How to Keep Roaches Away and Get Rid of Them in Your Home

Here's how to keep these pests out, and how to get rid of roaches that may have already moved in.

Sharing our homes with family and friends is a delight, but when guests of the creepy, crawly nature embrace our hospitality, that delight turns to disgust. And roaches are usually at the top of the list of unwelcome visitors. Hospitality to a cockroach looks like a smattering of crumbs on counters and floors, moderate temperatures (not too hot or too cold), dark recesses for hiding, and a dripping pipe or leaky faucet offering a cool drink.

These insects can spread germs as they eat their way through garbage and food scraps, then crawl across countertops and utensils. In addition, cockroaches can cause allergies that can trigger asthma in some people. Fortunately, we can show you how to keep roaches away and eliminate any that might get in.

cockroach crawling on bowl
An American cockroach can grow as large as 2 inches long. gan chaonan/Getty Images

First, knowing which sort of bug you're up against is good. A few different types of roaches like to invade our homes. They include German cockroaches, which are about half an inch long and brown with two darker stripes behind the head. Another common one is the American cockroach, which gets up to 2 inches long and has a reddish-brown color with a yellow patch behind the head. Both types have wings; American cockroaches will take short flights with theirs, but German cockroaches rarely fly. Asian cockroaches, usually found in warmer areas like Florida, look similar in size and color to German ones, but they do fly.

1. Seal the Entrances

Cockroaches are most actively trying to get indoors when summer heat causes them to seek cooler hiding places or in fall to ride out the winter. They enter homes through cracks and crevices in doors, windows, and foundations. The best tip for how to keep roaches away is to avoid an infestation by preventing the bugs from coming inside in the first place. Close gaps around windows and doors with weatherstripping and seal up cracks with caulk.

2. Go on Crumb Patrol

One of the best methods for how to keep roaches away is to clean up food scraps, including tiny crumbs that you might overlook at a glance. Armed with a broom and a vacuum, give your floors a thorough cleaning regularly. Make sure to pull appliances away from the wall to clean underneath them. Pay special attention to kitchen floors. Eliminate crumbs from counters by wiping them down regularly with an all-purpose cleaner. Make it a habit to wipe down counters in food areas every evening because roaches are most active at night when no one is around.

Prevent crumbs from spreading throughout the house by confining all eating to the kitchen or dining room.

3. Focus on the Kitchen

Cockroach prevention in the kitchen is one of the most effective ways to keep roaches away. Be vigilant about cleaning up spills and teach kids to do so, too. Keep cleaning products, such as all-purpose cleaners and paper towels, ready. Take out garbage daily or store it in a sealed container. Unwashed dishes and bits of food left in the sink overnight are a chief source of food for roaches. Clean dishes daily, never leaving them in a sink overnight.

4. Store Food in Sealed Containers

Cockroaches can chew through cardboard and the thin plastic in which many food products are stored. If you suspect a roach infestation, transfer food to sealed, solid containers. All products in lightweight packaging are susceptible, from cereal to flour to chocolate chips. For quick and easy protection on a large scale, store food in its original packaging in large, sturdy plastic bins.

5. Dry Up Moist Areas

Dripping faucets and leaky pipes attract roaches. Check areas behind toilets, under sinks, and throughout basements for moisture. Fix leaking pipes and faucets. Employ a dehumidifier to dry moist areas in the basement.

6. Declutter

Clutter stands in the way of a clean home. Trying to wipe down areas in and around non-essential items, especially in the kitchen, can curtail your best cleaning intentions. Simplify your space by designating storage places for small appliances and other elements that clutter countertops where food is prepared. Donate what you don't use regularly and enjoy the ease of cleaning without moving around rarely-used items.

How to Get Rid of Cockroaches

If it appears roaches have invaded your home, take action immediately. Cockroaches are on the move more (and reproduce faster) during warmer months, but they can quickly become a problem anytime if your home provides all the food, warmth, and moisture they need. Cockroaches can reproduce rapidly, doubling their population every few weeks. To quickly reduce a cockroach population, get out your vacuum. Using the hose attachment, vacuum them up, pulling appliances away from the wall to find the roaches as necessary, and then remove the vacuum bag, seal it in a plastic bag, and dispose of it immediately.

After initially reducing the population through vacuuming, it's time to get serious about cleaning deeply and eliminating all food sources for cockroaches. Fix leaky faucets and declutter to make daily, thorough cleaning possible. Then, polish off any remaining roaches with some targeted insecticides.

How to Use Cockroach Baits

University experts have found cockroach baits ($10, The Home Depot) quite effective at eliminating roaches. These insecticide baits come in small plastic containers, called bait stations ($5, The Home Depot), or as a dispensable gel ($9, The Home Depot). Safe for the environment and not harmful to pets or people, baits require patience. It takes several weeks to see results. Place baits next to walls or in corners where roaches travel. Baits are also effective near floor or sewer drains and damp crawl spaces.

You may want to call in a professional to help you if you have a large infestation. Trained to apply pesticides safely, professionals will inspect your home and suggest a treatment plan. If you live in a multi-family dwelling, neighbors must take cockroach prevention action, too. Work together to send unwelcome bugs packing.

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