Most people will feel uneasy when they turn on the light in the kitchen in the middle of the night and see a cockroach scuttling away. They will usually rush for a can of pesticide. Cockroaches need food, water and a place to hide if they are going to choose your home over others so removing these home comforts is the first step in ensuring your house is cockroach-free. They mostly come out at night – so sleep-over in a dark hiding place in the daylight hours.
I used to live in a harbor city by the sea where the homes and utility pipes were built in Victorian times so there was an ongoing problem with these unwanted creatures.
Tips for keeping cockroaches out of your home
- Always wipe down, immediately after use, any surfaces where food is prepared or eaten. At the same time, wipe down the hob every night after cooking.
- Never leave dirty dishes standing over night – a ready made invitation to come and feast. If you cannot wash them, then at the very least rinse or leave to soak in soapy water.
- Never leave dirty dishes sitting overnight in the dishwasher without rinsing them off completely. Also make sure your dishwasher is clean itself. There could be food remains in the filter or along the seals. The filter should be cleaned out after every dishwasher cycle . I spritz the seals and give them all a clean plus I put in a cup of white vinegar (sitting on the top shelf) while pouring another half cup into the bottom of the dishwasher. I then run a very hot wash without any dishes. Try to follow this routine at least every month to keep your dishwasher spotless.
- Wash any pet food dishes every day and never leave out any pet food over night. Pet water bowls are of course a source of water for lurking cockroaches so perhaps you should think about how you can resolve that problem too.
- Clean the inside of both the oven and the microwave regularly as well as the extractor hood. Also clean those hard to reach areas behind and beneath the refrigerator and the stove frequently.
- Store all non-refrigerated foods (pastas, flour etc) in containers with well fitting lids (remembering that glass is much safer than plastic) and keep any shelves in the pantry or store cupboards clean and tidy. Get rid of any unnecessary clutter.
- Try to remember to take garbage and compost out of their kitchen bins every night and put them in their appropriate outside bins. If you cannot do this, then make sure that the inside bins are tightly closed.
- Vacuum and/or sweep floors regularly (especially in the kitchen and eating areas) to remove any food debris. You can use the vacuum cleaner’s tube attachment to suck up debris and possibly cockroaches too from any cracks in the wall or floors as well as behind furniture and appliances but remember that the vacuum bag itself could be a source of food for cockroaches. Dispose of your vacuum cleaner bag in a sealed container.
- Look out for any cracks and gaps in floors, walls, cupboards and around water pipes and electrical cables. Check underneath sinks and basins and at the same time look for any water leaks which should be repaired.
Avoid using a pesticide with these natural remedies instead
- Diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled in hidden areas such a cabinet tops and behind appliances. Harmless to people, the tiny particles cut the waxy exo-skeleton, killing the insect within 48 hours. For a week or so after the treatment, the dehydrating insects will search more actively for water so you might see more of them just for that period before they die.
- Catnip is a natural repellent to cockroaches. Small sachets of catnip can be left in areas of cockroach activity or catnip can be simmered in a small amount of water to make a “catnip tea” which can be used as a spray to apply around baseboards and behind counters. This natural repellent should only be used in homes without cats unless you want them partying the night away!
- Keep a spray bottle of soapy water on hand. Spraying roaches directly with soapy water will kill them or use an large empty coffee can in which you place a couple of pieces of bread that have been soaked thoroughly with beer. Place these in appropriate areas as traps. Another method is to place some boric acid on top of kitchen cupboards only (as it is toxic by mouth to children and pets). Cockroaches will then take the boric acid to their nests, eliminating them all.
There are also non-toxic cockroach traps available online
Even the cleanest of homes can have cockroaches in residence because they can simply walk or fly in from elsewhere. They can also catch a lift in a bag or box containing food or already be resident in an item of furniture or an appliance that you buy second hand.
My husband always tells the story of how, when he worked in construction, he had to supervise the re-building of a Holiday Inn in South Africa after a fire had destroyed the original building. When they went to inspect the remains of the hotel kitchen, they saw a large of expanse of wall which was brownish/black in color. But looking closer they found it was actually completely covered in cockroaches (thousands and thousands). They did not know whether this was their permanent home or whether they had all taken refuge there because of the fire. It needed some quick action by pest controllers!