How To Get Rid of Roaches
What’s In This Guide
Dealing with roaches can be both unpleasant and extremely difficult. The mere sight of a cockroach in or around the house can be anxiety-inducing for many people. While they usually don’t bite or contain any venom, roaches’ swift movements, prevalence, and high survival rates have made them one of the most feared and hated pests in the world. Even though it’s rare for cockroaches 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 produce unpleasant odors and stains with their excrement. To prevent this, it’s critical to act fast once you notice roaches in or around your home. Along with consulting a professional, several proven strategies can help you quickly rid your property of roaches, as well as some simple proactive measures that you and your family can take to reduce the chances of an infestation occurring.
If you’ve discovered roaches in your home, the first step toward addressing the problem is to identify the species that you’re dealing with. The most effective way to do this is by studying their physical characteristics and observing their behavior.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. While there are around 4,500 species in the world, only 30 of those have been known to venture into homes. Below are some of the most common cockroaches found in residential areas:
German Cockroach: 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. These roaches grow to about ½” in length, are brown with two vertical black stripes near the head, and are found throughout the world but generally prefer warm, moist climates.
American Cockroach: 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 will only do so in extremely rare cases. They are prevalent in North America, but can be found worldwide. Preventative measures are especially important during the winter when American cockroaches are more likely to venture inside your home. These roaches can grow up to 2” in length and are known for their characteristic reddish-brown color.
Australian Cockroach: Australian cockroaches are more likely to be found outdoors near moist areas. They are mainly found in the southern United States and tropical areas around the world. If they venture inside, they are often found in bathrooms or near water pipes. They are known for their hefty diet of anything starchy, and can chew through books, boxes, and even clothes. Australian cockroaches can range from ¼” to 1” in length, and are a reddish brown color with yellow markings near their head and wings.
Oriental Cockroach: Oriental cockroaches can be found in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and Southern U.S., but are also common throughout other areas of the world. They like to be near damp locations like sewers, but can also be found under sinks and near other water sources. Oriental cockroaches can grow to 1.25” in length and can be identified by their dark brown, almost black, color.
Brown-Banded Cockroach: 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 spread the same diseases as other cockroaches when defecating or foraging for food. They are prevalent throughout the Southern U.S., usually about ½” in length, and can range from golden tan to dark brown, but are easy to spot by the light bands identifiable on various spots of their bodies.
Getting Rid of Roaches Inside Your Home
Ideally, you’ll never have to deal with roaches inside your house, but invasions can still occur even if you keep a clean living clean space. While some large infestations may still require the help of a pest control professional, the following methods can be effective at eliminating roaches inside the home:
Because roaches can reproduce and spread around quickly, it may be difficult to tell exactly how many of them are in your home. However, it’s very important to make sure that you eliminate all of them when treating an infestation. By placing cockroach bait around your home and monitoring the results, you can identify all major problem areas and more accurately gauge the severity of your infestation. While it won’t eradicate your roach problem, this can help you determine which areas of your home to treat more heavily, and ensure that you don’t leave any survivors.
There are several different types of cockroach bait, including granules, blocks, gels, and liquids. Gels and liquids are poured into bait containers, which cockroaches will climb into for the bait. Because these types of bait containers are contained, they are safer for homes with children or pets. Granules cover a wider area, and may resolve the problem more quickly. You can also buy bait in the form of sticky traps, which work by luring roaches in and then ensnaring them with an adhesive. When using any of these products, make sure to always follow package instructions carefully.
Pesticide sprays are another way that you can combat roaches in your home. These products kill roaches on contact and can even prevent them from reproducing in some cases. The main types of cockroach sprays include contact killers, residual killers, insect growth regulators (IGRs), and fogger repellants.While they can kill a high number of roaches quickly, 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 pesticides throughout the home and is an explosion risk in homes with gas appliances.Residual sprays work by leaving a chemical residue on surfaces that can poison roaches on contact for up to four weeks after the initial application. These sprays can be highly effective at killing adult roaches, but won’t work for more serious infestations, as they are unlikely to eliminate juvenile roaches and eggs.Insect growth regulators (IGRs) don’t kill roaches overnight, but can help reduce their population over time. These sprays use a chemical called pyriproxyfen to disable roaches’ reproductive systems and stop them from making more eggs. Using an IGR in conjunction with a residual spray can be an effective way to eliminate both adult and juvenile roaches.
Natural Ways to Get Rid of Roaches
Pesticides are not the only way to get rid of roaches in your home. If you’re worried about the health or environmental risks of using chemical treatments, there are several natural alternatives to store-bought pesticides and roach bait.
Borax, or boric acid powder, is a great ingredient to use in insect bait. It can attract roaches as well as other types of bugs, like ants and bed bugs. Boric acid is deadly to insects but not especially toxic to humans, although it should be handled carefully, as it can irritate the eyes and potentially cause poisoning if ingested.To make roach bait with boric acid: combine one part borax, one part water, and three parts sugar, then mix until the solution becomes thick and pasty. In some cases, you may need to experiment with your borax/sugar/water ratio. Once you’re done mixing, apply the solution to any areas of the home where roaches may be, such as around your trash cans or under your refrigerator. Keep in mind that while this recipe is more environmentally friendly, it can be just as dangerous to children and pets as cockroach bait from the store.
