How to Get Rid of Slugs in Your Garden or Yard

Get rid of slugs (and snails) without the use of pesticides that harm beneficial creatures and pollute our waterways

By Melissa Breyer Melissa Breyer Twitter Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehugger’s editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. Learn about our editorial process Updated April 1, 2022

Can I Pour Salt on a Slug to Kill It?

Pouring salt on a slug will kill it in a matter of seconds, however, it generally takes quite a bit of salt to do so. The salt kills the slug through osmosis – it draws water from inside the slug and rapidly dehydrates it.

The problem with this method is that the salt can damage the nearby soil, leaving it unusable for planting for years to come. Salt can also damage other surfaces the slug may be crawling on, including wood decks, tiled floors or painted surfaces.


5. Use Broken Eggshells

Scatter broken eggshells in a perimeter around slug favorites. The sharp edges are not comfortable on those soft slimy bodies. The eggshells will decompose and benefit the soil, as well.

1. Prevent slug damage with cultural practices

This first strategy doesn’t involve products, traps, or barriers. Instead, it involves the actions you take in the garden.

Slug prevention techniques involve things like:

Avoid using loose mulches where slugs are prevalent. Skip straw, hay, and shredded wood mulches and opt for compost or leaf mold instead. • Avoid watering the garden late in the day. Since slugs (and their eggs) thrive in wet conditions, always water in the morning so the garden dries by nightfall. • Switch from overhead irrigation to drip irrigation which targets water at the root zone and keeps plant foliage dry. • Plant resistant plants. Slugs dislike plants with heavily fragranced foliage, like many common herbs. They also dislike plants with fuzzy or furry foliage. • Slugs are a favorite food of many different predators. Encourage birds, snakes, lizards, toads, frogs, ground beetles, and other natural predators to make a home in your garden. Building a “beetle bump” is one of the most effective ways to control slugs naturally (find out how to build one in this article).

Snakes are exceptional predators of garden slugs.
Snakes are exceptional predators of garden slugs. Encourage them in your garden.

Controlling Slugs Using Salt

Home gardeners try all sorts of unusual remedies to rid their gardens of slugs. But this salt method often works the best.

  1. Mix the Solution

    Mix a strong solution of salt and water in a spray bottle. You don't have to be precise about measuring the salt, as long as it's still discernible in the water.

  2. Spray the Solution

    Put on your gardening gloves and spray the slugs at nightfall. The salt solution will dehydrate the slugs within hours.

  3. Wash Away the Residual Salt Spray

    Come morning, wash any residual salt spray from your plants to prevent damage.

The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

What kind of damage do slugs do?

Slugs will eat any kind of foliage, but you’ll often find them doing the most damage to the tender leaves and stems of seedlings. Slugs will also take bites out of vegetables and fruits (particularly soft fruits like strawberries), causing unsightly crops.

6. Use Killer Substances, Chemicals, and Pesticides

Salt is one of the substances that kill snails and slugs. It absorbs water from the mollusks, dehydrating and killing them. Sprinkle salt directly on them or use it to create a barrier. Warning: Salt can harm plants and other animals, so be careful when using it.

Garlic can also kill the gastropods. Mix it with water to create a solution, then spray it on the infested area.

Iron phosphate. When it comes to chemicals, this is my number-one recommendation. As mentioned earlier, this chemical is safe, so you can use it almost anywhere.

Other chemicals. Other effective chemicals include alum (aluminum sulfate), bleach (chlorine), and potassium permanganate. To use these chemicals, you only need to spray them in the infested area. Metaldehyde can also be used as a pesticide. This compound is toxic, so it may not be the best option for people with domestic animals. If you decide to use metaldehyde, you should ensure that it doesn't come into contact with people, pets, food, or beneficial animals.

Shocking results

When slugs come in contact with copper, it gives them a shock — scientists think that the slug slime reacts with the copper to produce the jolt. You can purchase copper strips and tape just for use in the garden. They’ll last for years, and you can reuse them. I like to use the strips around tender young plants, to give them a chance to get established. But you can use the strips around larger plants, too. Just be sure that no leaves touch the ground outside the copper strip, as slugs can use them as “bridges” to reach the rest of the plant. It’s a good idea to shine up your copper strips once in a while — research indicates that bright, shiny copper is more effectivethan strips that have begun to corrode.

Want a cheap alternative to copper strips? I’ve al

Want a cheap alternative to copper strips? I’ve also had good luck with copper pan scrubbers (like Chore Boy® brand) from the grocery store. These copper mesh bundles can be pulled out into long, thin ribbons and pressed into the soil around the plant, as I did in the inset of the photo. (Pin them in place with landscaping pins if you’re having a hard time keeping them in contact with the soil.) When using these scrubbers, I think the sharp edges are just as unpleasant for the slugs as the copper itself. Make sure that the ends overlap so there’s no gap to let slugs in.

