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How to Get Rid of Roaches (or) How to Kill a Cockroach Invasion

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Cockroaches are gross. I don’t know if it’s their relatively large size, their long antennae, those creepy looking legs, or the fact that their backs so disgustingly shiny. Oh… and they’re almost indestructible. It’s like you kill one and three more appear within days, each one having been grown from the pieces of the one you smashed with your shoe! As the saying goes, if you see one wandering around, chances are you have dozens more crawling around in your walls. It’s a disgusting thought that gives me goosebumps and fortunately we’ve been (knock on wood) lucky enough not to have any problems with roaches. (there’s a reason why this post has no picture :))

However, we live in a townhouse, which means our house is physically connected to our neighbors on two sides. One of the first lessons you learn when you live in a townhome is that your neighbor’s problems soon become your own. If your neighbor has his or her house treated for an infestation, like a roach invasion, chances are you have the same problem, even if you don’t know it. If you don’t yet have an infestation, the survivors of your neighbor’s treatment may find themselves moving in.

So while we don’t have a roach invasion just yet, an ounce of prevention is said to be worth a pound of cure.

Preventing a Roach Invasion

There isn’t anything you can do that 100% prevents an infestation but there are some steps you can take that make your home less appealing to a roach family. Like killing ants, the key to preventing infestation is cleanliness. The kitchen is the number one room in your home where this is crucial because it’s like a buffet for them. Put food away, keep your counters clean, and empty your trash regularly. We keep our trash outdoors (we have a sliding door that opens to a “reviewing stand,” we keep the trash bin there) in our attempt to battle back against ants.

Put naphthalene balls (also known as moth balls) in the corners of your kitchen, little critters hate that smell and try to avoid it. Finally, if you can invest the time, try to seal all the external and internal cracks in your home. If they want to get in, they will, but doing this will make it just a little bit trickier for them.

What if the cockroaches have already invaded?

How to Kill Cockroaches

The big problem with cockroaches is that they reproduce very quickly and are notoriously difficult to kill. Each female roach can lay up to forty eggs at a time and produce over four hundred roaches in her lifetime, which is about a year. They can go a month without food, though they eat almost anything (like your dead skin flakes), and breathe using a series of tubes (trachea) in their body so you can chop off their legs or even their head… and they won’t die. Resilient little buggers. Heck, they can even survive the fallout of a nuclear explosion. So what can you use to kill these critters?

Borax. (or boric acid) The treat involves mixing borax with a lure that makes the roaches eat it. With ants, you can use a jelly or jam (we found they loved peanut butter) mixed with about 5% borax. They take the jelly poison back home, share it with their friends, and everyone dies. I’ve seen recipes that call for boric acid with flour and cocoa, I’ve seen it with jelly, and I’ve quickly learned the key is to mix it with something that is both sticky and appealing to the buggers. You want it to be weak enough (5%) so that it doesn’t kill them instantly, you want them to bring it back home and feed it to their friends.

Boric acid is going to be one of the least toxic (though it is still mildly toxic, just not highly toxic) option and is better than insecticides or other purchased remedies like sprays and roach bait. The tricky part about all these remedies is that pets (and kids) are liable to eat them. We have a pet beagle and the little guy absolutely loves all kinds of food, especially bread products, so anything that uses a jelly or a flour is out unless we are cordon off the treatment area.

Water Jars

Water jars have been said to provide a nice alternative. Put a jar with water and some coffee grounds (as bait) beside a wall. Stale beer is said to be a good lure too. Cockroaches feel most comfortable when they can touch a wall so you keep them in that comfort zone when you put the jar beside the wall. The water and the coffee grounds act as bait and the idea is that they crawl in but can’t crawl out (the glass jar’s walls are too slippery). This remedy is the safest but you need to remember to empty out the jar periodically.

{ 49 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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49 Responses to “How to Get Rid of Roaches (or) How to Kill a Cockroach Invasion”

  1. I just want to thank you for NOT posting a picture.

    Oh, and my skin is officially CRAWLING…ugh!

    Now everytime my hair hits my neck or pants brush my legs I think something is on me!

    Ewww….why did I read this!

  2. hoht says:

    My friend makes a buck here and there by releasing his pet lizards in to an infested dorm room. By doing this he gets paid to get rid of roaches and the lizards get a feast lol.

  3. We recently battled back a pretty bad German roach invasion. I felt like I was Russell Crowe on Gladiator, trying to slice with my sword left and right.

    We tried just about everything, but the best solution that finally eradicated all of them in about the span of a week was pesticide gel and a 100% cleaning.

    The gel comes in something that looks like a syringe, and it’s really easy to squeeze in places where the roaches congregate (you can tell by the poop/vomit they leave behind–Nasty!!).

    We also vacuumed up all signs of dead bugs, previously mentioned droppings, and emptied every cabinet in the kitchen.

    For the first few days, there were dead bugs everywhere, and after about a week–nada.

  4. Daisy says:

    Naphthalene is toxic to people and pets. It can cause liver damage – that’s worse than roaches.

  5. Maddhatter says:

    Reminds me of the Indian Meal Moth infestation I had to fight back a few months ago. They showed up in my bird’s food bag and by the time we saw them they had made their way to our pantry. After we discarded all of the food in our pantry, it was war for about a week! I still get nervous each time I open a new bag of bird food.

  6. They say roaches will still be here after we are gone. They can even survive a nuclear explosion….

  7. BrianC says:

    I’ll have to try that water-jar idea at the next infested place I live in. I guess in apartment situations it really is all about the neighbors. Where I live now is pretty bug-free. Other places I’ve lived…well, not so much.

