Staying Safe When Working with Pesticides and Herbicides
Our tips on staying safe when working with chemicals outdoors.
Spring welcomes back our plants and greenery – and naturally, a ton of bugs. Keeping these pests at bay can be a challenge, and many people opt to use pesticides to keep them away. While pesticides may be effective, they can be dangerous if they aren’t handled and used properly. The key to safe pest control is to always follow the instructions carefully. Take a look at our tips on how to protect yourself and your family when working with these chemicals.
Herbicides and pesticides: Know the difference
Using the right product is crucial for home pest control. Make sure the label lists the pest or plant you want to destroy. If you’re unsure, ask a professional which chemical is best.
Herbicides are used to kill undesirable plants, especially ‘weeds’. This can include clovers, pussy willows, and of course, the dreaded dandelion. Some herbicides will kill all plants, while others are designed to target specific species.
Pesticides can destroy a number of things, including insects, fungus, snails and slugs. Some can also kill weeds. These chemicals either work on contact or over a longer period of time.
Wear protective gear
Never attempt pest control with your skin exposed. Wear coveralls or a pair of long pants with a long-sleeved shirt, and a pair of gloves. Goggles and a face shield may seem like overkill, but essential for this kind of job. Dandelion herbicides, lawn insect killers, and fungus control products should never be touched with bare hands.
Some pesticides will require mixing before use. Do this in a well-ventilated area, away from others. And never guesstimate the measurements – always mix using the recommended amounts.
When you’re mixing, remember to:
Keep the container below eye level to avoid splashing into your face
Stay away from open flames
Use a knife or pair of scissors that are ONLY used for opening pesticide bags
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Don’t spray the entire lawn
A backyard teeming with pesticides is bad news, especially if you have children or pets. Try to avoid spraying the entire lawn. When dealing with weeds, for example, spot spray just the unwanted species. And use insecticides only on shrubs that attract pests. Most importantly, don’t spray when it’s windy as chemicals can travel to unintended areas.
Keep the yard off limits
Until the herbicides and pesticides have fully dried, it’s best to stay away from the area. Check the label for a specified ‘re-entry’ time, and keep the backyard off limits until this period has passed. If you have a vegetable garden, follow the recommended waiting time between pesticide application and harvest. Nearby eating areas should be thoroughly wiped down with water before use.
Always keep pesticides stored in their original container, protect instruction labels so you can read them in the future. These chemicals should be tucked away in an area reserved solely for pesticide storage, such as an isolated shed or cabinet. The space should be well-ventilated and made of fire-resistant materials.
Consider more natural alternatives
If you’re worried about using harsh chemicals, there are greener options. You could hand-pull weeds, till undesirable species, or cover them with black tarps to stunt growth. To control insects, use fennel, catnip or lemongrass as a natural repellant. Beer and vinegar are non-toxic bug deterrents, too.
Whether you choose pesticides or chemical-free alternatives, safety should always be your priority. With a few extra precautions, your yard can be an enjoyable space — without bugs and weeds in the way!