How To Get Rid of Roaches
17–19 minutes to read | Updated for 2018
While cockroaches usually don’t bite or contain any venom, their swift movements, prevalence and survival rates are why they’re one of the most feared and hated pests.
While there are around 4,500 species in the world, only 30 of those have been known to venture into homes.
Even though it’s rare for a cockroach to directly harm people, they’re known for being particularly dirty pests and can quickly spread bacteria and disease. If they’re causing an infestation, they’re also known to cause unpleasant odors and stains from their excrement.
All cockroaches are identifiable by their rounded, stout and flat bodies that include long antennae and legs. They usually range from ½ an inch to two inches. Some species also have wings.
Common Species of Roaches
Because of the environment they prefer, German cockroaches will commonly be found in kitchens and bathrooms. They’re one of the most common species to infest homes and buildings. Since they’re commonly found in kitchens, German cockroaches can easily spread disease by getting into food. Properly sanitizing your kitchen can help mitigate an infestation by removing any crumbs or residue that they can use as food sources.
How To Identify:
Grows to about ½”
Brown with two black vertical stripes near the head
Found throughout the world but prefer warm, moist climates
The American cockroach is also known as the water bug because it is found around warm, moist places like sewage drains and piles of garbage. American cockroaches do have the ability to bite, but in extremely rare cases. Preventative measures are especially important during the winter, when American cockroaches are more likely to venture inside your home.
How To Identify:
Adults can grow up to 2”
Characteristic reddish brown color
Prevalent in North America, but didn’t originate in America and are found worldwide
Australian cockroaches are more likely to be found outdoors near moist areas. If they venture inside, they are often found in bathrooms or near water pipes.
Australian cockroaches are known for their hefty diet of anything starchy, and can chew through books, boxes, and even clothes. There have been some reported cases of Australian cockroaches biting people, but this is rare and doesn’t pose a problem unless the bite becomes infected. Otherwise, they pose the same hazards as other cockroaches in their propensity to spread infectious diseases.
You can help prevent an Australian cockroach infestation by maintaining your yard and preventing moisture buildup among leaves and branches.
How To Identify:
Can range from ¼” to 1”
Reddish brown color with yellow markings near their head and wings
Mainly found in the Southern United States and tropical areas around world
Like to be near damp locations like sewers, but can also be found inside under sinks and near other water sources.
Can bite people, but more rarely than with American or Australian roaches. They are more dangerous if they’re found in your kitchen, because they’ll spread diseases that can infect your entire family. Keeping your house clean and dry will help mitigate an Oriental cockroach infestation
How To Identify:
Can grow to 1.25”
Very dark brown, almost black coloring
Can become a household pest throughout the Pacific Northwest, Midwest and Southern U.S., but is also common throughout other areas of the world
Unlike other common household cockroaches, brown-banded cockroaches don’t need as much water, so you’ll see them hiding around walls and furniture if they make their way inside. Since brown-banded cockroaches can be more widespread throughout your home, they can cause more health problems, such as allergic reactions. They also can be spread the same diseases as other cockroaches when defecating or foraging for food.
Brown-banded cockroaches can be one of the hardest species to eliminate, so you may need to use repellents and growth regulators or call in professional help.
How To Identify:
Smaller in size than other roaches, ½” on average
Can range from golden tan to dark brown, but are easy to spot by the light bands identifiable on various spots of their bodies
Prevalent throughout the Southern U.S.
All types of roaches tend to move around more than other insects, so it can be obvious to see if you have an infestation on your hands.
But if you are seeing multiple cockroaches in your house, you’ll need to successfully identify the species and find its nesting spot in order to eradicate the roaches you find. You can use the following steps to thoroughly inspect your home.
Gather the Tools You’ll Need
a good flashlight
For peering into dark corners
For finding small entry points
Step 1: Use Your Flashlight to Look in Hiding Places
Even though roaches aren’t very shy, they’ll lay their eggs and nest in more secluded areas. Use a flashlight to check underneath and behind furniture and appliances, along walls and the corners of rooms, underneath cabinets, and in any other cracks and crevices. Many species of cockroaches will feed on cardboard and other materials, so you should also look at the cluttered areas of your house, such as closets, attics, crawl spaces and basements.
