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Historical Housekeeping: Pest Control

One of the greatest challenges that our ancestors faced next to providing food and shelter for their families, was protecting the food and shelter from pests. We still face some of those same challenges today.

First, look around your house and try and determine how much, if any, waste there is due to loss to pests -- for instance ants, weevils or other bugs in food; moths in clothes; mildew spores in clothing.

But buying those expensive cleaners and insecticides at the grocery store can be prohibitive … and bad for family members with sensitivities to chemicals and allergies.

Here are some recipes for making your own, much safer, pest preventatives to use around the house.

Compare at least one of these recipes to a store-bought variety. What are the ingredients in each? Which one do you think is safer for the environment? Explain your answer. Now create at least one of these recipes and compare them to the store-brought variety in how they actually work. Which one was more effective? Which one was easier to use? Which one did you prefer to use? Note the pros and cons of each one you made and tried. Explain all of your answers.

1 garlic bulb, chopped or ground
1 qt. water
1 small onion, chopped or ground
1 T. liquid soap detergent
1 T. cayenne pepper
Mix garlic, onion, cayenne pepper and water; add liquid soap detergent. Store in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.

1 part boric acid
2 parts mint jelly or cracker crumbs
Mix, then place the bait in a container with ant-size holes in the lid. Place away from children because boric acid can be harmful if swallowed. Dispose of the container after use.
The worker ants enter the trap, feed on the poison and carry it back to their nest. Once inside the nest, they feed bits of the poisonous material to the queen and immature ants, and the entire colony is eradicated.

3 C. water
4 tsp. boric acid
2 C. sugar
Mix, then pour half a cup of the mixture into three or four empty jam jars wrapped with masking tape and loosely packed half full with absorbent cotton. Smear the bait along the outside of the jar and set along ant trail. The ants will swarm into the jar. Some will carry the mixture back to the colony, where it will kill other ants.
CAUTION: If you have small children or pets, screw the lids onto the jars, poke several small holes through the lid and smear some of the bait on the inside of the jar.

1/2 C. molasses
1/4 C. sugar
1 envelope dry yeast
Mix all ingredients together. Place a few drops on pieces of cardobard, then place wherever ants are coming in.

1/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. molasses
1/4 C. baking yeast
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Smear a thin layer of the mixture on each of six 3 x 5-inch index cards. Place the cards, syrup side up, in area where ants travel.

1 C. chopped onions or shallots
1 C. water
Purée the chopped onion or shallots in a blender until they are a fine mush. Add water, a little at a time. Continue blending, scraping down the sides if necessary. Label and store in a glass jar, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.
To use, pour into a spray container and spritz the liquid over the plant, even under the blossoms. It is best to spray in the early morning, after the dew has dried, or in the late afternoon when the sun is not too hot.

1 part water
1 part bleach
Put into a spray bottle. Spray the tile and bathtub area evenly and wipe off with a damp sponge.

3 T. eucalyptus oil
1 C. denatured alcohol
1 C. soap flakes
Put all ingredients into a jar and shake well. Add 1 teaspoon of the mixture to 1 gallon of warm water. Soak blanket, but do not rinse. Spin dry without heat or let the blanket hang dry in fresh air.

(for personal use to repel insects)
1 1/2 C. clean rendered tallow
1/4 C. lye flakes
1/2 C. coconut oil
1 T. citronella oil or 3/4 C. cold soft water
1 T. eucalyptus oil or 1 T. lavender oil
Melt tallow and vegetable oil. Set aside to cool. Stir lye into cold water until dissolved and set aside to cool. Grease molds liberally with petroleum jelly. When lye and fat are lukewarm, pour lye into fat slowly, stirring constantly. When mixture becomes thick and creamy, add essential oil, beating vigorously to distribute evenly throughout. Pour into molds. Yields 1 1/2 pounds hard bar soap.

COCKROACH CONTROL 4 parts borax 2 parts flour 1 part cocoa powder Mix; sprinkle where pets and children cannot get to it.

EARLY SPRING INSECT SOAP SPRAY This suffocates early spring insects, especially on fruit trees. 1 gal. light-grade oil 1/2 gal. warm water 1 lb. laundry soap Dissolve soap in water. Add oil and mix well to emulsify. Dilute with 20 times more water before use. Apply the soap while the trees are still in a dormant, leafless state, covering the tree thoroughly with each spraying.

FLY PAPER 2 C. milk 2 T. black pepper 2 T. white sugar 2 T. brown sugar Brown paper bags, cut into strips Boil milk, pepper, and sugar together for 5 minutes. Simmer uncovered 5 minutes longer, until thickened, and then let cool. Wind the brown paper strips into a tight roll and drop them into the milk mixture. Let them become completely saturated. Rewind the strips gently and let them air dry on a cookie sheet. They are ready to hang when they are sticky to the touch. To use, suspend the strips up and out of the way wherever flies are a problem. CAUTION: Keep the strips away from young children, especially after they are covered with flies.

GNAT, FLY AND MOSQUITO REPELLENT This will not harm babies' faces. It can also be sprayed onto horses to prevent pests from bothering them. 1 T. vanilla extract 1 C. water Mix. Store in a tightly-covered container. Rub this mixture on faces and arms. Also apply it around eyes and ears and it will keep flies away.

HOMEMADE FLY TRAP 2 C. water 1/2 C. sugar 1/2 C. vinegar Mix ingredients and pour into a fruit jar. Punch holes in the lid large enough so that flies can get inside. Set outside away from the kitchen door. It will draw flies away from the door.

MILDEW INHIBITOR 2 C. table salt 1 gal. hot water Dissolve salt in water. Wipe tile walls generously with the solution, then let dry.

MOLE REPELLENT 1/4 C. castor oil 6 T. water 2 T. liquid detergent Blenderize the castor oil and detergent until the mixture is like shaving cream. Add water and mix again. Fill a regular garden sprinkling can with warm water and add 2 tablespoons of the castor oil mixture. Stir and sprinkle liquid over areas of greatest damage. For best results apply after a rain or a thorough watering.

MOTH REPELLENT 1/2 C. whole cloves 3 or 4 cinnamon sticks 1/2 C. whole black peppercorns Break cinnamon sticks into small pieces. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Tie or sew a little into small squares of double-layer cheesecloth or muslin. Hang in closets or scatter in drawers and boxes to keep moths away. You may also scatter loose Moth Repellent between layers of tissue paper in drawers.


This is harmless for rabbits. It only repels them.

1/2 C. talcum powder
1/4 C. cayenne pepper

Mix the ingredients. Spread the mixture wherever you do not want the rabbits to feed.


1 C. borax
1/4 C. sugar
1/4 C. chopped onion
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. water

Make a paste of the ingredients and roll the paste into little balls. Place 2 or 3 balls into a sandwich-size plastic bag and leave the top open. Place the bag anywhere you have a roach problem. The roaches will eat the balls and carry them away. The bugs die at home, out of sight. The borax clogs their breathing passages. The onion scent draws them in. Makes about 50 balls; about 10 applications.

CAUTION: Hide these bags carefully so that children and pets can't get at them.


1 oz. Murphy Oil Soap
1 oz. hot sauce
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Mix everything together and put the mixture in a 22 ounce spray bottle. Fill the bottle to the top with water. Gently mix. Spray everything around where the squirrels are unwanted.

Note: Recipes courtesy of http://www.recipegoldmine.com/house/house.html


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