What Attracts Roaches and Where Do Roaches Hide?

By: Terri Briseno & Austin Henderson  | 
cockroach on a slice of bread
If you find that all your DIY roach control methods have failed, it may be time to call a pest control professional. Tomekbudujedomek / Getty Images

Do you know what attracts roaches and where they're likely to hide? Because you definitely don't want them in your home.

Cockroaches have an almost Transformer-like capability to scuttle, fly, walk upside down and flatten their crunchy bodies before disappearing into sliver-thin crevices. And unless they're hissing or have enough weight to make noise while they take a flagrant stroll across your paper or plastic goods, they are generally silent.


Hard to kill? Yes, that too. All of these factors make them the most successful insect species in the United States, whether they belong to the half-inch (1.3-cm) or 2-inch (5.1-cm) varieties.

Where you find dead roaches is a clue to their origin, route and destination. But if you see a live one that means there are likely whole cities of them hiding in your building.

10. Ceilings

Many cockroaches like to hang out on ceilings in dark rooms, and they can drop and flee in a second. Most will scurry off into a less-conspicuous place once the lights come on or people approach. If you've seen cockroaches on the ceiling, they're likely emerging from cracks or areas of detailing such as crown molding.

But unfortunately, if you're trying to catch a ceiling crawler it's difficult to knock them down without having them fall on top of you or to hit the ground running and disappear into an unreachable hiding place.


9. Pipes

Water attracts cockroaches. Areas where pipes come into a home — through walls, floors and backs of cabinets — are often damp and continually releasing bits of warm condensation for roaches to get their bodies into. Exposed pipes on walls also provide good hiding places, as do areas around washers and dryers.

Insulating and taping off gaps between piping and walls or false-cupboard and cabinet backing can help keep these areas dry and less inviting. Some areas where pipes terminate with a faucet, such as in the bathtub, may be harder to control. And cockroaches have no problem climbing up into open faucets.


8. Furniture

We love comfy furniture with just the right amount of firmness, softness and warmth — and so do cockroaches. Something about their flat, smooth bodies makes them prone to snuggling into tight spaces where they can feel fabrics or other materials on their topsides and undersides.

Take care when bringing new furnishings home: Inspect for pre-existing eggs or traveling critters. They like our furniture so much that they may hunker down and lay their eggs there, leaving hardened colonies of eggs ready to hatch in weeks, producing from tens to thousands of young progeny. Yellowed and whitish egg casings might be under tables and chairs of wood and plastics too.


Thankfully, egg casings are easy enough to remove and destroy.

7. Cardboard and Paper

Keep stacks of recycling newspaper and cardboard outside of — but not too close to — your home, and periodically dust your recycling bins with a boric acid powder.
Polka Dot/Thinkstock

Some varieties of cockroaches consider paper a delicacy or, on the opposite end, their preferred place for leaving waste. Envelope glue and just about any kind of paper attract roaches because of their smell and texture.

Stacks of cardboard or food and beverage boxes are ideal places for cockroaches when it comes to hiding, eating and leaving trails of waste, whether it's fecal matter or bacteria picked up on slender little feet and tacky underbellies.


Not only do cockroaches roll around in and feast on paper and cardboard products, they also destroy them with oils and acids that break down fibers and leave a really unpleasant smell.

Keeping stacks of paper in tightly sealed cabinets and sorting rather than stacking mail in piles can help, as can disposing of cardboard outside of, but not too close to, the home as soon as boxes are emptied. Dusting recycling bins with a boric acid powder is not a bad idea either.

6. Appliances

Yes, sadly, it's true: Cockroaches spend time in our appliances both day and night. Stoves and refrigerators have nooks and crannies and, in some cases, warm, running motors that provide refuge during the sunlight hours and foraging at night.

Water heaters are practically paradise for cockroaches because they provide a combination of water and warmth and are usually in areas hidden away from human traffic.


