Cockroaches? Crickets? Ants? Stinkbugs?
If you’ve got more than one pest problem, the easiest way to take care of them all is to get a general-use insecticide that works on all insect species! Luckily, there are many insecticides on the market that affect all insects equally, and they can be applied to protect your home from pests.
In this article, we discuss the different types of home insecticides, things you should consider when choosing one, how these insecticides work, and basic rules for applying them.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the best insecticide for home use!
Psst – short on time? Here’s our top pick.
Types of Insecticides for Home
There are 4 basic types of insecticide formulations on the market:
A concentrate is a type of insecticide that can come in liquid or less commonly, powdered form. As the name suggests, these bottles contain highly concentrated formulations of the insecticide that must be mixed with water before use.
The advantage of concentrate is you get a lot more value for your money. The small bottle shown above is 16 ounces of concentrate which would make 16 gallons of insecticide spray.
That one bottle costs as much as 1 or 2 gallons of ready-mixed sprays. By supplying your own water and pesticide sprayer, you save a ton of money in the long run!
These products can be applied in the form they are in. No mixing, measuring, or math required!
Many ready-mixed products also come with their own spraying wands, while others can be poured right into an old spray bottle or pump sprayer. Though these ready-mixed sprays are slightly more expensive, they can save you the hassle of mixing the insecticide to the proper concentration.
Some general insecticides on the market come in the form of very fine, dusty powder. These insecticide dusts can be all-natural, or they can contain a powerful synthetic insecticide.
The natural methods work by cutting up the insects as they roam around your home, whereas dusts laced with insecticides will rapidly attack the insect nervous system and quickly kill any insect that wanders into the dusted area.
Most dusts are best applied with “bellow duster”, and a mask should be worn when applying them to avoid inhaling any of the dust particles.
The bottle of CimeXa shown above can be applied from the bottle and works against any crawling bug.
Though there are a small number of “general-use” insect baits on the market, most baits have been formulated to target a specific species or group of insects.
Baits work by hiding an insecticide inside of a tasty treat. Insects find the bait, eat it, and quickly perish. There are few general-use baits on the market simply because insects prefer different food sources.
For instance, a gel bait formulated for cockroaches is unlikely to attract ants. So, you have to be sure that the bait you are putting out will work for all of the insect pests in your home.
Choosing the Right General Insecticide for Home
There are several important considerations you should make before you go all-in on one product. Here are the most important questions you should ask yourself before purchasing:
Where is your insect problem?
Certain insecticides are rated for indoor or outdoor use. Outdoor pesticides are often much stronger and can have a strong odor.
If you use an insecticide that is only rated for outdoor-use in your house, you could be exposing your family and pets to toxic fumes or odors that irritate the nose, mouth, throat, or lungs! So, be sure that the insecticide you choose can be applied where you are planning to apply it.
Are there any sensitive animals or ecosystems you need to protect?
Certain pesticides can have off-target effects on other animals and ecosystems. In other words, you need to check if the pesticide you want to use will be dangerous to your pets or the wild organisms that visit your yard.
Most commonly, insecticides can be toxic to domestic pets like cats (sometimes dogs), bees, and aquatic wildlife.
If you live near a natural ecosystem, you need to take extra care that the pesticide you select will not run off your property and kill other organisms.
For instance, some insecticides have a very high aquatic toxicity – killing everything from fish to tiny invertebrates in aquatic ecosystems.
If you live near a river, drainage, or other body of water, be mindful of the toxicity of the active ingredient in the product you choose.
If you have cats in the house, you should avoid using permethrin. It’s highly toxic to cats, but not dogs or humans.
Does the product label match your problem and intended application method?
If you are planning on spraying your basement, for example, you shouldn’t select insecticide dust that is intended to be carefully applied without water. Mixing dust with water would ruin the product, and it will not work.
Similarly, if you buy a product that is intended only to control ants it will likely not work well on cockroaches. Below we have compiled some great general-use insecticides – but you still need to follow the directions on the label carefully!
Best Insecticides for General Home Use
1. Bifen IT (Best Overall Value)
Kills: Spiders, Mosquitoes, Cockroaches, Ticks, Fleas, Pillbugs, Chinch Bugs, Earwigs, Millipedes, and Termites (over 75 species total!)
Type: Concentrate (mix into spray)
Uses: Indoor/Outdoor (excluding Fruit + Vegetable Gardens)
Toxicity: Generally safe for people and pets after dry (about 30-60 minutes). Toxic to aquatic ecosystems, bees, and non-target insects.
Bifen IT is a great general insecticide. The active ingredient in Bifen IT is bifenthrin, one of the most effective and heavily-studied insecticides on the market.
