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Roaches in House

How To Get Rid of Roaches

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Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 04/19/2024

Cockroaches are notorious for invading homes, contaminating food, and reproducing rapidly. If not addressed quickly, a small roach problem can become an infestation in a matter of weeks. 

While discovering cockroaches can be distressing, there’s plenty homeowners can do to handle them. From roach prevention tips to which are the best pest control companies, we’ll cover everything you need to know about getting rid of roaches in this article.

Common Cockroaches

Cockroaches are nocturnal insects belonging to the Blattodea order, similar to termites. These disease-spreading invaders are found in almost every region of the United States. but are most prevalent in hot, coastal climates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that cockroaches cause health problems by triggering allergies and carrying and spreading bacteria. 

The two most troublesome cockroaches in the U.S. are the German cockroach and American cockroach. But there are nearly 70 different types of cockroaches that can infest your home. The following table details some of the most common cockroaches across the country:

Scientific Name: Periplaneta americana
Region: Most of the U.S.
Description: Reddish-brown to pale coloration, with thin cerci (tail-like segments).
Scientific Name: Blattella asahinai
Region: Southern U.S. and coastal states
Description: Long, pale body with darker vertical stripes than the German roach.
Scientific Name: Supella longipalpa
Region: Most of the U.S.
Description: Pale coloration with dark brown bands across the wings.
Scientific Name: Panchlora nivea
Region: Louisiana, Florida, Texas, and other Southern states
Description: Olive to lime green coloration.
cuban cockroach
Scientific Name: Blaberus craniifer
Region: Southern Florida
Description: Dark brown, glossy bodies with a skull-shaped marking on the abdomen.
death's head cockroach
Scientific Name: Blattella vaga
Region: Southwestern U.S. and Louisiana
Description: Tan to olive green coloration with vertical stripes.
Scientific Name: Blattella germanica
Region: Most of the U.S.
Description: Thin, flat with a tapered rear end and two vertical stripes below the head.
Scientific Name: Periplaneta fuliginosa
Region: Southern coastal states, like Florida and the Carolinas
Description: Black to dark-brown coloration with a glossy appearance.

According to the University of Minnesota, adult cockroaches produce between 16 and 50 eggs at one time depending on the species. It can take between three to four months for eggs to hatch and develop, and each roach can lay up to 600 eggs in their lifetime. 

German cockroaches have a faster life cycle than American roaches. This reproductive trait means that German roach colonies expand faster, and once established, they can be quite difficult to get rid of.

Why and How Cockroaches Enter Your Home

Cockroaches invade homes because they are attracted to food and water sources. Dirty dishes, crumbs, food spills, leftovers, garbage, and pet food will all draw cockroaches in. Standing water and high humidity in areas like basements, bathrooms, and crawl spaces will also attract these pests. Roaches are excellent at scuttling into and over tiny spaces, especially holes in pipes, cracks and crevices in walls, and tears in screens.

Signs of a Cockroach Infestation

Spotting a roach problem early is essential to eliminating it before you have a full-blown infestation. Roaches can be tricky to identify early on since they’re nocturnal and tend to hide. 

In fact, you may notice the following signs before you see an actual roach:

Small, pepper-like droppings on the floor or countertops
Exoskeleton sheddings
Foul, musty odors in the basement, crawl space, or food storage areas
Purse-shaped egg casings
Damage to paper or cardboard food containers

How To Get Rid of Cockroaches

You can take various measures to eliminate cockroaches, from setting bait to using diatomaceous earth to applying repellents and insecticides. DIY solutions work best for small roach infestations, but for more serious roach problems, we recommend seeking out a professional pest control company.

Set Roach Killer Bait Stations

Roach bait is sold in self-contained stations and in gel that can be applied directly to home surfaces. Since cockroaches nest close to food sources, trash bins, and plumbing, place the bait on kitchen and bathroom floors and cabinets. Lay it beneath sinks, stoves, and refrigerators, behind or near trash cans, inside kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and under baseboards.

Reapply gel bait roughly every two to three weeks. For bait stations, check the bait levels once a week and replace empty stations with new, full stations when necessary.

You can purchase roach bait from home improvement stores, most grocery stores, and Amazon and similar online vendors.

