Me Vs. Roaches, FIGHT!
October 29, 2009 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Should I bomb my kitchen to kill roaches? Before I take that step, what else can I do?

So I just had an intensely traumatizing experience with a roach. I was mixing up the ingredients for sauce for my gong bao ji ding (kungpao chicken) and somehow, in one of the ingredients, was a dead roach. It floated up to the top of my sauce. Needless to say, I was completely disgusted. Luckily I hadn't poured it into my wok!!!!

I just moved to a new flat and from what I can tell, the old tenant was a pig. The cupboards are not flush to the floor, so there is a considerable amount of space between the end of the cabinets and the kitchen sink. When I first moved in, there was old food, dead roaches, and an entire sea of roach droppings in that area. It's clear that the kitchen suffered from a major infestation before. This has since been cleaned multiple times with baking soda and vinegar.

It got worse when I started seeing live ones. They were living in the area behind the fridge, so I put roach motels there and sprinkled boric acid as well. As far as I can tell, the kitchen is pretty sealed off, I don't *think* they could be coming from a neighbor but you never know.

I've sprinkled boric acid down everywhere, got the roach motels, and have the Raid at hand to kill any motherfuckers who come out. This despite the fact that I try to be green as possible. No dirty dishes are left out, all water sources a-ok. Yet, it's been about two weeks since I put in the roach motels, and about one week since I sprinkled boric acid down, but I'm still seeing about one a day. They don't even have the grace to act like they are poisoned!

Between the roach in my sauce and the live roach I found running around my pantry (yes, everything is sealed and bagged up), I'm fed up. Live and let live not an option since I had an intensely traumatizing experience living through an even worse roach infestation to the point where I woke up one day to find one ON ME, so I'd love to hear any suggestions that you have before I go all the way and bomb the kitchen. Should I get a gecko? Will they live through a cold Beijing winter?
posted by so much modern time to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Wait, you moved in with all this crap going on? Why? Your landlord needs to fix this junk, and if not, you should walk away and move. These responsibilities may usually be divided differently in China, but that doesn't mean you have to buy things that aren't up to par.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:03 AM on October 29, 2009

My hunch is: two weeks may not be quite enough time before you go all Chemical Warfare.

Mind you, it sounds like you just want this over and done with, and are looking for permission to use the bug bomb; don't let me stop you in that. Mind you, the bug bombs will require you to stow all your dishes safely in the cupboards, clear out plants and pets, etc. before you use them, so they may be a bit of a hassle. If you're looking for a reason to not escalate to a bug bomb, then my reason is "two weeks may not be quite enough time for the boric acid and roach motels to take effect."

But I hear you. The worst bug infestation I've ever had to deal with was in an old apartment where my roommate brought her cat home to visit her parents for a weekend and the cat got RIDDLED with fleas, which then infested the couch -- and then she moved out and left me in the apartment with the flea-ridden couch. I bug-bombed the living room twice with no luck; I finally had to get rid of the couch. Roaches may not be as bad as fleas, though, so you have that going for you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:04 AM on October 29, 2009

How about a professional exterminator? My landlady hired one for an apartment I lived in. He squirted the cockroach poison where it was needed, which meant it wasn't flying up in the air for us to breath in. He used two kinds of poison: one liquid, and one gel. It worked.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:10 AM on October 29, 2009

How many apartments are in the building? You are fighting the whole building, you cannot win.

Talk to the landlord.
posted by Max Power at 11:18 AM on October 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

+1 for the professional exterminator. It's the only way to take care of a roach problem as big as you're describing. If they are bold enough to come out when the lights are on, it's time to hire a professional. I also agree that it's the landlord's responsibility.
posted by dchrssyr at 11:22 AM on October 29, 2009

I had an intensely traumatizing experience living through an even worse roach infestation to the point where I woke up one day to find one ON ME...

I hate to tell you this, but we've probably all had bugs ON US while sleeping in the last week or so, no matter how apparently-clean our homes are. So many are too small to notice, and for every time you notice, how many hundreds of other incidents flick past while you snore? This is why we should leverage that NSA bug-mind-control money for civilian purposes: at least then the little fuckers could clip my hair and nails while I'm sleeping. Time-saver.

As for your more near-term future, I'd also appeal to landlords first, but if you have to bomb or use an exterminator, be sure to clean the hell out of your food-touching surfaces the next day, because yuck, that's a lot of poison to scrape your dishes and food across later.