Bifenthrin is effective against almost all types of insects. The Bifen IT label recommends that cracks, crevices, baseboards, and any other entry points that insects use should be covered with spray. The product works as both an insecticide and a repellent – killing insects quickly enough that they cannot show their friends the way into your home!
Bifen IT is very affordable, and the bottle comes with an easy way to measure out the concentrate. With the caps on, simply tip the bottle to the side with the small measuring chamber. Fill the chamber to the amount desired (found on the label), then tip the bottle back upright. Then, you simply have to remove the cap and dump the filled chamber into the sprayer of your choice!
2. Suspend SC (Great for Long Lasting Killing Power)
Kills: Most species of insects including Ants, Carpenter Ants, Carpet Beetles, Firebrats, Fleas, Gnats, Midges, Centipedes, Millipedes, Pantry Pests, Silverfish, Ticks (indoors), Bees, Bed Bugs, Boxelder Bugs, Fleas (outdoors), Ticks (outdoors), Cecid Flies, Cockroaches, Crickets, Flies (including such flies as Stable, House, Cluster and Horseflies), Elm Leaf Beetles, Ground Beetles, Moths, Midges, Hornets, Killer Bees, Lice, Mosquitoes, Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, Pillbugs, Scorpions, Sowbugs, Spiders, Yellowjackets, and Wasps.
Type: Concentrate (mix into spray)
Uses: Indoor/Outdoor (excluding Fruit + Vegetable Gardens)
Toxicity: Generally safe for people and pets after dry (about 30 minutes). Very toxic to aquatic ecosystems, bees, and non-target insects.
Suspend SC uses the synthetic pyrethroid deltamethrin as an active ingredient. Like Bifen IT, this product will eliminate any sort of insect infestation in or around your home. Also like Bifen IT, this product is safe for pets and families after it has dried – though it will harm bees, non-target insects, and aquatic wildlife if not used carefully.
In general, deltamethrin is considered one of the most powerful synthetic pyrethroid insecticides on the market. Plus, it seems to be slightly less toxic than bifenthrin as its uses are less restricted indoors.
Whereas bifenthrin (Bifen IT) is labeled only for “crack/crevice and baseboard” use, Suspend SC is labeled for use “in and around residential buildings including kitchens and food/feed handling establishments.” This means that Suspend SC can be used pretty much anywhere, as long as you let it dry before using the area.
Professional exterminators will often rotate Bifen IT and Suspend regularly. This ensures that insect populations do not become resistant to either of the products. In other words, alternate Bifen IT and Suspend SC on a monthly (or bi-monthly) basis to ensure total insect control.
4. Taurus SC (Best for Outdoor Use Only)
Kills: Slightly fewer species but best-in-class for bugs like ants, termites, ticks, crickets, cockroaches, and pillbugs.
Type: Concentrate (mix into spray)
Uses: Outdoor only! (the ONLY indoor use is for termites or carpenter ants sprayed directly into wall voids – not safe in living areas)
Toxicity: Slightly more toxic to pets and humans, no direct contact! Incredibly toxic to aquatic wildlife, bees, and non-target insects.
Taurus SC contains the active ingredient fipronil. Fipronil is a phenylpyrazole insecticide, first developed when insects started becoming resistant to pyrethroid insecticides.
Fipronil, unlike the two products above, is a non-repellent insecticide. This means that social insects like ants and termites can cover themselves in the product, and carry it back to the colony. This typically causes the entire colony to die off in a relatively short amount of time.
The downside to Taurus SC is that it is incredibly toxic. Studies have shown that fipronil is toxic to almost all non-target species, and can take years to break down in the soil. This means that you shouldn’t use it on flowers that bees frequent or near any places that drain into a body of water.
The upside is that Taurus SC is extremely good at getting rid of ants, termites, cockroaches, and wasps – all species that live socially. This product is great at curbing their populations before they come inside!
5. Essentria IC3 (Best Natural/Safe Insecticide)
Kills: Aphids, ants, bees, boxelder bugs, centipedes, cockroaches, crickets, darkling beetles, firebrats, fleas, ground beetles, fowl mites, mites, millipedes, pillbugs, silverfish, sowbugs, spiders, ticks, wasps, and others.
Type: Concentrate (mix into spray)
Uses: Indoor and Outdoor uses
Toxicity: All natural! Safe around family and pets, as well as aquatic ecosystems. Be careful, though, this product still may harm bees and other non-target insects.
Essentria IC3 uses botanical active ingredients such as rosemary oil, peppermint oil, and geraniol. Essentria IC3 has been shown to be effective when applied directly to insects, though in the field essential oils are not as powerful as synthetic insecticides.
