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How to Get Rid Of Roaches Fast: The Complete Guide

June 19, 2016

They say roaches will be one of the only things left after a nuclear attack. In the meantime, you’d rather keep them out of your house.

You may have only seen one roach in your kitchen, but where there’s one, there’s many more – waiting back at the nest or hiding underneath your cabinets.

No one – and I mean no one – likes roaches. And for good reason. Roaches carry diseases, they can aggravate allergies, they ruin food, give off foul odors and in some cases, they may even bite.


Unless you don’t mind having roaches for roommates, you’d better tackle your roach problem as soon as you see the first bugger skitter across the floor.

We’ll show you how to get rid of cockroaches and what you can do to keep them from coming back into your house. But first, you need to understand what’s attracting these pests to your home in the first place, and what type of roaches you’re dealing with.

The Most Common Types of Cockroaches

Did you know that there are more than 69 species of cockroaches in the United States alone? These insects have oval, flat bodies with six legs and a small head. Baby roaches are pale in color, but they grow darker as they age.

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While there are several species of this pest, there are four types that we see most often:

  • Wood Roaches: These guys are brown and typically span 1”-1.75” long. Male wood roaches have wings and can fly.
  • Oriental Roaches: These are most common in Ohio and typically span 1”-1.5” long. Black in color, male Oriental roaches also have wings, but they’re shorter and they cannot fly.
  • German Cockroaches: This type of roach is brown in color with dark stripes behind its head. German roaches are usually only about a 0.5” long.
  • American Cockroaches: The roach most people in the U.S. are familiar with. This variety is brown in color and has wings. On average, American roaches span 1.5” in length.

Roaches are nocturnal creatures, which is why you only see them skittering around the kitchen after dark. But because they only come out at night (when most people are sleeping), they’re easy to miss until you have a serious infestation on your hands.

What Attracts Roaches?

Why do you have roaches in your home in the first place? For starters, you have everything they need: food, moisture and shelter. And if you have a dirty home, you’re even more likely to attract roaches.

#1 Attractor: Food

Just like any other pest, food is the main attraction of roaches. Roaches need to eat to survive (don’t we all), and you have a pantry stocked with food.

Roaches aren’t picky eaters either. They’ll take anything they can get their hands on. Known as the scavengers of the insect kingdom, cockroaches have an insatiable appetite – and they’ll eat both plants and animals.

What Do Roaches Eat?

Roaches will eat whatever you have lying around the house, but there are certain types of foods they prefer above others:

  • Sweets, like candies, cakes and cookies
  • Starches, like potatoes, bread and grains
  • Animal proteins, like beef, chicken and fish

Roaches will also devour greasy foods and cheese, which is why you often see them skittering across empty pizza boxes in movies.

Brown cockroaches eating bread isolated on white background.If you have any fermented or moldy food, they’ll eat those, too. And if you don’t have any of their favorite foods on the “menu,” they’ll start snooping around other parts of the house, taking a bite of this and a bite of that along the way. They’ll even eat decaying matter and waste, so it’s not surprising to find them in the trash.

Surprising Roach Foods

What happens if you have no food lying around (i.e. foods are stored in airtight containers, and your home is spotless)?

Roaches are resourceful little creatures, and their food groups may extend to things we’d never even think of putting into our mouths.

  • Roaches love starches, and for them, that includes wallpaper paste, book bindings, and even glue on the back of stamps.
  • They love protein, too, and that includes animal skin, dead insects and even human fingernails and hair. Roaches will even eat their babies if food is that scarce.

Prepare your stomach for this one – roaches will pick at eyelashes, calluses, fingernails and dead skin flakes (gross). They’re less likely to eat living creatures (i.e. you) because their mandibles, which move sideways, would have a difficult time breaking through your skin.

And if there is absolutely nothing else for roaches to eat, don’t expect to starve them out. These critters can go an entire month without food (as long as they have water).

#2 Attractor: Moisture

Roaches need moisture (or water) to survive. And they love moist places, which is why they’re commonly found in hot, humid places.

You don’t have to live in a sewer or the swamp to attract roaches. In fact, something as simple as a leaky pipe in the bathroom can attract these pests. Standing water and condensation can also lead roaches straight to your home.

#3 Attractor: Shelter

Just like any other creature, roaches need shelter, and your home is just the perfect spot. You may not realize it, but you have tiny cracks and crevices that roaches can easily fit through and comfortably lay their eggs.

One of the biggest issues with roaches is that they can be a year-round problem. While you can get roaches any time of year, they’re more prolific in the summer. That’s because they thrive in hot and humid conditions, and don’t fare as well in the cold winter months.

5 Signs That You Have Roaches

How can you tell if you have roaches, or an infestation of another kind? Remember, roaches come out at night, so you may not know they’re even there until the infestation becomes a serious one.

