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How to get rid of cockroaches in 5 steps


Have roaches made an appearance in your home? Did you find cockroach eggs in the kitchen? From boric acid to DIY cockroach traps and baits, here are some tips on how to get rid of cockroaches naturally. 


Picture: Getty

Cockroaches are an unfortunate reality of urban life, scurrying out when you least expect it. If their dull, brown bodies have you running for cover and gross you out, you’re not alone.

What are the types of cockroaches?

Did you know that there are over 4,000 species of roaches roaming on Earth, including oriental cockroach and brown-banded cockroach? Thankfully, out of the 4000 species, there are only two common cockroaches living in Malaysia and they are German cockroach and American cockroach. So how do you differentiate the two of them.

Well, first of all, the German has two vertical stripes on the back of the neck and is yellowish in colour while the American is reddish-brown. If you’re worried about flying cockroaches, don’t, because not all of them have wings. Only the American Cockroach has wings and can fly. So run if you see these flying cockroaches in the house! The female German Cockroaches only produce 4 to 9 egg cases (each contains 37 to 44 cockroach eggs) while the female American Cockroaches produce 10 to 90 egg cases and each contains 14 to 28 cockroach eggs.

You can usually find German Cockroaches in wet and humid environment, but the American Roaches prefer to reside in dark, humid and quiet places. The lifespan of an adult German cockroach is about 100 days, but the American can live up to 3 years! Imagine having it in the house for 3 years! The horror!

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What do cockroaches eat?

Cockroaches are notorious for eating anything and everything. But the kind of food they like the most are the meaty, sugary, fatty and starchy type. This is why you often find them lurking around in the kitchen, that’s because they’re looking for food! So not only are they moving in without any invitation, but they’re also stealing your food without asking.

If your kitchen ran out of food, don’t worry, there are other things they can munch on to curb their hunger too. So things like paper, books, dead insects, animal skin and even human hair can be a food source too! They’re also known to eat cockroach babies if they’re hungry and there’s no food around. For cockroaches, the starch food group expands to include book bindings, paper, wallpaper paste and the glue on the back of stamps.

And get this, there’s no use starving them as well because many species can live up to a month without any food source, provided there’s drinking water. So it’s true when they say cockroaches will probably outlive human beings.

How dangerous can a cockroach be?

Unlike other pests, cockroaches don’t bite. While cockroaches are harmless (unless you suffer from katsaridaphobia), some people do get allergic reactions from cockroaches. The saliva, faeces and body parts of cockroaches can trigger both allergies and asthma. If you are allergic to them, they can trigger asthma attacks.

Typical cockroach allergy symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Skin rash
  • Wheezing
  • Ear infection
  • Sinus infection

And here’s what you can do to prevent an allergic reaction:

  • Keep your house in tip-top condition, including kitchen floors, sinks, counters and stoves.
  • Keep food containers and garbage cans sealed
  • Avoid clutters. if you keep piles of newspapers, laundry, magazines or dirty dishes around, discard them or put them away.
  • Consult a pest control company or exterminator.

The World Health Organization (WHO) even reported that they carry infectious agents. Diseases such as gastroenteritis, dysentery, cholera, leprosy, typhoid fever, plague, poliomyelitis, and salmonellosis will get to you if you aren’t careful.

Cockroaches are also notorious for carrying bacteria that cause food poisoning. If you leave your food unattended at night, they might come crawling to your kitchen table and contaminate your food.

How do you know if you have a cockroach infestation?

Once cockroaches make themselves at home, it can be very difficult to kick them out. Here’s how to spot them and get rid of them before a large number of them start moving in.

1. Cockroach poop

This is perhaps the most telltale sign of a roach infestation. If there are cockroaches crawling in your home, they will definitely leave tiny specks of cockroach poops or droppings behind. Do pay close attention to places like floor corners, top of the cabinets and underneath the refrigerators as these are the common places they roam. When cleaning up the droppings, always remember to wear gloves.

2. Musty odour

Portrait of a young woman holding her nose because of a bad smell.
© 123rf

Cockroaches do smell and they smell nasty. While the smell of a single cockroach is subtle (most of the time the smell is not strong enough for you to notice), if you have several cockroaches running around your home, the smell will amplify and become more noticeable. If your home is hit by a strong musty odour, then you’re probably in trouble. Quickly find out the cause of the smell and get rid of them once and for all.

Read more: Here’s how you can improve your air quality at home

3. Egg casings

You know infestation starts to grow when you find cockroach egg casings lying around the house. The thing is roaches don’t lay singular eggs, they produce oothecae — long and brown casings that house cockroaches’ eggs. Depending on the species of the cockroach, some oothecae house only 10 to 20 eggs while some can hold up to 50 eggs in a single shell. We can’t even begin to imagine the number of baby cockroaches or cockroach nymphs lurking in the shadows. *shudders* If you find empty casings, take immediate action to annihilate them, and if you come across a casing that still contains its eggs, throw it away or flush it down the toilet immediately.