The benefit of an insecticide like this is it’s much less toxic! Essentria IC3 can be used near waterways since it has almost no effect on aquatic organisms – unlike most synthetic pesticides.
The only real downside to Essentria IC3 is that it can have a very strong odor. While the newest formula of the product does contain substances to mitigate the strong odor, people with asthma or those who are sensitive to strong smells may become irritated.
It is best to try out a small test spot indoors, on a day when you can open the windows to air out a room if it becomes too pungent!
This natural insecticide is also available in many states with strict pesticide laws since it is so gentle on the environment and non-target species (such as New York, Alaska, Connecticut, or California).
6. CimeXa (Best Insecticide Dust)
Kills: Ants, Crazy Ants, Cockroaches, Firebrats, Silverfish, Spiders, Mites, Bed Bugs, Lice, Fleas, Ticks, Stored Product/Pantry/Fabric/Clothes Beetles and Moths and Drywood Termites. Most any crawling insect.
Uses: Mostly Indoor (though dry-places like outbuildings may also be treated)
Toxicity: Very Low if used as directed, though an irritant if inhaled
CimeXa works as a desiccant to dry out insects that come in contact with the powder. The active ingredient, silicon dioxide, sticks to the exoskeleton and draws all the water out of the insect.
Silicone dioxide is minimally toxic to most mammals, though you should still avoid getting it on yourself or pets directly. The great thing about insecticide dusts like CimeXa is that they can last up to 10 years if properly applied in areas with low-moisture!
Using the duster bottle (or larger bellows for bigger spaces) simply puff the dust onto pathways. All you need to see on the surface is a fine mist, and this will be enough to eradicate any insects that come in contact with it.
Though you should not directly dust areas that your pets or family will be using, this is a great way to protect attics, crawlspaces, and other areas where insects gain entry into your home.
When it comes to baits, there is really no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Baits are formulated to attract specific insects, so they often fail to eliminate more than one insect pest at a time.
For insects that share a nest or hiding place, baits are extremely effective. For ant and cockroach infestations, this makes baits a must-have as part of your elimination strategy.
How Insecticides Work
In general, most of the insecticides above work in a similar fashion. The insect must come into contact with the product, and they typically do not die immediately. Instead, most insecticides slowly build up in the insect until their nervous system overloads or they become desiccated. Often, this process takes around 24 hours or more. So, if you aren’t seeing instant results, don’t worry. The product is probably working just fine.
In fact, for many insecticides, you don’t want them to work right away. Instead, you want the insect that is covered in the insecticide to make its way back to the colony, where it can infect all the other individuals – this way, you kill off the entire colony with a smaller amount of insecticide!
Most insecticide sprays and baits work by affecting the neurological system. Many insecticides cause nerves to randomly fire. When an insect gets too much insecticide in its system, this random firing of nerves leads to death. Insecticide dust, on the other hand, is typically an abrasive desiccant. These products work to weaken the exoskeleton and slowly dry the insect out. While this sounds less effective, insect dust products are actually very good at killing many of the insects that like to invade your home!
How to Apply Insecticides
Though you should always follow the directions on the label of the insecticide you end up using, there are a few general tips that will make your application of insecticide more effective:
- Apply where the insects are.
This might sound like common sense, but this is a common reason that most DIY exterminations go poorly. Think like an insect – cover every crack, crevice, and pathway you would take if you were trying to invade your home. If you know where the nest or colony is, apply insecticide directly to that area. This will give you the best chance of eliminating your infestation.
- Dust is typically applied into wall voids, cracks, and crevices.
Think of insecticide dusts as a barrier. Though they won’t instantly kill insects, any insects that walk through them are doomed. Apply dusts in any cracks, crevices, or wall voids that you have access to. If you dust properly, no insect should be able to enter your home without first walking through the dust!
- Sprays work where dust cannot.
Obviously, you don’t want dust covering the inside of your home. Sprays can be applied around foundations, along window seals, around door frames, and any other places where insects might squeeze their way through to gain entry. Some sprays can also be used directly in living spaces, and these spaces will be safe to enter once the spray has dried.
- Baits and Sprays should be used separately.
Most spray applications contain insecticides that are also insect repellants. If you use baits in the same areas that you have sprayed, most insects will avoid those areas and few will take the bait. This means you essentially wasted money on bait. In general, baits should be used in areas where it is unsafe to use a spray. Many baits come in family- and pet-safe containers that only insects can access.
- If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!
You may not get it right on your first application of insecticide. That does not mean you are incapable of becoming your own exterminator. Try to analyze where you went wrong. Maybe you selected the wrong insecticide, or maybe you didn’t cover the right areas. Figure out a new strategy, and try again! Chances are you will find an application method that works perfectly for your situation. Good luck!