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What is the Best Method of Cockroach Control?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are many different ways to control cockroaches in a home or office, so determining which method is “best” is, in most cases, a matter of circumstance and available tools more than it is some inherent sense of superiority. One of the most important things people can do in cockroach-prone parts of the world is to take proactive steps to prevent the pests from getting inside in the first place. Once roaches have made their way indoors, eradication can be as simple as cutting off their food and water supply or as complex as setting traps and poisons. A lot depends on how many bugs there are. Many people start small on first spotting a roach, then gradually up their attack until the problem has been solved.

Preventing Infestation

Prevention is the best method of cockroach control for many people. If it is very difficult for the pests to enter a building, they often either won’t come in at all or will only enter in small numbers. Public health experts usually recommend that people take a number of relatively easy steps to secure their homes and offices from invasion. There is often a little bit of cost required at the outset, but the process is usually a lot less expensive and time consuming than is killing the insects once they’ve gotten in.

Home and building owners often start by carefully sealing all doors and windows using caulk or professional weather stripping. Screens should be checked for rips and a snug fit into the frame. Although cockroaches are somewhat large — often at least 1 inch (about 2.5 cm) long — they can often compress themselves in order to fit through even very narrow passageways. Sealing pipes and drain openings is also usually a good idea.

Limiting Food and Water Access

A cockroach that manages to sneak indoors isn’t likely to make a permanent home without food and water. The insects are known to be very hardy and can survive for a long period of time without nutrients; they won’t usually colonize or lay eggs without a more sustainable habitat, though, which makes keeping things tidy all the more important. Both human and pet food should typically be kept sealed in airtight containers, and cooks should be careful not to leave dirty dishes in sinks or on counters overnight. Regularly sweeping crumbs off the floors and counters and taking out the trash at the end of each day is important, too.

Any areas of standing water can attract roaches, including water bowls for pets and puddles on bathroom or kitchen floors. These should usually be emptied each evening, and any dripping faucets should be fixed. Some people go so far as to seal their faucets and drain pipes, particularly in older buildings that are more prone to leaks. A slow drip underneath a counter or washing machine may not be problematic on a day-to-day basis, but the moist environment it creates might be just enough to encourage a roach to settle in and build a family.

Poisons

It’s usually too late for preventative measures once roaches have been spotted, and while it’s never a bad idea to figure out how the pests made it in, a homeowner’s attention at this point usually centers around how to get rid of the bugs. Poisons are one of the most effective means of eradication, and there are several different choices. Leaving specially designed roach pellets at strategic points around a room, often in corners or under cabinets, is one approach; sprays and pesticides are another.

Bait is usually more passive, since people simply leave it out in hopes that the roaches will find it, eat it, and die. It can be purchased from pest management companies or homemade, usually with boric acid, flour, and water. Insecticide sprays usually involve a little bit more effort, and in many cases contain a much harsher cocktail of chemicals. People often spray the bugs directly, which means keeping a bottle handy most of the time. Sprays can be applied to cracks and crevices where the insects are suspected to live, but in most cases they aren’t as effective once they’ve had time to dry.

Traps

It may also be possible to trap cockroaches. Many different home improvement retailers sell roach traps, but they aren’t hard to make at home, either. The most important thing people need is a container that is deep enough and usually also slick enough that the bug can’t get out once it’s gotten in. A deep jar coated with oil or petroleum jelly is one example; so long as there is a bridge or easy way in, the bug will enter but then won’t be able to get out once it has fallen to the bottom.

Some traps are baited with poison, but others are set simply with foods or liquids. Anything with a sweet and pungent smell is likely to attract the insects; many experts recommend using a bit of stale beer or fruit that is near decay. Once the roach has been trapped, it can either be left to die on its own or sprayed with an insecticide.

Professional Services

It is often really difficult to eradicate entire roach colonies with home remedies or through prevention, and when things are really bad a professional insect exterminator may be the best option. Exterminators are specially trained in identifying where cockroaches may be colonizing, and have high-powered ways of killing them off. Fumigation is one option, which essentially involves forcing poisoned gas into the roaches’ nests; canvassing their habitat with toxic sprays is another. An exterminator might also use a series of sophisticated traps to ensure that the job is done.

