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

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 [3], 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 [4]. 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.