Set Out Traps or Glue Strips

Cockroach traps, sometimes called “roach motels,” use bait to lure the cockroaches onto a powerfully sticky surface. Glue strips work on the same principle, but they have no “lid, so you can see how many roaches are trapped. You can monitor the infestation by setting out glue strips in areas you suspect have high cockroach activity, such as the space between your refrigerator and floor and behind toilets. The more roaches on one glue strip, the more activity there is. We recommend the Cockroach Glue Trap by Catchmaster, which includes six disposable traps. 

If you have pets, you must be tactical about where you place these traps. Glue strips can get stuck on your pet’s paws, tail, or fur and are difficult to remove. We recommend placing traps behind cupboards, underneath refrigerators or other appliances, and in other pet-proof areas near the ground.

Apply Boric Acid

You can make your own poisoned bait with boric acid, also called borax. Boric acid is toxic to insects, but it must be mixed with a food source to get cockroaches to ingest it. Mix equal proportions of boric acid, confectioners’ sugar, and flour together into a dough—the baking ingredients will attract the roaches, and the boric acid will kill them. Break up this dough into marble-sized balls and set them strategically around your home like you would chemical bait.

Note that boric acid is less harmful to people and pets than chemical insecticide, but it still should be kept away from food and drinks. Additionally, borax is toxic to plants, so don’t put it near flowers and houseplants. Finally, some DIY remedies recommend using baking soda instead of boric acid. However, according the University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture, baking soda is not an effective insecticide.

Spray Liquid Roach Killer

Some varieties of roach spray kill on contact, but others remain toxic to roaches for a week or two after application. Look for these long-lasting sprays. Additionally, try to find ready-to-use sprays, which both the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the University of Nebraska say are safer to use than liquid concentrates that need to be mixed with water. If you must purchase a liquid concentrate, make sure to follow the mixing instructions on the label.

Use all insecticide sprays according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Spray them around cabinets, under appliances, and in other cracks and crevices where roaches are likely to travel. The downside of sprays, whether concentrated or not, is that they must be reapplied more often than baits or traps.

Apply Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring powder composed mostly of silicon. It is the fossilized remnants of microalgae called diatoms. This mineral kills cockroaches by acting as a desiccant—it dries out insects when it touches their carapace, making it highly lethal to most pests. It’s also harmless to pets and humans when ingested, though it can irritate the lungs if inhaled.

Purchase the food-grade version when using diatomaceous earth for roach elimination. Dust the powder into cracks and crevices and onto surfaces that are unlikely to be disturbed by children or pets.

A Note on Bug Bombs and Foggers

Bugs bombs, also called “foggers,” are a pesticide released through an aerosol canister. These tools are extremely effective at killing some kinds of roaches but can be dangerous to use. The insecticides in bug bombs are very toxic, highly flammable, and require homeowners to vacate the house when in use. If you’re thinking of using a bug bomb, we recommend contacting a pest control company instead.

Some online guides tout the use of essential oil sprays or other citrus roach repellents. While it’s true that some oils can harm insects, these methods are extremely inconsistent, difficult to apply, and can cause skin irritation. We recommend sticking to diatomaceous earth or boric acid for DIY roach removal.

How to Keep Cockroaches Out

Even the most effective roach killers won’t fix the problem if you don’t take steps to keep cockroaches out of your home. Don’t wait until you’ve exterminated the roaches to start implementing the following steps—start as soon as you notice a roach problem.

Clean Up and Cut Off Food Supply

A home doesn’t have to be filthy to attract cockroaches. Cockroaches are attracted to the food and shelter that comes with spills and clutter. Cleaning your home is the easiest way to keep roaches at bay. Roaches can survive for two weeks without water and three months without food, so you need to be incredibly thorough in this effort.

  • Wipe up spills and clean up crumbs immediately.
  • Wash dishes after use and put them away.
  • Empty and clean cabinets.
  • Clean underneath the sink.
  • Clean under all appliances, including the refrigerator, which is a favorite hiding spot.
  • Clean the interior and exterior of garbage cans. Throw trash away promptly and always use liners and tight-fitting lids.
  • Sweep, vacuum, and mop periodically.
  • Empty out or cover pet food dishes.