People who live in tropical climates where roaches are more common often pay for regular extermination services, or at least consult a professional for inspection on a monthly or semi-annual basis. People who live or work in old buildings often do the same. Getting an outside expert to look out for signs that roaches are getting in is often a lot better than waiting until they’ve set up residence.

Cautions and Best Practices

No method of cockroach control is entirely foolproof, and people should be careful to use good judgment when dealing with sprays, baits, or other toxins. Families with pets or small children must be particularly cautious that nothing intended to kill the bugs is accessible to little hands or paws. The same holds true for restaurants, veterinary clinics, and daycare centers. Anyone who find that an aggressive fight isn’t working should call in professional help to avoid endangering those who are legitimately occupying the space.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By jefferyscott — On Nov 16, 2017

Seeing a cockroach in your home or in your place of business can be really horrifying. Feeling uncomfortable is completely valid, as they are known to spread disease, bacteria, and even cause or worsen allergy and asthma symptoms in cases of serious infestation. One can get rid of them by hiring an exterminator to help or can look for DIY methods. When you hire an exterminators, you get the benefit of a professional touch, and someone else taking the risk of working with chemicals. As an added bonus, many exterminators guarantee their work, so you will not have to pay over and over for failing attempts. But one who want to get rid of cockroach on their own, they are many methods, one is getting your hands on some boric acid wherever you have damp, dark areas. Because these pests love the damp and dark they will end up ingesting this poison.

By anon336552 — On May 29, 2013

I have not experienced an invasion of the kind hinted at above, but even one roach is too much for me.

Typically, a roach would be found in the shower in the morning or the kitchen sink, and I learned that it was water they were after. Food was not thought of as such a problem since they could go for a long time without food and a roach (of the type found in Southern California) could also endure a week without water. I tested that once and found it to be true.

When we found more than one roach in the kitchen and started to see roaches almost every day, (in our single family home) we got roach traps and placed them "strategically".

It worked instantly and spectacularly. The first day, we found three dead and after that, no roaches would be found for months. The Traps were said to be effective for about three months and that seemed to be true as well.

Eventually, a roach was found and a new batch of traps was needed. Again, the roaches disappeared.

The notion that a house could be sealed up so well that it would prevent roaches from entering is ludicrous to me. Also, spreading "gels" around is not an attractive proposition. So far, roach traps seem to be the best solution.

By anon313316 — On Jan 11, 2013

I suffered a lot with these roaches. Even at midnight, if I went to the kitchen and switched on the lights, I found more 500 Roaches in the room. Sometimes me and my roommate worried about this, thinking about changing my flat. Finally, I found a solution to destroy these roaches. My neighbor came and gave me a solution called Max Force Gel. You can't get this gel easily in south Africa because they mostly sell it only to registered pest control people. But I got some, came home and used it in my house. From the next day onward, there is not even a single cockroach in my house. We were surprised and wondered about this gel. If you have this problem, I'm sure it will work.

By seg6564 — On Jan 15, 2011

I used some cockroach bombs in my townhouse after reading some info online. I then put some sticky boards behind the fridge. They didn't come back!

By FastPaced — On Jul 21, 2010

@raresteak- The roach dust you mentioned can be easily cleaned with a mixture of warm water and bleach. Of course, on surfaces that can be affected negatively by bleach, you must only use water and a rag. It is as important to rid your home of roach dust as it is the actual roaches. This will prevent allergies and asthma attacks from happening in those prone to them.

By raresteak — On Jul 21, 2010

Many people with allergies have extreme reactions to roach dust, the stuff that roaches leave behind in their wake. People with allergies may also be sensitive to old school pest control methods like sprays, foggers, and bombs.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is likely the safest method for those prone to allergies or asthmas attacks. The IMP method involves the following steps:

1) Deny roaches food, water, shelter, and methods of entry

2) Use Borate powders such as Borid and Roach Prufe as often as your infestation requires.

3) Use roach baits that contain roach poison as often as needed.

Make sure to place Borate powders and roach baits in places that pets and children cannot reach or gain access to.

By StormyWind — On Jul 21, 2010

Cockroaches infested my condo a few years ago. Every single time I tried to use my toaster, moving the appliance would result in several of those nasty little pests flooding out.

I saw a sharp decline in the presence of the cockroaches when I began thoroughly cleaning my kitchen and emptying the toaster's crumb trap after each use. I also used roach bombs and Raid. After about a week, my pest problem was gone and I no longer felt like I was living in filth.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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