How to Get Rid of Cockroaches Without an Exterminator

Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Management Professional

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Cockroaches are among the most common and persistent household pests. They infest homes and can be hard to get rid of because they live in dark spaces and reproduce so quickly.  

With these steps, it is possible to get rid of cockroaches permanently without spending money on an exterminator: clean your home thoroughly, use sticky glue traps, apply roach gel bait and powder, and seal off entry points.  Here’s how to do it.

How Hard Is It to Get Rid of Cockroaches?

Cockroaches are opportunistic scavengers that can survive in almost any environment and have been doing this for millions of years.  So, yes, a roach infestation can be hard to eliminate, but not impossible.   

The key is to act immediately when you see any signs of this pest. Why? because they are prolific breeders and their population size will soon get out of control quickly. But with a bit of work and persistence, you can successfully get rid of them without an exterminator and be cockroach-free.

Which Roaches Infest Our Homes?

There are many species of cockroaches including German, American, Oriental, Brown-Banded, etc.  The most common type of roach found in homes is the German cockroach. The other one that can make an unwelcome entrance is the American cockroach. 

We will take a look at both, but focus mainly on getting rid of German roaches.

German Cockroach (Blattella germanica)

Two adult German roaches
Two German roaches

As well as being the most common type found infesting our homes it’s also considered the worst because it likes to live indoors where it is warm and has access to sources of food and water.  It also reproduces faster than the other common roaches. 

A German roach can be identified by the two dark parallel stripes on the pronotum (back of the head).  It is small at only  ½” – ⅝” (12.7 – 16 mm).  This species is nocturnal and feeds on just about everything including human food, pet food, soap, etc.  You’re most likely to find it infesting your kitchen and bathroom.

You can learn all about German cockroaches here.  

American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana)

Adult American cockroach feasting on a cracker
American cockroach – Image credit: Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

This roach is the largest of the common roaches and is also known as a “water bug” or “palmetto bug”.  It can grow to just over 2 inches long and can be identified by the yellow-colored band around the edge of the pronotum.

The American roach prefers to live outside in damp and warm places such as in piles of wood and mulch, but it is also found in sewers and boiler rooms.  They prefer warm temperatures and your home becomes inviting to these roaches outside when temperatures start to drop. 

Generally, they invade your home through air ducts, utility and sewer pipes, small gaps under doors and in windows, and through sewer connections. Other access routes can be through infested equipment or deliveries.

They’re most commonly found in moist environments such as your basement and crawl space.

How to Know if You Have Roaches – Signs of an Infestation

Seeing one roach in your home doesn’t always mean you have an infestation on your hands.  This lone pest might have come in with a delivery, but the chances are it’s not on its own because they are social insects that congregate in groups. 

Even if you’ve found only one, get looking for these cockroach infestation signs just in case it is a pregnant female. 

As these insects thrive in warm, humid environments, kitchens and bathrooms are where you will mainly find them since leaky taps, pipes, and appliances like refrigerators provide them with the heat, moisture, and shelter they need to survive.

Signs of a roach infestation include:

Cockroach Frass 

At night, when they look for food and run across the kitchen countertops, inside cabinets and drawers, across the floor, on cooking utensils and plates, under and in the kitchen appliances, they leave behind their droppings (frass).  German cockroach frass looks like coffee grounds or ground black pepper.

Picture of German cockroach droppings and German roach
German roach and German cockroach droppings (frass)

American roach poop is larger than German roach poop and is a cylinder shape with ridges and blunt ends. It can be confused with mouse droppings.

Fecal Stains and Smears

Dark stains or smears on corners of walls, in and around cracks in the walls, under the refrigerator, on the tops of doors, and in other places where they cluster are also signs.  Their droppings contain a pheromone which attracts other roaches to cluster in these areas.

Egg Casings (ootheca)

Roach egg cases can be found in drawers, door hinges, on baseboards, and anywhere warm and moist. 

Seeing Roaches During the Day

You don’t want to see any scurrying around in your kitchen or bathroom during the day as this means you’ve got a large infestation.  They usually only emerge during the daytime if their hiding places are overcrowded and they are looking for somewhere else to shelter.

Cockroach Odor

As the infestation grows, you may notice an unpleasant odor.  The most accurate way to describe it would be as pungent, offensive, oily, sweet, and musty which is caused by decomposing dead cockroaches, as well as other things such as pheromones produced by the feces.

Shed Skins

When the nymphs progress through each molting stage they shed their old skins, which can be found in areas of your home where roaches congregate.

Dead Roaches

If the smell is caused by decomposing roaches then finding dead roaches is another warning sign of an infestation problem.