4. Cockroaches

Cockroaches in the sink
© 123rf

You know what they say, if you see a cockroach crawling hastily in your kitchen, there’s probably a family of them hiding somewhere, waiting for the right moment to strike. You see, roaches are not loners and they’re nocturnal insects. If you spot them in daylight, it means that the infestation has been going on for some time and because of overcrowding and lack of food and water sources, they are forced to come out during the day to survive. Really makes you wonder how many of these pesky pests are hiding in your home right?

How do you find a cockroach nest?

Cockroaches don’t live in solitary. So if you see one roaming around your house, you can expect a cockroach nest is hidden somewhere in the dark. Roaches like warm, dark and tight places so if you’re hunting for the nest, it’ll be a good idea to check behind the refrigerator, in the kitchen cabinets and in other compact places.

If you spot cast skins, egg cases, smears, live or dead cockroaches, then you’re on the right track, The nest is close. Just take a closer look around and you might just find all the big and small cockroaches residing there. Don’t forget to check these places as well: under your furniture, drawers, back of your kitchen appliances and piping area.

What is the best home remedy to get rid of roaches?

Though these pesky creatures have been roaming around for million years, it doesn’t mean that they’re hard to kill. If you want to kill cockroaches (without resort to using cockroach repellent or spray), read on for some practical tips that really work to reduce the cockroach population or how to kill cockroaches for good.

1. Sprinkle boric acid

Boric acid and diatomaceous earth are the best roach killer. Boric acid acts like a stomach poison while diatomaceous earth pierces the cockroach’s outer skeleton.

To make the cockroach poison, take three parts boric acid powder with one part sugar and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle this concoction in the areas roaches live, like under the sink and in the pantry – use a thin layer to avoid them walking around it.

For anyone with pets or little ones, diatomaceous earth is non-toxic and non-carcinogenic, so it’s the safest option. Keep boric acid away from areas that are frequented by little feet and paws.

Spread boric acid and sugar powder in places where cockroaches roam. Picture: Getty

2. Clean and declutter your home

Household pests – and roaches in particular – love greasy, grimy areas like kids love lollies. Survey your kitchen and if you find the following, you need to take immediate action:

  • Stove or cooker spills
  • Greasy kettles or other kitchen appliances
  • Crumbs around the toaster
  • Open cardboard boxes of snacks and cereals
  • Dirty dishes in the sink or dishwasher
  • Pet food left opened and uncovered
  • Open garbage bags
  • Food scraps on the kitchen floor and benchtops

Clean up spills and grease at the end of every night, preferably immediately after cooking. Store all loose food in airtight containers, including pet food. Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink and plug in drains when you’re not using them to avoid roaches crawling up through the pipes.

Encourage your family to eat their meals and snacks in the kitchen and dining room instead of curling up on the couch to limit cockroaches’ crawl space. If you’re time-poor, as many of us are, call in a cleaning professional, they have the right products and the experience to carry out a thorough clean. Just make sure you maintain cleanliness in-between visits.

Clean all the kitchen’s nooks and crannies to be rid of cockroaches for good. Picture: Getty

3. Seal cracks and crevices

If you’re currently living in an apartment, you’re likely to have visits from cockroaches that are passing through. Other people’s less-than-ideal hygiene standards can create a cockroach infestation in your home.

Buy a caulking gun and caulk to seal up any entry points around your apartment to stop unwelcome creepy crawlies. Because it doesn’t matter how many times you clean your home, pesky roaches will end up strolling through hidden entryways in your unit.

There’s no stopping cockroaches if you have open cracks and holes, which you can easily seal with a caulking gun and caulk. Picture: Getty

4. Fix water leaks

Did you know cockroaches can survive up to a month without food, but only a week or two without water? Stop them drinking run-off water by checking and fixing all the water leaks in your home. Wipe down the shower and tub after use, dry your kitchen sink, wring out all dishcloths and dry immediately.

Make sure your taps are all leak-free and benches wiped dry to deprive cockroaches of moisture. Picture: Eugene Hyland

5. Set cockroach traps/cockroach bait

There are plenty of cockroach traps available in the market like the Ridsect cockroack bait and most of them as effective as the methods mentioned above. If you’re looking to make your own DIY cockroach trap, you can try the homemade glue trap to bait them. First, get a duct tape cockroach trap, flip it upside down so the sticky part is facing upwards. Since cockroaches like sweet and starchy food, you can place either a blob of jam or butter on the tape. And now you wait for it to take the bait. Remember to place it where roaches roam – behind the cupboard or under the sink.

What smells keep roaches away?

Just like any other pests, there are certain scents that cockroaches dislike. Read below to find out how these natural cockroach repellents work and how to prevent cockroaches from coming back.

