Roaches: the name alone is enough to make your skin crawl.
Unfortunately, they’re common pests, and they can be difficult to get rid of. If you have roaches in your home or apartment in areas such as kitchen cabinets, the attic, or in your bathroom, it’s important to get rid of them fast.
Here at Smith’s Pest Management, we help homeowners throughout Northern California, from Marin to Monterey, get rid of pests.
In this post, we’ll share the best and fastest ways to get rid of roaches for good, and everything you need to know about your various options.
- Home remedies like diatomaceous earth, baking soda, boric acid, citrus, essential oils, and borax can be effective ways to get rid of roaches.
- If you want to take a more aggressive approach to eliminate roaches, glue traps, bait stations, and liquid roach deterrent concentrates are all excellent options.
- Severe infestations will likely require the help of an expert pest management team.
What Type of Cockroaches Are in My Home?
While there are more than 4,500 roach species in the world, only about 69 of them live in the U.S.
Roaches are divided into two categories: peridomestic roaches and domestic roaches. Peridomestic roaches live around humans and tend to migrate inside when the weather gets cold. Domestic roaches, on the other hand, tend to live in human homes year-round.
With that in mind, here’s an overview of the roaches you’re most likely to see indoors:
The German cockroach is the most common domestic cockroach in the U.S. Because they breed so rapidly (each egg case can produce 20-40 baby roaches), even a single female in your home could produce a cockroach infestation of more than 30,000 individuals in a single year.
Unlike other roach species, the female German cockroach carries her egg pouches with her until they’re ready to hatch.
This means infestations spread easily and can be difficult to contain. In addition to breeding quickly, German cockroaches are easy to identify:
All cockroaches have flat, broad bodies with long hind legs and antennae. Their wings lie folded flat on their backs, and most are black or brown.
The German cockroach, however, tends to be light brown with two dark, parallel stripes that run down the body from the head to the wings.
German cockroaches also have a distinct smell, which some people have compared to dirty diapers. This smell can be particularly overpowering with severe roach infestations.
Brown-banded roaches are another common domestic roach species. They like dry areas and are commonly found inside walls or electronics like televisions or refrigerators.
They seek out warm areas and are commonly found in the high parts of a home, like attics and vents.
They are about 0.5” in length and tend to be dark brown. Both males and females have light yellow bands on their wings and abdomens.
While the American cockroach isn’t the most common roach species in the U.S., it is the largest peridomestic species that live around humans.
It’s also one of the longest-lived – with a lifespan of about two years.
These roaches are sometimes called the “sewer roach” or “palmetto bugs.” They can reach 1-3” in length and tend to be brown or reddish-brown with light yellow edges around their bodies.
What Attracts Roaches to My Home?
Regardless of what kind of roaches you have in your home, one thing is certain: you don’t want them there.
In addition to giving you the creepy-crawlies, roaches can trigger allergies, spread disease, and create an unsanitary living environment.
Fortunately, the first step to getting rid of roaches is understanding what’s attracting them to your property in the first place.
Here are some of the most common culprits:
1. Food sources
Roaches are omnivores, meaning they’ll eat anything. They are particularly fond of starches, sweets, greasy food, and meats.
Easy sources of food – like dirty dishes in the sink, pet food on the floor, or crumbs on the counter will draw them in.
Roaches also love garbage, so make sure to take the trash out regularly and keep all household garbage cans tightly sealed.
It’s important to know that roaches also eat all sorts of things we may not think of as food, including soap, hair, and toothpaste residue.
Cockroaches enter homes for shelter. During the day, they hide in dark, quiet areas that keep them safe.
Depending on the species of roach, they may live behind picture frames, in hollowed-out wood, in damp places like beneath the sink or behind the toilet, or in the backs of your electronics.
As the temperature dips outside, roaches will venture indoors.
They love quiet, forgotten areas, and may live underneath large appliances, in the corners of basements, and the attic.
If you’re wondering, “Why do I have roaches in my clean house?” we understand.
Solving a roach problem can be frustrating – especially if you’ve been careful to avoid common attractants.
Unfortunately, some locations are just more appealing to roaches than others.
Species like the American cockroach don’t need unsanitary conditions to thrive – they simply enter through a gap in a window seal or a door left open and start establishing themselves in your house.
Like all animals, roaches need water to survive – and they’ll enter even the cleanest and most sanitary homes to find it.
Leaky pipes and faucets are common attractants, as are open showers and pet water bowls.
Roaches will also gather in moist areas, like basements and crawl spaces.
While roaches love to live inside, they’ll also enter your yard in search of food, shelter, and water.
