Introduction to safe pesticide use

This portion of the website discusses pesticides and pest management for the Homeowner. This website provides information on selecting, applying, storing, and disposing of pesticides and pesticide containers. On the left side of the screen, there are ‘folder tabs’ that address important topics. You can click any tab for specific information or read through all of them to gain a more complete knowledge on handling pesticides properly. Remember, when using pesticides, it is your responsibility to protect yourself and the environment. Be sure to follow all label directions- it’s the law!


A pest is any unwanted organism that causes problems. Most organisms are not pests or are pests only in certain conditions. Many insects, pathogens (disease-causing organisms), weeds, mollusks (slugs and snails), fish, birds, and a va­riety of mammals, from rats to deer, are competitors for our food and other resources. Some pests destroy build­ings and other structures and reduce the aesthetic and recreational value of the landscape. Others transmit dis­eases or just annoy us or our domestic animals.
Pesticides are used to kill a pest in order to prevent or reduce damage. Pesticides should be considered tools or steps in a process. Before using a pesticide, we encourage you to read the section on Understanding Pest Management, and learn about integrated pest management strategies to help prevent and control pest problems.


Pesticides available at your local stores are registered with the EPA as “general-use” pesticides. While you do not need certification to apply these pesticides to your property, it is still important that you read and follow the label directions closely. Pesticides are often categorized according to the pest or problem that they control. Pesticides are not just insecticides, but a whole realm of different products and pesticide-treated products. Because of this it is important to identify the problem before buying a pesticide. Common pesticides include:

  • Disinfectants—kill bacteria: bleach, ammonia, kitchen/bathroom cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, disinfectant aerosols, tub & tile cleaners, pool and spa cleaners
  • Fungicides—kill fungi and mildew: rose and flower sprays, treated seeds, paint additives that prevent mildew growth
  • Herbicides—kill unwanted plants: weed killers, cut-stump treatments, weed-and-feed lawn care products
  • Insecticides—kill/repel insects, ticks, and mites: garden dusts, soap sprays, mosquito repellents, bug sprays, ant and roach baits, flea shampoos, flea and tick collars, moth balls
  • Rodenticides—kills rats and mice: mouse and rat bait stations
  • Wood preservatives—protect wood from insects and fungi: pressure-treated wood
  • Vertebrate Repellents—keep deer, raccoons, and rabbits away from your garden

Know the Law

How to Identify a Pesticide–The sale and use of pesticides is regulated federally by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An EPA Registration number is printed on the label of most pesticides (e.g., EPA Reg. No. 1234-567); the number automatically identifies the product as a pesticide (see Reading the Pesticide Label). Some products may contain active ingredients that are considered “minimum risk”. These products will not have an EPA registration number, but must still comply with minimum EPA standards regarding labeling information. Pesticides must be sold in the manufacturer’s original container with a complete label. If you have doubts that a pesticide is legal, contact your State Lead (Pesticide) Agency. In most states, pesticide regulation is part of the Department of Agriculture.

(adapted from HomePEST Fact Sheet #1)

  1. Understanding Pest Management—The most effective strategy for controlling pests
  2. Selecting a Pesticide—What you need to know, to select an appropriate pesticide
  3. Reading the Label—The pesticide label is your best guide to using pesticides safely and effectively.
  4. Using Pesticides Safely and Correctly—How to prevent pesticide exposure
  5. Transporting Pesticides—A guide for transporting pesticides safely
  6. Pesticide and Container Disposal—Follow these safety recommendations for safe disposal of pesticides and their container
  7. Store Pesticides Safely—Follow these guidelines to store pesticides safely
  8. Prevent Child Poisonings—Take these precautions to protect children from pesticide exposure.
  9. First Aid—How to recognize pesticide poisoning and give first aid
  10. Handling Spills—What you need to do when a pesticide is spilled
  11. Choosing a Pest Control Company—How to hire a pest control company that will do a good job
  12. Calculating the Correct Amount—Using just the right amount of pesticide minimizes the risk and maximizes control
  13. Information Sources—For more information on pesticides and pest management
  14. Reduce Exposure from Other’s Use—This section describes sources of exposure other than your own use of pesticides.
  15. Non-Chemical Pest Controls—Non-chemical pest control methods may provide dependable pest control,
  16. Drop Spreader Calibration—How to calibrate a drop spreader
  17. Rotary Spreader Calibration—How to calibrate a rotary spreader
  18. Compressed Air Sprayer Calibration—How to calibrate a compressed air sprayer
  19. Hose-end Sprayer Calibration—How to calibrate a hose-end sprayer
  20. Siphoning Bucket Sprayer Calibration—How to calibrate a siphoning bucket sprayer
  21. Trombone Bucket Sprayer Calibration—How to calibrate a trombone bucket sprayer
  22. Resources for Additional Reading