How to keep pests out of your house

A mouse near a stovetop


Posted May 02, 2023

Put down the bug spray. Here's how to get rid of pests and vermin in your home for good. 

Creepy crawlies making your skin crawl? Or worse, making it itch? While pesticides might seem like the easy option to banish bugs from your home, the toxicity can be damaging to both your household and the environment. And in most cases, it's only a temporary fix.

Pest prevention is better than cure. Effective home pest control involves understanding the pest's habitat, food sources and breeding grounds. The best - and safest - approach is to make your home and garden unattractive to them in the first place.

Here's a guide to five common household pests - and pesticide-free ways to prevent them.

How to get rid of pests in your home

Why are pests and vermin in my house?

Damp spots from leaking pipes or overflowing gutters, and food scraps that haven't been properly disposed are among the top culprits for pest infestations in the home. Plus, as the weather turns colder, rodents and other pests will look for warmer indoor shelters to set up home over the winter.


two cockroaches climbing over fridge and floor eating crumbs

Cockroaches will search for food in kitchens. Image: Getty. 


How do I get rid of common household pests?



Notorious for their filthy habits and bad smell, cockroaches are highly efficient at transmitting infections using their feet, legs, bodies and mouths.

Cockroaches need a daily drink to survive, so your first step should be to remove any water sources. This includes any pooling at the bottom of your shower or in leftover dishes by the sink.

At night, cockroaches will search for food in kitchens, bins and drains. They'll feed on almost any animal or vegetable matter, as well as materials like paper and leather. Make sure you dispose of food scraps, keep bin lids secure and seal any cracks so cockroaches can't get inside.


house fly eating spilled food on kitchen counter

House flies eat food scraps and garbage. Image: Getty. 


House flies 

House flies are one of the most common insects across the globe - and probably one of the most annoying, too. House flies gather wherever humans do and make themselves at home in our waste, feeding and breeding in garbage, animal droppings and rotting food scraps.

Create an indoor barrier against house flies by checking that all screens and seals on windows and doors are intact. Poorly managed compost bins are goldmines for fly larvae, so be sure to seal them or turn compost frequently, so it's too hot for flies to breed in. Cover your food both indoors and outdoors, and be sure to regularly clean up after your pets. Pet waste is an ideal breeding environment for flies - and they may land on droppings before landing on your food.


hand revealing termite damage to wood

Termites can cause massive damage to wooden homes. Image: Getty. 



Damp homes are nirvana for termites, who need both wood and water to thrive.

Fixing any leaks, making sure drainage flows away from your home and keeping garden beds away from your property's walls can help eliminate problematic damp spots.

Take away potential termite food by removing wood mulch and firewood stored underneath or up against your house and decluttering cardboard boxes, old newspapers and magazines, and stacks of scrap paper.

Regular inspections by a licensed professional are a good investment, helping to highlight termite issues early before extensive damage is done and costly repairs are needed to your home.


mosquitoes trying and failing to get through a flyscreen

Keep mosquitoes out with tightly-woven flyscreens. Image: Getty. 



Mosquitoes are drawn to bodies of water, with even a modest puddle doubling as a breeding ground. Keep your surroundings as dry as possible by draining the sink after you've done the dishes and fixing leaky taps, and add extra protection by introducing larvae-eating fish in ornamental ponds.

If you've got a swimming pool, run the filter for a few hours each day. Clear gutters of leaves and debris that collect water, and change your pets' drinking bowls regularly. Be sure to check your flyscreens are in good shielding shape before the summer influx of mosquitoes.


brown rat hiding underneath a wooden surface

Rats and mice spread more than 35 diseases. Image: Getty. 



Scratching inside your walls and small black droppings are tell-tale signs of a rodent problem. Rats and mice spread more than 35 diseases, including salmonella, and the little critters can cause costly damage to your property - especially if they gnaw through your home's electrical wiring.

RACV Head of Home and Business Insurance, Kirsty Hayes, says prevention is the best solution when it comes to rodents in your home. “Homeowners should do a rodent check at least once a year to make sure they don’t have any uninvited guests," Hayes says. "Check around your home and gardens for any signs of droppings, chewed materials, strange odours, tracks, nests, or scratching."

To prevent a rodent infestation, remove or securely cover all sources of food, water and shelter like compost scraps, leaky pipes and excess foliage. Any food sources, including pet food, should be stored in airtight containers.

Mice can squeeze into gaps as small as 8mm, so be vigilant about filling even the tiniest cracks and holes in your foundations, walls and roof with caulk or filler. "Cut back any trees, shrubs, or other vegetation that touch your home," Hayes adds. "Rodents can use these to climb into your home."

If you do end up with a rodent problem, traits and baits can help you control it. "Place traps in areas where you have seen signs of rodent activity," Hayes recommends.  If you're using mouse traps, place them along the walls where the rodents travel with the bait end facing the wall, so they're tempted to explore them. "If the problem persists, you may need to contact a pest control professional for help. Remember, the crucial step in preventing a rodent infestation is to act as soon as you suspect you have a problem. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to control.”


RACV Rapid Building Inspections can identify pest activity in your home
Discover more →