Small appliances on kitchen counters are also unfortunately things that attract cockroaches and other insects — which makes sense, when you think about the potential for food crumbs and residual moisture. Some favorite hangouts might be under or behind coffee makers, microwaves, toasters and blenders.

5. Kitchens

Kitchen sinks with dirty dishes are attractive to cockroaches, as are any spots with traces of leftover food debris.

Cockroaches aren't just hiding in the places mentioned in the kitchen; typically, they're all over the place because of the abundant moisture and food. Sinks and dishwashers or countertop dish draining mats are attractive to the bugs, as are any spots on floors, cabinets, appliance surfaces and furniture with traces of food particles.

Most of the time roaches will wait until nightfall or lights-out to race around in plain sight, but some of the bolder varieties will just run across your path in broad daylight. Those hiding in drawers are particularly bothersome because they deposit bacteria on silverware and cooking utensils.


Treating these storage areas before filling them and again at regular intervals can control or eliminate the problem. Even mixing roach-killing powders in solutions used for washing floors and appliances will help considerably in most cases.

It is important to use caution and keep any insecticide poisons away from your dishes and utensils, though.

4. Bathrooms

As with kitchens, bathrooms provide a lot of the plumbing and moisture cockroaches prefer. Unlike kitchens, however, bathrooms don't contain food, but they do have something else that roaches love: residues from soaps and grooming products, discarded paper tissues and skin and hair sheddings.

One good thing about the love of bathrooms and kitchens is that many cockroach species don't travel beyond these two rooms of the house. They have plenty to sustain them and keep out of bedrooms and upper floors in most cases.


German cockroaches, the most common and prolific, however, go just about anywhere but also prefer sinks, bathtubs, areas around toilets and behind every possible surface containing water or traces of humidity.

In the case of bathrooms, pull out the big guns of treatment and traps and do it often. Sprays, by the way, are proven least effective, while powders and traps show better results.

3. Cupboards, Closets and Cabinets

Anyone who has ever pulled down an inhabited bowl or pan or found an unwanted treat in a cereal box knows that cockroaches are wont to roam throughout every inch of kitchen cabinets. They also cavort in closets and lay eggs in linen closets.

In particular, cockroaches like upper inside corners of cupboards and cabinets and hang upside-down there. Keeping all food in tightly-sealed containers is necessary if bugs of any kind are an issue, and not just for the squeamish factor; roaches may carry food poisoning and other bacteria.


Thin dustings of boric acid-based powders and well-placed traps may help with areas where clothing and linens are stored, as well as in bathroom medicine cabinets and behind them.

2. Baseboards and Trim

Crown molding and historic wood baseboards are gorgeous and add a lot to an interior, but they also add a lot of places for cockroaches to hide.

Maybe you thought your eyes were playing tricks on you or there was a small thread or hair hanging from decorative trim, but it could well have been an errant antenna from a large, crouching cockroach.


Thin, tight and dark areas beneath door and window trim and the base and corner crevices of walls are favorite spots for cockroaches, and many of us have witnessed them disappearing into wall and floor seams.

Check all places where pieces of woodwork or trim and molding come together with walls and floors, and then seal up any cracks to leave cockroaches with fewer places to seek refuge.

1. Decor and Electronics

Cockroaches can scurry out from behind books on shelves, from underneath or inside of electronics and light fixtures, and from on top of knick-knacks and candles.

Seeing a fleeing cockroach from afar is bad enough, but often they're up close and personal and we don't know it until they emerge. They can jump out from behind books on shelves, from underneath or inside of electronics and light fixtures and from on top of knick-knacks and candles.

They like to blend in with decor, and unfortunately, these items are things we touch and dust and move around with our hands. Cockroaches like the backsides of mounted and freestanding picture frames and mirrors too, but we think, by now, you get the picture: They can hide almost anywhere!

Keeping areas as clean and clutter-free as possible goes a long way toward routing out the hiders though, and with persistence and prevention, they — and their little eggs too — can be eliminated.

Tips for Getting Rid of a Cockroach Infestation

To effectively combat a cockroach infestation, it's crucial to understand what attracts these pests and to employ strategies that discourage their presence. Here are some tips.

