You’re lucky if you’ve never had a run-in with pantry pests, bugs and critters like beetles, ants and moths. They can crawl into your cabinets and hide between shelves. Or they might stow away in your store-bought goods, gaining entry to your pantries before you detect them. Luckily, these pests don’t pose any serious hazard to your or your family’s health. Plus, there are plenty of steps you can take to get rid of bugs and prevent them from coming back.
1. Use Proper Storage
Use airtight containers to store food in your pantry, with popular options including glass, plastic and metal storage. Instead of storing cereal or rolled oats in an open box, transfer the contents to a sealed plastic container with a convenient pouring lid. Some insects are small enough to can squeeze in through tiny spaces. Your best defense is a storage solution that features an airtight seal. Mason jars are a popular alternative to traditional plastic containers because they are durable, don’t absorb odors and infinitely reusable.
2. Clean Up Crumbs
Everyone feels lazy once in a while. But a little laziness now can lead to a big pest problem later. Wipe up crumbs and spills in your home right away, including in the pantry, on the floor and on countertops. The longer the food or drink stays out, the more chance it will attract unwelcome critters like ants, cockroaches and mice. Keep a sponge by your kitchen sink to quickly clean up spills and crumbs. And use soap or a nontoxic cleaner to disinfect areas you use to prepare food.
3. Avoid Damaged Goods
Regularly cleaning your home may not be enough to keep pests at bay. Some pests come directly into your home through store-bought products. Always examine packages of dried goods for any tears or broken seals before purchasing. Even a pinhole is enough to let in an annoying pest. Look for packaged foods with no signs of damage. If you already have damaged or open items in your pantry, be sure to check for signs of infestation.
4. Check the Dates
The food you store in your pantry will likely be a mixture of both perishable and nonperishable items. Check perishables regularly, including onions and potatoes, to ensure they’re still good. When food begins to spoil, it’s more likely to attract pests into your pantry. Inspect all self-canned jars to be sure the lids remain sealed. And while non-perishables won’t rot, insects can still make their way inside and cause an infestation.
5. Set Out Bay Leaves
Bay leaves are a tasty spice that can complement any tomato-based dish. But they’re also a pest deterrent you should have in your pantry. When you place dried bay leaves on your shelves, they can ward off bugs like ants, fleas, cockroaches and moths. Bay leaves even have a leg up over commercially sold pest repellents in that they contain no harmful chemicals or toxins and are safe if children or pets accidentally ingest them.
6. Clean Up Regularly
If you find a bug in your pantry, the first step is to toss the item immediately. Be sure to take the trash outside as soon as you throw out all the infested items. Remove the rest of the food from the pantry and store it in a clean space. Sweep and vacuum all the spots around the infested area before replacing the food. Even without an infestation, you should clean your pantry every three to six months. Check expiration dates toss away old food items and wipe down shelves with soap and water.
7. Sprinkle Some Cinnamon
The scent of cinnamon will repel common household pests like ants. Sprinkle a line of cinnamon across the entry of your pantry or along your spice cabinet, and ants won’t cross it. Place a small bowl with ground cinnamon on a shelf if you don’t want to make a mess with loose spices. Or lay out cinnamon sticks along with your perishable and nonperishable items. If you don’t have real cinnamon, place a dab of cinnamon oil on a cotton ball and set in your pantry.
Follow the tips above to rid pests from your pantry and keep them out. If you find an insect or critter in your kitchen, get it outside as soon as possible and clean the affected area. Use natural deterrents like cinnamon or bay leaves to keep out ants, moths and fleas. And always clean up crumbs, spills and rotting foods, which will begin to attract bugs.
If you find you have a repeat pest problem, it’s best to call a reputable pest control professional in your area. They will know how to solve the problem over the long term, while also minimizing any possible damage.