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How to Get Rid of Cockroaches

Exterminator spraying insecticide under kitchen drawers
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

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Because they have adapted to living with humans, cockroaches are one of the most common pests that infest homes. It is not at all unusual to find a roach nest while you are spring cleaning or as you pack up during a move. Cockroaches prefer to stay hidden and can go unnoticed for a long time. They’re invasive and ready to move in like the roommate you never wanted.

What do cockroaches look like?

There are several different species of cockroaches but four main types cause the majority of problems inside of homes and apartments. They are about half an inch to two inches long and share some common characteristics including a flattened oval body, six spiny legs, long antennae, coloring that ranges from light brown to very dark brown, and the ability to make us all want to move out. But you don’t have to if you get to the root of the problem and figure out how to get rid of cockroaches.

Image of cockroach from above
fotorawin / Shutterstock

How do you get cockroaches?

Fossil evidence indicates that cockroaches have been around for more than 300 million years making them known for being one of the most successful and adaptable creatures on earth which, if you’ve had an infestation, you probably already know. However, cockroaches are dangerous because they can contaminate food sources, spread diseases to humans, and cause breathing problems for people with asthma. Understanding how you get cockroaches can help you learn how to keep roaches away.

Cockroaches invade houses, apartments, and other types of buildings in search of food, water, and shelter. They prefer to spend their time in damp, dark areas like the inside of your cabinets below the sink. All homes have the necessary elements cockroaches need to survive: food scraps on a plate in the sink, an overflowing trash can, or unnoticed crumbs on the floor can all be enough to draw roaches into your home. You can also inadvertently bring roaches into your home in boxes, furniture, thrift store finds, and even appliances that have been in storage. Before you bring something inside your home from storage, carefully inspect anything that is secondhand or has been in storage for signs of roaches.

How long can cockroach infestations last?

Cockroaches are experts at surviving and adapting, which unfortunately means they’ll keep infesting your home until you figure out what kills roaches and take action. Cockroaches like to stay out of sight, so you can have an infestation for a long time without realizing it. But once you see a cockroach—or evidence of one—it is highly likely that you have an established infestation.

Cockroach infestations can even follow you when you move. Roaches and their eggs can be inadvertently transported with boxes from your old home to your new place. To avoid this, you need to deal with the current infestation and figure out how to get rid of cockroaches before moving your belongings to the next.

How to get rid of roaches, step-by-step

If you find a roach nest or infestation in your home, you’ll need to know how to get rid of roaches fast and for good. Start the process with these steps:

Step 1: Deep clean your kitchen and bathrooms.

Cockroaches are attracted to food and water. It’s common to find them in the kitchen where they have easy access to food and in the bathroom which can provide the damp environment they prefer. In the kitchen, clean behind appliances and remove any crumbs, leftover food, or overflowing garbage. Even a small drop of grease can bring them running. When on the hunt for evidence in a kitchen or bathroom, look for cast skins (usually light brown and shaped like roaches), egg cases, droppings (tiny dark spots), and dead cockroaches.

Step 2: Catch up on maintenance.

Cockroaches prefer to spend the majority of their time in damp and dark places. A bathroom cabinet with a water leak is an ideal environment for cockroaches. If your home has any water issues, you are inviting roaches inside. Whether you hire help, DIY, or consult your landlord, keeping your home properly maintained helps remove the conditions that attract roaches.

Step 3: Establish a cleaning routine.

Food waste and garbage around your house keep roaches happy, and clutter can allow them to move around unnoticed. Establish a solid cleaning routine where you deal with food waste immediately, take the trash out regularly, and minimize clutter. And if you’re moving in or out, check boxes from outside sources and anything that is secondhand or has been in storage.

Step 4: Properly store trash cans.

You can inadvertently attract cockroaches into your home by storing your trash cans improperly. Store trash cans away from the entrances to your house and be sure to secure the lid every time you take out the garbage.

Products you can use to treat a roach infestation

Now that you’ve tackled preventing roaches from taking up residence, it’s time to take care of the infestation itself. Usually chemical pesticides are the best way to get rid of cockroaches. Here are a few to consider:

  • The roach bomb, also known as a roach fogger, can be an effective way to tackle a roach infestation. The roach bomb releases chemical pesticides into the air of your home and permeates the areas where roaches like to hide.
  • Roach-killing bait can be utilized throughout the house. The bait attracts the pests and they either enter a trap or ingest a lethal substance.
  • Liquid pesticides can both eliminate the infestation and help prevent more roaches from moving in. Apply the spray on the interior and exterior of your home for maximum protection.
  • Placing roach tablets in cracks, corners, and behind appliances also attract roaches and deliver a lethal dosage of pesticide.
  • Make it as difficult as possible for roaches to find their way inside. Seal up any breaches or cracks around doors, windows, or your foundation.

Don’t want to use chemical cleaners? Here’s how to get rid of cockroaches naturally.

There are several home remedies to get rid of cockroaches if you want to avoid using chemical pesticides. Boric acid and its sodium borate salts are a compound found in nature that is lethal to many pests, including roaches. You can combine flour and boric acid with a substance that will attract roaches—such as sugar—to make a roach-killing recipe. Boric acid is a strong compound so be careful to handle it according to its package instructions.

You can also try non-chemical traps or even try repelling roaches using sound waves. Products like Greener Mindset Cockroach Traps can be placed throughout your home to catch roaches without harming your pets or family. The ZEROPEST Ultrasonic Pest Repeller Plug is a chemical-free option that uses sound waves to repel pests.

When to call a professional exterminator to treat cockroaches

Depending on the severity of your infestation, you may need to call in the pros. Let’s be honest, even if you know how to get rid of cockroaches and can take care of the problem yourself, you might not want to. If you’re having trouble learning how to get rid of roaches, getting rid of them yourself, or just want to outsource it entirely, call in a professional exterminator.

If, even after using the above pesticides, signs of your infestation persist, call an exterminator. Other signs you should hand it over to the pros include if your infestation begins to give off an oily or musty odor, or if you start to see property damage.

The bottom line

Cockroaches are on the hunt for food, water, and shelter. If you suspect that your home is infested, you’ll want to first prevent more cockroaches from entering your home before treating the infestation. Following the steps above should allow you to reclaim your home without having to call in the professionals. Now that you know how to get rid of cockroaches, if you are faced with another infestation in the future, you’ll know exactly what to do.

Frequently Asked Questions

What attracts cockroaches into your home?

All cockroaches are attracted to easily accessible food, water, and shelter.

What are the best home remedies to get rid of roaches?

If you prefer to avoid chemicals, the best options are roach traps and devices that use soundwaves to repel roaches.

What kills cockroaches instantly?

Several liquid- and gel-based pesticides kill cockroaches on contact.

Do professional exterminators have access to special pesticides?

Pest-control professionals do have access to chemical pesticides that are not available to consumers. The concentration levels of these pesticides require specialized knowledge and training to mix and apply appropriately.

Does the presence of one roach mean there are more?

Spotting one roach in your home is a very good indication that more are hiding.

Kristina Byas contributed to this article 

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