17 Non-Toxic Slug Control Methods

Non-toxic slug control can be a real challenge,

especially if you have pets or young children and you don’t want to use poisonous slug/snail pellets.

Therefore to salvage your plants, you might want to use one (or more) of these 17 non-toxic slug control methods to immediately control or kill these slugs (or snails).

Use non-toxic slug control on these slugsGarden slugs and snails love tender-leaved plants — any plants: vegetables, herbs, or even flowers.  So if your plants have no more leaves or your tender stems have disappeared and, in addition, you see tiny shiny slimy trails on the ground or on the foliage, you have been visited by either slugs or snails– and the sooner you use slug control or slug killer the better. So to help you get rid of your slugs or snails . . .

Here are 17 non-toxic slug control methods that can help you either control or kill these pests.

1. The first time I ever had to use slug control they were in the process of eating all my marigolds. As I did not want to use the slug pellets, I decided I would try getting rid of these pests by hand picking them off the plant.

Knowing the snails would come out after the sun had disappeared for the night, I would use a flashlight and go about handpicking the slugs and throwing them in a pail of sudsy water. However, these little pests are smart; I had no sooner dropped them in the bucket of water, they would try to swim to the edge and climb up and out of the plastic pail. Especially the older mature ones had to be watched. I learned to fill only 1/3 or 1/4 of the pail with the water so that I could better see those who were trying to get out and flick them back into the pail. I soon realized this was not my favorite method of slug control.

(I did not like the feel of the snail’s slimy stuff left behind on my hand, so instead of using my bare hands to grab the snail, I would use a small trowel to pick up the snail or use a stick to flick the snail into the pail of sudsy water. Another option would be to wear a pair of those thin white plastic gloves if I wished to use my fingers to pick the snail off the plant).

2. A second  slug control method is popularly known as the beer trap; that is,  drowning slugs/snails in beer or a yeasty concoction.(Beats handpicking them!!)

The idea is to attract the slugs to the beer container which is sunk into the ground to almost ground level. When the slugs come into the container and try to reach the liquid, they fall into the beer and the alcohol in the beer destroys their body tissue.

Remember though: Nobody likes stale beer — not even the slugs. Mike McGrath, Organic Gardening, says that if you want to use beer to trap your slug, you must replenish every day. He adds that slugs are repulsed by stale beer, that they prefer “really cheap yeasty beers”!

Alternate mixture: Instead of beer, you can make your own Yeast and Honey Mixture which can be even more effective: Boil some yeast and honey in water. The proportions aren’t very critical. Just mix some up, boil, cool, and use. OR

Mix one tablespoon of yeast and one tablespoon of sugar in a little bit of water and leave in a warm room (for three days if necessary) until bubbles form in the mixture before using it.

Directions for beer trap:

A. Find a clean plastic margarine or deep yogout container or any other plastic container at least 3 inches deep. The more container you can put below ground level the better. You don’t want these smart slugs to crawl out again.

B. Cut windows one inch high by two inches wide on each side of the container about one-half inch below the rim.

C.  Bury the prepared container in your garden so that the windows are about 1/8 of an inch above the ground to prevent helpful ground beetles from falling in.

D. Fill the dish about half with the prepared liquid bait: unpasturized draft beer, beer alone, or a concoction made with yeast and honey or yeast and sugar.

E. Empty out and refill the container with fresh concoction or beer every two or three days. (Be sure you don’t have a pet who loves beer)

3.  A third slug control trap can be made by taking an old hose or piece of tubing, cutting it into sections about 2 ft long and leaving these sections in different areas where you have problems. In the morning, empty these sections of  tubing by holding them over sudsy water in the bottom of a high plastic pail and tapping on the tubing or hose until all slugs have been forced out into the sudsy water.

4. A fourth slug trap which can be used for slug control and which I have used a lot was to place large boards between my garden rows so that I could walk on them in order to avoid compacting my soil too much. Every day, (morning and sometimes night) I would check underneath these boards and would dispense of any snail found there.

This slug control method {which also works for getting rid of snails) was not only easy to maintain but also brought results. After a while, I would get maybe only one or two a day, so the population gradually diminished.

5. If you have a raised garden, you can always use inverted flower pots along its edge to trap the slugs when they want to get away from the hot sun. Arrange the pot so that it is slightly raised on one side or overhanging a bit so that the slug can slither into it whenever the sun comes up and it needs a place to hide. Then do the rounds, collect the slugs, and drown them in sudsy water in a deep pail.

6. A different slug control method is to use wood ashes on the ground.  Wood ashes is a good slug deterrent, for slugs will not crawl over wood ashes.

When I was a young girl, we had to help weed my grandmother’s huge garden, and during all those years I don’t remember seeing slugs or snails in her garden, much less plants destroyed by slugs.

