Slugs are great for cleaning up dead garden debris and providing nitrogen-rich fertilizer that can help your garden thrive, but when the population of these pests increases rapidly, you have an infestation on your hands that can destroy flower bulbs, eat seedlings, chew through leaves, and make a mess of your vegetable garden. Slug killers are the best way to quickly eliminate the problem before it can get worse.
The best slug killer for your home depends on several factors, including the active ingredient, the affected area, and whether you have kids or pets. Certain slug killers can be harmful to small children and pets, so it might make sense to steer clear of these potent products. The top slug killers listed below are a good place to start the search for the best slug killer for your yard and garden.
- BEST OVERALL: Natria Snail and Slug Killer Bait Granules
- RUNNER UP: Corry’s Slug & Snail Killer, 3.5 lb
- AFFORDABLE FAVORITE: Garden Safe Slug & Snail Bait
- ECO PICK: Monterey Sluggo Wildlife and Pet Safe Slug Killer
- ALSO CONSIDER: Ortho Bug-Geta Snail and Slug Killer
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Slug Killer
Slug killers are used to control slug infestations in your yard and garden so you can enjoy your flowers and any fruit or vegetables yielded from the garden without concern for slimy pests. Criteria to keep in mind when selecting a slug killer include coverage, form, ingredients, and several other features detailed below.
The coverage of a slug killer refers to the area of effectiveness. Outside this space, slugs may still be drawn to the bait, but it’s less likely. The coverage is a product-specific feature that varies in range from 50 feet to more than 1,000 feet, so it’s important to read the product information and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for use.
Keep in mind that the coverage measurement provided by manufacturers refers to an area based on a specified amount of slug killer. To protect an area larger than the stated coverage, just use more slug killer, but be sure to apply the pellets or liquid slug killer according to the product directions.
Slug killers usually come in one of two forms: pellet (or granular) or liquid.
- Pellet slug killers, also referred to as granular, are the most common form for slug killers. The pellets are distributed evenly around the garden and then placed strategically in areas where water pools. The pellets can last for up to 40 days before they need to be replaced and are designed to be resistant to rain.
- Liquid slug killers typically come in a concentrated form that needs to be mixed with water before treating the garden or lawn. They can be applied similarly to pellet slug killers; however, liquid formulas are more vulnerable to being washed away than pellets. It may be a good idea to re-treat the yard and garden after heavy rain.
Slug killers are designed with several different active ingredients, each intended to kill invading slugs but using different mechanisms with varying degrees of success.
- Metaldehyde works by interfering with the mucus production ability of slugs, which slows their digestion and mobility, making them vulnerable to dehydration. Slugs affected by metaldehyde usually die within a few days. However, metaldehyde can be harmful to children and pets, so it isn’t the best option for parents of small children and pet owners.
- Sodium ferric ethylenediaminetetraacetate (sodium ferric EDTA) destroys hemocyanin, which is a copper compound in the blood of slugs that helps to carry oxygen. This active ingredient takes 3 to 4 days to kill an affected slug, but it’s relatively safe for children and pets because vertebrates use hemoglobin for this function, not hemocyanin.
- Iron phosphate damages the digestive tissue of a slug’s stomach and causes it to stop eating altogether. This type of slug killer may take up to 1 week to kill the slug, but there are no adverse human health effects from iron phosphate beyond slight to moderate eye irritation if it comes in contact with your eye. Iron phosphate is also safe for pets.
- Sulfur has a similar effect on the digestive tissue of a slug as the damage caused by iron phosphate. However, it works at a faster pace and could take as little as 1 to 3 days to kill the slug. Slug killers that use sulfur aren’t a good idea for homes with kids and pets; if sulfur is ingested in high enough quantities, it can be harmful and even fatal.
The longevity of a slug killer refers to the maximum length of time during which the slug killer will remain effective at luring and killing slugs. Beyond this point in time, the slug killer may still have some potency, but it is significantly reduced and will continue to decline in efficacy. Typically, a slug killer will last for up to 30 to 40 days; however, this depends on the specific product.
Check the product information and the manufacturer’s directions to determine the slug killer’s longevity, but also keep in mind that weather conditions can be an influencing factor. Pellets are resistant to rain and running water, but freezing temperatures can reduce their effectiveness. Liquid slug killers aren’t affected by freezing temperature changes, but heavy rain can wash them away.
Any time a pest problem is being treated, safety should be a primary concern, especially in homes with kids or pets. Children can find, handle, and eat slug pellets that have been applied to the garden if parents aren’t watchful.
The same situation can occur with pets that are left out in the yard unattended. Liquid slug killers don’t carry the same risk because they seep into the ground quickly and don’t draw attention, but pets can still lick or eat the soil, ingesting the slug killer.
Slug killers that use sodium ferric EDTA and iron phosphate as active ingredients are relatively safe for children and pets; however, metaldehyde and sulfur products can be harmful, and even fatal, in large enough quantities.
