Nothing brings on a shudder like suddenly spotting a skittering cockroach as you flip on a kitchen light after dark. Despite their reputation for being hard to kill, roaches can be controlled with a methodical approach and the right products.
Read on to learn all about roach habits and the best ways on how to get rid of roaches and keep them out of your home.
Safety: Always follow manufactuer's instructions for safe use of any pesticide.
How to Identify Roaches
You can identify a roach typically by its color and shape. Roaches have an oval-shaped body and reddish-brown coloring. They tend to range in size from 3/4 inches to 3 inches long. There are four common species of cockroach which include the German cockroach, the American cockroach, the Oriental cockroach and the brown-banded cockroach. Most, if not all, of these types of cockroaches are drawn to food in and around your home, so it's important to keep your house clean.
- Pale brown with two dark brown stripes behind the head.
- Measures 13 to 16 millimeters long.
- Lives up to 12 months.
- Produces the most eggs.
- Dark brown or black.
- Measures between 25 and 33 millimeters long.
- Cannot fly.
- Lives up to 6 months.
- Mostly feeds on decaying organic matter.
- Reddish brown with yellow bands on the body.
- Measures up to 53 millimeters long.
- Able to fly short distances.
- Lives up to 2 years.
- Reddish-brown to dark brown in color, with yellow bands on the body.
- Measures up to 13 millimeters.
- Lives up to 11 months.
- Only the males can fly.
- Will jump when disturbed.
Natural Roach Treatment
Diatomaceous Earth: As with other insects, diatomaceous earth (DE) works to kill roaches by lacerating their hard exoskeletons and dehydrating them. DE is best used in small, thin layers in hard-to-reach areas like between cabinets and at the backs of lower cabinets.
Boric acid: Used correctly, boric acid is one of the most effective roach killers. It's odorless, has low toxicity to pets, and since it isn't repellent to roaches, they will not seek to avoid it, crawling through it repeatedly until it kills them. One popular DIY method is to mix boric acid with equal parts powdered sugar as a lure. Apply as a fine layer under appliances, behind cabinets and along crevices. Roaches ingest the mixture and die within a few hours.
Natural Repellents: Several natural substances have been shown to be effective as roach repellents including osage orange oil, nepetalactone, which is present in catnip, and ceneole, a compound found in bay leaves.
If none of the natural roach treatments work, you can still use roach traps, roach spray, insect traps, bait stations and other means of home insect control to either kill cockroaches entirely or at least repel roaches. Be sure to place roach baits and traps in problem areas around trash cans, under the sink, near doorways and more.
Tip: While it can be helpful to find natural products with these active ingredients to aid in roach prevention, a large-scale infestation may require the use of more stringent roach killers.
Safety: Do not apply DE or boric acid to counters, open or drafty areas or anywhere food is prepared. Apply in thin layers and wipe up any visible residue immediately.
Roach infestations can be mitigated with the use of products, but treatment alone will only temporarily clear up the problem. In order to make sure roaches don't return, you must take preventative measures to support the effectiveness of your selected treatment methods.
1. Clean vigilantly: Because roaches can be tenacious, more stringent cleaning regimens may be required to create an environment that will limit their access to food and stop supporting their habitation. Wipe up spills quickly, sweep and mop floors, vacuum rugs and carpets, wash dishes and clean counters as usual, but take additional steps to be sure no food residue is left behind for pests to find.
- Deep clean the microwave and keep spills inside wiped up
- Clean out the inside of toasters and toaster ovens and empty and wipe the crumb tray after each use
- Clean the inside and outside of indoor garbage cans; use can liners and keep lids tightly closed
- Clean floors under large appliances like the refrigerator or stove often
- Clean up spills or overflow on the stove as soon as possible before it has a chance to set
2. Eliminate standing water: Any standing water will encourage roaches to hang around. Take steps to dry up any areas with potential to hold water.
- Dry out sinks every evening and cover the drain hole with a cap or stopper
- Do not overwater house plants or leave water in plant saucers
- Keep the condensation drip pan under the refrigerator emptied and dried out
- Check under sinks and around appliances for any leaks; if you find any unusually wet areas, you may need to call a professional for assessment and repair
3. Rethink food storage: Removing easy access to food is central to getting rid of roaches. Developing better food storage systems is one way of cutting off their supplies.
- Store opened dry goods like cereal, grains or sugar in airtight containers with tight-fitting lids
- Keep produce and breads in the refrigerator rather than on countertops
- If you save leftover condiments from take-out meal packaging, store them in tightly-sealed plastic storage bags
4. Seal up and spray entrance points.
- When researching how to get rid of roaches, consider their entry points into your home. Plug small cracks or holes in the walls and along baseboards with caulk. Open spaces around pipes can be filled in with fine mesh copper wool
- Repair any torn screens and be sure that screens are fitting properly in windows with no gaps or cracks left open.
- If there are any obvious cracks and crevices you cannot easily seal, spray them with roach spray and other home insect controls such as roach traps and more.
5. Keep your space cool: Cockroaches prefer and are more active in warm environments. Keeping your home as cool as possible will make it less hospitable to roaches.
Because they are most active at night, it's hard to see a roach infestation until it reaches a critical mass. They are very good at hiding and can gain access to very small spaces. A gap no more than 1/16th of an inch will accommodate even the largest American cockroach, whether trying to come in from the outside or just scuttle behind a sink into a wall crack.
Roaches can be difficult to quickly eliminate as they are designed to survive. Mature roaches have a tough exoskeleton that gives them a little extra protection against your average swatter; crushing the bugs takes a greater force to be sure they are really dead. Roaches can live up to three months without food and up to two weeks without water. And depending on the species, a single roach will produce on average anywhere from 125 to 225 offspring during their lifespan.
By following these treatments for getting rid of roaches, and continuing using preventative measures, you'll hopefully keep roaches out of your home. If the problems persist, look into a professional exterminator to get the job done.