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How to Get Rid of Roaches (and Keep Them at Bay for Good)

Roach problems can grow fast. If you think your home or rental property might have a roach infestation, it's important to act quickly before it worsens.

[Updated: Feb 04, 2021 ] Apr 15, 2020 by Aly J. Yale
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Though they are considered common household pests, cockroaches are a problem. Whether you've found household pests in your kitchen or a tenant's poor cleaning habits has them running rampant in your rental property, the issue needs to be addressed -- and fast.

Here's the fact of the matter: A cockroach infestation can worsen quickly. According to pest control company Orkin (NYSE: ROL), female roaches can lay up to 50 eggs at once. So one bug? That can easily turn into hundreds just a few months down the road.

And what's worse, those hundreds of bugs can contaminate your counters, cabinets, floors, and even your food if you're not careful, posing a serious health hazard to you and your tenants.

Fortunately, a roach infestation isn't the end of the world. If you see signs of cockroaches, there are several ways you can eliminate the problem, as well as prevent the pests from coming back for good. So if you're wondering how to get rid of a cockroach infestation, then keep reading!

What can cause cockroach infestations?

The first step to getting rid of your roach problem is to understand what species of cockroaches you're dealing with. What do the roaches look like? An American cockroach is dark brown and between one and two inches long, while a German cockroach is smaller and usually more of a light brown color.

German cockroaches are more common when it comes to indoor infestations. They move into homes in search of food, water, and moisture, and they're largely active at night. They usually settle in dark corners and crevices or near warm appliances.

The American cockroach species tends to prefer outdoor environments, so if you're dealing with this species, you'll need to evaluate the exterior of your home. Things like overflowing garbage cans, nearby sewers or storm drains, large mulch heaps, and tree stumps can all be havens for these pests. In general, they like warm, humid environments and feed on decaying organic matter, like bark and leaves.

How to get rid of a cockroach infestation fast

As soon as you think you might have a cockroach problem, it's time for a good deep cleaning. Deep clean the kitchen and bathroom sinks. Wipe up any spills, crumbs, or food messes that may be out, vacuum the entire home, and take care to clean any dark or hidden areas of your home as well. These are spots where roaches tend to hide, so pull out your refrigerator, sweep under trash cans, and be thorough about it.

Then, employ one of these methods for getting rid of the cockroaches:

The best cockroach traps and baits

There are all kinds of traps and baits you can use to draw in the roaches and either trap or kill them. These can be purchased at most home improvement and grocery stores.

Some options include:

  • Glue boards or strips: These are strips of paper you place around the house. Roaches get stuck to them and are unable to escape.
  • Bait stations: Roach bait stations are designed to get roaches to ingest some sort of poison and then carry that poison back to their nest.
  • Roach traps: Sometimes called "roach motels," these are small boxes that attract the pests and trap them permanently. You set the traps out around the property, then throw them away -- roaches and all -- in a few weeks.

You can also spray a cockroach repellent, but be careful about using chemicals like these. You want to be sure the chemicals don’t contaminate any surfaces you might touch or cook food on.

Home remedies & DIY roach traps

A number of DIY approaches may also help eliminate your roach problem. To save on cash, start by digging through your cupboards for a natural cockroach repellent. Catnip, eucalyptus, mint, and bay leaves all contain compounds that send roaches running for the hills.

For under $10, you can also use diatomaceous earth as a sort of roach killer. Made up of small, abrasive fossilized remains, the powder tears up the roaches' bodies and eventually kills them. You can find diatomaceous earth on Amazon or at any home supply store.

Finally, boric acid solutions are also a common strategy. Just mix boric acid (you can find this at grocery and drug stores) with equal parts of sugar and flour, and roll the dough into small balls. Then, place the balls throughout your home where roaches might be hiding out. The flour-sugar combination will entice the bugs to eat, while the boric acid chemicals will finish the job.

An important note here: Boric acid is toxic, and it can be dangerous if ingested by humans or animals. Steer clear of the boric acid approach if you have pets or small children in the house.

Call in a pro

If you really want to ensure the roach infestation goes away, then call in a professional pest control team to get the job done. If you're dealing with a serious infestation (especially on a rental or income-earning property) this might be your best bet for addressing the issue permanently.

How to prevent a roach infestation

Cockroaches are attracted to moisture, so cutting down on your home's overall moisture levels can help control potential infestations in the future. You'll also want to avoid leaving water out -- dog bowls, half-empty cups, etc. -- and be careful to wipe down any wet surfaces, like your tub or kitchen sink.

Beyond that, other measures to prevent a cockroach infestation include:

  • Practicing proper food hygiene: Roaches are usually looking for easy food sources, like food scraps on the counter, in the garbage can, or on dirty dishes. Pet food, crumbs on the counters and floor, and open bags of food in the pantry can also be attractive to roaches, so be sure to tidy up after yourself and store your food in tightly closed containers.
  • Closing any gaps and entry points to your home: Cracks under doors, around windows, or in walls are all perfect entryways for cockroaches, and you'll need to plug them up if you want to keep future infestations at bay. Caulk can help with the walls and floor, while weather stripping can do the job under and around doors.
  • Throwing away those stacks of old papers or boxes: Old cardboard boxes and papers are breeding grounds for roaches, especially if they're in moist or humid areas, like a garage or attic. If you need to store stuff in these places, use plastic tubs or containers, and seal up old paper in airtight plastic baggies just to be safe.

You should also be on high alert for any plumbing issues. Even a small drip under the sink can attract pests, so watch for signs of leaks and water damage, and call in a plumber if you think there might be an issue.

The bottom line

Roach issues are serious, especially if they're inhabiting a property that your income is tied to. The second you think a cockroach problem might be at hand, take steps to address it, and if you think the job's too big to DIY, don't be afraid to call in a pro. Waiting too long could mean an even worse infestation, or more importantly, a serious health risk to you or your tenants.

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Aly Yale has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Rollins. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.