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Tips for Reducing Pesticide Exposure in Your Home

Using pesticides in and around your home

​​​​​​​​What are pesticides?

Pesticides are substances, natural or made by humans, that are used to kill some pests—plants, animals, insects, and other organisms. Pesticides can be harmful to people, animals, and the environment. So it’s important to use pesticides the way they’re meant to be used and to use as little as possible.

What are some types of pesticides?

Types of pesticides include:

  • insecticides (to kill insects)
  • fungicides (to kill fungi)
  • herbicides (to kill plants like weeds)
  • rodenticides (for killing rodents, such as mice)
  • algicides (for killing algae in swimming pools or tanks)
  • germicides (to kill germs)​

How do I safely use pesticides on my lawn?

It’s common to use pesticides to control weeds in your grass or lawn. This type of pesticide is called an herbicide or weed killer. A lawn that isn’t healthy is more likely to have weeds. Common lawn problems are:
  • fertilizer imbalances
  • soil compaction (soil gets very dense and air and water can’t pass through)
  • not watering properly
  • not mowing properly

If you take good care of your lawn, it will usually have fewer weeds. Having fewer weeds means you can use less herbicide or none at all.

To safely apply herbicides:

  • Always follow the instructions on the label carefully.
  • Wear protective clothing, like long sleeves and gloves. 
  • Don’t spray the whole lawn. Take out weeds by hand or spot spray them.
  • Don't spray when it's windy, too hot (above 30⁰C or 86⁰F), or rainy.

How do I use pesticides to control pests?

To control certain pests in your home or around your yard, keeping things clean is always the first thing to do. If you need to use pesticides, they can control pests such as:​
  • mosquitoes
  • cockroaches, carpenter ants 
  • head and body lice
  • ticks and bed bugs
  • mice
  • ​bacteria
There may be other, less harmful ways to control pests, but they may take longer to work or not work at all. If the pest problem is more dangerous to your health than using pesticides, always try to use the least toxic (least poisonous), most effective type of pesticide, such as:
  • borax to control ants and cockroaches (Remember that borax is toxic to plants.) 
  • fatty acid salts or soaps to control tent caterpillars, mites, and aphids
  • desiccants like diatomaceous earth to control ants, carpet beetles, cockroaches, fleas, and grain beetles
  • dormant oil to smother some garden insect pests

What should I do if I'm using pesticides indoors?

If you’re using pesticides inside your home, cover items or take them out of the room you’re treating. For example, if you’re using pesticides in the kitchen, remove things like food, dishes and utensils, and pet food dishes. 

Open doors and windows while you’re using pesticides, so there’s good airflow in the room. 

When you’re done and the pesticides have dried, use hot, soapy water to wash everywhere that might touch food, like tables, stovetops, and counters.


What are some more safety tips for using pesticides?

  • Always read and follow all the directions on the product label. 
  • Tell your neighbours before you use pesticides on your property. And tell them when the treated areas will be safe (this is usually after the pesticide is fully dry or at least 12 hours after applying the pesticide). 
  • Be careful around vegetable and flower gardens. Be especially careful if children, pregnant people, older adults, or pets could come into contact with the pesticides. 
  • Make sure the pesticide you’re using is authorized (legal and safe) to use in Canada.
  • Don’t drink, eat, or smoke while applying pesticides.
  • Don’t rub your eyes or touch your mouth while applying pesticides.
  • Don’t put pesticides directly on a person, animal, or bedding unless the label says you can (for example, insect repellents and products that protect pets from fleas or ticks).
  • Don’t use pesticides for any purpose or in any way other than what it says on the label. 
  • Don’t mix pesticides together (unless the label says to do this).
You can also contact your nearest Alberta Health Services Environmental Public Health office for more advice.​


Current as of: February 18, 2021

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services