The internet and social media abound with “Do it yourself” “Homemade” “Natural” weed killer and bug control articles. Many will promise that these mixes are easy, safe, and very effective. This blog will not discuss efficacy, but we will discuss if these homemade products are in fact pesticides.
By the simplest definition, any substance that is killing, repelling, or impacting a pest (bug, weed, in-laws) is defined as a pesticide. Getting a little more specific, the EPA requires any substance that is distributed, sold, or marketed as impacting a pest be registered through the EPA as a proper pesticide. So if a neighbor makes up their own “home brew” pesticide and sells it to other neighbors, they are illegally making and selling a pesticide. So, there are certain circumstances where YES that homebrew is a pesticide and could be illegal. Furthermore, if a landscape company or someone you hire uses a “home brew” it must be registered, or they are illegally using a pesticide.
A homeowner using something they create on their own property does NOT concern the EPA. However, the safety of these mixes has NOT been tested by the EPA. In most cases the safety has not been tested or confirmed by anybody. Without any testing, claims about “safe” are difficult, or impossible to make. Just because the mix is made up of common household items does not necessarily make it safe. Bleach can burn the skin, concentrated vinegar can irritate the eyes, and some mixtures can create toxic fumes. Common does NOT equal safe!
For more detailed information about the legality and safety of homemade pesticides refer to Are Homemade Pesticides Legal?. Additionally there is this article Soaps, Detergents, and Pest Management which discusses some of the most common myths about certain homemade pesticides. Pesticides can be a useful tool for controlling pests. It is important to always consider ALL the tools that can be used for pest control, in addition to pesticides. To put this another way, make sure you are using an integrated pest management (IPM) program.
Are Homemade Pesticides Legal? https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/PI288
Soaps Detergents, and Pest Management https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/pests-and-diseases/pests/management/soaps-detergents-and-pest-management.html