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A Healthy Home

General information

Three Steps to a Healthy Home

Pests need water, food, and shelter to live, just like you. Here’s what you and your landlord can do to get rid of them and prevent them from invading your home.

1. Inside your home: take away pests’ food, water, and shelter

  • Clean grease, crumbs, and spills and don’t leave dishes in the sink overnight.
  • Store food in sealed containers. Pests can chew through paper, cardboard and thin plastic.
  • Remove clutter from floors, and store extra clothing in sealed plastic bins.
  • Take out garbage frequently; rinse food containers before recycling.
  • At night, put away or put a lid on your pet’s food and water.
  • Avoid sprays, foggers or bombs; they don’t reach hiding places and push pests into walls. Sprays, foggers, or bombs must be disposed of as household hazardous waste.
  • Keep your home clean using less-toxic products. Read More

2. Reduce moisture to prevent mold and pests

  • Open curtains and windows and use ventilation fans when cooking and bathing.
  • Fan should be free of grease, and reported to landlord if broken.
  • Separate furniture and appliances, including refrigerator, from walls.
  • Dry moisture from windows and walls after bathing.
  • Report drips or leaks for repair to property management or the landlord.

3. In and around your home: ask your landlord to seal out pests

  • Install door sweeps or other barriers.
  • Screen all vents, windows and entryways and repair broken screens.
  • Seal all cracks, crevices and holes in walls and ceiling.
  • Repair drips and leaks; seal cracks and holes around pipes and electrical outlets.
  • Keep carports and garages free of clutter. Safely get rid of unwanted and leftover chemicals for free through San Mateo County’s Household Hazardous Waste Program.
  • Thin out dense trees and overgrown plants. Trim branches and leaves that come close to gutters and roofs.
  • Maintain interior and exterior water, drainage (incl. gutters), and sewage systems.
  • Rinse common garbage and recycling bins as needed to keep them grime-free.
  • Rinse common garbage and recycling bins frequently.
  • Consider hiring a safer pest control expert certified in Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Ecowise Certified, GreenPro Certified, or Green Shield Certified.

Resources for Renters
3 Steps to a Healthy Home
3 Pasos y Fuera Plagas

Resources for Landlords and Property Managers on Effective Pest Control
Pest Control Basics for Property Managers
Control Pests & Save Money with Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Why IPM Makes Good Business Sense: National Center for Healthy Housing
IPM Basics
How to Pest-Proof Your Building
IPM for Multi-Family Housing: San Francisco Experience
IPM Toolkit for Owners and Managers: New York Experience

Mold and Moisture in the Home: Keep it Dry

Reducing moisture prevents and reduces mold growth. Your first action is to address the source of the moisture, which causes mold. Read more about preventing mold and other healthy homes actions from the California Department of Public Health 

Resources for Renters
CDPH Mold Guidance Booklet
Mold in the Home Video Series
Mold or Moisture in My Home: What Do I Do?
Moho o Humedad en Mi Hogar: ¿Qué Hago?

Resources for Landlords and Property Managers
3 Steps to a Pest-free Apartment
A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home

Safer Cleaning for Your Home

A Healthy Home

Choose less toxic products to reduce exposure to hazardous chemicals and also generate less household hazardous waste. The Safer Choice Label is a resource to support you in discovering or learning more about safer cleaning, car care, laundry, dish detergent, degreasers, and other consumer products that contain least toxic ingredients.

Try these simple cleaning products at home! What You Need

  • Lemon juice or white vinegar: Cuts grease and grime (don’t use undiluted vinegar if you have asthma).
  • Liquid soap: Free of antibacterial (triclosan) or sodium lauryl sulfate (detergent). Castile soap is a good option.
  • Baking soda: Removes stains and grime, acts like scouring powder.
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3% solution): Works like a disinfectant and
    removes stains.
  • Microfiber cloth: Damp microfiber removes dirt and germs.
  • Scrub brush: Helps remove stains and grime.


All-purpose cleaner: countertops, floors, appliances, walls and more.

  • Liquid soap and warm water; lemon juice optional.
  • Liquid soap, 1 tbsp. baking soda, lemon juice and water.
  • 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water.

Windows, glass, and mirrors

  • Wipe with a damp microfiber cloth.
  • 1 part white vinegar or lemon juice and 1 part water.

Sink, tub, and tile

  • Creamy scrub: 2 cups baking soda, half cup liquid soap and lemon juice.
  • Mix liquid soap, baking soda and 2 capfuls of hydrogen peroxide (3% solution).
  • Soapy water and a good scrub brush.


  • Sprinkle bowl with baking soda, then drizzle with vinegar or 3% solution hydrogen peroxide, let soak for 30 minutes, then brush.
  • Wipe toilet seat with hydrogen peroxide (3% solution).

Mold and mildew remover

  • Allow white vinegar to sit on moldy surface, then clean with hot soapy water. Dry thoroughly or mold will grow back.
  • Mix liquid soap, baking soda, and 2 capfuls of hydrogen peroxide. Apply to surface for 30 minutes, then clean with soapy water. Dry thoroughly.
  • Prevent mold! Reduce moisture, ventilate, and use ventilation fans. Mold spores float in the air and cannot be eliminated. When spores land on damp surfaces, mold can grow. 

Air freshener

  • Ventilate well, especially when cooking, bathing and cleaning. Use kitchen and bathroom fans.
  • Stick cloves into an orange.
  • Sprinkle baking soda in bottom of garbage cans.
  • Simmer water with cinnamon sticks and orange peel or cloves.

Drain cleaner and opener

  • Pour half cup baking soda down drain and follow with half cup vinegar. After 15 minutes, follow with 2 quarts boiling water.

Oven cleaner

  • Apply paste of 1/4 cup baking soda, 2 tbsp. salt, a few drops of liquid soap, and hot water. Let sit 5 minutes, then clean with scrub brush. Rinse residue off with a sponge. 

Carpet deodorizer

  • Sprinkle baking soda on carpet (option to add 10-20 drops lavender essential oil). Let it set overnight, or for as long as possible. Vacuum.

Laundry detergent

  • Use mild, biodegradable detergents. Look for naturally derived or glycerin-based, fragrance-free soaps.
  • In a gallon jug, mix 7 cups of hot water, ½ cup baking soda, and 1/4 cup salt.  and ½ cup liquid castile soap. Repeat this step with another 7 cups of hot water, ½ cup baking soda, and 1/4 cup salt. Then add 1 cup of liquid castile soap. Option to add up to 30 drops of lavender or other essential oil.
  • Avoid dryer sheets, the strong, artificial fragrances contain synthetic chemicals such as phthalates.

Carpet, Rug, and Upholstery Cleaner

  • Mix 1 quart warm water, 1 tablespoon of mild liquid soap, 2 tablespoons baking soda, and add a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar. Apply a damp cloth or sponge and rub gently. Wipe with a clean cloth and allow to dry fully.