Standing water in birdbaths, gutters, and flowerpots will all attract roaches, as will food sources like birdseed or fruit plants.
How Roaches Enter Your Home
Shelter, food, and water attract roaches to your home, but how do they get in? The most common way roaches enter your home is through tiny cracks and gaps in windows, doors, and other areas.
Here are some of their favorite access points:
1. Cracks and Gaps in Windows and Doors
Cracks and gaps in your home’s doors and windows are the top way roaches make their way into your home. Doors that aren’t sealed properly and windows that don’t close entirely are perfect access points for roaches.
2. Holes in Pipes and Vents
Another common entrance point for roaches is through holes in pipes and vents. If you live in an older home with vents that have holes or don’t properly seal, it’s an invitation for roaches to come inside.
Check your vents when you replace or service them and keep an eye on pipes and plumbing fixtures for holes or other potential roach access points.
3. Hitching a Ride on Furniture and Other Items
If you’re bringing used furniture or other items into the home, check them for roaches, first. These insects can hole up and hide in used items, only to emerge once they’re safely inside your home.
4. Outdoor Foliage
In some cases, cockroaches may use dirty gutters or outdoor vegetation to access entry points in a home, including vents and gaps and cracks around windows. Because of this, pest control professionals recommend creating a vegetation-free buffer around the home and eliminating foliage hanging over the house.
How to Get Rid of Roaches Inside Your Home
Naturally with Home Remedies
If you want to get rid of roaches without chemicals such as bombing, foggers, or sprays you’re in luck. There are a handful of effective home remedies that will send these nasty critters packing and many of them are not harmful to children or pets.
Here are a few we recommend:
1. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth, or DE for short, is an excellent natural insecticide. Composed of pulverized, fossilized algae, DE’s particles are sharp and dehydrating. When roaches come into contact with DE, it damages their exoskeletons and dehydrates them to death.
Purchase some food-grade DE and sprinkle a light coating on any surface where you’ve noticed roach activity.
Pros: Effective, affordable, safe for kids and pets
Cons: Messy, requires re-application, you will have to locate and dispose of dead roaches after each DE treatment
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda is one of the fastest, easiest ways to get rid of roaches – and it’s probably something you already have in your pantry. To make a DIY roach bait, dice a handful of onions and sprinkle them with baking soda.
Place this appetizer in a shallow dish anywhere you’ve noticed roach activity. When the roaches consume the baking soda, it creates gasses in the roaches’ stomachs, causing them to burst.
Pros: Effective, non-toxic, affordable
Cons: Pets may consume the onion mixture (onions are toxic for dogs), messy, requires you to locate and dispose of dead roaches
3. Boric Acid
Boric acid is a naturally-occurring compound. A mixture of water and boron, it shows up in fruits and plants.
While boric acid is harmless to people and pets, it’s deadly for roaches. When cockroaches come into contact with boric acid, it sticks to their legs and wings. When they ingest the powder, it acts on the roach’s nervous and digestive systems – killing it rapidly.
To use boric acid to get rid of roaches, sprinkle a light dusting onto a paper plate. Put an orange peel or spoonful of peanut butter in the middle of the plate and place the whole thing anywhere you’ve noticed roach activity.
Pros: Effective, affordable, natural, non-toxic, easy
Cons: Can be messy, requires several applications or treatments, may not be ideal for homes with pets or young kids, requires you to track down and dispose of dead roaches
Borax is a readily-available laundry product that’s excellent for killing roaches. For best results, combine equal parts borax and white table sugar. Dust the mixture any place you’ve seen roach activity. When the roaches consume the borax, it will dehydrate them and kill them rapidly.
Pros: Effective, affordable, kills both adult and baby roaches
Cons: Can be messy, requires re-application, requires you to track down and remove dead roach bodies
Citrus is a tasty treat for humans, but it’s a repellent to cockroaches. The smell of lemons, specifically, deters roaches. Add a few drops of lemon oil to the water you use to mop your floors. The scent won’t be detectable to people, but it will send roaches packing.
Pros: Effective, affordable, ideal for homes with kids and pets
Cons: Does not kill roaches – only deters them
6. Essential Oils
Essential oils are a great natural roach repellant. For best results, purchase peppermint or lemongrass essential oil and mix it with a bit of water. Spray the mixture anywhere you’ve seen roaches. Citrus, lime, oregano, and rosemary essential oils are generally recommended as the most effective and research-backed roach-repellent oils.