It was her custom to empty the cold ashes from the stove in the valley-like walking area between the rows of vegetables “to deter slugs” she would say. Her vegetables were always beautiful and healthy.

Note: It must be clean wood ashes. Avoid using painted, varnished, glued-together such as plywood, or tinted wood to create your ashes.

We also had the nicest rhubarb around, for every spring my mother would spread a thin layer of ashes over the patch of rhubarb before it would begin to grow. She had to repeat the procedure once or twice more during the summer, but our rhubarb was always left untouched. Again, unpolluted wood must be used to make your ashes.

7. Another slug deterrent is to use crayola chalk. Snails will not cross a thick chalk line.

8. Snails also hate crawling through salt, but avoid using salt on the soil or on the plant itself for it can damage your plants. Salt might be good slug control option as a barrier on a cement walkway or patio stones along the edge of your bed of plants.

9. Here’s a different method which can be used for slug control: Zap slugs safely — with a mixture of non-sudsing ammonia and water. It is much better than the salt mixture that some books recommend, for salt can harm the soil and/or your plants.

In a spray bottle make a solution of 1 part ammonia to 2 parts water. You can also make it 1 part ammonia to 4 parts water, or even 1 part ammonia to 10 parts water. The general consensus seems to be that 1 part ammonia to 4 parts water works best; however, always test to see how your plants react to the ammonia solution; then mix accordingly.

Whenever you see a slug, zap it with the solution and the slug disintegrates in seconds. If you have delicate flower petals, first knock the slug to the ground with your bottle, then spray it.

10. Use copper barriers as a slug control method: – copper shocks slugs.

Since the copper tape you buy in the gardening store is rather expensive, check whether in your area there is a sheet metal shop where they make air-conditioning ducts, flashing, rain gutters, etc. If so, ask them if they have any scrap left over from jobs. They may sell these scraps to you by the pound.

Try to find copper strips from 4 to 6 inches wide and as long as possible. Then push the copper strip upright into the ground around each plant so that half is above the soil level and half is below. This copper barrier is extremely effective, for slugs stay away from it as though it were an electric fence. The wider the barrier the better, for the slugs cannot “hump” over these wide 4 to 6 inch strips of copper.

11. Another slug control alternative that destroys the slug is to take human hair clippings which you could probably get from your hairdresser or barber and surround your plants with it. When slugs try to crawl across human hair, they get all tangled up; they then strangle and die. In addition to stopping slugs from getting to your plant, human hair has the benefit of being a great fertilizer, for it contains a lot of nitrogen. Do I dare say that hair clippings is free?

12. Snails and slugs don’t like crawling over abrasive surfaces; therefore, you can protect young plants by taking extremely rough sandpaper, cutting out a size at least as big as a CD or an old 45 RPM record, and cutting out the center as you would for a doughnut. Then place this piece of sandpaper as a collar around the plant. This is a slug control method which works well as a deterrent.

13. Another slug control method, this one a killer of slugs,  is diatomaceous earth which is made of tiny skeletal remains of tiny prohistoric sea creatures called diatom. The shells of these single celled fossils are broken down during processing into needle like silica particles that like the sandpaper can penetrate the bodies of insects on contact.

Just spread some diatomaceous earth on the ground around your plants. If it rains, you must replace this diatomaceous earth.

Using diatomaceous has some drawbacks in that it cannot discriminate which bug is good and which is the bad bug. Therefore although it isn’t harmful for the environment, it can be harmful to beneficial bugs including the earthworms.

14. You can diminish the slug population by at least 75% if you water your garden in the early morning rather than at night. Slugs feel comfortable when the environment is moist, so if you water in the morning, the soil and plants will have dried by evening, so your garden will not feel so attractive.

15. Another habit which will help slug control immensely is to till your soil in the fall. Tilling your soil tears apart the slugs’  winter habitat; therefore young slugs cannot reach adulthood and restart the cycle. Also what was to be their food is spread all over, so the slugs end up starving or being killed off by the winter weather.

16. One method of slug control which recently came to my attention is that changing the pH of the soil by making it more alkaline will deter the slugs/snails; they like it acidic. Garden lime will do the job if sprayed on a lawn or around your garden.

NOTE however!!! You can burn your garden or your lawn by adding too much lime. So please, please, go easy. Check your directions and check with your nursery owner to make sure you will not overdo it.

17. If worse comes to worse, you can always use the slug control method my   my daughter used.  You can always get your child to collect the snails and give them a penny per snail they collect.  Her daughter ended up with pails of snails, and now there’s not a snail to be found in her yard.

There you are — 17 different methods which can be used to diminish and/or get rid of slugs – and snails for that matter. Hopefully at least one of these non-toxic slug control suggestions will be of use to you,

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6 Responses to “17 Non-Toxic Slug Control Methods

  • 1
    M. C.
    May 25th, 2011 12:16

    thanks for your tips.
    DEATH TO SLUGS!!!!!!!( and snails)

  • 2
    August 21st, 2011 14:32

    one last tip , is beer in the clam shells around the plants, they will drown and simply dump, refill, replace daily! bye bye slugs ~! I cant believe i have a slug party in my peas!

