How to Get Rid of Roaches Inside and Outside Your Home

By Marilyn Syarto

You’re sitting at home, minding your own business, and spot one: A cockroach, with its shiny coat of armor, creepy-crawly legs, and moving antennae. Don’t panic yet—there are ways to get rid of roaches, and you don’t always need a professional for the job. There are also some DIY methods to get rid of roaches naturally so you don’t need to rely on roach-bombing pesticides. Our guide will give you some of the best proven methods and tips for blasting these creatures out of your home.

how to get rid of roaches

Image via Shutterstock

On the bright side, roaches do not survive the winter, according to the World Health Organization. And in more “good” news, roaches usually do not bite, though homes infested with roach waste can cause allergy and breathing issues if the problem is not corrected.

Why Do Roaches Come Into Your Home?

The usual suspects attract roaches into your home: dirty dishes, exposed and festering garbage, crumbs on your floors and counters. Roaches also feed on human feces, which compounds the number of diseases that they could spread by skittering throughout your home. Sometimes, roaches will make their way into clean environments no matter how sanitary you keep your home because they can still survive on water and non-food items in a crumb-free house, according to the National Pesticide Information Center.

These resourceful pests crawl through small, narrow cracks, holes, and pipes and hitch rides on clothing and other items you bring into your house. They’ll then hide in the darkest recesses of your home, like behind your refrigerator or in your cabinets to forage for food. If they are desperate, they will be drawn to cellulose, which can be found in the following items:

  • Paper
  • Clothing
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Documents
  • Book binding
  • Envelope glue
  • Wallpaper glue
  • Dead skin flakes
  • Hair
  • Finger and toenails
  • Other insects, carcasses, and their eggs

How to Identify Roaches

Out of 4,500 species of roaches in the world, only about three varieties like to make trouble by invading our homes, according to Smithsonian Magazine. If you have roaches, it’s likely either the American, German, or brown-banded cockroach.

  • American cockroaches: This species may be the largest and longest-living roach (up to two years) in the U.S., but it’s not the most common. The American cockroach, otherwise known as the dreaded palmetto bug, can grow up to three inches long. They are light brown or reddish-brown with pale yellow bands around the perimeters of their bodies.  
  • German cockroaches: The most common roach in the U.S., the German cockroach, breeds fast, causing most household infestations thanks to a female that can produce 30,000 baby roaches (called nymphs) a year. These have light to dark brown bodies marked with two darker stripes running parallel from head to wings, and are usually under one inch long. They like to live inside of warm, dry electronics. 
  • Brown-banded cockroaches: These pests terrorize us with their ability to fly. Brown-banded roaches prefer living inside warm, dry electronics and walls because they hate water and dampness. They are dark brown with light yellow markings, and they’re luckily only a half-inch long.

Pro Tip: Roach droppings look like flecks of ground black pepper. But you’ll also know you have roaches if you spot their roach egg casings, which look like little brown capsules that are empty.

how to get rid of roaches overnight

Image via Alexis @ Chemistry Cachet

How to Get Rid of Roaches Overnight

If you’ve spotted one roach or a few roaches, take immediate and aggressive action so you don’t give them time to multiply. You will likely see advice to take time to investigate their hiding spots, but if you want to get rid of roaches overnight, there’s no time for observation. Here’s a multi-step approach to doing some serious damage to the roach colony in your home overnight. While you don’t need to employ every single step here, taking on as many as you can will greatly increase the chances of killing more roaches before the sun comes up.

Apply Gel Bait

Gel bait, which can be found at most home improvement stores, can be applied under baseboards and in cracks and crevices where you know roaches are hiding. The gel may have some boric acid dust in it so be careful that it’s used correctly by following the package directions.

Place Gel Bait Stations  

Place bait stations in areas where roaches will likely run, such as near garbage cans, underneath the sink, and in kitchen and bathroom cabinets. The roaches will eat the poison in the gel, die, and the poison will be transmitted to other roaches that eat the carcass. It’s not a quick fix, but it will also trap another layer of roaches that other steps may miss. Be careful that you do not place the bait stations where children or pets can reach them. 

Pro Tip: Make a cheap and quick DIY sticky trap with cardboard and double-sided tape while you run to the store for other roach-grabbing solutions.

Apply Liquid Concentrate

Head to your home improvement or hardware store for a concentrated liquid poison for roaches. The best ones will contain Cypermethrin 25.3% as its active ingredient which is very powerful, yet still approved for indoor use.

Spray Roaches With Softener

Combine a 50/50 solution of liquid fabric softener and water in a spray bottle and spray directly on a roach if you spot one. Use protective gloves and a paper towel to put the dead roach in a sealable plastic bag and throw it outdoors in the trash. Disinfect the spot where it died. Note: Some people swear by a vinegar roach solution, and although it’s not proven that vinegar will harm roaches, it’s worth a try if that’s what’s available in the house.

Apply Boric Acid

Dust boric acid in corners and floors where you see roaches. Keep it dry because wet boric acid is ineffective. This powder is toxic, so if you have children or pets, be mindful of where you put the powder or skip this method.  

