How to deal with pests and vermin in your home

Nobody wants to share their home with mice, cockroaches or other pests. Find out how deal with infestations.

Responsibility for pests and vermin

Pests and vermin are insects and small animals in your home that can cause health and safety problems.

If you rent your home, your landlord or the council may be responsible for dealing with pests and vermin.

If your landlord or the council can't or won't help, you might be able to deal with the infestation yourself.

How to prevent infestation

Any home can have a problem with pests or vermin, however careful you are and how often you clean your home. 

Follow these rules to reduce the chances of infestation.

1. Don't let them in

Block up holes in the brickwork, roof, skirting boards and floorboards to prevent rats, mice and squirrels getting into your home.

Ask your landlord to do this for you if you rent your home.

2. Don't feed them

Keep your home clean, especially the kitchen. Clean surfaces and floors regularly to remove any traces of food.

Store food in sealed containers, as uncovered food can attract pests and vermin.

Put rubbish out in sealed bags or bins.

Always use a bird table when you feed garden birds. Putting bird food on the ground can attract rats and mice, so can putting cooked food in your compost heap.

3. Keep your garden tidy

Don't leave old furniture, mattresses or other rubbish in your garden. These make a great place for mice and rats to nest.

Ask your local council to collect bulky household waste or take it to the tip yourself.

Try not to let your garden become overgrown as this provides a good home for mice and rats.

Get help to deal with pests and vermin

Your local council's environmental health department may provide a pest control or pest identification service.

You can ask them for advice on how to deal with pests and vermin.

Most councils charge for these services but fees may be reduced for people who claim benefits.

A private pest control company can deal with your pest and vermin problem. Their fees will probably be higher than the council's fees.

Find details of local pest control companies online or in the Yellow Pages or ask friends or neighbours to recommend a service.

Get more advice from the British Pest Control Association (BPCA).

How to deal with common pests

Mice and rats

Mice and rats spread disease through their urine and droppings. They can also cause damage to your home and furnishings and can chew through electrical wires, increasing the risk of fire and electrocution.

You may be able to keep mice under control using traps or poison, which you can buy in most DIY stores.

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when using poisons or insecticides. Keep them away from children and pets.

Call in the council or a pest control firm as soon as possible if you spot signs that you have rats in your home.

Get more advice from Rentokil about rats in the home.


Cockroaches lurk in warm, dark, humid parts of homes, such as around pipe ducts in kitchens and bathrooms or underneath cookers.

Cockroaches can cause food poisoning and other health problems, such as dermatitis and asthma.

You may need expert help to deal with cockroaches. Get more advice about cockroaches from the British Pest Control Association (BPCA).

Bees and wasps

Bees and wasps only become a problem if they build nests in the loft or eaves of your home or in your garden.

Do not go near or disturb a nest. Bees and wasps can swarm and can attack when disturbed.

Contact your council about bee and wasp nests. The council may charge a fee to remove the nest.

Contact the British Beekeepers Association if you think you have honeybees in your garden. They may send someone who can remove the nest without killing the bees.


Bedbugs live in bedding and mattresses, feed on blood and can leave nasty bite marks.

If you have bedbugs, wash all bedding at 60°C and try to find an insecticide that's safe to use on the mattress, headboard and other affected areas.

A specialist pest control company or your council's pest control service can help if you can't get rid of bedbugs.


Fleas from pet cats and dogs don't spread disease but flea bites can be itchy and uncomfortable for you and your pets.

To deal with fleas, treat your pets, bedding, furniture and carpets with flea sprays or powders. Get advice from a vet about the best one to use.

Get more advice from the RSPCA about how to deal with fleas from pets.


Ants don't pose a health risk. If you discover ants in your home, try vacuuming them up or tackle them using an ant spray or powder, available in most DIY stores.

Treat the nest if you can find it. You may be able to locate it by following the trail of ants. If you can't reach the nest, treat all entry points to your home (doors, windows, drains). The ants should carry the insecticide back to the nest.


Squirrels can cause damage in your loft or roof spaces. They can tear away insulation and damage pipes and items stored in the loft. They can chew through cables and wires, causing a risk of fire and electrocution.

To prevent squirrels getting in, use wire mesh to block any holes and make sure any missing bricks or roof tiles are replaced. Crushed up mothballs placed around the loft can also help keep them out.

Get more advice from the RSPCA about dealing with squirrels.

Remember that red squirrels are a legally protected species. You can be prosecuted for killing, injuring or capturing a red squirrel or destroying its shelter. Grey squirrels are not a legally protected species.

Dust mites

Dust mites live in mattresses and bedding. They can make your condition worse if you suffer from eczema, asthma or other breathing problems.

Dust mites prefer warm, humid environments. To keep them under control, wash your bedding regularly at 60°C and try to keep your bedroom cool and well ventilated.

Get more advice from Allergy UK about dealing with dust mites.

Moths and carpet beetles

Carpet moths and carpet beetles damage woollen carpets or rugs in your home. You can buy carpet moth or carpet beetle killer kits from pest control companies.

Tiny holes in your clothing could be a sign that you have an infestation of clothes moths, particularly clothes made of wool and silk. It is the larvae that cause the damage. Adult moths cannot feed on fabrics.

You can buy moth traps and place them in any wardrobes and cupboards where you store your clothes. Wash all your clothes to kill the eggs.

Hide beetles

Hide beetles live under cookers or fridges and feed on food scraps. They aren't a health risk but can cause damage by boring holes in plaster or wood.

Deal with hide beetles by cleaning infected areas thoroughly and treating with an appropriate insecticide.


Silverfish live in damp environments such as bathrooms. They don't pose a serious health risk, but they can swarm if they're not dealt with.

Use an insecticide from a DIY store to kill silverfish. Keep kitchen and bathroom cupboards clean and dry to prevent their return.

Last updated 23 Feb 2018 | © Shelter

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