Pros: Effective, affordable, safe for kids and pets, non-toxic
Cons: Does not kill roaches
7. Caulk all Entry Points
While glue strips and bait stations can be effective to get rid of roaches, they won’t do much good if new roaches are constantly entering your home. With this in mind, use caulk to seal gaps and possible entry points. Pay close attention to gaps between walls or tile, worn-out weather stripping, or gaps in door and window seals.
Pros: Effective, safe, affordable
Cons: Caulk wears out over time, so you must check and recheck access points routinely
With Chemical Methods
Looking for more conventional options to solve your roach problem? Here are some of the fastest ways to get rid of roaches:
8. Use Glue Traps to Identify Problem Areas
Glue traps are a safe and effective way to identify roach problem areas and resolve infestations.
Glue strips are sheets covered in a sticky substance.
The smell of the trap lures roaches in and, once they step on the strip, the glue traps them.
For best results, place store-bought glue strips in any place you’ve noticed roach activity, including behind the refrigerator or under the sink.
Pros: Effective, safe for kids and pets (as long as the strips are hidden), fast-acting
Cons: You must monitor strips for a few days or weeks and change and replace them when they become filled with dead roaches; glue strips won’t work for large roach infestations but can help monitor and control small infestations
9. Set Bait Stations
What kills cockroaches almost instantly? Bait stations. Typically, these bait stations come in a long tube and can be placed anywhere you’ve noticed roach activity.
The smell of the bait attracts roaches who then eat the poison. When the roach travels back to its home location and dies, the other roaches will eat it, passing the poison through the group.
Pros: Effective, fast-acting
Cons: Bait stations look unattractive around a home, can be toxic to kids and pets, will leave dead roaches around the home, dead roaches may be consumed by non-target species like birds and other animals – poisoning them as well
10. Use a Liquid Concentrate
Purchase a liquid roach deterrent concentrate at your local home improvement store. This concentrated liquid is designed to be diluted and sprayed into cracks and crevices where roaches like to hide.
If you need a more comprehensive solution, you can also add a bit of the concentrate to a mop bucket and mop your floors with the solution. This option will deter roaches overnight and keep them from coming back.
Pros: Effective, fast-acting, affordable.
Cons: Contains toxic ingredients, not ideal for homes with kids and pets.
11. Use an Insect Growth Regulator
If you have domestic roaches in your home or you believe that roaches are reproducing in your home, an insect growth regulator (IGR) product may help control the infestation. These products come in a variety of formulas, including sprays formulated with Pyriproxifen.
These products target roach eggs and nymphs, rendering them unable to mature any further and reducing the roach population.
While insect growth regulators can be an effective control measure, they’re best used in tandem with products that will eliminate adult roaches, including baits, traps, and liquid concentrates.
Pros: Effective to control roaches during their early life stages and prevent reproduction, affordable.
Cons: Won’t kill full-grown roaches, may take months to have a noticeable effect.
12. Hire an Exterminator
For best results, hire a professional roach management team like Smith’s to get rid of your infestation once and for all.
Professional teams know how to locate and eradicate roach infestations safely and effectively, without putting your kids, pets, or household at risk.
Pros: Effective, safe, long-lasting, can deal with roach infestations both indoors and outside the home
Cons: Requires a larger upfront investment than DIY options
Roach Bombs: Avoid if Possible
When wondering how to get rid of roaches without an exterminator, some people turn to roach bombs.
Also called “foggers,” roach bombs spray a pesticide into the air.
When the pesticide falls to the ground, it coats indoor surfaces and kills target pests. Most roach bombs are designed to be placed in the center of the room and activated.
Unfortunately, roach bombs are extremely toxic, and we recommend against using them. There are safer and more effective ways to get rid of your roach infestation.
Cons: Toxic, flammable, most effective only for flying roaches, not suitable for homes with pets or young children, requires you to vacate the home while the roach bomb works
How to Get Rid of Roaches Outside Your Home
If you want to prevent cockroaches in your house, you have to start by limiting their numbers outside your home in your yard or garden.
1. Clean Up
Remember: roaches need three things to survive – food, water, and shelter. While you can’t eliminate these things in the outdoor environment, you can make your landscaping less welcoming for them.
Here are a few tips:
- Remove woodpiles, leaf piles, stagnant water, and overgrown underbrush
- Secure lids to outdoor trash cans
- Trim foundation plantings back away from the home
- Limit water sources by emptying standing water in pots and birdbaths
Pros: Effective, affordable, makes your landscaping look beautiful
Cons: Does not kill or get rid of roaches – only makes your landscaping less appealing for them
2. Use Sticky Traps
Sticky traps aren’t only for indoor use – you can place them outdoors, too. Lay sticky traps down any place you see roaches entering your home, such as cracks around doors or windows, or foundations.
