Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Quick Tips

Garden Chemicals: Safe Use & Disposal

Published   5/21

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Correctly ID pests before applying a pesticide.

Correctly ID pests before applying a pesticide.

Personal protective equipment.

Personal protective equipment.

Don’t pour pesticides down storm drains!

Don’t pour pesticides down storm drains!

Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.) are designed to be toxic to the pests they target. When used properly, pesticides can protect your plants or home from damage. However, when the label instructions aren’t followed correctly, plant injury may occur, pests may not be controlled, human health may be impaired, and pesticides may contribute to soil, air, or water pollution. Fertilizer products may also have negative environmental impacts when they get into waterways.

Are pesticides necessary to control pests?

  • Use pesticides only when nonchemical methods are ineffective, and pests are reaching intolerable levels, then choose the least toxic, most effective product.
  • Contact your local UC Master Gardener or Cooperative Extension office for help identifying your pest or an alternative pest control method.

If you must use garden chemicals:

  • Select least toxic products that target your pest. Examples include bait stations, insecticidal soaps and oils, and microbial insecticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
  • Buy ready-to-use products when possible, as you don’t have to measure and mix them.
  • Don’t water after applying garden chemicals unless the label tells you to. Never let pesticide or fertilizer run off into storm drains.
  • Avoid applying chemicals outdoors when rain is forecast or when it is windy.
  • Don’t apply pesticides or fertilizers on paved surfaces.

When using and storing garden chemicals:

  • Always wear shoes, a long-sleeved shirt, pants, eye protection, and any other equipment listed on the product label.
  • Properly measure concentrated formulations of pesticides. Keep all measuring tools for the garden separate from those used for food.
  • Never apply more product than the amount listed on the label.
  • Always keep chemicals in their original container and store them tightly capped in a locked cabinet out of the reach of children and pets.

For help in an emergency, call the California Poison Control System at 1-800-222-1222. Visit  for more information.

Disposing of pesticides and fertilizers:

  • If you can’t use up your pesticides and fertilizers, consider giving them away.
  • Sewage treatment plants aren’t designed to remove all toxic chemicals from wastewater. Pouring garden chemicals into a storm drain, down the sink, or into the toilet pollutes water and is against the law!
  • The only allowable way to dispose of pesticides is to use them up according to label directions, or to take them to a household hazardous waste site.

For the Household Hazardous Waste Disposal site nearest you, call 1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687) or visit for more information.

Garden Chemicals: Safe Use & Disposal

Minimize the use of pesticides that pollute our waterways. Use nonchemical alternatives or less toxic pesticide products whenever possible. Read product labels carefully and follow instructions on proper use, storage, and disposal.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

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