10 Tips for Keeping Pests Out of Your Kitchen Pantry
Finding pests in your kitchen pantry is more than disgusting — it can pose a serious health risk.
If you think you may have unwanted tenants where you store your family’s food, here are 10 important tips you need to know about protecting your pantry from pests:
- Think Pest Prevention, not Pest Removal
- Know Your Enemy
- Cut Off Their Food Source
- Cut Off Their Water Source
- Regularly Clean Your Pantry, even if it Looks Clean
- Consider Natural, Food-Safe Pest Deterrents
- Avoid Bringing Pests into Your Home
- Eliminate Pest Hiding Places
- Eliminate Entry Points for Pests
- Think Safety First
Keep reading to learn more about each of these tips and all the steps to prevent pests in your kitchen pantry.
Tip #1: Think Pest Prevention, not Pest Removal
An EPA guide to pest control notes that it’s far easier to prevent pests than to eliminate them. Once pests make their way into your home, they quickly communicate back to their colony or swarm that they have found a new place to call home.
Prevention is much safer, faster and more cost effective as well. You avoid introducing potentially dangerous chemicals into your home (more on that later). You also save the cost of investing in these chemicals, traps and other repellants.
The best part about pest prevention? You can do it anytime! In fact, it’s best to spend a little time preventing pests before they’ve ever discussed the comfort and safety of your kitchen pantry.
Tip #2: Know Your Enemy
When you know the types of pests you’ll encounter, you know the warning signs to look for to see if they’re in your home. Knowing common pests in your region of the country also lets you research what attracts them and the best ways to repel them. You’ll also know where they typically live, what types of environments they like, what they eat and any seasonality to their movement.
In Arizona, you have a number of common pests that may decide to make your pantry their next home:
- Rodents (squirrels, rats and mice)
In addition to making terrible roommates, these pests can also pose a health risk. You probably know spiders and scorpions can give nasty bites, but rodents come with their own set of risks:
- Home structural damage due to chewed wiring, insulation and more
- Food contamination due to gnawing food packaging
- Kitchen contamination from their urine and feces
- Disease spread: hantavirus, salmonella, tapeworms and more
Tip #3: Cut Off Their Food Source
You can take a number of steps to make it difficult for pests to access food in your pantry:
- Get foods off the pantry floor where pests live and travel.
- Make sure nothing is leaking out of your food containers.
- Put foods that pests love (flour, sugar, cereals) in air-tight containers.
Any traces of food are basically an invitation for pests to come into your pantry and get comfortable. Once they look up and see the feast you made available to them, they’re not going to leave willingly.
Tip #4: Cut Off Their Water Source
Like all living creatures, pests need water to survive. If you have any kind of leak or excess water making its way into your pantry, that provides them with everything they need to survive.
Even if you don’t have excess water in your pantry, any water in your kitchen could be an invitation to pests. Dampness and high humidity may even be enough to attract unwanted houseguests. The EPA recommends several ways you can eliminate excess water that attracts and supports pests:
- Drain dish water from sinks.
- Wipe up water and liquid spills.
- Repair any leaky faucets or appliances.
- Eliminate any other sources of excess water around your home, such as standing water in plants.
Tip #5: Regularly Clean Your Pantry, Even if it Looks Clean
Bugs are small. Even if you can’t see a food source or see only a minuscule spill, it could be a feast for a colony of ants, beetles or other small insects. For that reason, you need to regularly clean your pantry.
Plus, sweeping, vacuuming and straightening up eliminates materials they may use to build their nests. Some pests, like ants, also lay down scent markers, indicating a space is safe to the rest of their colony. Regular cleaning will help remove these markers.
Tip #6: Consider Natural, Food-Safe Pest Deterrents
Some homeowners swear by natural repellants, like cinnamon, mint or bay leaves, which insects apparently dislike. You can try sprinkling these spices around your pantry or at the entry to prevent them from getting in and getting comfortable.
Another option is to try plug-in devices that emit ultrasonic sound waves to help deter rodents, cockroaches, ants and spiders. Although these are mess and chemical free, their effectiveness is not guaranteed and they tend to get mixed reviews.
Tip #7: Avoid Bringing Pests into Your Home
“What kind of insane person would introduce pests into their own home?” you may ask. The answer surprisingly, is you.
You may be unwittingly bringing insects into your home by purchasing damaged food goods that pests already got into, such as torn bags of flour. Furthermore, pests can stow away in bags and used appliances, such as toaster ovens, that you may keep in your pantry. Always check for pests in any bags and boxes that you bring home and place in your pantry.
Tip #8: Eliminate Pest Hiding Places
Even in your kitchen pantry, which is probably dark and secluded 99 percent of the time, pests want a place to hide and feel safe. This hiding place may be a cardboard box, a stack of papers or a bunch of plastic bags all tucked inside each other.
Not all pests may even be looking for food when they enter your pantry. That’s why you can’t simply rely on cutting off their food and water sources. You must eliminate their hiding spots as well.
Tip # 9: Eliminate Entry Points for Pests
The best, safest and most effective form of pest control is eliminating their points of entry in the first place. There are several effective steps you can take to limit the risk of pests entering your home and making your four walls their four walls:
- Remove any debris against your home — these act as temporary shelter and bring pests just one step from coming inside your home.
- Check for low-hanging tree limbs — believe it or not, squirrels and rats can crawl across tree branches touching your roof and enter your attic from there.
- Seal any foundation, window or exterior wall cracks with caulk — small insects, and even rodents, can easily slip inside these gaps.
- Seal around pipes with caulk — again, rodents and insects can easily enter through the gaps and cracks around your utility pipes.
Tip # 10: Think Safety First
Your biggest concern when preventing pests in your kitchen pantry should remain safety. Yes, pests like cockroaches are disgusting and you may want them gone as soon as possible, but introducing a dangerous chemical into your home, particularly so close to your food supply, could be hazardous to your health.
Before choosing any pest control chemical, like sprays, foggers or insecticides, you need to be able to answer several important questions:
- Have I exhausted all less-dangerous options?
- Have I properly protected any small children or pets that may come into contact with the chemicals?
- Are the chemicals I chose specifically for indoor use?
- Do I know the appropriate amount of treatment to use?
- Do I know where to place the treatment?
- Do I have a plan to quickly and properly dispose of these chemicals?
If your answer to any of those questions is “no,” you should not proceed with that chemical treatment option before learning more.
Remember, your pantry is where you keep the food that nourishes your family. Take a few minutes to inspect it for any signs of an infestation, even if you don’t suspect the presence of pests. Remember, the best time to address a pest problem is before it happens.