Where to Inspect for a Roach Infestation

A visual inspection needs to be carried out which will start in the kitchen then move onto the bathroom and any other rooms where there is water/moisture and also food. 

The one place I always find cockroach activity is behind the fridge and this is the ideal living area for them because they are kept warm by the motor, and they have access to water from the overflow at the back.

If you think you’ve got cockroaches, then pull the fridge out away from the wall and see if you find any signs of them there.

For this, you will need a flashlight and a small mirror to get into areas that might be hard to inspect, but you’ll generally want to look in, under, above, and behind the following:

  • refrigerator
  • freezer
  • dishwasher
  • washer and dryer
  • oven and oven door hinges
  • water heater
  • kettle
  • microwave and other appliances that produce heat
  • sinks
  • leaking pipes and where pipes enter a wall
  • cupboards, cabinets, drawers, and their corners 
  • cabinet and drawer cracks
  • door and cabinet hinges
  • cracks in baseboards, moldings, and tiles
  • gaps around window frames, especially if there is condensation on them
  • wall voids behind the sink, dishwasher, and oven
  • all electrical equipment and behind electrical sockets
  • ceiling and ceiling voids
  • pantry, grocery boxes, and food containers
  • trash cans
  • coffee machine

If you don’t find any when carrying out the inspection then it might just mean that the infestation is small…for now.  But you’ll still want to monitor the situation just in case and trap any that come out of hiding.  You can do this by using sticky traps, which we’ll get to in just a moment as it is part of the following steps.   

The Best Way to Get Rid of Roaches in 4 Steps

Step 1 – Thoroughly Clean Your Home

Before starting any treatment to kill them, the first and most important approach to controlling roaches is with a thorough deep clean.    

Roaches thrive as long as they have access to:

1) Food

2) Water

3) Shelter. 

Don’t leave leftover food out. Don’t leave dishes and utensils sitting in the sink overnight. Clean up any spills and wipe down countertops thoroughly to remove any crumbs or grease.  Take your garbage out at the end of each day. Don’t leave any pet food or water out in bowls overnight.  Wipe the kitchen sink dry so there is no water (not even a drop) left in it.   Vacuum thoroughly to remove crumbs that have dropped onto the carpet.  All food sources should be put into sealed containers.

Empty and clean out all the cupboards 

You’ll be surprised at how many small pieces of food can collect at the back of your kitchen cabinets.  The last thing you want is to find roaches scurrying across your tinned cans, food, plates, and dishes.

Read what attracts cockroaches to your home for detailed information on what attracts them the most. 

cockroaches feeding on sugar
Wipe up spills and crumbs so roaches have nothing to eat

You’ll want to vacuum the areas you’ve identified as having the most roaches.  Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and use the crevice attachment to get into the places where there are colonies.  This is most likely behind and under the fridge. 

Remember, roaches live in dark, humid areas that are close to food and moisture so use your flashlight in these areas as the light will cause the roaches to scatter so you’ll be able to see them. 

Although vacuuming won’t get rid of the infestation, it will eliminate a large number of them in one go. 

Vacuum other areas of the room for any dead cockroaches and shed skins. When you’ve finished, empty the contents of the vacuum into a plastic bag, seal it, and put it in the outside trash.  

Step 2 – Monitor Roaches With Sticky Traps

The best way to monitor the presence of cockroaches is by placing insect monitors which are sticky traps (AKA glue boards) where they are likely to be harboring close by.

Picture of cockroach sticky trap
Cockroach sticky glue trap for monitoring and trapping

They are cardboard structures that have a piece of cardboard with a layer of adhesive. The glue often contains an attractant that lures the insect onto it. Once the roach walks onto the glue, it is unable to escape.

In addition to trapping them, these traps are primarily used for monitoring infestation levels so they should be put where two surfaces connect, in kitchen and bathroom cabinets under the sink, on the pantry floor, by the stove, along utility pipes, behind and next to the refrigerator, dishwasher, as well as in the other cupboards. 

The idea is to place them wherever roaches might be foraging nearby for food or water. 

In the bathroom, place one behind the toilet and under the sink.  

To maximize the effectiveness of the sticky traps, always place them flush against the wall or surface so the roaches cannot squeeze behind it and have no option but to walk onto it and get stuck.  It is a good idea to write the location on each trap for later inspection. 

Also, try and place them so pets and children won’t come into contact with them.  

Regularly inspect the traps every 1-2 days for a week so you can monitor and see where the cockroaches are most concentrated.  Once you have this information you can start your treatment to get rid of these unsanitary pests.    

Step 3 – Use Professional Roach Gel Bait

Whichever gel bait product you use, always read the label before you start the treatment and follow the instructions.

