In an ideal world, your home is a place of rest, a refuge from the troubles of daily life. For eight or more hours per day, you struggle against the enemy forces known as “deadlines,” “reports,” and other work responsibilities. These forces attack your mind and stress your body, but at the end of a long day, you return home, basking in the glory of victory and ready to relax.

But sometimes your home isn’t a refuge. Sometimes the stress battle follows you home, in the form of pests.

Finding insect pests in your house — ants, mosquitoes, spiders, fruit flies, cockroaches, bed bugs, or other creatures — isn’t just an irritant, it’s a disruption of your life. It upsets the balance and purpose of home as a place of rest, and adds one more unnecessary struggle to your life. Insects aren’t just a “pest,” they’re a major problem, and need to be stopped.

Go to the drugstore to find pest solutions, and you’ll undoubtedly come across a dizzying array of aerosol, spray, and aromatic solutions. Read the back labels closely, and you’ll likely become confused about just what exactly you’re putting into your home.

Set aside the chemical issue for just a moment, though, because there’s a bigger issue with these products — namely, that they should never be your first line of attack. Fighting off insects and other pests by spraying some kind of attack solution is akin to something called symptom management — in other words, attacking the symptoms, while ignoring the problem.

Ants, cockroaches, and other pests aren’t in your house because they like to explore; they’re looking for something, typically food. If they find it in your house, they’ll keep coming back, and you’ll keep emptying aerosol spray cans. The holistic approach to pest control is different: rather than attack the symptoms of pest appearance, treat the problem. This can be accomplished in three easy steps:

  1. Clean thoroughly — Pests like ants and cockroaches are attracted to food, so the easiest way to ward them off is to make sure there’s nothing drawing them in. Wipe down all kitchen/table counters well, sweep and vacuum regularly, and rinse every container before you trash or recycle it. Fix leaky faucets so that pests won’t be attracted to the water source. In short, make sure any and all food residue is gone.
  2. Seal all food well — Make sure that leftovers, cooking ingredients, or any other food left outside the refrigerator is in an airtight container. Anything that may have sticky residue on the outside (honey or syrup jars, for example) should also be kept inside a plastic ziplock bag. Use a trash can with a tight, heavy lid. These measures will ensure no pests can smell (and therefore be attracted to) your food.
  3. Pest-proof your home — Once you’ve done everything you can to discourage tiny intruders from entering, it’s time to close the gates. Find cracks in the wall and seal them. Put an airtight seal on the threshold of your door. Keep a wary eye on anything that comes in from the outside, especially animals like dogs or cats that may carry pests in their fur, or luggage that may have picked up pests from foreign hotel rooms. Rid your yard of hazards like standing water, which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.