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How to Get Rid of German Cockroaches

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Author Icon Written by Brenda Woods Updated 04/15/2024

One of the smallest species of roaches, the German cockroach is a problem pest nearly everywhere humans live, from the North Pole to southern Patagonia. Not only is it excellent at adapting to a range of climates and environments, but it’s also resistant to many common pesticides. A huge German cockroach infestation can result from just a few eggs, so it’s important to be thorough and consistent in treating these pests.

Because these cockroaches can be so difficult to eliminate, we recommend hiring a professional pest control provider to quickly get rid of German cockroach populations. Pest management experts know the right methods to get rid of the infestation at its source. However, if your roach problem is small or you want to try DIY methods first, we’ll suggest some methods for getting rid of German roaches on your own. We’ll also share our recommendations for the best pest control professionals for the job.


Why and How German Cockroaches Enter Your Home

Unfortunately, German cockroaches can enter your home from nearly any opening, including wall and foundation cracks, under doors, and around pipes. Although they can adapt to many environments, they can’t survive in severe cold, yet they can thrive inside human dwellings in colder climates. Once inside, they can hide in cracks and crevices nearly too small for you to see.

These pests come indoors seeking warmth, food, and water. They like to hide around wiring, under sinks, in walls, and around water-using appliances. Leaky pipes and drains provide easy water sources, and they can feed on nearly any kind of human or pet food as well as non-edibles like soap and furniture glue.


How to Identify a German Cockroach Infestation

German cockroaches can vary in color from light brown to tan, and they’re usually no more than 0.6 inches (1.5 centimeters) long. This is smaller than a similar pest species know as the American cockroach.

Since these insects are nocturnal and prefer to hide, the first signs you see may be droppings that look like coffee grinds, oval-shaped egg cases, or a musty smell. If you see live roaches during the day, it means the problem is already substantial.

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Health Risks of German Cockroaches

Fortunately, German cockroaches aren’t aggressive and don’t bite, nor are they venomous. Also, unlike American cockroaches, they rarely fly. However, according to the they are dangerous because of the bacteria and other disease vectors they carry around and can leave behind.

As they crawl through sewers and other filthy places, they can pick up pathogens and allergens and then deposit them when they go searching for food in your kitchen. Additionally, some people are allergic to cockroaches’ exoskeletons, which crumble to powder after they shed. Children with asthma and allergies are especially susceptible to health problems from cockroach feces, sheddings, and saliva.


Steps to follow

How to Get Rid of German Cockroaches

To rid your home of German cockroaches, follow these five steps.

Although many roach control methods are effective against most cockroach species, it’s always a good idea to confirm exactly what kind of insect you’re dealing with. You should also attempt to identify hot spots of roach activity in your home. German cockroaches don’t create a central nest or hive, but they are more active around heat, water, and food sources.

You can conduct an inspection by walking from room to room with a flashlight, looking in cracks and along baseboards for evidence of roach activity. Although you may not see live roaches during the daytime, you may see droppings, shed skins, or dead roaches. Look closely in kitchens and bathrooms, especially inside kitchen cabinets and behind appliances and furniture where roaches may hide.

If you can’t stomach the idea of such a close inspection, you can use sticky traps instead. Place these under sinks, in corners, behind appliances, and near trash cans. Although these will only catch and kill a few roaches and are ineffective against a larger infestation, they will give you a good idea of where roach activity is highest. Then, you’ll know the specific areas of your home to target in the next step.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends putting prevention methods in place even before you start using pesticides. The idea here is to get rid of other food and water sources so the bait you lay for the cockroaches will be more enticing. However, don’t use any harsh or strong-smelling cleaning chemicals. Vacuum crumbs and debris, clear away clutter, package food in airtight containers, and wipe down surfaces with dish soap. Additionally, if you end up vacuuming any live roaches or eggs, make sure to seal and dispose of your vacuum bag or place it in the freezer for a few hours to kill anything living inside it.

There are two main methods of chemical cockroach control: sprays and bait stations. Sprays either repel cockroaches or kill them on contact. Bait stations and gel baits lure cockroaches in with poisoned food and the roaches then take the bait back to their nests. Gel baits can be squeezed into smaller cracks where bait stations can’t fit. The slow-acting insecticide will allow the cockroaches to infect others, hopefully eliminating most or all of the roach infestation. Bait stations make the insecticide difficult for pets or children to accidentally get a hold of, but make sure to keep gel baits away from little hands, paws, and mouths.

We recommend setting bait over using sprays. Repellent sprays will only succeed in driving the roaches back into hiding, allowing them to continue to reproduce. Contact insecticides will only kill the roaches that you see or that step on the areas you spray, which won’t stop the problem at its source. In particular, don’t use sprays after laying down bait, since the roaches that take the bait must survive long enough to spread it.

