How do roaches get into homes?

Ways to Get Rid of Roaches

Cockroaches heart wood and wood pulp products.
Cockroaches heart wood and wood pulp products.
Altrendo Nature/Getty Images

Before you start spraying pesticides on every open surface of your house in an attempt to kill the roaches, you need to strategize. Plotting out an attack on a group of insects may sound borderline crazy, but you'll have more success if you plan ahead.

To do that, let's go back to those three things that roaches need: warm shelter, food and water. Taking away those elements is like serving them an eviction notice. A single pesticide will not permanently do the job [source: University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management].

First, you need to figure out where the bugs have set up camp. If you've noticed them in an isolated area, such as the kitchen, that's a decent clue they're hidden away in there. For a more precise indicator, put out strips of roach traps that are coated with a sticky glue to stop them in their tracks. The heavier trafficked strips should be closest to their nest. You can use this method repeatedly throughout your roach-eradicating mission to check your progress and whether they've changed locales. Also check around for droppings, egg sacs and shed exoskeletons.

While you're waiting on your trap results, you've got some cleaning to do. Even if you keep things tidy, you probably haven't covered every spot that serves as a feeding trough for roaches. Items in particular that you should get rid of include:

  • Piled newspapers
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Paper bags
  • General piles of clutter where roaches can hide

Roaches are especially drawn to paper products because they readily absorb a certain pheromone, or chemical attractor, that roaches emit. This aggregation pheromone is like a GPS system. It communicates the insects' locations to other ones around and leaves a trail for them to find their ways back and forth.

It's also time to give your house, especially your kitchen, an intense bathing. Get any fresh fruits, vegetables and bread off the counters and into airtight containers. Check through your groceries and secure open bags and boxes. Clean the eyes on the stove, inside the stove and oven, the microwave and other appliances. Pay attention to grease because even small spots of it are like foie gras for roaches. Sweep or vacuum behind large appliances and remove any food waste at the bottom of dishwashers.

After all of that, you must maintain a high level of cleanliness to eliminate your pest problem. That means not leaving dirty dishes in the sink, sweeping routinely after cooking and never abandoning food on countertops. Take your trash out regularly as well.

Perhaps more than food, roaches seek out watering holes. For that reason, search around for places that could collect water, such as plants, the drip plate under your refrigerator or condensation around pipes. Try to keep those areas dry, especially at night when roaches feed. Place stoppers over your drains and check your faucets to ensure that screens cover their spouts where roaches could crawl in [source: Ogg et al].

Now you're ready to pull out the big guns. Learn how on the next page.