If you have 5 minutes

If you can spare just a few minutes, you can assess what kinds of pests are in your home.

“Put sticky traps in every room to determine what kinds of pests you have,” says Diana Ludwiczak, a certified bedbug specialist and CEO of Doctor Sniffs Bed Bug Dogs in New York City. “Knowing exactly what you’re dealing with will help you come up with a treatment plan.”

Cost: $12-plus for sticky traps for insects and small rodents


One sneaky entry route for insects is through sink drains.

“A sink and floor drain can accumulate a lot of debris,” says Jordan Foster, a pest control expert and writer based in Southend-on-Sea, England. “This attracts pests and offers an ideal breeding site, especially for small flies. You should regularly clean all of your drains, including those in the laundry room and basement.”

Cost: Free


If you have 30 minutes

You know what bugs love? Moisture.

Most insects need a certain amount of humidity to survive, and pipe-filled basements are a popular hangout for these creatures, because of the humidity that can often be found on pipes.

“Put a dehumidifier in your basement crawl space,” advises Jeff King, president of the Pest Rangers in Wilkes-Barre, PA. “Removing excess moisture from your home will keep bugs away and force current bugs to find more hospitable quarters.”

Cost: $36-plus for a dehumidifier


Now, about your garbage.

Even if you can’t smell or see the garbage caking the sides of your garbage can or recycling bin, the bugs can. Lining each with a plastic bag at all times is a good start, but your bins still need regular scrub-downs.

“Take 30 minutes to scrub your cans and recycling bins with soap and water to eliminate buildup and trace food and liquid waste,” says Zachary Smith, president of Smith’s Pest Management in San Jose, CA.

Cost: Free


If you have 1 hour

With an hour’s worth of time, you can launch a true combat plan. When it comes to the war on bugs, most people are either staunchly for or staunchly against deploying chemicals, so we have included options for both methods.

For the chemical proponents, Smith’s Pest Management recommends applying a granular insecticide bait around the perimeter of your home and “spraying a residual insecticide under all the eaves, foundations, window and door entries.”

For those seeking a more organic approach, Ryan Smith of Ant & Garden Pest Control in Beaverton, OR, recommends making solutions to deter pests from items you likely already have in your home.

“For ants, mix equal parts water and vinegar and spray on surfaces like doorways and windowsills,” Smith advises. “For insects, mix a few drops of essential oils, such as peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, or citronella, with two cups of water and spray surfaces.”

Cost: 12-plus for insecticide


Do you have a fireplace or fire pit? You may want to reconsider your wood storage because another sneaky place where insects burrow is wood.

“If you have an indoor fireplace or outdoor fire pit, remove all wood from inside your house immediately,” advises Megan Cavanaugh of Done Right Pest Solutions in St. Paul, MN. “If the wood is already outside, keep it as far away from your home as possible, and don’t stack it against your house. Wood piles are havens for carpenter ants, termites, wood-boring beetles, and other insect pests. They can also harbor mouse nests, rat nests, or squirrel nests.”

Cost: Free


If you have 3 hours

With three hours, you can do a lot of critical maintenance on your home that will make it far less easy for pests to slip inside.

“Start by sealing your window, door frames, and screens,” says Cavanaugh. “Gnats, flies, ants, and other insects can crawl or fly into openings in screens and the frames of windows and doors. Hornets, wasps, and other stinging pests love to make homes in the wall voids; they enter them often through small gaps in doors and windows.”

Next, use wood putty or caulk to fill in any gaps in the wood frame. Use a metal mesh cover to take care of any openings and tears in screens.

Cost: $4-plus for putty and caulk; $6-plus for screen repair kits


It’s a well-known fact that standing water attracts insects. But few homeowners consider just how much standing water they have in their gutters and around their downspouts.

Take a few hours to thoroughly clean your gutters and remove debris. Also, clear out the area around your downspouts, ensuring nothing is clogging them and that water is being diverted efficiently away from your home.

Cost: Free if you DIY, $100-plus if you hire a professional


If you have a weekend

There’s something magical about a home surrounded by greenery. Unfortunately, if vines, trees, or shrubs are touching or creeping up your house, you may as well be rolling out the red carpet for insects and rodents.

“Trimming trees and other plants touching your house is essential,” says Cavanaugh. “Mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, and other rodent pests can use trees as a way to climb up to your roof. If you have any opening in the roof, soffit, facia, or gutter area, these pests will find a way inside. Keep in mind that only a quarter-inch gap between soffit plates is needed for a mouse to get inside.”

Cost: Free if you DIY, $100-plus if you hire a professional


Another less obvious culprit for infestations can be mulch.

“I recommend removing all of the mulch surrounding your home and touching the foundation,” says King. “It retains moisture and can provide food, water, and shelter for all insects, including termites and other wood-destroying pests. Replace the mulch with stone.”

Cost: $150-plus to replace mulch with river rock stone