Our Top Picks
The products below have been selected based on coverage, form, and the active ingredient. They also take into account the longevity of the product, safety concerns, and overall quality. These products are among the best slug killer options for keeping your yard and garden protected.
The slug killer has a wide range of effects that can stretch from 1,500 to 3,000 feet, based on a ratio of 0.5 to 1 pound of slug killer per 1,000 feet. It can be applied by sprinkling the pellets carefully from the package using the twist-cap spout. The narrow opening makes it easy to control the flow of pellets from the package so the user doesn’t unintentionally pour too much or too little slug killer.
This iron phosphate-based slug killer is a good option for homes with kids and pets because its active ingredient is relatively harmless to humans and common household pets. After application, the pellets can remain effective for between 3 to 4 weeks before needing to be replaced, even after periods of heavy rain.
The slug killer uses sodium ferric EDTA as an active ingredient, which is relatively safe for use around kids and pets. This formula kills slugs and snails faster than iron phosphate, so it’s a good option for quickly tackling a large infestation.
Corry’s slug and snail killer comes in a 3.5-pound container, ensuring there is enough product to treat an area of up to 17,500 square feet or to address a smaller area several times. The slug killer pellets should be applied once every 2 weeks until the slug infestation is resolved.
The pellets will lure and kill any nearby slugs, taking about 3 to 6 days to kill affected pests. Safe to use in vegetable gardens and areas surrounding fruit trees, this slug killer remains effective after heavy rain.
Garden Safe’s slug killer is an inexpensive option that contains enough slug pellets to adequately protect up to 4,000 feet of yard and garden. The formula can be used on the lawn, around flowers, in vegetable gardens, and near fruit trees. The active ingredient, iron phosphate, doesn’t cause lasting harm to humans or pets. However, it should be kept out of reach because it can still result in nausea and mild to moderate eye irritation.
The slug killer takes about 3 to 6 days to kill slugs and snails in the surrounding area and will continue to be effective for up to 3 weeks. Simply scatter the pellets around the garden during the evening when slugs and snails prefer to travel, and then check back in the morning to see the results.
This slug killer is an excellent choice for homes with kids or pets because its active ingredient is iron phosphate, a low-toxicity compound. Treatments last for up to 40 days after the initial application, and the 2.5-pound container comes with enough slug killer to treat an area up to 5,000 square feet in size (based on a ratio of 0.5 to 1 pound per 1,000 square feet). The product isn’t affected by rain, so the potency shouldn’t change even after heavy rainfall.
With a potent sulfur-based formula that kills snails and slugs within 1 to 3 days after being affected, Ortho’s slug killer is made for use in greenhouses, lawns, vegetable gardens, and around fruit trees. The pellets can be applied to the garden easily through the screw-top nozzle that has a narrow opening to control the flow of pellets.
This slug killer remains effective for up to 3 weeks, even after heavy rain. However, the sulfur-based product is harmful to pets and children, so isn’t recommended for pet owners and parents with young kids.
FAQs About Slug Killers
Read on to find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about slug killers and how to use them to keep pests out of your yard and garden.
Q. Are slug killers safe around my pets and children?
Any pest-killing product should be kept away from kids and pets. Even if the active ingredient won’t cause significant harm, these are toxins designed to kill; in high enough quantities, slug killers have been known to be fatal to small pets.
Metaldehyde slug killers are the most dangerous type. Although sodium ferric EDTA and iron phosphate slug killers shouldn’t be ingested or handled, it’s less likely they will cause lasting harm.
Q. How do I apply slug and snail killer?
Applying slug and snail killer to the garden is an effective way to get rid of slugs. And it’s a quick process that isn’t difficult for DIYers to handle on their own. Follow these simple steps to treat your garden.
- Before doing anything else, read the instructions on the product packaging, as well as the manufacturer’s recommendations for use, to ensure that you follow all safety requirements.
- Water the garden beforehand, especially if it hasn’t rained for a few days and the ground is very dry.
- Sprinkle an even layer of pellets from the box to create a perimeter around the garden. If you are using a liquid slug killer, you will follow the same process, except you will be spraying the solution. Keep in mind, you want to sprinkle or spray as close to the ground as possible to avoid getting the slug killer on the leaves of the plants.
- After surrounding the garden, apply additional bait to particularly moist areas of the garden where water tends to pool.
- Leave the garden for 24 hours, then check back the next day. Remove all visible snails, as they can continue to lay eggs even when they are paralyzed by the slug killer.
- Repeat these steps as necessary.
Q. How often should I put down slug pellets?
Slug pellets are only needed when there is an active slug problem in your garden. During an infestation, pellets should be applied once every 30 to 40 days in order to keep out slugs.
Q. Will slug pellets kill rats?
It depends on the type of slug pellets and how much the rat consumes. If they chow down on enough metaldehyde slug killer, then they will eventually die, but it won’t happen quickly since this pest killer isn’t designed for mammals.
Sodium ferric EDTA and iron phosphate products are even less effective against rats, so if you have a real rat problem, invest in rat traps or rat poisons.