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5 Natural alternatives to pesticides that actually work

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Try these people-friendly pesticides before reaching for those chemical-laden options

Killing pests around your home or in your garden is easy, but a lot of commercially available solutions are hard on human and pet health. Fortunately there are alternatives you can use that are better for you.

Whether fall is giving way to winter and critters are starting to creep into your home or it's spring and you've got garden fever, you know that bugs and other pests like to hang out and cause problems for you, your plants or your family.

It's tempting to just go to a store and purchase a regular bug or pesticide spray, but looking over the ingredients might give you pause — for example, many brands of regular bug-killing spray have warnings all over their packaging, reminding you to not get any on your skin and definitely not in your eyes. You may hesitate to use these products around your family and pets, and that hesitation is definitely valid.

More: 11 Hardy plants that make fall gardening a breeze

So what can you do? For your home, the best solution may be prevention: Keep your spaces dry and clean. This requires no pesticides at all — if bugs aren't attracted to your home, then you'll have less risk of becoming invaded by pesky critters. Resist the urge to take care of messes "later," because later can become too late as far as insects are concerned. Also, seal of any access points bugs may find to enter your home with caulk — windowsills, baseboards, pipes and electrical outlets.

You can, however, take it a step further. Fortunately there are more natural methods and recipes you can use to slow or stop infestations, slugs, tomato worms or spiders in your kid's outdoor playhouse.

More: 7 Indoor gardening hacks if you're short on space

Diatomaceous earth: Consisting of the fossilized remains of a hard-shelled algae, diatomaceous earth is great as a natural pesticide that works by working against the exoskeletons of insects and causing them to dry out. It also works well in landscaped areas that do not contain edible plants.

Peppermint oil: Spiders in particular shy away from peppermint. Grab some peppermint essential oil, and add 10 to 15 drops to a spray bottle full of water. Apply to areas inside your home that are prone to spiders to keep them away. Not only do spiders hate it, but it leaves your home or outdoor play area smelling awesome.

More: 5 Easy tips to keep plants blooming longer

Cinnamon: If you have a line of ants marching to and fro in your garage, your home or (gulp) in your pantry, sprinkle some cinnamon where they are coming in. It's inexpensive, it smells great, and it works.

Garlic and mint: Combining two really potent natural substances with cayenne pepper and dishwashing detergent seems to work really well at keeping bugs at bay without harmful substances. Check out the recipe here.

Traps: Instead of relying on mixing up ingredients for a spray, consider making traps for the various pests who visit your home and lawn. There are various ways to construct the traps, but if you have a problem with yellow jackets, fruit flies or gnats, ants or mosquitoes, you might give one of these homemade DIY traps a try.

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