1. Banish potential bug food
Cockroaches don’t crawl into your home with the express purpose of creeping you out. They’re just looking for a comfy place to get a snack or a sip, explains Eric Hoffer, president of Hoffer Pest Solutions in Coral Springs, Florida. So find ways to make your space less hospitable.
Wipe up stray crumbs and avoid leaving food out, and keep your eyes peeled for potential water sources as well. To cockroaches, pet water bowls, standing water in flower pots, leaky pipes, and even wet sponges or towels are all perfectly acceptable places to get a drink, Hoffer says.
This won’t just help keep new cockroaches from coming in. Denying food and water can eventually kill invaders that are already inside, says Chad Gore, PhD, entomologist and market technical director for Western Exterminator, Ehrlich, and Presto-X. Or at the very least, make them weaker, so they’re more susceptible to insecticides. (More on those in a sec.)
2. Clear the clutter
Despite myths about cockroaches and messy homes, you don’t need anything close to a Hoarders-level situation to attract the bugs. A pile of newspapers, a stack of boxes, or even a full trash bin can serve as a cozy cockroach home, according to the National Center For Healthy Housing.
3. Scope out your space
Cockroaches don’t need an open door or window to get inside. “Roaches can fit through a crack only a fraction of an inch wide,” Hoffer says. Yup, they’re pretty wily critters. Do your best to inspect your home for possible entry points, particularly dark or damp areas like under the sink, inside cabinets, or behind the fridge. Tuck glue strips into any areas that seem suspicious, like these from Tred-Not. The adhesive strips will trap any cockroaches that try to creep in, so you know which areas need to be bug-proofed.
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4. Plan your attack
Boric acid and bait traps are two good tools worth trying. Both are known to be effective against cockroaches and are safer than sprays and fogs because they limit your exposure to pesticides, according to the National Center for Healthy Housing. (They’re not Crayola-level safe, though, so still take care to keep kids and pets away.) You can apply boric acid powder directly to cracks or crevices where you suspect roaches are sneaking in or like to hide. (Try Harris Boric Acid Roach and Silverfish Killer Powder.) Or set bait traps nearby. “When a roach eats the bait, they’ll travel back to their hiding places, die, and be eaten by the other roaches to pass the poison along,” Hoffer says.
And for extra insurance, seal up as many of the crevices as you can with caulk (like Flex Shot Rubber Adhesive Sealant Caulk), recommends Gore. That’ll keep new cockroaches from coming inside.
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5. If all else fails, call a pro
Hopefully, your DIY efforts are enough to stop your home from turning into a cockroach haven. But if the problem doesn’t seem to be getting better within a week or so, don’t hesitate to call in the big guns. “In general, cockroaches are nocturnal,” Gore says. “If you see them out and about during the day and frequently, then the chances are pretty good that a population has become established and it’s time to call a professional.”
Often, an exterminator can identify and block entry points that you might have missed—and help get your home back to a pest-free state ASAP. Look for a pro specializing in integrated pest management, the National Center for Healthy Housing suggests. These experts will aim to try less harmful pest control methods before opting for potentially riskier options like pesticide sprays. Search the National IPM Database to find one near you.