How to Get Rid of Cockroaches and Keep Them Away

Last Updated on November 25, 2023 by Kimberly Crawford

Cockroaches, also known as roaches, can be terrible pests. It is worth getting rid of them right away when they appear to prevent a major infestation.

Cockroaches are not only disgusting to most people, they are also an important public health problem because they can contaminate food and eating utensils. Roaches can carry two human pathogens that can make people sick: salmonella and e-coli.

In addition, cockroach infestations often cause a number of allergens from their saliva, feces and cast skins that can irritate people with allergies or asthma. For all these reasons roaches need to be eliminated promptly when they appear and then measures taken that will keep them away.

get rid of cockroaches

Ways That Cockroaches Enter the House

cockroach eggs

Cockroaches can enter a house from the outside if the house is not “tight.” But they often enter via luggage, bags and boxes. Corrugated cardboard boxes are frequent sources of entry and infestation. Containers brought into the home need to be inspected carefully for signs of cockroaches or their eggs.

Cockroaches are nocturnal so you’re unlikely to see them in the daylight unless you have a major infestation. If you suspect you have an infestation there are products you can use to make sure: sticky traps placed tight against the joints of walls and floors will catch some if you have them. Put some of these sticky traps where the cockroaches most likely hide or visit, around:

Preventive Measures Against Cockroaches

There are two main strategies to help prevent cockroach infestations: sanitation and harborage reduction.


Good sanitation deprives cockroaches of most of the food and water they need to survive. Specific things to do include:

  • Don’t leave food out overnight.
  • Store all food in the refrigerator or in insect-proof containers.
  • Don’t leave pet food and water out overnight.
  • Clean all countertops, tables and sinks with soap and water every evening before going to bed.
  • Wash all dishes, pots, pans and eating utensils as soon as you’re finished using them.
  • Sweep or vacuum any food particles on floors.
  • Vacuum all nooks and crannies where food may have lodged.
  • Take all garbage out daily in closed containers.
  • Clean and wash waste containers frequently.
  • Repair all leaking or dripping faucets and pipes.
  • Rinse and recycle cans and bottles regularly.

Harborage Reduction

Reducing the places where cockroaches can live and reproduce is another strong preventive strategy. Here are some ways to eliminate some of their favorite spots:

  • Caulk to seal up cracks and places where cockroaches hide.
  • Remove newspapers, bags, and boxes, especially corrugated cardboard boxes from the house or apartment.
  • In apartments seal spaces that have plumbing or electrical wiring going through walls.

Cockroaches generally like warm, moist areas near a water source, so identify and frequently inspect your home around these potential nesting areas.

Non-Chemical Ways to Get Rid of Cockroaches

The two most effective non-chemical methods of getting rid of cockroaches are physical removal and cold treatment.

  • Physical removal is best done with a good vacuum cleaner that has a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which lessen the cockroach debris that can become airborne.
  • Cold treatment refers to sealing smaller items in a plastic bag and storing them in the freezer for a week or so. Items that might harbor cockroaches or their egg cases include toasters, clocks, and boxes.

Chemical Ways to Get Rid of Cockroaches

If you have a serious cockroach infestation the best thing to do is to use the services of a professional pest control company. They have the knowledge, experience and technology to successfully exterminate cockroaches. But don’t neglect your part, especially the sanitation and harborage reduction preventive measures.

If you want to try to get rid of cockroaches yourself, here are ways to go about it:

  1. First, determine where most of them are coming from. Use sticky roach traps in suspected areas and place the traps against walls or other objects so cockroaches can’t travel behind them.
  2. Apply chemical insecticides near the traps where most of the cockroaches have been caught. Baits, dusts or powders, and spays, liquid or aerosol can be used.
  3. Cockroach baits typically come in childproof containers and can be effective, though somewhat slow.
  4. Boric acid powder or dust can be used in places that pets and children can’t easily reach, like behind and under stoves, refrigerators, and sinks.
  5. If sprays are used avoid contaminating food, dishes and eating utensils. Spay only in specific sites where infestation has been found plus in cracks and crevices around drains and plumbing and behind sinks and cabinets. Do not spray on counter tops or tables.

Of course you should read the label and directions both before purchasing insecticides and then again before applying them.

Do NOT use aerosol foggers or bombs. These are not effective in reaching the cracks and crevices where roaches hide and can expose people and pets to high levels of the insecticide.

Cockroaches Can Be Exterminated and Kept Away

Whether you choose to use a professional pest control service or not, there are many steps you can take to eliminate cockroaches in your home and help keep them away.

The keys are thorough sanitation measures, harborage reductions, monitoring with sticky traps, non-chemical management, and insecticidal or chemical management. In major infestations all these methods may be required. Be sure to read the labels and comply with directions if you use insecticides.

How to Eliminate Cockroaches Without Toxins

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Cockroaches are among the most awful pests, but you can send them packing with these tips for green pest management.

#1. Cockroaches

You share your neighborhood with other people and other animal species—affable ones like dogs and sweet ones like songbirds, but also not-so-savory, blood-sucking ones like mosquitoes and ticks.

Your least favorite neighbor—the cockroach—might be living in your home, nastily not paying rent, and making your children sick. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, the presence cockroaches in the home has been linked to higher rates of childhood asthma.

#2. Cockroach Allergy

Take a deep breath because the next sentence is gross; on second thought, don’t—you’d be better off holding your breath. Scientific studies have found that it’s inhaling roach “dust” (a euphemistic way of saying feces, which is a scientific way of saying roach poop) that makes it hard for the kids to breathe.

Okay, now exhale and do something other than blame yourself for not keeping a completely spotless, completely clutter-free home. It’s not your fault.

Roaches are survivors. They’ve been living successfully on the planet for a long time – since the Devonian Period of the Paleozoic Era.

They can live anywhere and eat pretty much anything; even the glue on the back of postage stamps. They can scuttle themselves into dark, tight spaces the thinness of a dime. And they reproduce faster than rabbits. If, when you turn on the kitchen light in the middle of the night, you see one skittering along the wall, doubtless there are 800 more behind that wall and inside the cupboards and under the floorboards. Disgusting.

#3. Getting Rid of Roaches and Staying Green

You can keep these bugs at bay, and with minimal use of the harmful pesticide sprays and bombs that could further sicken your children. Some of the best pieces of advice are common sense:

  • Clean the kitchen after every meal and disinfect all surfaces with bleach
  • Declutter (roaches love the nooks and crannies provided by bric-a-brac, your kids’ treasures, un-put-away stuff, etc.)
  • Limit their access to water; roaches can live for months without eating but they need water every day.
  • Never leave water and dirty dishes in the sink; doing this is like advertising a free roach buffet.
  • Wipe down the tub after every use.
  • Immediately fix all plumbing leaks.

#4. Boric Acid to Kill Roaches

Something you wouldn’t immediately think of—boric acid—is considered one of the best roach-killers. Its natural crystals stick to the roach’s legs and, when the bug is cleaning itself, it ingests them and is poisoned and dies within 48 hours. Sign you up for that, right?

Be cautious. Boric as is a natural, green product, but it must be respected. Breathing boric it and ingesting it can be harmful, so talk to your pediatrician before you sprinkle your apartment. For more suggestions on pesticide-free roach eradication, check out Environmental Health Watch.