DIY: Non-toxic bug killer

This is a post I never thought I’d write. For several reasons but most of all I never planned to admit to the internet that we have a cockroach and ant problem in the French household. I swear we aren’t disgusting but the cockroaches that swarm the patio would have you believe otherwise. We also have spiders and while we have only seen one so far in our 2+ years of living in this house, scorpions are known to exist in our neighborhood. Our neighbors use exterminators which I am pretty sure means all the bugs are forced to congregate at our house. We don’t use an exterminator both for our own health (we don’t want to breathe those chemicals) and mostly for the health of our beagles. Those crazy animals lick the floors, the walls, chairs… whatever they can reach. And I am pretty sure they’d eat anything. Not to mention they walk on the floor with their bare feet and then lick those. SO needless to say we have no intention of poisoning our pups so we avoid chemicals like bug spray (and weed spray) at all costs. Last year we battled ants several times and it was both super gross and super annoying. So this year our plan is to be proactive. I armed myself with internet knowledge and I set out to make the ultimate non-toxic, safe for pets, children, and people, destroyer of all bugs. I think I found it friends and you can thank me later. Much of the items you already have so that makes this process easy.  There are no crazy chemicals that linger in your air for hours, weeks or years.

Bug killer

You’ll need:

  • Flour
  • Corn meal
  • Diatomaceous Earth (available online or in garden stores. Maybe even health food stores.)
  • Borax
  • A container to put it in. I used a plastic container that had spinach in it at one point. That was so that when I used it all I could just throw it away and not worry about it contaminating anything I would later eat out of. However if you wash it, it shouldn’t be an issue. High five though that I found a way to recycle AND make my own bug killer.

Bug killer 2

You could likely mix these ingredients in any combination that works for your needs but this is the ratio I used…

  • 1 cup Diatomaceous Earth
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup corn meal

The upside is that this is SUPER cheap. I used a tiny amount of each ingredient in comparison to the package size and it made a ton. I suspect that just the part I applied to the necessary areas will last through the season. So just what I made could easily last for a year or more. If any of it gets wet, you’ll need to reapply.

A bit about each ingredient:

Diatomaceous Earth – I purchased food-grade quality at our local natural pet store. The plus side to food grade is you absolutely do not have to worry if your pet eats this. What is it? Basically super tiny bits of fossilized material. The way it works is that it is essentially like tiny pieces of glass that cuts up a bug’s exterior and dehydrates them. It kills just about any bug from fleas to scorpions. If you purchase food-grade you can sprinkle it in your dog’s food if they have internal parasites. You can also sprinkle it on carpets if your dog has fleas. The only harmful thing is that you should not inhale/breathe it in nor should your pet. It can cause lung irritation. If it is settled in any area it is safe. Just don’t throw it around or snort it. If you have a flea issue and decide to sprinkle it on your carpets, avoid letting your pets lay on the carpets until you have vacuumed it up since they may breathe it in. In all honesty you could use this just by itself to help with any bug problem. It kills spiders too my friends.

Borax – Also known as boric acid. This is used for cleaning, often as a laundry booster. It is an internal poison for bugs once they consume it. It works amazingly for ants because they bring it back to the colony and so it destroys the whole bunch. It is NOT safe for consumption for people or animals though so if you are putting the powder where your pets can reach and you think they may try to eat it, leave this out. Clearly you don’t want your pets to eat your bug killer even if it was safe or what’s the point? But just know that they shouldn’t be licking this.

Flour – This is just used to attract cockroaches. You can also use cocoa powder. Of course chocolate is also toxic to dogs so I didn’t use this but it is an option if you really want to capture those bugs!

Corn meal – This attracts ants but the double bonus is that it actually kills them too. The corn expands once they eat it and to put it simply they explode, internally. You can just use corn meal by itself to reduce any ant problem. It may take a few days but again they take it back to their colony and the whole group gets wiped out.

I used this combo to get the best results. If you wanted a truly safe for pets option just mix food-grade Diatomaceous Earth with flour and/or corn meal or you could just use the DE. You can also do this if you want to put the powder in kitchen cabinets. Sprinkle corn meal directly on ant piles and after a few days they will be gone. Remember to reapply after rain or if watering washes any of the powder away.

How to apply:

Put it in cracks, along walls, in ant holes, or anywhere you expect bugs to be. I put some behind my oven just for prevention and because I knew my dogs couldn’t get it. We placed it around the perimeter of our garage and on our front patio. For the back patio, where the dogs hang out, we simply place a shallow dish out each night (when the bugs are out) and bring it back in during the day so we don’t have to worry about our dogs messing with it. You could sprinkle a tiny bit  (that is all it takes) in cracks or along walls even where your dogs are and chances are they will never notice it.

Just FYI my dogs have shown zero interest in eating this as I assume it doesn’t smell good or look tasty. But I don’t want to risk killing them so we use caution. Use the same caution around kids. Clearly anything you use to kill something isn’t ever going to be good for other living things. BUT this is FAR better than the chemical spray options that literally can linger in  your house for years and cause all sorts of crazy issues.

Good luck!



  1. Posted May 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Those harsh chemicals give me the heebie jeebies–this is genius!

  2. Posted September 11, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    So any update on how this is working for you? Found this on Pinterest as I am putting together a program on natural home solutions for my students…

    • Alicia
      Posted September 11, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Hi Julie! Here’s a few tips – it can work really well but it is best in a very sparse amounts. Bugs will avoid it if you spread large amounts of it which is what I did initially. Best case scenario is if you can find where the bugs live and sprinkle near or on their “homes”. However that is only really easy to do for ants. The plus side is a VERY small amount can be effective. Exterminators that use DE use a device that basically “sprays” it out and then it settles. You shouldn’t breathe in DE though nor should your animals so if you take an approach like that, be sure to wear a mask and stay out of the area until it has fully settled. If it gets wet, you will need to reapply. Long story short, I think it works but perhaps not as quickly as some people would like. Essential oils can be great for deterring bugs too. In the end we did call an alternative pest control company but we still use this for further prevention.

  3. Dee Johnson
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    I was wondering how well this mix has worked for you. I don’t think Borax and boric acid are the same thing and was wondering if you have had any luck with using the Borax to kill roaches. Thanks.

    • Alicia
      Posted January 19, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Hi Dee- It works but it doesn’t have the same instant results as conventional bug killers. We opted to have a alternative exterminator come out and help us get a head start on the bugs and then we continue to use this as maintenance. We’re happy with it!

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