Wear disposable nitrile gloves.  Not only because you are handling insecticides but also because it’s possible to contaminate the gel bait as it can absorb smells from such things as cigarettes, hand soap, and other products which could end up repelling them.   

Gel baits are professional-grade pest control products that exterminators use and are easy to apply as they come in a syringe for spot treatment application, as you can see in the image below. 

Example of professional cockroach bait gel use to kill roaches - Maxforce range
Example of professional cockroach bait gel used to kill roaches

Over the years I’ve used several but I’ve found the Bayer MaxForce Roach Gel Bait range to be very effective in getting rid of german roaches quickly.  In addition to killing them through eating the bait, it also kills them by contact.  This means that a roach only has to come into contact with the gel, and it will be carried back to the colony where it will slowly poison and kill other roaches.

You can buy these roach gel baits on Amazon.

It can also be used to kill American, Oriental, Brown, and Smoky-Brown roaches.  

How To Apply Roach Gel Bait 

Before you start applying the roach bait, it’s important to remove all food, utensils, and plates from countertops and cabinets.  

Also, have some kitchen towel to hand as you’ll need it if the gel leaks from the syringe.

To release the gel push the plunger slowly as you will only be applying SMALL pea-sized drops roughly 8 – 10 inches apart.  You don’t want to be applying big blobs or lines of gel as these insects won’t eat it, they will only take the bait if it is in small amounts.  

You need to apply the gel in, or as close to their harborage sites as possible (within 1 – 2 feet), and where you see fecal matter.  If these are missed then your roach problem continues.  

Where Do You Put Gel Bait for Roaches?

Apply the gel bait in the following areas in the kitchen:

  • In corners and spaced out along cabinet shelves 
  • Underneath shelving and on the hinges of cabinets
  • All corners of drawers and on top of the drawer slide 
  • Any cracks in between the cabinets and the wall and along the side and under the cabinets
  • Under the countertop overhang
  • In vents and cracks behind appliances like the microwave
  • To the side, under, and front of the stove
  • In the vents under the refrigerator and put on the fridge door hinges – it’s important you do this as this is where roaches are mostly found
  • Between the dishwasher and the wall

  • Where the wall meets the ceiling, especially in the corners
  • Behind and around any heat and moisture-generating appliances
  • In the electric fuse panel
  • On door frames, especially along the top
Picture of gel bait on cabinet hinges
German roaches eating the gel bait (circled) on kitchen cabinet hinge

In the bathroom: 

  • Where the toilet and sink pipes go into the wall
  • In the gap where the mirror and wall meet
  • Vanity cabinet hinges
  • Underneath the countertop overhang
  • Behind any spotlights

  • Where the wall and ceiling meet and in the ceiling corners
  • On door frames, especially along the top

Step 4 – Apply a Light Dusting of Roach Powder

Roach powder or dust is basically a crack and crevice treatment that is applied in areas where gel bait can’t get to, such as in deep cracks and voids where roaches will hide, for example.

However, it should not be used as a standalone product to get rid of roaches as it won’t eliminate the entire infestation, but it should be used alongside the gel bait.     

What Is Roach Powder or Dust and How Does It Work?

Cockroach powder is an insecticide that kills roaches by ingestion, contact, and by other roaches eating the poisoned roaches. When roaches walk through the powder, it sticks to them and gets carried into the colony. As they groom themselves, they ingest the powder, which attacks their nervous and digestive systems and kills them.

Roach Killer Powders

There are plenty to choose from and you’ve no doubt heard of boric acid.  People use it because it is seen as a natural home remedy for killing roaches.  But there are other insecticide powders/dusts that can be used as part of your DIY roach extermination. 

Is Boric Acid Safe for Humans and Pets?

Boric Acid is an organic mineral compound that is commonly found and used in a variety of things we use daily.  It is also used in pest control products and is an effective way of controlling cockroaches. 

Often people want a natural way of getting rid of roaches and boric acid is one option because it is natural so we presume it is safe to use.

However, boric acid or any other powder containing it can be harmful to you, your children, and your pets if used incorrectly, ingested, or inhaled.   

Therefore, it is strongly advised not to apply boric acid or any other cockroach powder on any surfaces where food is prepared, or in areas where children or pets are likely to come into contact with it.[1]

Does Boric Acid Kill Roaches?

Yes, boric acid will kill roaches.  Although it is effective, it should be used in conjunction with gel bait for maximum effect.

How Long Does it Take for Boric Acid to Kill Roaches?

