messy. Instead, try placing cinnamon sticks across any ant trails you might find. Give those sticks a quick nuke in the microwave to enhance the smell for a better effect.

You might find that cockroaches, silverfish, and earwigs have decided to steer clear of your kitchen as well.


Plant it in your garden for more than just your cats. When used in your home, it can ward off mosquitos with better effectiveness than any harsh chemical product.

Spread catnip oil in areas prone to mosquitos, usually in damp spots, like the space around sinks. Or create a spray similar to the lavender or peppermint ones previously suggested.

Plug it Up

If they can't enter in the first place, you might not end up with a bug problem. It might be easier said than done, but give it a try. Take a look around and ensure any holes in window screens, around baseboards, behind appliances, and in cabinets are sealed.

Install covers over sink drains to keep them from entering. And as far-fetched as it may sound, that leaky pipe under the sink is still big enough to allow the most determined bugs (we're talking specifically about roaches) access to your kitchen. Any opening is an invitation to a variety of pests. So plug it up!

Keep it Clean

It should go without saying that maintaining some level of cleanliness can help deter the creepy-crawlies. Residents of hot, humid climates like the Gulf states and Hawaii may beg to differ as they wage an ongoing battle with bugs year-round, but it couldn't hurt if it means pests will be less likely to invade your home.

It can be challenging to eradicate the most dedicated of pests, but with a bit of knowledge and perseverance, you don't have to use toxic chemicals to do it.