9 Ways to Get Rid of Snails and Slugs in Your House and Garden

  1. Use bait.
  2. Use traps.
  3. Use barriers and repellents.
  4. Employ biological methods.
  5. Grow snail and slug-resistant plants.
  6. Use killing substances, chemicals, and pesticides.
  7. Kill and dispose of the mollusks manually.
  8. Change your watering schedule.
  9. Kill their eggs.

Each of these methods is described in detail below.

Damage caused by slugs

  • Slugs use file-like mouthparts (called a radula) to rasp and chew plant tissue.
  • Because of their mouthparts, they create irregularly shaped holes in leaves, flowers and fruit.
  • Low to moderate feeding can affect the appearance of plants but usually does not impact plant health.
  • Severe slug feeding can injure plants, especially seedlings.
  • It can also reduce the harvest of fruits and vegetables, especially when plants are young. Older plants are more tolerant of defoliation.

How Can I Keep Slugs From My Pets Food?

Slugs will invade food bowls left outside overnight. Your best bet is to simply remove the bowl after your pet has finished eating and clean up the debris. Slugs have a great sense of smell, and kibble appears to be one of those food items they will seek out.

Further, removing outdoor food bowls is a good idea for more than just preventing a slug problem. By leaving a food bowl out, you may attract even worse pests than slugs to your home!

5. How to get rid of slugs in the garden with copper

The metal copper reacts with slug slime to cause a mild electric shock and send the slug packing. You can purchase copper tape here and surround susceptible plants with a ring of copper. This is an easy technique if you just want to protect a few hostas, but it’s more challenging for larger garden areas. However, one easy way to keep slugs out of raised beds is to make a copper collar around the outer edge of the whole bed by stapling or nailing a strip of copper tape or copper strips around the top of the bed’s frame. This also works for containers where the copper tape can be placed just inside the upper rim of the pot. There’s also a copper mesh called Slug Shield (available here) that can be used in a similar manner and is reusable. It’s a bit easier to wrap around a single plant stem than copper tape or strips.

Garden slugs can be kept out of raised beds with c
Garden slugs can be kept out of raised beds with copper strips, tape, or mesh.

Controlling Slugs Using Organic Slug Bait

Commercial slug control products should be used only for major infestations. Some traditional formulas can be extremely toxic to pets (and humans). Organic products are typically safer to use.

  1. Purchase Slug Bait

    Purchase organic slug bait at your local garden center. Many products are made of iron phosphate, which is toxic to slugs but much less dangerous for humans and pets.

    Check the weather. Make sure to treat on a dry day for best results.

  2. Fill Garden Spreader With Granules and Start Treating

    Around dusk, put on your gardening gloves, and fill your garden spreader with the granules. Follow the product's instructions to determine the right amount for the area you're treating.

  3. Wait

    Wait for the slugs to feed on the product at night when they go underground. They will die upon consumption.

What Else Can I Do to Get Rid of Slugs?

Slugs can hide under larger wood bark mulch, but they dislike pine needles, making it a good choice where slugs are significant pests. Another method to protect plants is to sprinkle abrasives such as dry ashes or food-grade diatomaceous earth around plants. These abrasives are major irritants to slug skin. Slugs also like to congregate underneath outdoor decorative rugs on patios and decks. Sprinkling diatomaceous earth under the outer perimeter of the rug can help keep them at bay. Repeat periodically, as this abrasive becomes ineffective when wet.

Are Slugs Beneficial to Gardens in Any Way?

Slugs can be part of a healthy garden ecosystem. They are decomposers, much like composting worms. They feed on fallen leaves and dead insects–and they also provide a food source for birds, toads, turtles and snakes.

How Do I Get Rid of Slugs?

The best bet in reducing slug numbers is to get rid of places they like to hide. They like damp, dark places under boards, rocks, garden debris, and flowerpots. In fact, any of these items can be used as lures. Check under them each day and get rid of any slugs you find. Repeat daily until the slugs are gone. Adding some decaying fruit underneath a board in a damp area will also draw in slugs so you can remove them. Wearing rubber gloves, throw the slugs in a plastic bag, seal, and dispose.

3. Build a Sharp Barrier

A slug’s Achilles ankle is its soft body, easily irritated by sharp or dry materials. Use this to your advantage by sprinkling wood ashes, diatomaceous earth, gravel, or lava rock in a wide band around individual plants—or the entire garden—to discourage slugs, as they won’t want to crawl across the bumpy barrier. Wood ashes have the bonus benefit of adding potassium to your soil and raising the pH, so consider choosing that method as your first line of defense.


What about organic pesticide methods to get rid of slugs (like Sluggo)?

If these methods don’t work for you, the next line of defense would be to look into natural and organic pesticides for tackling slugs. Sluggo by Monterey is a common organic pesticide for slugs and snails made from iron phosphate. It works by disturbing the gut of the slugs after they ingest it, and then they stop eating and eventually die a few days later.

While iron phosphate is definitely an option if you are dealing with a very heavy, very destructive slug infestation, we recommend you try other options first if you are dealing with a minor or moderate infestation. While iron phosphate is generally accepted as safe, it is attractive to pets and birds and has been known to be toxic to some dogs. Use it with caution around pets and children.

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