    Thank you, Jon. It has never been my favourite but it does work.
    I will add it to the list.

  • 3
    Lucille Aldred
    May 29th, 2012 21:39

    I have printed out this info and will try some of these ideas, when at my garden centre today they had posted 2 suggestions regarding slugs. Would like your opinion

    2-3 tbsp of epson salts in gallon of water and pour this on the areas where the slugs come to feed. Will this amount do harm to plants, I have raised beds also window boxes that I have planted scarlet runners in and these seem to be getting bitten up as well as the reg bean plants in the raised bed.


    Hi Lucille

    According to the Wikipedia, “Magnesium sulfate (or magnesium sulphate), commonly called Epsom Salt, is an inorganic salt (chemical compound) containing magnesium, sulfur and oxygen. Epsom Salts is a natural mineral that was discovered in the well water of the town of Epsom in England. The salts’ chemical composition is hydrated magnesium sulfate (about 10% magnesium and 13% sulfur). Epsom salt occurs naturally as a pure mineral.”

    “In gardening and other agriculture, magnesium sulfate is used to correct a magnesium or sulfur deficiency in soil; magnesium is an essential element in the chlorophyll molecule, and sulfur is another important micronutrient. It is most commonly applied to potted plants, or to magnesium-hungry crops, such as potatoes, roses, tomatoes, peppers and cannabis. The advantage of magnesium sulfate over other magnesium soil amendments (such as dolomitic lime) is its high solubility, which also allows the option of foliar feeding.”

    Deborah Harding from Suite101.com says this: “Magnesium is important when it comes to seed germination and is also important in the production of chlorophyll. Magnesium strengthens cell walls and helps plants absorb nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Sulfur helps plants produce required vitamins, amino acids, and enzymes.”

    From what I understand, Epsom Salt is not as dense as ordinary salt; therefore, I can gather from that explanation above that epsom salt can be used safely on leaves when diluted as suggested at your nursery.

    I have never experimented with Epsom Salt, but if Epsom Salt is excellent for tomato plants and can replace boric acid which is added to the soil to avoid the leaves yellowing and falling off, I should try it on my tomatoes. In this case I would use your solution of 1 Tablespoon of Epsom Salt to 1 gallon of water for foliar feeding.

    My suggestion: If I were in your situation, I would mix 1 tablespoon of Epsom Salt with 1 gallon of water and spray SOME of the plants where slugs are found. (I’m not sure I would try the full 2 or 3 tablespoons yet) I would begin by spraying a plant which is out of sight and wait a day or so to see how the plants react. (Vegetables can usually take sprays better than flowers.) If all goes well, then try spraying the other plants.

    IMPORTANT: Be sure to spray early in the morning before the heat of the day to avoid leaf burning.

    Please let me know if this method works for slugs, and if so, I can add it to the list.


  • 4
    Linda Rae Mays
    June 11th, 2012 13:50

    I found this article to be very helpful. For starters I am going to be more consistent about watering in the morning, save hair from brushes and start using wood ashes. Thank you!
    Hi Linda

    Just be careful where you’re using the ashes as it can change the pH of your soil to being more alkaline. A little bit won’t hurt, but on a consistent basis, it might. If you are using ashes much, consistently check your soil with a pH meter to make sure the soil stays within the proper pH for the plant.

    Good luck



  • 5
    April 10th, 2017 16:16

    Great list of safe snail killing. I was so uniformed and careless for not reading the back of the box when I used Sluggo granuals -then I read that it will kill lizards too. Lizards eat snails. 15 yrs ago when I first moved here I saw large alligator lizards and barely a snail. As soon as I saw 2 or 3 snails I killed it with those granuals-which killed my large lizards. I did this every year until 2 years ago. I do see lizards but they are still small and the snails are now horrible and numerous. Great list. Thank you I will try the coffee grounds and the copper shock therapy. Thanks again

  • 6
    Nathan Egbert
    May 3rd, 2017 21:55

    I’ll be frank here, I hate slugs. I really really hate slugs, and where I live, there are no indigenous slugs. That did not stop them hitching a ride into my garden where they now prosper. Years I have spent battling the slimy little miscreants. I usually use bamboo BBQ skewers, poking them through one at a time until the stick can’t hold any more.

    After reading the article, I was excited to try some new methods. Checking the cupboards for ammonia, I found a jug of vinegar. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try so I filled a spray bottle and flipped over known slug shelters. There they were, in mass, all cozy for the day. Two sprays with the vinegar and I found myself quite satisfied with the results. They may be dead, but at least they are pickled!

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