Eco-Friendly Pest Control for Your Commercial Kitchen


food storage containers

Pest control in restaurants and kitchens can be tricky. Chemicals that kill pests are often harmful to humans, too. Laws forbid the use of many chemical pesticides in food service establishments, since food can be contaminated.

Use eco-friendly pesticides and repellants. It is cheaper and safer. If you plan on hiring a professional, a number of eco-friendly exterminators are available.

Guidelines for Pest Prevention

The best way to eliminate pests is to prevent them from entering and finding food.

  • Keep it clean. Clean all spills right away. Consistently mop floors and wipe down countertops and tables.
  • Isolate garbage. Use tight-fitting lids on waste receptacles. Throw out garbage promptly. Wash your garbage cans every day.
  • Seal points of entry. Make sure all windows and doors are tightly sealed. Do not leave open unscreened windows or doors. Cover vents and drains with screens.
  • Inspect new supplies. Check incoming inventory for roaches, pantry moths and other insects. Immediately dispose of anything suspect.


Prevention. Keep your building clean and tightly sealed. You can also prevent or repel ants somewhat effectively with any of the following: cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, vinegar, chalk, talcum powder and bay leaves.

Control. When preventive methods have not worked, there are two types of ants that could be invading your kitchen: indoor-nesting ants and outdoor-nesting ants.

Indoor-Nesting Ants. Small and reddish-brown in color, pharaoh ants nest indoors. The most effective safe pesticide is boric acid.

Recipe: Mix one teaspoon boric acid or borax with a jar of jelly or 2 cups of sugar water. Place the jelly or tiny cotton balls dipped in the sugar-water mixture near the ant problem, but do not block the ant trail. Place one to three pieces of bait every 25 feet. Hopefully, the ants will carry the boric acids back to their colony and decimate themselves.

Outdoor-Nesting Ants. Large or black ants are probably outdoor-nesting ants that are foraging inside. Here are a few tips to get rid of outside-nesting ants the eco-friendly way:

  • Follow the ant trail to identify the ants’ entry points. Seal entry points with caulk or screens. For a temporary seal, use baking soda paste.
  • Apply sticky barriers to the wall foundation or legs of tables.
  • Spray soapy water to kill individual ants or erase their trails.

Fruit Flies

Prevention. Flies need damp, decaying or fermenting organic material to breed. The best way to keep flies away is to consistently clean breeding areas. Probable breeding areas include garbage cans, moist mops, sides of drains and drain traps. To clean drains safely, use pure vinegar, followed by baking soda and boiling water.

Control. Never use a fogger. Other than keeping breeding areas clean, the only safe way to control fruit flies is to use fly traps like the following:

  • Covered jar or bowl: Fill a large jar or bowl with bait, like beer, wine or vinegar and honey-water. Cover with plastic wrap and poke holes in the top. Flies enter but cannot find their way out.
  • Soapy water bowl: Fruit flies are attracted to bright yellow. Fill a yellow bowl with soapy water. Flies will drown.
  • Bottle traps: Cut holes five inches from the bottom of a two liter bottle. Fill with bait like wine, beer or a solution of vinegar, water and honey. Suspend from ceiling to trap and drown flies.
  • Sticky flypaper: Buy flypaper or make your own. Boil together honey, sugar and water, dip packing tape in the bait and suspend the strips from your ceiling.
  • Ultraviolet fly traps: Decorative ultraviolet fly traps are available. Some zap bugs and some trap them. Never use zappers in food handling areas, or customers will find pieces of fly in their food.


Prevention. To prevent cockroaches from ever invading your kitchen, eliminate their access to food and damp, dark areas. Clean consistently. Cover garbarge and put wet rags and sponges in airtight containers overnight. Hang mops up to dry. Fix leaky faucets and drains. Plumbing is like a cockroach’s highway system, so cover vents and floor and sink drains with screens.

Use osage oranges. Also known as osage apples, hedge balls, hedge apples, bodark and monkey balls, osage oranges contain a chemical that has been scientifically proven to repel the common cockroach. Place green osage oranges in dark and damp places and around the kitchen.

Control. Use boric acid. It is by far the most effective safe method of cockroach control. Thankfully, boric acid and its salts, like borax, are about as toxic as table salt, making them ideal for pest control around food.

  • Apply 99% boric acid or borax to cracks and crevices, under sinks, behind and beneath cabinets and equipment and inside any wall cavities.
  • Mix 1 pound borax, 4 pounds powdered sugar and 2-3 ounces cocoa powder. Sprinkle in cracks, dark places, and under and behind equipment.


Prevention. A full-grown rodent can pass through a hole as small as a dime. Seal the outside of your building to prevent mice from ever entering. Especially in the fall, keep the perimeters of your establishment clean and the grass well-cut to discourage mice from hiding around your building and looking for a way in. Store trash in a covered container.

Control. Close your business at the first sign of a mouse. The best thing to do is to call an eco-friendly exterminator. Traps are effective, but many codes ban them from food service establishments. Traps also take several days to work because mice are wary of new additions to their environment. If you cannot afford an exterminator or are willing to wait to reopen, try one of the following traps:

  • Live traps: Also known as “Have-a-Heart Traps,” live traps capture the mice in a metal mesh cage. Make sure you release the mouse far away from your building. Find and seal the mouse’s point of entry.
  • Snap traps and glue traps: Many consider these traps to be inhumane. Check your local codes, because often snap and glue traps are banned from restaurants and other food service establishments. If you must, use a flat board glue trap or a snap trap with a sensitive, expanded trigger. Position the traps against wall at a 90º angle.



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  1. In my experience, ants are the most common pests in commercial buildings. I feel like it happens in restaurants a lot. So, that’s a great tip to keep your building clean and tightly sealed. If you do that you won’t have to call commercial pest control.

  2. These are great tips! I have always wanted to try making a bottle trap but was unsure if it would be worth the effort. I may just give it a shot.

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