Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dorm Kitchen: Cleaning and Pest Prevention

Dorm kitchen are scary places. A lot of them are nasty, not deeply cleaned in years and regularly abused by sloppy college students. That means that most dorm kitchens have their fair share of vermin, mice and insect alike.

If you're alright with insects supplementing your daily protein intake and sharing your home with the City Mouse, skip this. If that idea makes you uncomfortable, read on.

Common Pests

Panty moths are a common pest that once introduced never seem to leave. It's quite easy to bring them into the dorm; just one tainted bag of grain means that the whole dorm will be infested.

Weevils and other grain pests are brought in a similar fashion.

Mice learn how to break into older buildings and remember which buildings serve as a good food source. No matter how many traps are laid down, a messy home will have mice. That means that your dorm and dorm kitchen has mice. Often, if you sit quietly in your kitchen with the light off and a bit of peanut butter out on the floor, close to a refrigerator or oven, you can see the mice venture out from one of their favorite hiding places.

Roaches are a step beyond the usual; if you see roaches you should contact your house master to try to get rid of the infestation. However, sometimes it is nearly impossible to get rid of cockroaches as they nest. To get rid of roaches you have get them all in one go. Everything else is damage control on a pest that's very hard to kill.

Silverfish probably aren't going to be in your kitchen. More likely, you'll see them in your bathroom or book shelf. These bugs eat paper and wood pulp but will go after starches and flour.

House centipede (above) is a bit of a misnomer. These aren't pests; they eat pests! They even go after bed bugs which makes them a bit of a hear. These creepy little bugs have frightened me more than once, climbing all up the wall or scampering off real quick as I enter a room. But don't try to kill them: they eat all those real pests listed above. They don't cary diseases so they're safe to leave alone. 

On wards to the advice~

Clean your cabinets!

  • Vacuum your cabinets thoroughly.
    • This will get rid of all the insect eggs and dust. 
    • Be very sure to get the corners. That's where cobwebs and eggs tend to be.
  • Bleach everything.
    • Take a cloth rag or paper towel and soak it in bleach. Soak. Full on soak. Then rub all surfaces down with the rag, such that they are slightly damp. 
    • Open a window or turn on the kitchen ventilation. Let the bleach sit for a few minutes. The bleach needs to sit to kill and disinfect everything.
    • Wipe down with water, getting rid of the bleach. 
  • Add a repellant. Natural repellants can simply be left in your cabinet without worry of hurting you. Check any sprays or poisons to make sure that they won't be hurting you as well as your unwanted cabinet guests. 
    • Moths: Lavender, Mint, Cedar
    • Weevils: Bay leaves
    • Mice: Mint, Clove, Dryer sheets 
    • Cockroaches: Bay leaves, Catnip, Garlic
    • Silverfish: Bay leaves, Clove, Eucalyptus
  • Periodically check and clean.

Based on all my posts about cleaning, I probably come off as a clean freak.
But let me tell you a little story.

My floor had a moth infestation, started in October and still going on. I had done my little cleaning routine with my cabinets at the start of the year and I did it once more when I saw the first of those horrid little moths. I told everyone on the floor what to do: throw out grains that weren't in glass or thick plastic air tight containers and to vacuum and bleach their cabinets.

Some listened. Most didn't.

Since then, all the other girls on my floor have had issues with moths fluttering out of their flour or little larva crawling about in their grains. Even now! We still catch sight of moths.

I have not had any moth problems. I haven't seen one moth egg, nor larva, nor grown moth in my cupboards and drawers. Not even a single one flying out of my cabinet to go to better shores. I haven't had to thrown anything away since the initial purge, unlike some girls who have had to throw our multiple containers of rice, cereal, and flour.

Listen to me: Clean your cupboards thoroughly and avoid the pests!

Talk to upperclassmen about what pests are common to your dorm and take steps to prevent them.

Air tight Tupperware

It's important to have airtight tupperware. Make sure that you have good thick plastic or it will be chewed through. I don't deny that this is an expensive investment. But it is very worth it. Good tupperware will save money because there will be no purges of a full cabinet. I swear, girls on my floor lost about $100 for each infestation of their cabinet. Not to mention that this tupperware lasts a while, even after graduation.

 Most pests can chew through thin plastic and cardboard. That means that the store packaging or plastic bags is not going to cut it. The moment you bring something into your home, transfer it to an airtight container.

For large purchases of grains such as rice or flour, put the grains in the freezer for 4-5 days. The extended cold will kill pests. Shorter stays will simply put them in hibernation which they will wake up from once in the cabinets. After a long freeze, the grains transfer immediately to an airtight container. 

Invest in glass jars with the plastic airtight seal.