Keeping food in sealed containers is the next logical step. Roaches can easily wriggle into gaps in cardboard boxes. Consider storing your cereal, sugar, flour, and other dry goods in plastic, glass, or metal containers with tight-fitting lids.

Eliminate Hiding Spaces

Roaches thrive in places where it’s easy to find shelter. Throw away all clutter, including cardboard boxes and unnecessary papers. This cleaning should apply to the outside of the home as well. Remove any debris on your lawn, including empty containers, trash bins, firewood, and piles of leaves, and lawn clippings. 

Cockroaches will often infest nearby structures and spread into your home. If you have a shed or garage, ensure those are also cleaned. 

Get Rid of Standing Water

Cockroaches are drawn to water sources as well as food sources. Start by surveying your plumbing system for leaky pipes and take steps to prevent household plumbing leaks. Empty the dish tray from beneath your refrigerator and keep your sinks drained.

Seal Up Entry Points

Any opening 1/4 inch or larger will allow roaches to get inside. Even if you eliminate all the roaches in your home, they’ll come back if you don’t seal these entrances. To give yourself the best chance of getting rid of roaches for good, take the time to check your home for entry points at least once every two years.

  • Check your foundation: Look for gaps, cracks, and holes 1/4 inch or wider. Seal these openings with waterproof caulk or expanding foam.
  • Look for gaps in siding: Damaged sections should be replaced or sealed with foam.
  • Checking window and door screens: Any window or door screen with tears or holes should be patched or replaced. Home improvement stores sell screen rolls, which you can use to replace or patch both window and door screens.
  • Replace weather stripping: Weather stripping keeps out drafts and pests, but it needs replacing every two to three years.
  • Seal utility and cable holes: Holes for utility lines and cables are a common entry point for pests that are easily overlooked. We recommend sealing these with waterproof caulk.

Top Recommended Providers for Roach Control

Fast and effective roach control is a tall order, and it’s best left to qualified professional exterminators. We recommend Terminix and Orkin as the top nationwide pest control providers. Both companies have pest control experts who will tailor a roach control plan to your home and provide ongoing solutions for cockroach prevention.

Both companies stand out for their widespread availability, 24/7 customer support, and reservice guarantees that state specialists will provide additional treatments between scheduled visits if necessary. With both Orkin and Terminix, you can schedule pest-specific extermination and prevention services for roaches and various other types of pests.

We always recommend getting multiple quotes to get a better idea of the prices in your area before making your final decision.

How Can I Find a Roach Exterminator In My Area?

Use the links below to find the best pest control companies in major US metropolitan areas, including 10 of the top cities affected by roaches.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Rid of Cockroaches

How can I get rid of roaches fast?

The best way to get rid of roaches fast is to sanitize your home, eliminate hiding spots and stagnant water, store food in airtight containers, and use glue strips, bait, or roach spray. If you’re experiencing a severe infestation, contact a professional pest management company ASAP. 

Do roaches cause sweet smells in basements?

Roaches cause sweet, musty, unpleasant odors. Roaches use chemicals on their legs and bodies to communicate with other roaches about shelter, food, and mates. These chemicals release a musty scent which can linger in shed skins and feces. Dead roaches contribute to this odor as well—the oleic acid released during decomposition makes the sweet scent even stronger.

What is the best home remedy to get rid of roaches?

The best DIY method for getting rid of roaches is making a dough out of equal parts boric acid, flour, and confectioners sugar and placing balls of it strategically around your home. Dusting cracks and crevices with food-safe diatomaceous earth is another effective strategy.

Why do I have roaches in my clean house?

Roaches are attracted to moisture. Even if you have a clean home, excess moisture from leaky faucets or pipes may attract roaches.

What attracts roaches to your house?

Roaches are attracted to moisture and food. Water from leaky pipes or dishes left in the sink will draw them in, along with unsealed food, crumbs, and spills.

Our Rating Methodology

We back up our pest control recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review pest control plans, navigate the provider website, speak with customer service representatives by phone and online chat (if available), request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plans and services, reputation and customer responses, customer service offerings, workmanship guarantees, financing, and availability to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.

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