  1. Eliminate food sources. Cockroaches are primarily attracted to food. Keep your kitchen clean by promptly washing dirty dishes, wiping counters and sweeping floors to remove crumbs and spills. Store food in airtight containers, and avoid leaving pet food out for long periods to nip any food source in the bud.
  2. Address moist environments. Cockroaches thrive in moist areas. Fix leaky pipes and faucets, and avoid leaving wet towels or other moist materials around. Use dehumidifiers in damp basements and ensure good ventilation in moist areas like bathrooms and kitchens.
  3. Secure trash and waste. Garbage can be a major draw for cockroaches. Ensure that trash cans have tight-fitting lids and are emptied regularly. Keep outdoor garbage bins away from the house and clean them periodically to remove any food residues.
  4. Seal entry points. Prevent cockroaches from entering your home by sealing cracks and openings around doors, windows and utility lines. Pay special attention to gaps in areas where pipes and wires enter the house.
  5. Use boric acid and diatomaceous earth. These substances can be effective in controlling cockroach populations. Sprinkle them in areas where roaches are likely to hide or travel, such as under appliances and in corners, to discourage cockroaches from making themselves at home.
  6. Set glue traps and bait. These can help monitor and mitigate cockroach infestations. Place them in areas where cockroaches are likely to travel, such as along walls and under sinks.
  7. Enlist professional pest control services. Sometimes, the infestation may be too large for home remedies to be effective. In such cases, it might be necessary to hire a professional extermination service.
  8. Perform regular cleaning and maintenance. Regular cleaning and upkeep of your home, especially the kitchen and bathroom, is essential. This includes regular vacuuming, mopping and decluttering, which reduces potential hiding spots for cockroaches.
  9. Use natural repellents. Some natural substances like bay leaves can act as a deterrent. However, they are more of a preventive measure rather than a solution to an existing roach problem.
  10. Mind common attractions. Understand that roaches are attracted to food, moisture, shelter and warmth. Being vigilant about these factors can help prevent a roach infestation.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.

Cockroach Prevention FAQs

What common household conditions attract cockroaches?
Cockroaches are attracted to several household conditions, including food odors, crumbs on the floor, spilled pet food and rotting food. They also thrive in moist environments, such as near leaky pipes or standing water. Garbage and trash bags can also be a significant draw if not properly sealed.
How can I make my home less inviting to cockroaches?
To deter cockroaches, keep your home clean and free of food sources that might attract them. This includes sealing food in airtight containers, promptly cleaning spills and crumbs and managing garbage and trash bags effectively. Fixing leaky pipes and ensuring no standing water helps control moisture that attracts roaches.
Are cockroaches attracted to pet food?
Yes, cockroaches can be attracted to pet food. It's important to feed pets only what they can eat at one time and not leave pet food out, especially overnight.
What should I do if I find cockroach egg cases in my home?
If you find cockroach egg cases, it's important to remove and destroy them immediately. This can help prevent a new generation of cockroaches from infesting your home.
Can cockroaches cause asthma attacks?
Yes, cockroaches can trigger asthma attacks, especially in sensitive individuals. The allergens in their droppings and shed skin can exacerbate respiratory issues.
How effective is boric acid in controlling cockroaches?
Boric acid is an effective means of controlling cockroaches when used properly. It should be applied in thin layers in areas where roaches are likely to travel but kept out of reach of pets and children.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Cockroach." Britannica.com. 2012. (June 28, 2012) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/123709/cockroach
  • Orkin, LLC. "Virtual Roach." Orkin.com. 2012. (July 1, 2012) http://www.orkin.com/cockroaches/virtual-roach/
  • University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Integrated Pest Management. "Cockroaches." IPM.UCDavis.edu. June 2007. (June 28, 2012) http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  • Williams, Harry E. "Control Cockroaches in the Home." UTExtension.Tennessee.edu. March 1994. (June 28, 2012) https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/pb1024.pdf