It can take up to 3 days for cockroaches to die after being exposed to boric acid.  Keep in mind that it does not kill roach eggs.[2] 

Roach Killer Powders Used By Pest Control Exterminators

There are other cockroach bait powders that are used by the pest control industry that work quicker than boric acid, and one that is commonly used is Avert DF – Dry Flowable Cockroach Bait because within 24 hours of application, this powder’s active ingredient, Abamectin B1 begins killing roaches. 

How to Use Roach Killer Powder

One of the most important things to remember when putting down roach powder is less is more.   This means do not use too much powder, you want to apply it as a thin layer.

Roaches will not walk through a thick layer of it and will find a way around it.  If it’s a thin layer, like a light dusting, they will walk on it and the powder can then do its job and stick to the roach and get taken back to the colony.  

Lightly puff the powder into cracks and crevices where roaches can hide and where you have not applied gel bait (as it will contaminate the gel), such as:

  • Along and in the cracks of baseboards.
  • In corners of empty cabinets and in hollow spaces under cabinets
  • Apply behind kick panels or puff into gaps along the top.
  • Into openings and cracks around plumbing and pipes.
  • Use on floor-to-wall junctions between the floor and baseboards
  • Around window sills and on door frames. 

Do not use it on countertops or anywhere food is prepared. 

Use gel bait, not roach powder, behind dishwashers, fridges, freezers, and anything else with an electric motor, as they may cause the powder to become airborne.

Always read and follow the instructions of the label before applying.

Check the glue traps every 1-2 days and take a note of how many roaches are being caught each time you inspect them.  Replace if needed. 

On a weekly basis, inspect the areas where you put the gel bait. Is it being eaten? Has it dried out?  Re-apply if needed, but remember you only need a small pea-sized amount. 

You should not need to reapply the dust as it is long-lasting and has only been applied in hard-to-reach areas so it will not be disturbed. 

Keep going with the inspections until you no longer find any evidence of these pests.

What Can Help Keep Cockroaches Away and Prevent Them From Coming Back

After all the hard work you’ve put into getting rid of roaches, you’ll want to roach-proof your home as much as possible, and there are a few things you can do to make your home less attractive to them and limit the ways they get into your home, such as: 

Don’t feed them 

Keeping your kitchen clean and crumb-free is a must.  Clean any grease and food spills from behind, under, and alongside your cupboards and appliances.  

Eat in one room only

Designate one room to eat in like the kitchen or dining room and don’t take food into other rooms because it’s likely crumbs will be dropped which will attract hungry, roaming cockroaches.

As I said above, don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight to soak.  

If you have a pet, keep the pet food in the same designated room and when your pet has finished feeding, discard any leftover food and water.

Fix dripping faucets and check pipes and plumbing for leaks 

Cockroaches need moisture to survive so limiting access to as many water sources as possible will impact and limit their habitat. 

Having cockroaches doesn’t mean you’ve got a dirty home at all, but good housekeeping is essential to help control and limit an infestation.

Seal off entry points

Cockroaches can find their way in through tiny cracks, crevices, and gaps especially if you live in an apartment.  Take a look under your sinks and seal any gaps between the pipes and the wall.

Also, block any gaps under your front and back doors as these pests can easily squeeze their way through and find their way in.

Roaches are often brought in with a delivery so check cardboard boxes and containers carefully and take them out for the trash after unpacking. 

But there are other ways they make your home their home.  For example, American cockroaches could be coming in from outside, so caulk or use a sealant to fill any cracks or holes where they could be entering. 

The traps that you’ve placed around your home will also tell you where these insects are in greater numbers, so seal any holes, gaps, cracks, or crevices with caulk or sealant.

Common entry points are gaps under doors (install weather strips to fill the gap), around windows, behind tiles, where pipes enter walls, coming up through drains.  Look in all these areas and seal to prevent a reinfestation. 

picture showing how cockroaches can get into homes through gaps around pipes in walls
Seal off entry points around pipes to stop roaches from getting in

These are the best ways to get rid of roaches and keep them out, but it can be a task that you don’t want to have to deal with.  If that’s the case, leave it to a pest control professional who is experienced in dealing with cockroach infestations.

Our guide on how to choose a pest control company gives you some tips.

Alternatively, fill in the form below for free, no obligation quotes from pest professionals near you.

[1] http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/boricgen.html

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12913503/

I’ve been in the pest control industry helping people get rid of their unwanted pests for over 20 years, both in the UK and Canada.

As a licensed pest management professional, I’ve seen and treated just about every common household pest, insect, or rodent, you can think of. I’ve seen the damage caused when an infestation has been left too long and has become hard to get rid of.

For this reason, peststopsolutions.com was created. By having honest advice and the right guidance to hand, along with scientific evidence to back up claims, you are given information on the best eradication methods, as well as how to get rid of most pests yourself.