Step 2: Identify Droppings and Eggs
Cockroach eggs can vary in size, color and amount depending on the species, but they’ll all resemble a small pill. Most are between 5-10 mm long and will usually be the same colors as roaches, ranging from light brown to reddish or black. Their droppings are black or brown and can be as small as a speck of pepper, usually resembling scattered coffee grounds. Roaches always leave droppings near their nest, so you’ll know you’ve found it if you see them.
Step 3: Identify the Species
If you’ve found droppings, eggs or egg cases, chances are you’ve found the roach nest. At this point, try to kill as many roaches as you can by using a household roach spray, and take pictures when you can. Using the photos, you should be able to identify the species depending on its color, size, and markings.
Step 4: Develop a Plan
By finding the nest and learning what the cockroach species is, you’ll be able to develop a more targeted strategy for eradication. For instances, cockroaches that frequent kitchens should be eradicated as quickly as possible to avoid the spread of diseases and unsanitary conditions. Your plan should target any cockroaches that you see, and especially eradicate the nest and eggs.
- Kill off adult roaches and eggs at the same time to get rid of the infestation quick and efficiently.
- Clean up carcasses whenever you’ve successfully killed a roach. Leaving them lying around can attract other bugs like ants and flies.
- Continue to inspect your house at least a month after you think you’ve eradicated the cockroach population. This is how long a roach egg can take to hatch, and your problem can begin all over again if you haven’t killed all of the eggs.
- Even if you think you don’t need professional pest control help, you can still call a pest management company to find out if you’re dealing with a common cockroach or possibly another type of pest. They will help with identifying cockroaches if you aren’t sure.
Cockroaches have the dirtiest habits of all their cousins. Living in drains, outbuildings, sheds, latrines, and other places near human waste, they are primary carriers of filth and disease. The good news is that of more than 4,500 identified species of cockroaches, only about 30 actually affect humans. In the United States, only three main cockroach varieties pose a problem. But you’ll want to mitigate any type of cockroach species invading your home life and prevent a large infestation.
Risk of Disease and Illness from Roaches
According to the World Health Organization, cockroaches are considered disease vectors. A disease vector is any animal that carries a disease from one organism to another without catching the disease itself. Cockroaches have been implicated in the spreading of a range of infections and symptoms like diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, leprosy, plague, typhoid fever and polio.
They also cause respiratory issues, leaving behind allergens that are the leading cause of childhood asthma in some U.S. cities, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
These insects also degrade the cleanliness of environments, which can itself increase the likelihood of disease, even if the cockroaches themselves aren’t carrying it. They chew fabrics and furniture, leave litter and droppings, and create a noxious smell which can be very strong and long-lasting if not dealt with quickly. However, general cleaning practices, proven extermination techniques and consistent maintenance methods can bring these allergen levels and the risk of illness under control.
In order to keep cockroaches away, the main thing you’ll need to focus on is maintaining a clean environment. This means a set of consistent habits:
1. Properly Clean and Dispose of Food Waste
- Always use place mats and wipe up after meals, paying close attention to where you’ve eaten and prepared food as well as sweeping the areas underneath.
- Get in the routine of cleaning out your appliances regularly, including your stove, microwave and ridge. Any crumbs or food residue left in their crevices can attract roaches and other insects. Don’t neglect underneath or behind these appliances as well.
- Make sure you’re promptly putting away food and sealing it properly after you’re done eating. Instead of leaving pet food out all night in your kitchen, you can also seal it or put it away at night.
- Keep an eye on food that’s left out of your pantry or fridge, such as fruits and vegetables. If they start to smell or show signs of rot, throw them away immediately.
- When bringing in food from outside sources, always inspect it to ensure you have not accidentally carried roaches in with you. Wash dirty dishes regularly and don’t leave them in the sink overnight.
- Promptly get rid of old newspapers, fabrics, cardboard, and recycling. Roaches thrive with these types of materials and you can often identify an infestation by noticing any droppings left among them.
