There’s nothing worse than flicking on the kitchen lights and seeing (or hearing) the scuttling legs and antennae of cockroaches on your countertops, cabinets, or floor. Not only are these pests a major eyesore, but they can contaminate your food, transmit dangerous bacteria, and worst of all, survive even the best-intentioned eradication attempts. That’s why we turned to an entomologist and pesticide applicator to find the fastest and most effective way to get rid of roaches. Regardless if you’re tackling one sneaky pest or a whole army of cockroaches, follow this five-step guide to shut down even the most stubborn infestations.
Identify the problem area and seek professional help if needed.
Out of over 4,000 cockroach species in the world, most Americans encounter only one or two types: German cockroaches and American cockroaches.
Since cockroaches can taint your food and countertops with illness-causing E. coli and salmonella, don’t take an infestation lightly. If you’re struggling to eradicate roaches or identify where they’re coming from, you may need to bring in pest control professionals to pinpoint the source of the issue.
Cut cockroaches off from their food supply.
Just like people, these pests need sustenance to survive. Unlike people, they can live off almost anything left out for them, like unopened food, debris, and even crumbs.
Start by cleaning spilled or leftover food. A forgotten cereal box in the back of the cabinet is a gold mine for roaches. Don’t leave any dishes on the counter or in the sink either, advises Orkin entomologist Chelle Hartzer.
Go deeper — literally — by checking behind cabinets and appliances too. “They like behind the refrigerator because that’s a nice, warm environment,” Hartzer explains. “Nobody cleans behind their refrigerator so there’s usually a food source for them back there.”
Store your garbage in a bin with a tight-fitting lid and take it out regularly, adds Mike Goldstein, a Certified Pesticide Applicator for Woodstream. Treat the bottom of the trail pail with the same level of care by wiping out any residue, gunk, or leftover food.
Eliminate any and all hiding places.
In addition to food, roaches need harborage to thrive. Their favorite nooks and crannies include stacks of paper and cardboard boxes, so recycle any materials you have laying around. Cleaning up any clutter will deter roaches from hanging around — or coming back.
Leave out roach bait — but don’t spray.
While sanitation and housekeeping is key, you can also employ some other tools in your war on roaches. “Baits are the ideal option for homeowners to use, because they’re simple to apply,” Goldstein says. “You do not want to spray a pesticide in large areas because it may contaminate surfaces that you do not want contaminated: countertops, appliances, etc. Baits, including Combat Roach Killing Bait, are a cleaner and less risky way to control the problem.”
Seal up any potential entry points.
Roaches can flatten and scuttle their way through small cracks, holes, or screens, so shut out any future invaders by sealing up gaps between the interior and the outdoors (or other apartments or condo units) with materials like door guards, clear caulk, or steel wool. Hartzer advises getting down on floor-level and looking at your entryway. “If you can see daylight underneath your door, that means roaches can get in,” she says.
Don’t forget about the things you purposefully bring into your home either. Groceries, deliveries, or old furniture may be home to a few roaches, so inspect them carefully before bringing them indoors. “Think of when your Amazon package gets dropped off and it sits there all afternoon until you get home from work,” Hartzer says. “Cockroaches love that cardboard; it’s the perfect environment for them to hide.”