If you’re not sure where the roaches are coming from, lay the traps down in a few locations and check the traps daily to identify high-traffic routes.
Pros: Effective way to identify roach routes
Cons: Unsightly, time-consuming
3. Place Bait
To decrease the number of roaches entering your home, kill them with bait before they get inside.
Since roaches like to keep the top or side of their bodies pressed against something as they walk, your bait stations will be most effective when placed next to outbuildings, ledges, corners, fences, or the foundation of your home.
Pros: Effective, fast-acting, long-term solution
Cons: Toxic, can be dangerous for kids, pets, and other animals
4. Spray Pesticide
One of the more effective ways to get rid of roaches is to spray a pesticide around the perimeter of your yard and home. These sprays are long-acting (many last three months or more) and will kill roaches on contact.
Pros: Effective, long-acting
Cons: Toxic, can be dangerous for kids, pets, and other animals
How do Exterminators Get Rid of Roaches?
If you hire a professional exterminator to get rid of roaches, what can you expect?
Here’s how our team at Smith’s Pest Management does it:
Step 1: The Inspection
Our cockroach control experts will arrive at your property to inspect the infestation. We’ll look for areas where the roaches are accessing your home, and sources of moisture or food that may be enticing them.
We’ll also identify the species of cockroach you’re dealing with and formulate a plan for cockroach control.
Step 2: The First Treatment
Based on the information we gleaned during our initial inspection, we’ll develop a treatment plan for your home. Since cockroaches can be a difficult pest to eradicate, we take a two-step process to get rid of them.
Depending on the severity of your infestation, our preliminary treatment may include baiting, monitoring, trapping, or spraying the cockroaches or providing education, cleaning and sanitization services, or insect growth regulators.
During this step, we’ll place cockroach monitors to gauge activity.
Step Three: The Follow-Up Visit
Once we’ve deployed our initial treatment, we’ll check our monitors and deploy additional treatments, as needed. The result is a complete end to your infestation, as quickly as possible.
How Do I Keep Roaches Out of My House?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep roaches out of your home in the first place with these simple tips:
1. Clean the House
First things first: start by removing everything that could attract roaches.
Any homemade roach killer you employ will be more effective if you make your home as unwelcoming as possible before using it.
Here are a few items to check off the to-do list:
- Wash and put away all dirty dishes immediately after use.
- Clean up any crumbs and spills promptly.
- Empty sources of standing water, including pet bowls.
- Take out the garbage daily, and especially before going to bed at night.
- Mop and sweep the floors regularly, including under and around large appliances.
- Avoid leaving pet food out for an extended period.
2. Get Serious About Storing Food
If you want to keep roaches out of your house, eliminating food sources is critical. One of the best ways to do this is to store food in airtight glass or plastic containers.
Store perishables in the refrigerator, and avoid leaving fruits and vegetables out on the counter.
3. Clean Kitchen Appliances
Remember: roaches love fat and grease, and your kitchen is a great place to find these tasty treats. With this in mind, keep the stovetop, dishwasher, and other cooking appliances clean.
Pay special attention to areas like the drip pans under stove burners, the backsplash, and your garbage disposal.
Additionally, make sure you’re wiping counters and tables after you cook each night. To add an additional layer of protection, add a few drops of lemon oil to your cleaning water. The scent of citrus will keep cockroaches from coming back.
4. Get Rid of Newspapers and Cardboard Boxes
Roaches love newspaper and cardboard boxes because they make excellent breeding and nesting material. To prevent roach infestations, recycle or get rid of old newspapers and used cardboard boxes as quickly as possible.
5. Seal Cracks and Entry Points
Roaches can squeeze their small bodies through tiny gaps and cracks. To prevent them from gaining access to your home, seal cracks in the home’s foundation and install door sweeps to block gaps under doors.
You’ll also want to check for gaps around windows, and around holes used for gas, plumbing, and electric lines, and crawl space vents. Use caulk or sprayable foam to seal these cracks and keep your home roach-free.
6. Fix Leaks Right Away
If you have plumbing leaks in your home, fix them as quickly as possible. Even a tiny pipe drip is enough to provide roaches with the moisture they need to survive.
In addition to fixing leaks, regularly inspect sinks, refrigerators, appliances, and faucets to ensure they’re not leaking or producing excess moisture.
Are Roaches Taking Over Your San Francisco Bay Area Home? We’re Here to Help!
Our team is here to help you get rid of roaches permanently. We provide top-quality pest control services to residential and commercial customers in Northern California – from Marin to Monterey.