- Don’t let anything accumulate in a pantry, closet or garage when it could be properly disposed of.
- Remove garbage on a routine basis and put it in a curbside container right away. You’ll also need to regularly clean out your garbage containers, since they’ll easily build up food waste.
2. Seal Your Entryways
You can prevent roach entry into your home by using weather-sealed doors. Caulk cracks between floors and walls, between walls and ceilings, and around windows, both in your home and garage. Regularly inspecting your home so you can spot and seal up any holes before pests discover them.
3. Eliminate Moisture
Cockroaches, like everything else alive, need water to survive. They’re attracted to the moist, damp areas around your house. It can especially pose a problem if you have any leaky plumbing or pipes.
- Check your plumbing periodically to make sure there aren’t any small leaks you’ve been missing. This can also save you a good amount on your next water bill.
- Just like how it’s a good idea to remove your pets’ food at night, do the same for their water bowls. Try to tuck them away before you go to bed and put them out again in the morning so no pests can get to them.
4. Maintain Your Outdoors
While it’s natural to find roaches in your yard, an overwhelming amount means they’re more likely to move inside and invade your home. There are several easy steps you can take to make sure your yard isn’t conducive to roach breeding:
- Continually rake your leaves and mow your lawn.
- Remove piles of leaves, wood, branches, or anything else that can absorb water. Otherwise, these moist areas will provide an ideal place for roaches to hide and drink water.
- Remove anything from your yard that you don’t need, such as old toys, planters and decorations. These can hold water after it rains and serve as a breeding ground for roaches and other insects. If you do have planters in your yard, make sure they’re fitted with proper drainage holes. After a rainfall, check your yard to see where water might be pooling. You may need to fill holes or look into the bigger project of a drainage ditch. If that isn’t possible, you’ll have to remember to drain puddles periodically and more often after it rains.
- After a rainfall, check your yard to see where water might be pooling. You may need to fill holes or look into the bigger project of a drainage ditch. If that isn’t possible, you’ll have to remember to drain puddles periodically and more often after it rains.
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The two most common methods of treating for cockroaches include baiting and the use of chemicals.
While both can be effective, you should choose the one that is best for your home environment and the most useful against the specific cockroach species invading it.
We’ve already outlined some of the best roach bait products that you can buy to rid your home of a roach problem quickly. However, you can also try some DIY recipes to create roach bait if you already have some ingredients in your cabinets and would like to pinch a penny. One great ingredient to use is borax, or boric acid powder, which attracts roaches as well as other types of bugs, like ants and bed bugs.
DIY Sugar and Borax Recipe
1 part borax
1 part water
3 parts sugar
Mix ingredients together until forming a thick, pasty mixture that isn’t runny. You may need to experiment with your borax/sugar/water ratio. Keep in mind that while this recipe is environmentally friendly, but it isn’t any less dangerous to children and pets than the cockroach bait from the store.
Another baiting method you can try is by setting out trays of baking soda, which is completely harmless to people and pets. However, the baking soda method makes roaches very gassy. Because they cannot expel gas, the insects will explode and create a gruesome mess. In this case, you’ll have to continuously monitor your home and any of the hiding places where you think the roaches might go to die. If you don’t clean up the carcasses in time, they could make your problem worse by enticing other cockroaches or bugs as additional food sources inside your home.
Place whatever bait you decide to use in ideal spots where cockroaches love to hide. These include kitchen cabinets, underneath and behind furniture, underneath sinks, inside cracks and crevices near your walls, inside storage spaces that might contain cardboard boxes and cloth, and inside crawl spaces.
There are also chemical treatments available to help you rid your home of these pests. The Pesticide Research Institute cautions against using aerosol sprays or foggers due to the high probability of exposure during the application from inhaling them. Fogging also distributes pesticide residues throughout the home and is an explosion risk in homes with gas appliances. Outdoor sprays can drift away and pose a threat to non-target wildlife like bees or other beneficial insects.
