There are few creatures more loathsome than the cockroach. The mere presence of one in your home is enough to cause palpitations, while the presence of many more instantly feels like a full-blown crisis. We all know what attracts roaches, but they can proliferate even if you do everything right, from religiously scrubbing your floors and countertops, to taking out the trash regularly, to doing the dishes multiple times a day, and otherwise keeping your home clean.
Here are some ways to expel the foul hoards of roaches if you’re unfortunate enough to be forced to deal with them.
How do roaches get inside your home?
Like rats and mice, roaches don’t barge into your home in any distinct or noticeable way, but rather through crevasses or cracks in your walls, damaged pipes, or by latching themselves to bags or items you carry inside. If you live in an apartment building, their most likely means of access is via a neighboring (likely messier) unit, which can make getting rid of them that much harder.
There are various species of cockroach, but the kinds you’re most likely to find inside U.S. homes are the American cockroach and the German cockroach. The small German roach is most likely to abound in urban environments, Coby Schal, an entomologist at the University of North Carolina, told Prevention in 2019:
“Especially in low-income environments where people don’t have the resources to spend a lot of money on controlling cockroaches, this cockroach can really proliferate under those conditions.”
The much larger American cockroach dwells in the vast sewer networks beneath U.S. cities and typically climbs to the surface in search of food during the summer months. As Schal explained, American roaches are more commonly found in ground-level apartments—but certainly not only there.
Stay on top of basic housekeeping
One best practice that can’t be ignored is the need to keep your house clean. Cockroaches are nocturnal creatures that hide in the dark corners of your kitchen cabinets and under your fridge and sinks (among plenty of other places). They love garbage and filth. Which is why cleaning your home regularly will lessen your chances of a roach infestation.
Roaches are scavengers, and love scrounging for pet food that might be lingering on the floor and tidbits in the grease stains on your stovetop. So just do your best to maintain a tidy home by sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, washing the dishes, and taking out the garbage every day.
How to fight them
Now to the fun part: You might want to stamp these ghastly little beasts into a gooey puddle (because it’s satisfying to hear their exoskeletons crunch). Alas, that will not mitigate a broader problem, so instead try some or all of these methods.
- Traditional “roach motel” traps: These glue traps typically include some kind of bait in addition to a poison that kills the roaches after they become stuck inside. Some newer ones offer liquid bait, which many experts prefer, considering roaches tend to love stagnant water and dank, swampy environments. Do some research and get some well-reviewed traps. Place them wherever the little bastards are swarming, and replace as recommended.
- Pure bait: Antipesto recommends chemical bait, which masquerades as a food source but is really insecticide. As the website notes: “Roaches ingest the insecticide and return to their nests, where they die. Other roaches eat them, spreading the poison to the rest of the nest.” Place these traps wherever roaches linger.
- Herbal remedies: Though not as dependable as chemicals, certain herbal remedies, such as peppermint oil, can be used to repel roaches. There’s some scientific evidence bolstering this, so you can be assured this isn’t just hippie hokum. Try spritzing peppermint oil mixed with vinegar and a touch of water, in the affected areas, as recommended by Apartment Therapy.
- Boric acid: If you want to get really sick and twisted about it, you can make what I’d like to call boric acid pancakes. Antipesto describes how they work:
Mix equal amounts of boric acid, flour, and sugar to make a dough. Set balls of dough around the home where cockroaches can feed on it. The flour and sugar will attract the roaches while the boric acid will kill them. Simply place the dough where you know roaches are normal present, or under your refrigerator, stove, and the backs of cabinets and drawers. The boric acid will kill the roaches that will then become food for other roaches
Be mindful of where you’re placing the boric acid, though, as it can be harmful to your pets. And if you still can’t seem to exile the horrible pests from your house after resorting to many of these measures, it’s best to just call in a professional exterminator.