Unexpected Roommates: How to Get Rid of Roaches

Photo: Lvnel

I recently moved into — and then out of — an apartment that had cockroaches. I'm not just talking about those little guys (as disgusting as they may be) — these were the big fellas. And they had absolutely no sense of decorum. I could respect a roach if it came around just in the evening, when one expects to see roaches. But these guys would show up in the middle of the day, scurrying around my bathroom, under my couch, and in what was perhaps the worst — my laundry.

Over the past few weeks, I learned quite a few things about getting rid of roaches. Most importantly, you can get rid of them — and if your circumstances make it so that it's difficult to do so, you do have other options. Here's what to do if those creepy, apocalypse-surviving critters are in your living space. (See also: How to Get Rid of a Skunk Without Losing Your Dignity)

1. Remove All the Hiding Places

Roaches can hide in lots of tiny little nooks. Use caulk to plug up holes in baseboards, around plumbing, and anywhere else you might have a gap or cranny. Pay special attention to places they could get in from the outside, like windows. They also like cardboard, so consider throwing out boxes you might have lying around.

2. Don't Leave Things Out to Attract Them

If you already have roaches, you're not going to get rid of them by just hiding your food — they can live for a month without eats. But not leaving them a buffet can help.

3. Try Natural Deterrents

Roaches aren't as sensitive to natural deterrents as some other pests are, but bay leaves, garlic, and catnip can all help keep them away. Diatomaceous earth, a non-toxic powder made from crushed fossils, can also be sprinkled around to kill roaches; it cuts their exoskeletons.

4. Sprays and Baits

Baits should be placed wherever you see roaches congregate. They attract the roaches and leave them with a little bit of roach poison that they bring back to their nest. Sprays can be used to kill or maim roaches the moment you see them, but make sure not to spray baits or other traps; then the roaches won't going near them.

5. Use Boric Acid

Boric acid (available at pharmacies) is poisonous to roaches and can be very, very effective. I had a friend in college who had a roach nest in his house, filling every room with the little roaches, and liberal use of boric acid killed them off entirely. However, boric acid can be slightly toxic to small children and pets, so it's best not to use if you have anything crawling around that might lick a strange powder.

Apply the boric acid in a thin layer — roaches will avoid anything too thick. You can also attract the roaches to the boric acid by mixing it with some flour or sugar.

6. Fumigate

You can try doing it yourself with bug bombs, or you can hire a professional who will come in with high-grade chemicals. Again, these chemicals can be somewhat toxic, but they are effective. If you live in an apartment with roaches, however, it is usually not enough to fumigate individual apartments — roaches will simply move to other areas of the building. The most effective way to get rid of them is to tent the entire building and fumigate like that...a trouble that many building owners will try to avoid. Which brings me to my next point...

7. Move

This is not a necessity — you can get rid of roaches — but it is an option if you're a renter. If your apartment has a vermin problem, you can often legally move out no matter where you are in your lease. Check your state's specific rental laws; sometimes you have to wait a certain amount of time for the owner to try to fix the problem, while sometimes the presence of roaches (or other vermin) can allow you to break your lease immediately. Do your research, and if possible, document the problem — photographs and a detailed list of incidents are both great.

Have you dealt with roaches? What worked — or didn't work — for you?

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Guest's picture

Laid down some roach motels only to find that they picked up in their crawling all over the kitchen counters. Not only that, they appeared to have grown bigger faster. Might have to look into that boric acid mix.

Guest's picture

I live in a NYCHA Apartment. Moving is not an option. I fought the war for eight years. I would pack up all the food in plastic containers(take out of cardboard packaging and use ziplock bags), cover all dress clothes with garbage bags and tie the bottoms, and bomb the apartment(I would notify neighbors a week or two in advance in case they also wanted to bomb their apartment at the same time.) I would spray and bait afterward, 6 months later my friends(roaches) were back in full force, it went this way for eight years. In 2008 I bought Riddex and plugged one in front of the apartment and one in back. I noticed the Roaches would act weird around it but as each generation was born they acted less and less weird(They seemed to become immune.) I would have told you that it didn't work if I wasn't so persistant. I had to do all the things I did before to rid the house of roaches (plugging holes between apartments very, very, important) but immediately after reentering the apartment I plugged in the Riddex. I also handed out Riddex to a few apartments on the first floor. I have been Roach Free for 3 years. I keep a can of Raid just in case but keep spraying and baiting for the next 3-6 months after for any stragglers or visitors from other apartments.

Will Chen's picture

I don't have a roach problem but I recently had a very serious ant infestation problem. What worked well for me was to use 2 different types of ant baits. I forgot the name of the brands, but I believe the cheaper brand was the one the ants actually preferred.

The ants were gone within 2 days. I'm so glad I went with baits instead of sprays.

Guest's picture

Don't know if it'll work for roaches, but we've had good luck using Goo Gone (spray) against ants. Pros use d-limonene, which is very similar. Both are citrus extracts.

Guest's picture
Kirk Gerardo

Great post! I use a little beer in a small bowl thats greased with vaseline on the inside then add a spoonful or 2 of sugar to the beer, drown them and there’s!