How to Get Rid of Roaches

Learn how to rid your home of roaches with these simple steps

Learn the best ways to get rid of cockroaches in your home

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 to combat them and keep them out of your home.

Safety: Always follow manufacturer's instructions for safe use of any pesticide.

Detecting 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.

Treatment Options

Treatment Pros Cons

Roach Gel

  • Easy-to-use
  • Can be applied in a number of environments
  • Recommended for damp areas
  • Roaches can develop chemical resistance over time

Roach Bait Stations

  • Easy-to-use
  • Treats whole colonies;
    allows poison to be carried back to nests
  • Need to be replaced every couple of months

Roach Traps

  • Non-toxic
  • Can help pinpoint location of infestation 
  • Inexpensive
  • Less effective with larger infestations

Roach Sprays

  • Kills on contact
  • Easy to use
  • Can only kill single/visible roaches
  • Leaves residue

Foggers

  • Treats large areas at once
  • Inconvenient 
  • Requires cleanup after use
  • May drive roaches deeper into walls as they avoid the fog

Natural Roach Treatments

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.

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.

Pest Prevention

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 tightly-sealed plastic storage bags

4. Seal up entrance points.

• 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.

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.