  8. Dave says:

    Love you site, but your suggestion to use moth balls is misguided.
    Moth balls are generally regarded as the most dangerous household chemical (still) legally available in the US. Napthalene is ingested through breathing and through your skin, and is considered a powerful carcinogen.
    However, your reference to Boric Acid – much less toxic to humans and pets – is right on.

  9. daenyll says:

    ick, roaches. The only thing I’m allergic to, and inevitable living in Florida, even with the pest treatments.

  10. Karen says:

    We had a whopper roach invasion when new carpet and kitchen cabinets were installed. There were so many you could see them during the day. I bought MaxForce gel from and put the gel in various places in the house. The gel was all gone the next day and there were bodies everywhere. I repeated a couple more times to make sure I got them all. It impressively took care of the infestation. I’d much rather use a bait than a spray!

  11. berkshire40 says:

    Bugs are *usually* a people problem. If not you, your neighbor may be the cause.

  12. Safeway_Sage says:

    I’d rather have roaches than scorpions. I have had those in my house. Not cool.

  13. Augiebball says:

    The water jar thing doesn’t work. I tried it at my last home by placing tons of water jars full of old coffee grounds all over our basement where we had the most (visible) cockroaches and I never saw a single cockroach in one of those jars. I left them there for months w/o a single kill.

  14. eric says:

    I’m just glad I got nothing in my apartment (at least that I can see). *knock on wood*

  15. lostAnnfound says:

    We haven’t had a problem with cockroaches (live in a single family home), but we had one infestation of fleas a few years back. Forgot to give our cat flea treatment and they were everywhere. Set up to bomb the house (removed food, covered all cabinets, closet doors, frig door, etc) and went to sleep out in the camper, but the fleas must have come in on at least one of us because they were out there, too! Ultimately had to bomb the house & the camper each TWICE! I hope we never have to go through that again. I was bit up all over my legs. I am now religious about making sure pets (currently beagle/corgi mix) get flea treatments. No one to blame but ourselves that time; should have made sure cat was treated 🙂

  16. Wise Finish says:

    I just found a cockroach in a bag of chili peppers that I purchased from the grocery store. To get rid of it, I returned it! 🙂

  17. Wise Finish says:

    Borax can be very harmful to children – beware – especially if it is mixed with anything sweet.

  18. Shirley says:

    Mothballs… years ago we had a real problem with cats coming over the fence and using our backyard for their litterbox. Yuk!

    We tossed lots of mothballs around in the flowerbeds and voila!… no more cats. But we couldn’t open the bedroom windows that faced that yard for a few days. Perhaps they remember that smell because we haven’t had a problem since then.

  19. Dark Angel says:

    I had a cousin who had this problem once. Apparently he stuck duct-tape [upside] near an area these guys were swarming rather heftily. So when they ran out scurrying, the bulk of them got stuck to the tape. He’d take the rolls of roaches and bag em & then drop them in a dumpster on the other side of the city. He swears by that method to this day.

  20. dePriest says:

    About 30 years ago my husband and I moved into a house that we learned was severely infested by cockroaches. Back in those days, we had a product called “Roach Pruf” (I think that’s the spelling). I bought some and tried it, and within three weeks my house was clear of roaches and I never saw another there. I learned that Roach Pruf was just boric acid powder, so the next time I encountered roaches (in a rental) I bought the cheapest boric acid powder I could find, and I had the same results — three weeks, no roaches. It’s the only thing I’ve found that really works.

  21. Posco Grubb says:

    I once lived in an infested apartment. Boric acid worked. Besides eating it, they walk on it and it sticks to their bodies, eventually causing them to dehydrate.

    We were very clean, and we sealed all our non-refrigerated food. But the problem turned out to be a leaky pipe in a wall – Cockroaches love water. When the leak was fixed, the roaches moved on and never came back.

  22. Good tips, I hope I never ever have to use them!

    Good point about the townhouse- I will note that when I’m house hunting!

    At least you don’t have a bed bug problem…! Bed bugs are 10x harder to get rid off and they bite! Did you know that a bed bug can lay dormant for 6 months without feeding?? (isn’t that gross??)

  23. J. Lynne says:

    Well, thank you for reminding me that there are in fact some things I do not at all miss about the South. Wars and battles with various types of roaches — did you know there that like cats or dogs, they have variants? — are not part of my nostalgia and I’ve got an urge to take a Q-tip to my ears thanks to a nightmarish memory due to what actually occurs when your neighbor in the attached apartment roach bombs her apartment without warning. Gah!

    And in the South, the giant ones are not afraid of people either…

    • VoorheesKat says:

      I lived in Florida for ten years. Five years ago, I bought a beautiful home, but it turned out to be infested with roaches. I do not like to find them on me, so I fogged the house alot. I once had hundreds of dead roaches after one fogging and I’m not kidding. I think all the fogging was the reason I suffered one horrible respiratory infection after another down there, even though I followed the directions on the cans. I was never sick before Florida and haven’t been sick since I moved back north. I don’t know the answer about how to eradicate them, but beware of the foggers.

  24. thomas says:

    when are you going to let us know how to kill sugar ants? i get those every year and they suck!

    • Shirley says:

      Take note of where they come in and spray that area with Windex or any window-cleaner. They won’t be back through that way again.

  25. Cathy says:

    Boric acid is what I used when I was in college. Nothing can touch it in the speed with which it gets rid of roaches.

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