Here are five signs that you have roaches:

1. You See Roaches

The first and most obvious sign is actually seeing the roaches. And don’t think that just because you saw one, you don’t have a roach problem. Unless you watched the critter crawl in from underneath the door, it’s safe to assume that there’s a nest somewhere in your home.

2. Roach Droppings

Roaches leave visible droppings behind, which resemble coffee grounds or pepper. Look for them around the sink and other areas where food is easily accessible.

3. Dead Roaches

Sometimes, the only sign of a roach infestation (in the early stages) is the dead bodies of roaches. If you’re seeing one or more dead roaches, it’s safe to assume that you have a problem.

4. Egg Casings

If there’s a nest in your home, you may notice egg casings, which are oval-shaped. Make note of where you found the casings as they may lead you right to the nest.

5. A Musty or Oily Smell

Roaches leave behind a distinct smell. If your home smells musty or oily, particularly in the bathroom and kitchen, you may have roaches.

Now you know what attracts roaches and the signs of an infestation. But how do you get rid of them without spending a fortune on an exterminator?

How to Get Rid of Roaches Fast, Naturally? (Without an Exterminator)

No one wants roaches in their home. The moment you realize you have a community of these freeloading critters, you want them gone – like yesterday.

But if you have pets or kids (or both), you don’t want to spray chemicals that may be dangerous.

Here are some of the most effective ways to get rid of roaches without calling an exterminator and turning your home into a chemical lab:

1. The Best Roach Killer: Borax + Sugar

Borax is deadly to roaches. Mixing borax with sugar is like serving up a buffet of poisonous jelly donuts to these creepy crawly critters. Best of all: this homemade bait is amazingly effective.

Exterminators say this is the next best thing to professional roach killing sprays.

Why does this bait work so well?

The borax is the key ingredient here. The sugar is just a way to get the roaches to take the bait. When roaches walk through the borax, the powder will dehydrate their exoskeletons, killing them shortly after.

To make this bait, mix:

  • 3 parts borax
  • 1 part sugar

While borax is a more natural way to kill roaches, it’s not entirely non-toxic. If you or your pets ingest the mixture, you may wind up with some serious digestive issues – or an emergency room visit.

To be on the safe side, place this mixture high off the ground where kids and pets can’t reach. Don’t worry – the roaches will find it.

2. Soap and Water Spray

If you’re just starting to see roaches or you find a lone ranger skittering underneath the door, a simple mixture of soap and water can do the trick to keep these critters from setting up shop in your home.

Soap is an effective way to kill roaches because, like other insects, they breathe through their skin. The soap basically suffocates them, and they die shortly after.

Any soap will do – even bath soap. But don’t expect this spray to be effective against a serious infestation.

3. Water Jars

If you live in a drier climate, the water jars trick may work well for you. The concept is simple: fill up a jar with water and place it next to a wall. Roaches will be able to get in, but won’t be able to get out.

You can place bait in the jar if you’d like, such as sugar, or you can just use plain water.

The jar trap is a great way to kill adult roaches, but it won’t kill the nest or the eggs.

4. Soda Bottle Trap

The soda bottle trap is great for luring in roaches and drowning them. You may need a few bottles to effectively kill all of the roaches in your home.

  • Take an empty plastic soda bottle and carefully trim off the curved top (just above the bottle’s label).
  • Invert the cut-off top and place it on top of the bottle’s body to create a funnel.
  • Fill the body of the bottle with soap and water.

The roaches will climb into the funnel to get the water. Once they fall in, they’ll be trapped and will eventually drown.

5. Diatomaceous Earth

Like borax, diatomaceous earth is an effective cockroach killer, but it’s a bit safer than borax. This powdery substance dehydrates roaches and eventually kills them.

Sprinkle the powder underneath cabinets, behind appliances and on countertops. Roaches love to hide in dark places, so keep this in mind when laying the powder. It will take up to two weeks for this bait to clear out all of the roaches.

6. Fabric Softener + Water

This roach killer will leave your home smelling fresh, but cleaning up will be a chore.

Similar to the soap and water trick, a mixture of fabric softener and water will effectively suffocate the roach. But because the fabric softener is a bit thicker than soap, it works more quickly.

To create this bug killer, mix:

  • 3 parts fabric softener
  • 2 part water

Pour the mixture into a spray bottle, and spot kill roaches. They should keel over just seconds after you spray.

The only downside with this method is that cleanup can be a bit of a pain.

Taking the natural approach is a safer way to get rid of roaches, but be patient. Some of the methods take a little longer to effectively kill the nest. Borax and sugar is the quickest way to get rid of roaches, but it can be toxic to pets and children. The safer routes, like the soap and water solution, will take a little longer to work.

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Getting Rid of Roaches the Conventional Way

You tried the natural route, but that pesky roach community in your kitchen just keeps getting bigger (it happens). It may be time to take a more aggressive approach.

Some of the most effective conventional methods include:

1. Glue Strips

Roach glue strips are an effective way to determine where the infestation is coming from. Place strips in strategic locations around the house (e.g. on countertops, under cabinets and other areas roaches like to hang around).