1. Lavender 

So here’s one good news for you: roaches hate the smell of lavender. To build your home defence system against cockroaches, simply place lavender-scent items like candles or an air purifier infused with lavender essential oils around the house. You can even make your own lavender spray and spritz in areas where cockroaches hide.

2. Eucalyptus 

Here’s another well-loved scent (even the koala bears love the smell of it) that roaches detest. One easy way to use this method is to plant a eucalyptus plant at home. Not only will you be able to get rid of the cockroaches, but you’re also elevating your home with greens. If you don’t have the green thumb for it, get a eucalyptus oil and spray it around your home.

3. Citrus

Citrus is another scent that we may find refreshing, but definitely not the cockroaches. You can either grow a citrus fruit tree at home or scatter citrus peels around your home in areas where cockroaches are frequently seen. Another easy way to use citrus to your advantage is to get citrus-scented cleaners in the kitchen and bathrooms. This will definitely keep them out of sight and out of your mind.

How can I get rid of roaches fast?

If you can’t get rid of cockroaches yourself it’s best to call the cockroach pest control. Picture: Getty

If you’ve exhausted all your options and still see roaches running around merrily, then it’s time to call in the professionals for some roach control. Whether it’s your first time or your 12th time hiring a pest or cockroach control company, ask around and do your research on how they get rid of a pest problem or pest infestation.

What kills cockroaches instantly are these anti-cockroach treatments, which are toxic and can be harmful to young children and pets, but do note that there are some non-toxic alternatives out there. Make sure you ask the right questions so you can be confident you’re undergoing the best way to kill roaches. Before the actual treatment, I recommend cleaning out and tidying up pantry and cutlery cupboards. Clean out grime, cockroach shells or food scraps to maximise the effectiveness of the treatment, which can be expensive.

When trying to get rid of cockroaches, use a combination of methods for the best results. Then, enjoy peace of mind and never worry about those scurrying buggers again. If cockroaches are not your problem but ants are, click here to find out easy steps to get rid of ants.

Read more: Pest control for houses in Malaysia: know when it’s time to call an expert

Where do cockroaches hide? 

As mentioned above, roaches are nocturnal insects and they like cosying up in dark and moist places. So keep an eye out for them in places like behind the refrigerators, sinks, stoves, floor drains, toilet drain and other kitchen appliances.

How to lure cockroaches out of hiding? 

If there’s one thing we can be sure of it’s that cockroaches are hard to catch. They usually come out at night when everyone’s sleeping and when you do see them, they’ll just run back into their hiding spots. But fret not as there are ways to draw them out.

1. Use a cockroach bait

Get a few cockroach traps and put them in places you know cockroaches are known to frequent. The trap comes with an adhesive so cockroaches will get stuck on the sticky paper.

2. Use water jar

This homemade method has been proven time and time again as an effective way to trap cockroaches. All you need to do is place a jar of water where roaches are seen. Cockroaches will get into the jar and drown.

Now there you have it, our comprehensive guide to getting rid of cockroaches at home. While these creatures are harmless, it’s better to get them out of the house before they bring in any bacteria and viruses. So the key is to strike fast. See a cockroach or cockroach egg casing around? Get your boric acid or cockroach traps to steer them away from your home and kick them out for good.

Why do I have roaches in my clean house? 

Cockroaches are often associated with dirty and cluttered homes. However, you’ve been keeping your home spick and span so why are you still seeing cockroaches roaming around in your house? Sometimes it’s not only about how clean your house is but whether or not you have any breach or holes in your house that allow roaches to enter.

Cockroaches, like all of us, need shelter and food to stay alive, and where can they find a place that provides them with both the necessities? Your home. Cockroaches can fit into the tiniest hole so if you have any cracks in your exterior wall of the house, vent or even your doors and windows, chances are they will walk right in. One way to fix this is to seal up any holes, cracks and crevices around the house.

Aside from that, there are also places where no repair is needed but as a homeowner, you need to pay extra attention to those areas to prevent an infestation. The areas include:

  • Gaps between doors and floors
  • Air-conditioning units that don’t fit properly
  • Garbage bins
  • Pet food or water that is left overnight
  • Tears on the window screens

Now you know how to get rid of cockroaches at home, also read: 
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This article was originally published as How to get rid of cockroaches in 5 steps by and is written by Elke Keeley. Additional content by Stephanie Yap. 

Disclaimer: The information is provided for general information only. Malaysia Sdn Bhd makes no representations or warranties in relation to the information, including but not limited to any representation or warranty as to the fitness for any particular purpose of the information to the fullest extent permitted by law. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this article is accurate, reliable, and complete as of the time of writing, the information provided in this article should not be relied upon to make any financial, investment, real estate or legal decisions. Additionally, the information should not substitute advice from a trained professional who can take into account your personal facts and circumstances, and we accept no liability if you use the information to form decisions.

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