Flush Them Out

If you know there are roaches in a certain void in the wall, flush them out by using a hairdryer to blow hot air into the space. Immediately suck them up with a vacuum cleaner that, ideally, has a HEPA filter. 

Clean Your House

After you’ve done what you can, clean and disinfect your kitchen and bathroom. Clean counters, surfaces, inside cabinets, under the sink, inside and under the microwave, and behind the refrigerator and stove. Put pet food in secure containers and clean the area around your pet’s food bowls. Keep your bottle of fabric softener nearby to kill any roaches on contact.

Pro Tip: Once the infestation is gone, you can open up any electronics they were living in and use a soft cloth or cotton swab (remember to wear protective gloves) to remove any dead roaches, empty egg pouches, and droppings. Just make sure you are not voiding any warranties by opening the device. 

How to Get Rid of Roaches Outside Your House

If you’ve noticed a roach outdoors, take action so they don’t find their way inside. Treat areas around outdoor buildings such as garages and sheds, as well.

Tools/Supplies Needed:

  • Broad spectrum insecticide spray
  • Bungee cords
  • Leaf bags

Step 1: Clean Old Organic Matter 

Take time to quickly remove and dispose of woodpiles and old leaf piles that you never bagged.

Step 2: Eliminate Standing Water  

Empty all areas where there is standing, stagnant water outdoors, such as plant dishes and pots, birdbaths, and any other areas where you find still water (this will help you keep mosquitoes away, as well).

Step 3: Secure Trash Cans 

Make sure your trash cans are covered and lids are secure with bungee cords.

Step 4: Spray Exterior Foundations and Walls

Once the yard is cleaned, apply broad spectrum spray around the perimeter on the foundation and walls, focusing on cracks and crevices you spot around the house.  

Pro Tip: Have neem oil ready to spray on any errant roaches you may spot outdoors. Neem oil is an organic pesticide that seems to kill roaches, too. Buy it in oil form and mix it with water in a spray bottle and use it to spray down roaches. Or, buy neem powder to sprinkle outdoors at night and again in the morning where you see an infestation.

Pro Tip: Prevent roaches from reaching the inside of your home through holes and cracks by using caulk or spray foam to seal entry points, such as small gaps between tiles on the wall in the bathroom or small crevices around faucets. Make sure you’ve weather-stripped doors and windows.

how to get rid of roaches naturally

Image via Elena K, Hometalk Team

How to Get Rid of Roaches Naturally

If you prefer to take the natural route, this idea may be just what you need to eliminate a small infestation. This baking soda and sugar recipe will lure roaches in but kill them on the way out so they won’t multiply. The baking soda in this recipe for how to get rid of roaches naturally is said to kill the insects by expanding in their system in about 12 to 24 hours after ingesting.  

Tools/Supplies Needed:

  • Baking soda
  • White table sugar (any other type will also do, even brown sugar or confectioners)
  • Boric acid (optional)

Step 1: Mix Ingredients

Put equal parts of sugar and baking soda in bowls.

Step 2: Place Bowls

Put small bowls in corners or on countertops to lure roaches.

Step 3: Add Boric Acid (Optional)

If you want some extra zapping power, add equal amounts of boric acid to the sugar/baking soda mixture.

Step 4: Apply Boric Acid Mixture

Pour this mixture around room perimeters (do not do this if you have small children or pets).

Step 5: Vacuum Powder

After a month, if there is any powder left around the perimeters, vacuum it up.  

Pro Tip: Try this alternative killer bait ball recipe by mixing white flour, boric acid, brown sugar, and a drop of water to form balls. Place tiny balls in corners, cupboards, behind appliances, and under the sink to lure and kill roaches.

Pro Tip: Another alternative recipe is mixing diatomaceous earth (non-toxic to humans and animals and found in home improvement and hardware stores) and cocoa powder, which roaches love. Mix equal parts cocoa and diatomaceous earth. Sprinkle near entryways and look for a reduction in roaches after two weeks. Warning: Cocoa powder may cause stains on flooring, so test a small area before committing to it. Also, do not apply this product to countertops—although it is non-toxic, it can irritate skin. 

Pro Tip: Another natural route to repelling roaches is to mix salt water and peppermint essential oil and spray where you think there’s an infestation. With this method, you need to apply continuously, at least daily, to see any effect.

How to Get Rid of a Heavy Roach Infestation

If you have a massive roach infestation and none of these methods are working, it’s time to apply the big guns. There are two more heavy-duty pesticides you can try for a heavy roach infestation, which you can find at your local home improvement or hardware store. Follow the directions on each of these pesticides to the letter to ensure safe practices. 

  • Insecticidal dust: Place insecticidal dust in the wall voids and other protected areas where you know roaches live. Don’t overdo it; if you can see the dust, it’s probably too large of an application.
  • Insect growth regulator: You will need to apply this (follow the directions) in the areas where pregnant roaches are hiding.

When to Call Professionals

If, after a week, your efforts have done little to reduce or eliminate your roach problem and you see the problem growing, it’s time to call in professional pest control. Pest control companies have the commercial tools and supplies that will get on top of your infestation and their methods will work longer term than DIY methods.

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