MM Novato FAQ

Home Pest Remedies That Don't Work

Nothing in life is certain except death, taxes, and home remedies. While many do-it-yourself tricks really do work, and can save you quite a bit of money, a lot of the ideas are merely rumors based on fuzzy science. Just like the old adage “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” has been found to be false (balsamic vinegar will attract more flies every time), a lot of old homemade tricks have been debunked over the years. Let’s take a look at some of the more common home pest remedies.

Rubbing Alcohol Won’t Keep Mosquitoes Away

Many a soccer mom swears by Listerine to keep mosquitoes from biting while out on a hike. I’ve heard a couple of different explanations behind why this would work — some say that the scent is strong enough to deter the bugs, while others claim that the alcohol disguises the wearer’s scent.

Giving credit where it’s due, rubbing alcohol can offer relief from existing mosquito bites, as the cooling sensation can overpower the itchy burning sensation. However, covering your bare skin with Listerine won’t keep mosquitoes away for long. Due to its minimal hydrogen bonding, alcohol evaporates faster than water, even at room temperature. After a few minutes, your skin will be freshly exposed for the blood-suckers.

Borax and Sugar is a Lousy Roach Killer

People looking to save a buck (or avoid using harsh chemicals) have often taken to mixing a half-and-half cocktail of borax and sugar to kill cockroaches. Some sites even claim that sprinkling borax into your carpet can repel roaches for up to a year.

While this might work to keep ants away (since they’re fairly vulnerable to borax), mixing borax with sugar won’t poison roaches. They usually won’t eat it at all, since the detergent smell can be too strong for them. Even if they do snack on the concoction, borax isn’t a strong enough poison to kill them. Roaches are tough critters, and typically need a heavy-duty targeted solution to bring down.

Mayonnaise Won’t Get Rid of Hair Lice

This is a weirdly popular idea: if you have head lice, coat your scalp with mayonnaise and cover up with a shower cap. The idea behind it is that the mayo is thick enough to suffocate the lice after several hours.
Setting aside the odd choice of mayonnaise (when there are several other thick oily substances available around the house that wouldn’t smell so bad), the unfortunate truth is that this won’t solve your lice woes. While the treatment may suffocate the adult lice (and “may” is the key word here), it won’t do a thing to the eggs that are likely waiting to hatch. You have to kill the lice and their eggs to eliminate the problem.

Ants Won’t Explode After Eating Instant Oatmeal

Ants are ridiculously persistent and annoying pests. I don’t blame anyone for looking for an easy home remedy. However, this particular myth stuns me with how backwards it is. Supposedly, feeding ants instant grits — such as oatmeal, cornmeal, or cream of wheat — will cause them to explode due to the food mixing with stomach fluids and expanding in their stomachs.

Texas A&M University conducted a study on the myth and found that not only are grits completely ineffective at killing or deterring ants, they actually tend to attract the bugs while they’re foraging for food. Unless you’re looking for a good cheap food for your ant farm, steer clear of this false remedy.

Home Pest Remedies That Don’t Work

Home Pest Remedies That Don't Work

Nothing in life is certain except death, taxes, and home remedies. While many do-it-yourself tricks really do work, and can save you quite a bit of money, a lot of the ideas are merely rumors based on fuzzy science. Just like the old adage “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” has been found to be false (balsamic vinegar will attract more flies every time), a lot of old homemade tricks have been debunked over the years. Let’s take a look at some of the more common home pest remedies.

Rubbing Alcohol Won’t Keep Mosquitoes Away

Many a soccer mom swears by Listerine to keep mosquitoes from biting while out on a hike. I’ve heard a couple of different explanations behind why this would work — some say that the scent is strong enough to deter the bugs, while others claim that the alcohol disguises the wearer’s scent.

Giving credit where it’s due, rubbing alcohol can offer relief from existing mosquito bites, as the cooling sensation can overpower the itchy burning sensation. However, covering your bare skin with Listerine won’t keep mosquitoes away for long. Due to its minimal hydrogen bonding, alcohol evaporates faster than water, even at room temperature. After a few minutes, your skin will be freshly exposed for the blood-suckers.

Borax and Sugar is a Lousy Roach Killer

People looking to save a buck (or avoid using harsh chemicals) have often taken to mixing a half-and-half cocktail of borax and sugar to kill cockroaches. Some sites even claim that sprinkling borax into your carpet can repel roaches for up to a year.

While this might work to keep ants away (since they’re fairly vulnerable to borax), mixing borax with sugar won’t poison roaches. They usually won’t eat it at all, since the detergent smell can be too strong for them. Even if they do snack on the concoction, borax isn’t a strong enough poison to kill them. Roaches are tough critters, and typically need a heavy-duty targeted solution to bring down.

Mayonnaise Won’t Get Rid of Hair Lice

This is a weirdly popular idea: if you have head lice, coat your scalp with mayonnaise and cover up with a shower cap. The idea behind it is that the mayo is thick enough to suffocate the lice after several hours.
Setting aside the odd choice of mayonnaise (when there are several other thick oily substances available around the house that wouldn’t smell so bad), the unfortunate truth is that this won’t solve your lice woes. While the treatment may suffocate the adult lice (and “may” is the key word here), it won’t do a thing to the eggs that are likely waiting to hatch. You have to kill the lice and their eggs to eliminate the problem.

Ants Won’t Explode After Eating Instant Oatmeal

Ants are ridiculously persistent and annoying pests. I don’t blame anyone for looking for an easy home remedy. However, this particular myth stuns me with how backwards it is. Supposedly, feeding ants instant grits — such as oatmeal, cornmeal, or cream of wheat — will cause them to explode due to the food mixing with stomach fluids and expanding in their stomachs.

Texas A&M University conducted a study on the myth and found that not only are grits completely ineffective at killing or deterring ants, they actually tend to attract the bugs while they’re foraging for food. Unless you’re looking for a good cheap food for your ant farm, steer clear of this false remedy.

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