Getting Rid of Roaches

A silhouette of a dead cockroach on a reflective surface.

The mere thought of a cockroach crawling across your dinner plate is enough to turn your stomach. But if you have roaches, they’re likely marching across your tableware, your countertops, and your furniture. Need I go on? A roach infestation is bad news. They’re unsanitary to say the least—and their droppings can even aggravate symptoms of asthma.

Roaches, like any other creatures, seek out three basic things in order to live and thrive: food, water, and shelter. So to rid your residence of them, you have to take away those things first.


Let’s start with their food. A typical roach diet consists of spilled food, garbage, and starchy things such as wallpaper paste, crackers, cereal, bread, sugar, and pasta. Basic sanitation is the number one way to drive away roaches and prevent them from coming back. Keep all the surfaces in your home—countertops, appliances, and floors—clean and free of food spills. Ammonia and water is an effective cleaner for most hard surfaces. Vacuum and mop your floor frequently, and wipe up spills as soon as they happen. Keep as much of your food as possible in the refrigerator, or invest in tight-sealing plastic containers for things like cereal and flour.

Whether you’re recycling food containers (cans and plastic cartons, for instance) or just throwing them away, rinse and thoroughly dry them before you toss them out.

You should also avoid using shelf liner paper, as roaches will eat the glue that binds it to the shelf. Similarly, opt for paint instead of wallpaper. If your home is already wallpapered, repair loose spots and air bubbles.


Like most creatures on our planet, roaches need water to survive. To get rid of them for good, you must remove their sources—any standing water in the house.

Don’t keep stacks of dirty dishes in your sink. Wash the dishes promptly and then when you do, dry them and put them away as soon as possible. Wipe sinks, showers, and tubs dry when you’re finished using them.

As you’re cleaning, make sure to dry up any leftover wash water, such as mop water. Dispose of wet garbage in an outside trash receptacle as well.

When we say no standing water, we mean as little as physically possible, even in potted plants if you have them.


Now to eliminate the roaches’ favorite hiding places. Keep your home as free from clutter as possible. Roaches love to hide in piles of junk and dirty places. This means getting rid of old furniture, clothes, and other items you’re not using where a roach may be tempted to take up residence.

A few minor home repairs can make a big difference when it comes to roach control. Use caulk to seal cracks where the wall meets the floor or ceiling and also around baseboards, moldings, inside cabinets, and around pipes. Repair loose plaster and remove chipping paint as well. Screens in windows (all windows) will also be a good deterrent.

The good news about roaches is that once you’ve removed their resources, they will seek other places to live. But if you really want to ensure that they won’t be sticking around, there are other measures to take in addition to the ones mentioned above.


Otherwise known as roach motels, these little plastic discs can be placed in cabinets, under sinks, in corners, or anywhere else you’ve spotted the disgusting pests. Once the roach becomes attracted to the bait, it will then drag the poison along with it, in turn poisoning its hidden relatives. Baits are fairly inexpensive, highly effective, and can last for months.


There are two types of roach spray: residual sprays (or “bug bombs”), which leave behind a roach-repelling pesticide that lasts for several weeks, and sprays that kill roaches on contact but leave no residual effects. Before using a spray, make sure that dishes, silverware, food, and pet dishes—and, of course, the pets themselves—are removed.

Boric Acid

This natural, low-toxicity mineral, available in the pest control section at discount and hardware stores, can be dusted in out-of-the-way places where roaches have been spotted. When a roach crawls through the dust, it will transfer it to other roaches. Though it’s not harmful to humans, you should still treat it like you would treat any other pesticide and keep it clear of dishes and things that may come in contact with your mouth (or your pets). Nobody wants roaches for roommates. It may take a lot of work and a little persistence, but your home can eventually be free of these vile vermin.