Although sprays and bait are most common, there are other types of cockroach control that you can try if bait stations aren’t sufficient. Insecticide dust like diatomaceous earth, boric acid, or synthetic formulas can get into cracks and crevices that even gel bait can’t reach. However, if you’re still using bait, make sure not to apply the dust around the bait stations, as you’ll be working at cross-purposes.

Additionally, a product called insect growth regulator (IGR) can actually stop roaches from reproducing. This substance is a liquid or aerosol foam that stops cockroach nymphs from shedding their exoskeletons and reaching reproductive maturity, breaking the breeding cycle. This is a slower-acting form of insecticide that works best in conjunction with bait.

Be wary of “natural” and “nontoxic” cockroach remedies. Some are merely ineffective, like baking soda and household spices like cinnamon and thyme. Others like essential oils, can irritate skin and allergies if not handled correctly.

A home doesn’t have to be filthy to attract cockroaches—cold weather plus a leaky pipe or unsealed bag of pet food can easily lead to an infestation. However, the cleaner and better-secured your home is, the less friendly it is to roaches. You don’t need to wait until the infestation is gone to take steps to keep it from returning.

If you prefer to use bleach or ammonia—though never at the same time—to clean hard surfaces, now’s the time to do it. Give your kitchen and bathrooms the deepest cleaning treatment, making sure to also double-check that all food sources are sealed.

As you go along, fix any leaks or drips that leave behind standing water. Seal cracks and crevices along windows, doors, and utility pipes with caulk or other sealants to prevent roaches from getting in. Switch to a trash can with a tight-fitting lid for food waste. Air out or dehumidify basements or crawl spaces to keep moisture from building up.

You also may need to make some adjustments to your cleaning schedule. For example, make sure you take care of dirty dishes as soon as possible and wipe food or beverage spills from countertops immediately. Clean out refrigerators regularly, and take the trash out whenever there’s food waste inside. Vacuum frequently to get rid of crumbs as well as any stray cockroach eggs. Try to keep clutter to a minimum, as this can give roaches more places to hide.


When to Call in the Pros

If you’ve followed the above steps and your home still isn’t roach-free, it’s time to call a professional exterminator. German cockroaches reproduce so rapidly and efficiently that it’s often difficult for homeowners to kill them all without help. Fortunately, pest control professionals have the training to find the sources of the infestation and the equipment and products to eliminate the problem. If the infestation is large and well-established, you’ll likely save time by calling an exterminator as your first step.

Our Top Picks for Professional Cockroach Control

Fortunately, there are plenty of reliable, affordable pest control companies that are well-equipped to kill German cockroaches. Terminix is a well-known nationwide pest control provider that can eliminate all varieties of cockroaches using baits, dusts, and aerosols. With 300 locations around the country that offer 24/7 customer support, Terminix is one of the most accessible options in pest control. Call 866-569-4035 or fill out this quick form to get a free estimate for the company’s services.

Orkin is another excellent option that prides itself on giving its technicians ongoing training in the latest pest control techniques and methods. Orkin also offers free estimates, which you can receive by calling 877-868-1416 or visiting the company’s website. We recommend getting quotes from both companies to see which one better fits your needs and budget.


Frequently Asked Questions About German Cockroaches

Can baking soda kill German cockroaches?

If you’re searching for natural insecticides or cleaning solutions, you’re bound to come across the idea that baking soda can take care of nearly any household problem. It’s non-toxic to children and pets, making it a safe and popular option, and you’ll find plenty of advice for combining it with onions or sugar to make a bait.

However, according to informational material from the University of Nevada Institute of Agriculture, baking soda does not kill cockroaches. You’re welcome to try it, as it is harmless and inexpensive, but it’s also unlikely to make a dent in the problem.

What keeps cockroaches away?

While you should try to prevent cockroaches from getting inside your home, you shouldn’t use repellent at the same time as bait. Once you’ve gotten rid of the cockroach infestation and cleaned your house thoroughly, repellent sprays and insect barriers applied around weak points in the home like windows and doors can help.

Reportedly, cockroaches dislike strong smells like cinnamon, peppermint, vinegar, coffee grounds, and some essential oils, though their repellent effects are unproven. Additionally, no chemical or natural substance is going to be as effective as properly sealing cracks to the outdoors.

Why are German cockroaches so hard to get rid of?

German cockroaches are small, they reproduce rapidly, and they have few natural indoor predators. Additionally, their stomachs have adapted to survive on a wide variety of food sources, and they’ve developed resistance to many common pesticides. The combination of all of these factors means a few adult cockroaches  can turn into a large infestation in a short period.

How did I get German cockroaches?

Although roaches like a dirty, cluttered environment, the presence of German cockroaches isn’t necessarily a sign that your home is filthy. Roaches seeking warmth and food can get inside through even tiny cracks and then feed on crumbs or even non-food materials within your home.

Additionally, roaches or their eggs may be carried inside on grocery items, luggage, packages, or handbags. Your best bet is to make your home as hostile and impenetrable to cockroaches as you can.


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