How to get rid of cockroaches – using Martha Stewart's home remedy and more

Stressed about how to get rid of cockroaches? These insects are not just distressing to discover in your house or apartment but also pose a serious health risk.

how to get rid of cockroaches - a cockroach in a house - GettyImages-1196813245
(Image credit: GettyImages-1196813245)

Need to learn how to get rid of cockroaches and fast? We've got your back so no need to fret.

Spotting a cockroach in your home can be a pretty horrifying discovery. These fast, creepy pests will make themselves right at home in your kitchen, bathroom and living spaces and are notoriously difficult to rid yourself of. 

Usually measuring about half an inch long, two of the most common of the 4600 species of cockroach worldwide are the Oriental and German cockroaches, which can be found around heating ducts and centrally located boiler rooms of apartment buildings. They might also like to set up home around your appliances such as refrigerators or ovens. 

Not sure this is the critter you're dealing with? Check our how to get rid of pests article to identify the creep in question.

They are sneaky little creeps who usually enter your home by hitching a ride in paper bags and cardboard boxes, or sneaking in through holes in pipes, vents, cracks and crevices. They're not picky eaters either – seeking out pretty much anything to munch, including starchy and sugary foods.

Martha Stewart explains more, '... they prefer to seek refuge in dark, damp places with plenty to eat. Starchy and sugary materials including bookbindings, photographic film, household linens, leather, soap, glue, toothpaste, as well as a variety of foods, all attract cockroaches.'

On top of all that, roaches carry diseases, such as salmonella, staphylococcus and streptococcus, so it's important to try to sort the problem fast. 

So how do you get rid of cockroaches? Read on for our tips on eliminating and preventing one of the toughest insects for good.

Spot the signs of cockroaches

An obvious sign of a cockroach infestation is to find a live one scuttling across the floor. However, roaches are nocturnal in nature so the chances of spotting one in daylight hours is slim. 

Here are other signs to look out for:

  • Droppings: Around 2mm long, cockroaches will produce brown or black droppings when water isn't readily available. 
  • Shed skins: Cockroaches shed skins 5-8 times as they mature. You'll usually find their molting close to where they are sheltering.
  • Pungent odor: Rentokil describe more, '... a cockroach infestation will definitely provide you with a heavy scent that is distinguishable. The smell can be described as musty, sweet and sometimes like almond and this can taint food and surfaces they come in contact with.' 

Where to look for cockroaches in your home

Rentokil explain that, 'Identifying the location of a cockroach infestation can depend greatly on the species of cockroach that has invaded your property. Some prefer warm and humid areas, whilst other species can tolerate cooler conditions.'

However here is a particular list of areas to keep an eye on.

how to get rid of cockroaches - a bathroom at dusk - claus-grunstaudl-I72dFJRFT3k-unsplash

(Image credit: Claus Grunstaudl on Unsplash)
  • In bathrooms: Cockroaches like to hang at the back of bathroom cabinets especially if they are full of yummy soap (yes they will eat soap residue too) and toiletry products that have been stored for a while. Inspect your plumbing behind your sink, bath and toilet, as they like to hide in  dark spaces with access to water. 
  • In kitchens and laundry rooms: Look in cupboards and cabinets, paying particular attention to hidden areas with pipework such as under your sink and behind your dishwasher. Sometimes cockroaches can be found in the upper inside corner of cupboards, hanging upside down out of sight. Nooks and crannies at the backs of appliances like your cooker, washing machines, refrigerator and freezer and sometimes smaller kitchen appliances like microwaves, coffee makers, toasters and blenders could be prime locations for cockroaches.
  • In basements and garages: Cockroaches will survive on eating cardboard and paper, so check boxes and piles of paper stored for long periods of time, paying particular attention to corner joints by baseboards.
  • In drains: Check down pipes for cracks cockroaches might hide in, as well as broken drain covers they could scuttle through. Give pipe ducts and beneath porches or decking a once over too.

How to get rid of roaches

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(Image credit: Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash)

1. Deep clean your home

The best way to show these critters you mean business is by giving your home a thorough scrub. 

Aside from all the usual household chores like vacuuming regularly, dusting and keeping your kitchen and bathroom spick and span, make sure you pay attention to the below:

  • Wipe down all surfaces thoroughly to remove any food residue and sweep up crumbs and other food debris on your floors.
  • Wash up dirty dishes and utensils in the sink as soon as possible.
  • Keep your trash cans covered, clean, and emptied regularly.
  • Clean hard-to-reach areas like the top of or beneath your refrigerator – cockroaches seek warmth and food there.

how to get rid of cockroaches - cockroaches at bait - GettyImages-1129445983

(Image credit: Getty)

2. Buy cockroach traps

Shop-bought cockroach traps come in various forms but two of the most effective are glue strips, gel bait and bait stations. However, the British Pest Control Association explains more about DIY cockroach control:

'The success of insecticidal treatments depends on what insecticides are chosen, and how thorough the application is. Remember to pay particular attention to cracks and crevices where eggs and nymphs may be found.'

