DIY pest control at home? Be safe
We all love tackling DIY projects. Read all about pest control at home in order to keep your family safe. 

Unsafe do-it-yourself pest control too often leads to an emergency call. The Tygerberg Poison Information Centre receives up to 6 ,000 emergency calls per year; 40% of which are due to accidental poisoning at home.

As chemicals such as detergents, bleaches and household- and agricultural pesticides are often placed within easy reach of children, they also cause a significant number of these exposures, says Cherylynn Wium, a medical scientist at the Centre.   

Children are naturally curious and small ones will crawl around, exploring by putting things in their mouths. Wium and her co-workers often encounter children younger than 5 chewing on mosquito coils or mats which, mercifully, are not very toxic for humans.

Children who taste Rattex would only ingest a very small amount, not enough to cause bleeding tendencies. They will, however, get very ill from eating mothballs, which contain naphthalene. Half a mothball may cause serious convulsions. When this happens parents should NEVER give the child milk as it will increase the absorption of naphthalene. 

Deena Govender of Rentokil pest control does not recommend the use of mothballs either, as “they have a very strong smell, can cause eye and skin irritations and make people very sick.”

He says good housekeeping and maintenance will keep pests such as clothes moths, cockroaches, rats and mice out. ”Stop their access to shelter, food and water and remove dampness, and you won’t need mothballs or other chemicals.”

Clothing that needs prolonged storage should be put in tightly closed containers and cupboards for day clothes should be aired regularly.

Where small infestations of fish moths and silverfish already exist, they may be sprayed with a low-toxic household insecticide. Vacuum-cleaning carpets and furniture thoroughly will also remove the larvae of fish moths.

As pests generally favour warm and sheltered places and will avoid open spaces, traps for cockroaches should be placed in dark sheltered places close to wall- and floor junctions. And always out of reach of children and pets, Govender emphasises.

Children in developing countries with large agricultural communities were often victims of pesticide poisoning. Dr Kate Balme of the Poisons Information Centre at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital published a research paper warning that even in South Africa with its strict regulation of pesticides; chemicals not intended for domestic use do make their way into homes, while registered ones are often not safely used.

Rentokil has the following tips:

  • Never use chemicals that are not registered for use in South Africa. Registered pesticides have an L-number on the label.  
  • Make sure you read the labels on over-the-counter products and follow the instructions.
  • If you have any doubts about the contents or application, get professional advice from a pest control company or contact the manufacturer.
  • If you need to have rat traps installed, get a professional pest control company to install tamper-proof rodent boxes.
  • Never store leftover pesticides within children’s reach.
  • Always store pesticides in their original packaging, never in containers such as cooldrink bottles, jam jars or plastic bags.

For more advice or help with pest control at your home, visit or call Rentokil at 0800 326 459.

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