Pesticides have a long and storied history. PennState Extension estimates that “ancient Sumerians are believed to have been using sulfur compounds to kill insects as far back as the 25th century B.C. By the 17th and 18th centuries, tobacco, herbs, arsenic and other plants were being used to fight insects.”
Over time, advancements in chemistry led to the development of formulas such as DDT, and though outdoor and indoor pesticide use greatly reduced pest problems, concerns about their long-term impact began to crop up. While today’s formulations are safer than ever, consumers still worry about applying safe pesticides for indoor use. In this article, we will discuss safe indoor pesticide usage, how you can reduce your pesticide exposure, and other measures that can help you effectively mitigate pests.
Can Pesticides be Used Indoors?
When clients ask us about safer pest control and pesticides, we like to remind them that pesticides can be safely used indoors — as long as they pay attention to a few key factors. Some of these include the following:
- Always knowing what kind of insecticide you’re using
- Always following the application instructions written on the bottle
- Always wearing protective gear when applying the treatment (e.g., gloves, long-sleeved shirts, a face shield)
- Always storing pesticides in safe places
- Always practicing preventative measures in addition to applying chemical treatments
We’ll go into further detail on these points throughout this article. But if you’re unsure about the best insecticide for indoor use or not confident about safe and effective use of pesticides, consider contacting a professional. Certified technicians with training in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices can effectively remediate pests while safeguarding you, your loved ones, and your pets.
Are any Pesticides Safe?
People who don’t specialize in pest management often want to know if there’s a nontoxic indoor pesticide or a safe insecticide for indoor use. That’s something of a difficult question to answer. On one hand, products can be used in a safe manner. On the other hand, pesticides always carry some sort of toxicity risk. They’re supposed to serve as a poison to certain kinds of creatures. However, understand that you can mitigate this risk through proper application methods, such as avoiding inhaling pesticide fumes or coming into contact with residue. Remember the ancient toxicology maxim: The dose makes the poison.
What are the Least Harmful Pesticides?
This topic requires some careful consideration because safe use of insecticide is just as important as what you use. If you’re particularly concerned about toxins, you (or your pest control professional) may want to avoid certain kinds of pesticides such as malathion, chlorpyrifos, phosmet, naled, tetrachlorvinphos, diazinon, and dichlorvos. One conventional class of insecticide that is safer to use is pyrethroid insecticides. They are a compound similar to that produced by the chrysanthemum and are remarkably effective at killing insects while not harming mammals. However, they can kill fish, so care in application is still warranted. Common types of pyrethroids include permethrin, resmethrin, and sumithrin.
Many will assume that organic pesticide options are safer than conventional, but this isn’t necessarily true. While we will detail some of the safe organic options in another section, understand that some commonly touted organic pesticides can harm you. The EPA notes that “sulfur can cause some eye irritation, dermal toxicity and inhalation hazards.” Once widely used, rotenone has been shown to cause Parkinson’s disease. And while few homeowners will likely use the famed Bordeaux mixture as a pesticide, the European Food Safety Authority has noted, “Bordeaux mixture is harmful by inhalation and presents a risk of serious damage to eyes.” Additionally, because organic pesticides aren’t tailored for a specific pest, they can accidentally impact other species. Exercise just as much care with organic options as you do with conventional ones, and when in doubt, contact a pest control company specializing in organic pest management.
How Long do Pesticides Last in a House/apartment?
It’s difficult to provide a definitive answer regarding how long a pesticide application might last indoors. Many products leave virtually no residue behind, while others might linger for months. Additionally, the condition of the area itself contributes to the longevity of the product. Warmer environments and bright light will break down pesticides more quickly. Then there’s the added factor of the surfaces themselves. Tile and marble won’t soak up product, but concrete and wood will. If you’re concerned about potentially toxic residues, pay close attention to where you will apply pesticides.
Steps to Reduce Exposure
In addition to carefully selecting the pesticide products that you will use; you can also take several steps to reduce your exposure. These include:
- Not using a product on a pest for which it’s not intended, which may require a greater volume of use
- Always wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, gloves, and eye protection
- Washing your hands immediately after applying pesticides
- Removing food from the area
- Removing children and pets from the area, as well as covering any pet cages or fish tanks
- Not using spray pesticides on windy days
- Contacting the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222) if you think you’ve been exposed to a chemical
Is There an Organic Insecticide?
As we mentioned in a previous section, not all organic pesticides or insecticides are completely safe. However, there are numerous options that pose little risk to people or the wider environment, such as:
- Neem Oil
- Horticultural Oils
- Insecticidal Soaps
- Diatomaceous Earth
- Kaolin Clay
- Boric Acid
- Bacillus Thuringiensis, a Microbial Insecticide
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Insecticide for Indoor Use
No matter if you select an organic or conventional insecticide option, there are several additional factors you will need to consider, like the following:
- Form of the Insecticide: Insecticides typically come as sprays, dusts, or liquids, each of which is appropriate for a different scenario. If you want to minimize exposure to the insecticide, consider using station baits, which keep the insecticide contained within a housing.
- Insect Types: Some pesticides won’t work well on certain kinds of insects, and you should always read the label first to ensure that you won’t overuse product.
- Ingredients: Don’t rely on brand names to determine safety. Read the ingredients for yourself.
- Longevity: As we’ve already discussed, it’s difficult to determine the longevity of pesticide without considering many factors but reading a label should provide you with a ballpark idea.
- Safety: You don’t want to come into contact with any pesticide, if possible, but it’s still wise to determine the safety of any product prior to using it.
- Versatility: Some pesticides may affect more than a single kind of pest, which can prove positive or negative depending on your situation.
Pest Control: Practice Prevention First
One of the most important elements of effective pest control is to not let the pests get into your property in the first place. Prevention can prevent you from having to use pesticides! Therefore, we’d urge you to take common sense steps such as patching potential entrances into your building, removing easy-to-access sources of food and water, and reducing clutter, which can shelter unwanted insects and mammals.
We encounter a lot of questions about pest control in general and pesticides here at Smithereen. Following you’ll find our answers to the most common ones asked.