It’s a simple fact: bugs like to eat. Need to eat, in fact. And they LOVE your food.
And therefore, the first step in having a bug-free boat is to not have any food for them. Now, that’s relatively easy with the big items — put the food in gasketed storage containers or open bins and check periodically for anything going bad and attracting bugs.
What I’ve found much harder is not leaving any crumbs for critters. The little bit of flour or sugar that spills as you’re measuring it out. A bit of a soft drink or beer that overflows when you open it. The crumbs that drop from your sandwich, crackers or chips.
I’ve learned that a quick wipe with a damp rag usually isn’t sufficient. I have to take the time to actually clean it. Maybe not a full scrub-down, but I’ve learned to grab my trusty spray bottle of bleach water, spray the area and wipe it up. For areas where you can’t use bleach, a 1:10 solution of white vinegar and water works well, too.
At least once a day, I do a full wash-down of the galley counters, saloon table, cockpit table and cockpit seating. If we’ve been snacking elsewhere — say sitting on the bow — I’ll hit that area, too. Most days, I also take a rag and wash the galley floor, too (sweeping and vacuuming is good, but won’t get the bits of dried liquids that washing will). Be sure to wash the stove top, too, and anywhere else that food may spill.
If you’re trying to conserve water, it can be very tempting to just wipe off any dishes that aren’t “really” dirty. You know, the bowl the chips were in or the plate that only had a sandwich on it. Unfortunately, ants and other bugs will still find minute traces of food. Over the years, I’ve talked to a number of cruisers who did the “just wipe the dishes clean” at one time or another, and all ended up with bugs in the plate locker. If you need to really conserve water, doing dishes in salt water (with either a fresh water rinse or putting bleach in the salt water — or boiling it — for the rinse) is better than trying to wipe every trace of food off with a rag.
The one thing I’ve learned over the years is that it’s much easier to prevent a bug infestation than get rid of one!