Are bug sprays safe? Keeping your family safe, and home bug free

Posted December 16, 2019 5:00 a.m. EST

Keeping these bugs at bay is its own cottage industry, with a variety of sprays, candles and electronic emitters all available at your local hardware store. (LumpFish/Big Stock Photo)

This article was written for our sponsor, Moxie Pest Control.

No one likes to find bugs in their home. These pests come in all shapes and sizes, and some of them can even be beneficial to the local environment, but we all agree they shouldn't be in our bedrooms.

Keeping these bugs at bay is its own cottage industry, with a variety of sprays, candles and electronic emitters all available at your local hardware store. All of these methods come with pros and cons, and there are some things you should know before loading up on bug spray.

Variety is the Bug Spray of Life

There are a lot of different bug repellents available today. Some are designed to keep bugs away from you but do no damage, while others are designed to kill the pests that come in contact with it.

Some are based on pesticides that have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, while others are based on natural concoctions.

Deet is one of the most commonly used ingredients in bug repellent. It does not kill insects and bugs, instead driving them away and in an effort to prevent them from landing on your clothes or skin.

While it is safe for use, there have been some cases of illness involving the chemical, although most of those cases are attributed to misuse. The Center for Disease Control also advises that deet not be applied to children younger than two months. Instead, the safest way to protect them from insects is to utilize bug netting on strollers.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus extract is a popular alternative to deet and is sometimes sold as a natural alternative. It is registered as a biopesticide and studies have shown it remains effective in repelling insects for several hours. It is not recommended for children under the age of 3, but is an effective repellent for others.


Professional pest control companies use chemicals that are much stronger than the stuff at the store. These chemicals are sold through special distributors and aren't available to the general public.

Phil Nielsen, owner of Moxie Pest Control, says most pesticides are pyrethroids, which are primarily nontoxic to humans and animals. He added pesticides professionals use around the house are they same chemicals used in hospitals and day cares, and there are no effects after the chemical have dried.

The plus side is these chemicals will last for longer periods of time and will kill a wide swath of pests. Pest control professionals are trained in how to use these sprays in the most effective, safe way possible.

These longer term solutions will help you keep pests at bay for months at a time without having to worry. Continued treatment by professionals may also lead to a natural decrease in the bug population around your house over time.

"It feels like a compounding effect with the amount of service," said Quint Coward, a client of Moxie Pest Control. "We get a quarterly service as part of our subscription. Part of our deal is you can call them at any point and they'll come and do a spot service. We're having to call them less and less."

Safe Spaces

If the repellents used to keep pests away are safe, why don't you see pest services spraying at hospitals or at daycares?

The most vulnerable among us are more susceptive to damage from pesticides and repellants; so instead of doing a wide spray like you might see at your home, many companies offer integrated pest management programs. These programs are designed to minimize the number of pests and the amount of chemicals used to keep them away.

These methods include blocking up holes or access points, extensive monitoring and preventative maintenance. These processes also regularly include the use of pesticides in extremely targeted locations or times of the year.

Follow Directions

Regardless of whether you want to treat your home yourself or go to the professionals for long term care, there's one thing you need to do -- follow the directions.

If the bug spray bottle you bought says don't apply to young children, don't do it. If your pest professional says to keep pets away from an area of the house for a week, do it.

These aren't arbitrary suggestions. Many of the pesticides and chemicals used to repel and kill bugs are safe as long as the instructions are followed.

This article was written for our sponsor, Moxie Pest Control.

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