Keep an eye on the strips for a few weeks. The ones that catch the most roaches are the areas that need the most treatment.

2. Gel Bait

Once you’ve figured out where the roaches set up their nest, it’s time to plan your attack. Gel bait is a highly effective roach killer, but you’ll need to be cautious when applying it.

Unlike ant traps, gel bait comes in a tube. You’ll need to apply the gel underneath baseboards, in crevices and cracks and in other areas where roaches frequent.

Gel bait is really effective at killing roaches, but you need to be diligent at cleaning up. Roaches die quickly after taking the bait, so you’ll have a number of dead roaches lying around your home. The dead roaches may attract even more roaches (remember, they’ll eat dead insects).

Be sure to inspect the treated areas regularly and clean up any dead roaches you see right away.

3. Roach Hotel

Bait stations, a.k.a. roach hotels, are a popular way to get rid of roaches. Like the gel bait and borax solution, roaches are attracted to the stations and then feed on the poison.

The poisoned roach goes back to its nest and dies. The other roaches eat the dead poisoned roach, and the poison spreads.

For roach hotels to be really effective, you need to place several around your home to make sure you target all of the roaches.

4. Exterminator

If you’ve tried every trick in the book and still can’t get rid of the roaches, calling an exterminator may be your best option. Exterminators will find the nest, and apply professional treatments to get rid of roaches once and for all.

Not all exterminators are created equal. We’ve heard horror stories of professional pest treatments making the problem worse, so if you do go this route (which is more expensive and toxic), make sure you hire a company with a good reputation.

3 Natural Roach Repellents

Once you’ve gotten rid of the roaches inside your home, you can use natural repellents to keep them out of the house.

And let’s face it – it’s much easier to prevent roaches from getting into your home than it is to get rid of them once they’ve settled in and made a nest.

But what do roaches hate? Here are some of the most common and effective roach repellents:

1. Catnip

Strangely enough, catnip is a natural roach repellent. The active compound in the plant, nepetalactone, is what keeps them away. The great thing about this repellent is that it’s non-toxic to pets and kids.

But if you have cats, please don’t use this repellent.

There are a few ways you can use catnip to keep roaches away:

  • Make sachets with catnip, and place them in areas where there’s cockroach activity.
  • Simmer catnip in water to create a catnip tea, and spray the mixture behind counters and along baseboards to keep roaches away.

2. Coffee Grounds

Coffee beans and coffee grounds on white background.Some people claim coffee grounds is an effective roach killer, but we haven’t had much luck with it for that purpose. In fact, they seem to hate coffee.

Sprinkle used (dry) coffee grounds in areas where there’s cockroach activity, such as under appliances and counters, and along the perimeter of your home.

3. Bay Leaves

We love to use bay leaves for cooking because of their fragrance and taste. But roaches hate the smell of them.

Sprinkle crushed bay leaves (preferably fresh because they’re aroma is more potent) in areas where cockroaches usually gather.

How to Prevent a Roach Infestation

You’ve cleaned up your roach problem and you’ve even sprinkled some bay leaves and coffee grinds around the house to keep their roach cousins out.

But if you’re serious about preventing another roach infestation, you need to take a few permanent steps.

1. Clean, Clean, Clean

Keep your home clean, especially the kitchen. A clean home isn’t immune to roaches, but your chance of getting an infestation is much lower if you take away the one thing roaches want: food.

  • Rinse dishes right away, and throw any leftover food on plates in the garbage. This way, if you cannot do the dishes right away, there won’t be any food crumbs for roaches to feast on.
  • Clean up crumbs on counters and floors right away.
  • Don’t leave empty pizza boxes or fast food containers laying around the kitchen (throw them in the garbage where they belong).
  • Keep food in airtight containers.

Keeping your home clean is one of the most effective ways to keep roaches away.

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2. Caulk Cracks and Crevices

Roaches can’t get into your home if there’s no entry point they can squeeze into. Caulk any cracks or crevices to keep these pesky critters out.

Baby roaches can fit into cracks as small as a dime, so seal up any cracks you find.

This step is especially important if you live an apartment. You have no control over the cleanliness of your neighbors, so sealing up even the tiniest of cracks is worth the effort.

And while you’re at it, check the exterior of your home for cracks, and seal them to add an extra layer of protection.

3. Fix Any Leaking Pipes or Faucets

Remember, roaches are attracted to standing water. If you have a leaky pipe or faucet in your home, and you have a bucket collecting that water, you’re inviting roaches into your home.

Repair any leaks, and dump out any buckets or cups of water.

Don’t forget to empty out any bird baths or plant saucers that have standing water. These can attract roaches to your yard and inside your home.

Starving the roaches out isn’t usually an effective strategy. Roaches can go a month without food as long as they have water. It’s better to use one of the methods above and then take preventative steps to keep these critters out of your home for good.

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