If you do determine that you need a chemical formula, we’ve put together lists of the best cockroach gel bait and the best sprays that contain chemical compounds. The safest way to use bait stations is by placing them behind objects, where they are out of reach of children and pets and won’t be stepped on or tracked. Beware of putting bait stations in plants, as most cockroach baits are toxic to them.
There are a few main bait types, including granules, blocks, gels and liquids. Gels and liquids are poured into bait containers, into which cockroaches will climb to get at the bait. Because these types are contained, they are safer for homes with children or pets. Granules cover a wider area, and may resolve the problem more quickly. Always follow package instructions carefully.
Place these formulas in locations where cockroaches commonly gather, including under sinks and in cabinets, behind the stove, and around food storage areas, making very sure to keep them out of contact with food. Many bait products you can buy at a store also come with sticky traps so that the roaches are stuck once they make their way inside the trap.
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Additional Chemical Treatment Methods
Some other treatment methods you can use include sprays and traps. The type of spray you buy will depend on where you’d like to use it. Using a spray bottle insecticide for the outdoor perimeter of your house is a great preventative method, and it requires stronger chemicals that can withstand outdoor elements without simply wearing away after a short period of time. However, these insecticides are much too strong to be used indoors, so you’ll need a separate set of chemical sprays for that type of treatment.
There are many mild roach sprays that you can buy at any drugstore to kill roaches on contact, and some other preventative sprays you can use near entryways, windows, and trash cans.
Roach traps are similar to baits, but include a plastic container or other type of shield that serves to protect the chemicals inside from pets and children. These trap the roaches inside with the bait chemical where they’ll eventually die. You can use them exactly like bait, setting them near the locations where you’ve already seen roaches. The traps expire after a certain amount of time once you’ve opened them, and you’ll need to clear them out regularly so that you can get rid of any carcasses.
Decide which of the top roach bait products will be best for your situation.
Additional Natural Treatment Methods
It turns out you’re not the only one who needs some morning coffee – roaches love it, too! This is great news, because it means you can use such an everyday item as a natural bait and trap:
DIY Coffee Trap
3 parts water
1 part coffee
Mix your coffee solution into a large jar, but don’t fill it all the way. The roaches will crawl into the jar to try to get at the coffee, but they should slide into it and drown inside.
Another great natural option that doesn’t quite fit into either the bait or trap methods is diatomaceous earth. This can be used for a plethora of pest problems, and it’s especially handy for roach problems where they move fast and aren’t easy to spot. The diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled near entrances, moist areas, or wherever you’ve seen them. This material contains many sharp edges that cut into small insects like roaches and leads to dehydration.
DIY Diatomaceous Earth Bait
1 part diatomaceous earth
1 part cocoa powder
Roaches are attracted to cocoa powder, so a mixture with diatomaceous earth provides the one-two punch of leading them in and leading to their demise. This mixture is completely safe for the environment as well as for pets and children, as long as you’re using food-grade diatomaceous earth, so you can use it as much and as often as you’d like. However, the cocoa powder can stain carpets, so you may want to omit that ingredient if that’s where you plan to use this recipe.
These DIY methods are cheap and effective ways to combat small ant problems, but not enough to treat multiple nests plaguing your home, or even a single large nest.
Sometimes, of course, you won’t be able to deal with the cockroach infestation on your own. Especially with some of these DIY treatment methods, they can help remove a small amount of cockroaches from your home, but won’t always serve as a long-term solution. Some signs that you need to call in a pest control professional include:
- You’ve treated more than once, but the infestations just keep coming back.
- You notice roaches appearing in new areas of your home or property, indicating a systemic problem.
- You have cleared up and cleaned out your home environment to make it less roach-friendly, but it doesn’t seem to be making a difference.
- The infestation is visibly getting worse, and you see more roaches or egg capsules.
- Smells are getting stronger.
- Your children seem to be having a reaction to the presence of cockroaches.
If you have experienced any of the above – and in many cases, you will notice multiple signs – ask a professional exterminator about the methods they might employ. This can include insect growth regulators paired with insecticide to formulate a lasting long-term solution. Let them know if there are pets or children in the home. The exterminator will help you determine the best course of action to help prevent a recurrence of the infestation and get your home back to normal.
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