How Should I Kill Cockroaches?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Many people who have encountered a cockroach infestation in the past would say the best way to kill cockroaches is early and often. Because cockroaches tend to remain hidden in their nesting areas, it is often said that the sight of one cockroach in the open indicates the presence of at least 100 more which remain hidden behind walls and under floors. Fortunately, there are several ways to kill cockroaches which address both the visible and the invisible variety.

An American cockroach, also sometimes called a palmetto bug.
An American cockroach, also sometimes called a palmetto bug.

One way to kill roaches is through aerosol or non-aerosol bug sprays. These chemical sprays are designed to kill many roaches on contact, then create a line of poison which individual cockroaches drag into their nesting areas. Some insecticides act as deadly nerve agents, attacking the central nervous systems of the cockroaches and rendering them dead within seconds of contact. These spray insecticides may only have a minimal effect on reproduction, however, and they can be toxic to animals and children.

A person using bug spray to kill cockroaches.
A person using bug spray to kill cockroaches.

Another popular method to kill cockroaches is the use of bait traps, or so-called "roach motels." These traps usually contain a small amount of a chemical bait, which entices cockroaches to enter the trap through small openings. Once inside, however, it is nearly impossible for the cockroaches to escape and they die from exposure to poisoned bait or the effects of starvation. At least these cockroaches cannot return to their original nests to reproduce or continue scavenging for food.

There are some insecticide products available which address the reproductive side of a cockroach infestation. The active ingredients not only kill the adult cockroach, but also neutralize the unborn offspring inside the cockroach's egg sac. Killing all the visible cockroaches in an infested area may eliminate some immediate problems, but the larger problem cannot be addressed until the reproduction cycle is stopped. This is why many pest control experts do not recommend stepping on cockroaches as an extermination method. This action may release the egg sac, allowing many more baby cockroaches to take up the cause.

If all else fails, the infested area may have to be fumigated or sprayed by professional exterminators. Professional exterminators have access to chemicals which will kill virtually every living thing in a prescribed area, which usually means a complete evacuation of the entire household and several days of cleaning all exposed objects after the treatment. They may also be able to determine the main areas of infestation and introduce powerful insecticides with egg-killing capability directly into the walls and flooring. These services are not inexpensive, but they will usually get the job done when other methods fail.

Fumigation is a common way to control cockroaches.
Fumigation is a common way to control cockroaches.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


Boric acid crystals are like razors to the external skeletons of cockroaches -- so my question (for anon24390) is: does sterilization occur by castration?


Silverfish like humid, wet places. Put a dehumidifier or get some more airflow through the space where you want to get rid of them.


Roaches are a nuisance. It's really up to the homeowner whether to get rid of them or not. The roaches themselves pose no threat to humans, but you may want to keep the appearance of cleanliness around your home and get rid of roaches before the company you keep sees them!


Boric acid does not work at all, sorry to tell you. Try using demon wp. It works great.


i use dry sand and vodka. they get drunk and stone each other to death.


Thanks for the boric acid tip. I'm going to place mine in old jar lids so that I can move it around.


get a duck. They're the best roach hunters.


i recently repossessed a four bedroom home from a heroin addict family member and the roaches were so bad there they fell from the door as you opened it, like out of a movie.

i bought moth balls to get rid of the smell and some got crushed in to the carpet of one room and there's a lot of dead roaches all over the house just from that room. I'm going to spread them through the whole house next.


I live in senior housing and we are totally infested outside at night. They come out of the ground by the thousands. We get the inside sprayed but nothing is being done about the outside. What can I do to get rid of them outside?? We also have animals so I don't want to have them get hurt. I have a service dog myself.


Get "Dead Fast". Google it. I've used boric acid and it works fairly well, but compared to Deadfast it's in the slow lane. If you have roaches and you try Deadfast you won't have roaches for much longer and you will be amazed at how effective and fast it works.


I tested using BORIC powder which works like the BEST and less harmful. But it starts working only after a week or ten days and it is good for at least for one year!


I've lived in cockroach heaven (Hawaii) and I found the best way to kill cockroaches was to use Boric Acid powder puffed into hidden spaces -- backs of cupboards, along the stove. Caution: it may be harmful to crawling children or animals which I had none of. I had a roach-infested neighbor in Boston, and I used this there. My roaches moved on -- perhaps to room with hers.


I got rid of cockroaches by laying down moth balls in the area. I'm not sure why it works or whats in the moth ball but it works.


my wife does good, she gets condensed milk mixed with boric acid in little balls. Placing them in corners all over the house she got rid of them really quick


One story I heard of years ago is of the guy who bought a tarantula. He tied it to the end of an 18-inch long piece of string. Every night he'd tie it to a table leg, then scatter fruit within the radius of the string. Supposedly, after a month he went from seeing something like 30 a night to seeing maybe one a week.


What about borax? I've heard that borax will kill roaches. Is this not true?


Additionally, apartment complexes, multiple family dwellings can make this problem exponentially worse.

Casual measures are ineffective. What is required to bring about control is an all out assault which means, aerosol, baiting and chemical barriers, all of which the professional is more suited to deliver safely. BTW, Roach Chemicals are the most expensive and the most toxic materials commonly employed by a Pest Control Operator.


My family's business was pest control. I worked in the business for more than ten years. Cockroaches are extremely difficult.

They are chemically resistant, (they develop immunity) they multiply rapidly and gaining clear access to their nesting area is nearly impossible.

For these reasons I highly recommend consulting a professional experienced Pest Control Operator.

Mistakes you may make in battling them can often compound making the situation worse.


using diatomaceous earth (used in pool filters) works too........just leave a trail of it, like a little hill, along the area of feels soft to us but it is really made up of razor sharp crystals that slice into any bug that attempts to cross it cause death..........also available in better hardware stores in small packages in the bug spray isle....


Have you people never heard of boric acid? It's cheaper and safer than sprays. That's what I used. And as a bonus I got to watch them crawl across the floor when their body parts started falling off.


I want to know how to get rid of silverfish. It's taken us years and constant vigilance (24/7) to get rid of them completely (?) from the house but we still come across one or two when we bring things in from the storage room. They are really destructive - causing real monetary damages to clothing, furniture and papers.


someone advised me, when he lived in Texas he worked for a co. who just put boric acid behind stoves, fridges etc. (keep away from cats and babies or other. The cockroach gets it on their legs and cleans it off in their nests, it makes them thirsty and they more or less drink themselves to death. But it's cheap and you don't have to pay a company all that money. All I can say is creepy!


Yes sir, this is very useful topic that people of all walks of life will be interested and will definitely make use of he remedial measures you suggest. Please keep it up.


The best way I've found to eliminate cockroaches in their nest is to sterilize the males... by sprinkling boric acid (powder) behind the stove, refrigerator and inside the far end of cupboards safely away from children and pets:) Nothing works better and there is no smell...

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