One natural way to bait roaches is by setting out trays of sugar-laced baking soda, which is completely harmless to people and pets, but deadly to roaches, as their bodies cannot expel gas. The sugar will attract roaches to the trays, and the baking soda will cause their stomachs to fill with gas and explode. This method can be quite messy, and it’s critical to monitor the results and clean up all dead roaches promptly, as their remains can attract a variety of different pests including other roaches.
Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring substance created by the buildup of tiny marine plants called diatoms. It is non-toxic to humans, but can be used to kill a variety of pesky insects besides roaches, including bed bugs, ticks, and fleas. Diatomaceous earth kills roaches gradually by breaking down the waxy layer of their exoskeleton, causing them to lose vital nutrients and dehydrate. It comes in a powder that is sprinkled around your home and easily cleaned up with a vacuum.
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Getting Rid of Roaches Outside
The presence of roaches in your yard may not seem like a major issue, but it can be a precursor to a serious infestation. If outdoor roaches aren’t dealt with, they can easily spread into your home and cause trouble in a variety of ways. If you notice roaches outside your home or in your yard, there are several measures you can take to reduce their numbers and stop them from spreading.
- Remove Food Sources: Bring pet food bowls in at night, ensure all garbage cans are tightly sealed, clean your outdoor grill thoroughly; and avoid composting any meat, eggs, or dairy products.
- Remove Water Sources: Fix all leaky pipes, properly store any items that could fill up with rainwater (empty buckets, flower pots, watering cans, etc.), make sure your gutters can properly drain, direct downspouts away from your home, and avoid watering your lawn in the evening.
- Eliminate Hiding Places: Seal any cracks in your sidewalk and driveway, remove all debris promptly (fallen tree branches, empty boxes, scrap wood, etc.), rake the leaves frequently, don’t store logs or firewood too close to your house, and avoid planting ivy and other vines near your house.
How Do Pest Control Professionals Get Rid of Roaches?
If you’re dealing with a severe infestation, DIY methods and store-bought repellents may not be enough to eliminate the problem. Roaches are famously tenacious, and it sometimes takes the skills and experience of a pest control professional to completely remove them. There are several key tools and strategies that pest control professionals can use to effectively get rid of roaches:
To develop an appropriate treatment strategy for you, most exterminators will want to gain a thorough understanding of your unique situation. To do this, they will generally start by inspecting your home and observing the roaches’ activity.There are several things that pest control professionals will look for during their initial inspections including the species of cockroach involved, their entry points into your home, the locations of their nests, and any sources of food or moisture that may be attracting them. This information will help them estimate the length and cost of the project, and determine what tools and methods they will need to use.
Once they’ve decided how to proceed, your pest control professional will likely ask you to prepare your home for treatment. The exact steps involved can vary on a case-by-case basis, but exterminators will generally want you to clean your floors, seal and store all food and/or baby care products, empty your garbage cans, and remove any clutter from the infested areas of your home before they begin.These steps will help keep your family safe and ensure that your exterminator can properly administer treatment.
After assessing the situation and determining that your home is prepared, your exterminator will begin treatment. In most cases, this is a three-step process that involves gradually reducing the roach population with gel bait and growth regulators, sealing off entry points, and spraying the perimeter of your home with pesticide.
In severe cases, or if conventional methods aren’t working, your exterminator may recommend tent fumigation. This method can be effective at eradicating large infestations, but is extremely invasive and is often thought of as a ‘last resort’ option.
How To Prevent Roach Infestations
To keep cockroaches away in the first place, the main thing you’ll need to focus on is maintaining a clean environment. Three key sanitation and maintenance practices can help you stop roaches from entering your home.
Properly Clean and Dispose of Food Waste
Food and food waste are both major attractors of roaches. Improper handling, storage, or disposal of food can leave your home far more vulnerable to a roach infestation. Fortunately, there are several key food handling and sanitation guidelines that can help you prevent this from happening:
- Always use placemats and thoroughly wipe up surfaces after meals, paying close attention to the areas where you’ve eaten and prepared food.
- Clean out your appliances regularly, including your microwave, stove, and fridge. Any crumbs or food residue left on these appliances can attract roaches and other pests. Be sure to clean the areas underneath and behind these appliances as well.
- Make sure you’re promptly putting away food and sealing it properly after you’re done eating. Pet food should also be sealed away at night.
- Keep an eye on any 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.
Seal Your Entryways
Roaches often enter homes through small cracks or openings in the siding, doors, windows, and foundation. You can help prevent this by using weather-sealed doors and caulking any cracks you see between floors and walls, between walls and ceilings, or around windows. It’s also important to regularly inspect your home so you can spot and seal up any holes before pests discover them.
Cockroaches, like everything else alive, need water to survive. They’re attracted to the moist, damp areas around your house. This can be especially troublesome if you have any leaky plumbing or pipes. Checking your plumbing periodically for any leaks can not only ensure that you won’t accumulate any water damage, but you also won’t attract any roaches.If you have any pets, it’s also a good idea to put their water bowls away at night, as standing water can be very attractive to roaches.