You can try glue strips to give you an idea of where suspected large infestations are based. Place the strips in areas where roaches are known to hang out (see above) Keep a close eye on those areas for a few days to a week. You can then find the  high-traffic areas where glue strips have caught the most roaches, and these areas will need the most treatment.

Gel bait usually comes in a tube and can be applied under baseboards, in cracks and crevices, and hard to reach places. While gel bait can be effective in getting rid of roaches, the downside to it is you'll have dead roaches lying around your home.

Bait stations work by attracting roaches into stations to feed on poison. The poisoned roach then travels back to its home harbour, dies and is then eaten by the other roaches (ick), further passing on the poison. 

Like all the methods above, bait stations work somewhat to get rid of roaches, but it's very difficult to tell if they've got rid of all the roaches in your home. 

Warning: When using any insecticide, make sure it's kept well out of reach of children and pets.

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(Image credit: Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash)

3. Martha Stewart's homemade bait with boric acid 

Boric acid powder is highly effective in cockroach management. It works by sticking to the cockroach's body and while it preens itself it digests the acid, succumbing to its demise. Insecticide versions of boric acid retain the potency as long as the powder remains dry, so there's no need to replacing.

Martha Stewart recommends making a simple homemade bait with boric acid: 

'The National Wildlife Federation advises making your own (bait) by mixing equal parts of sugar and boric acid.'

Scatter the mixture in ready-made bait stations, at crevices along the edges and corners of cabinets; the wall/floor joins behind your refrigerator, oven and dishwasher; and puffed into openings for plumbing under sinks.

4. Know when to call in the professionals

Cockroaches are stubborn and if there's an army of them in your home you'll quickly feel outnumbered. You've fought the good fight with baits and traps, but now it's time to call in the pros to make sure all the roaches are gone and for good.

The BCPA explains more, 'Cockroaches are hard-wired to survive. They are adaptable, highly mobile and their lifecycle makes cockroach control an uphill task for the untrained individual. BPCA would always recommend contacting a professional pest management company to help with your cockroach infestation.'

Good riddance.

How to prevent cockroaches

Now you've won the infestation battle, it's time to employ some basic preventative measures to make sure those cockroach creeps don't come back with a vengeance.

cleaning the outside of a toaster

(Image credit: Getty)

1. Keep your home clean and uncluttered

Like all pest prevention the best way to deter a critter infestation is to keep your kitchen and storage areas clean and tidy.

Pay particular attention to the below:

  • Clear kitchen surfaces of debris, crumbs and spillages which will reduce the likelihood of roaches coming in in in search of food.
  • Cover pet food, clean litter trays and water bowls in the evenings because these will be prime spots for a cockroach midnight feast. 
  • Vacuuming regularly will remove any yummy debris from furniture and floors. If you're looking for a new vacuum we've got the lowdown on the best vacuum  cleaners around.
  • Removing clutter like newspapers, magazines, packaging and cardboard will prevent droppings accumulating within one area.

How to get rid of flying insects in your home - white compost bin/caddy with food scraps - Getty

(Image credit: Daisy-Daisy, Getty)

2. Eliminate the cockroaches' food sources

Make it hard for cockroaches to find food in your home by following these tips:

  • Removing liquids from sinks, bowls and buckets will discourage cockroaches from heading indoors. 
  • Discard leftover food from tables, worktops, counters and under appliances – even crumbs and small liquid spills. 
  • Use airtight containers for food storage to prevent them from detecting food sources as the smell of food attracts them to homes.
  • When recycling, rinse out any residue from bottles and cans before placing in recycling bins because not washing your recycling of leftover food or liquid makes for a  cockroach buffet. 
  • Empty your trash daily. Trash cans are big hits with cockroaches as they offer a range of nosh to consume. 

3. Repair cracks and crevices

Building maintenance is an important step to deter cockroaches. Considering that they can creep through even the smallest of spaces, it's time to get repairing. 

Pay extra attention to these particular areas:

  • Use caulk or wire wool to fill and seal cracks and holes in walls, around baseboards, under sinks, around pipework, fitted storage and behind plug sockets.
  • Repair damaged pipes and clear blocked pipes where needed as cockroaches thrive in damp areas.
  • Seal gaps around doors and windows to prevent entry.
Steel Wool Mice Fill Fabric DIY Repellents Kit, £13.99, Amazon

Steel Wool Mice Fill Fabric DIY Repellents Kit, £13.99, Amazon

If you are looking to stop flying insects or larger pests from getting into your home, this wire wool kit should help fill up large crevices you suspect the pests are using as entry points. 

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(Image credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

4. Repel them with plants 

While the usual insecticides contain a lot of harsh chemicals, it's worth exploring the natural route when it comes to repellents. 

Mint, clove, tea tree and lemon are all known to deter cockroaches and creating an indoor herb garden is pretty easy. Once your infestation is under control, mix these essentials oils with salt water in a spray bottle and mist previously infested areas daily. If nothing else, your home will smell sensational.