(You'll probably have lots of time to clean thanks to the insomnia I just gave you with this answer, too. Sorry about that, Chief.)
posted by rokusan at 11:29 AM on October 29, 2009

We had good lunch in a similar situation using boric acid dust every where. Be careful with kids and pets, but I believe it has a reputation for being fairly safe unless you are a roach.

Vacuum and clean everything, we then put dust everywhere along the walls and cracks, etc...
It takes a while but worked well for us. If you have someplace in the building that is still a mess you probably need to go nuclear everywhere.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:39 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

In addition to hiring an exterminator, we poured vinegar down our drains in the spring to keep them from coming back.

Your apartment can't really be "sealed off" as far as tiny insects are concerned. Chances are they are infesting other parts of the building. That's why this needs to be your landlord's problem.
posted by mai at 11:47 AM on October 29, 2009

I can't seem to locate the source now, but when I had a roach problem I remember reading that you should not combine different methods of extermination. Since roach motels are designed to attract roaches and boric acid is designed to repel them, the two end up canceling each other out.

I agree that you need a professional. He will come hose down your place and you will start finding dead roaches instead of live ones for the next few days. This is really the only thing that will make them go away.

I also had a traumatizing experience with a roach. He appeared in the shower with me, mid-shower. He did not go quietly down the drain. That is the day I made my landlord get an exterminator.
posted by AtomicBee at 11:48 AM on October 29, 2009

When our first apartment had roaches (the downstairs neighbor had roaches -- they were pigs -- and every time they had the exterminators come, some roaches would find their way into my apartment!) we did the following:

- Roach motels in every freaking cabinet / cupboard and crevice. Boric acid, too.
- If you aren't already you need to be beyond meticulous about keeping everything amazingly clean. Do not let these little monsters find any food in your home -- no dirty dishes (not even in the dishwasher if you have one), take out the garbage before bed every night if you can, no standing water, all food sealed up.
- Locate all the openings to the walls in your house, usually near sinks and under cupboards. They probably hide out in the walls. If you can seal them up, do so, if not, make it hard for them to get across by using boric acid chalk all around the openings and in those cabinets.

Good luck.
posted by dumbledore69 at 11:52 AM on October 29, 2009

My exterminator blew boric acid powder into every crack with a little bulb device. It has work very well.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 11:59 AM on October 29, 2009

Pest control employee here: Yeah, for roaches you definitely need a professional and the entire structure should be treated. In some places, believe it or not, this is still not the landlord's legal responsibility (find that out, if you can) but you'll want to stress to them that it's going to be an ongoing (and increasingly worse) issue until it gets done by a professional. Roaches are notoriously difficult to get rid of, even for big pest control companies that have access to the really good stuff.

The bug bombs only work tempoarily and they won't actually kill very many roaches. All it does is keep them inside the walls until it wears off (usually a few weeks). I'm sure they'll be happy to move to a neighboring apartment until that time. Certainly if a few weeks' peace is worth it to you, go for it, but it won't actually solve the problem.

Dumbledore's answer is the next best thing if a professional company isn't an option. The key is to keep the place as sealed as possible, especially in kitchens and bathrooms (they use the pipes to follow water sources), and to apply the poison bait or repellent so that it's the first thing they come in contact with.

Good luck!
posted by a.steele at 12:34 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what you mean by "Roach motel", but I would definitely try the Combat roach traps (or an equivalent one from another manufacturer). You want the ones which are flat and black, and the point of them is for roaches to crawl in, get boric acid (or something) on them, crawl back to their den and take out a bunch of other roaches.

You also want to take a look at the molding around the kitchen, and see if there are any small holes between them and the wall (as per Midnight Skulker's and dumbledore69's comments above). I would then either spackle them or buy some foaming roach spray to spray into these holes.

The roach motels (they check in but don't check out) are pretty ineffective, as they only kill the roaches that crawl into them. Also, they're gross -- who wants boxes full of live roaches with their antennae waving around?
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 12:36 PM on October 29, 2009

Seconding Combat.

Also, at one rental house that just wouldn't quit, we actually pried the baseboard/trim off the wall to expose the inner part of the wall, dumped boric acid in there, then nailed the board back on. That worked.
posted by CathyG at 1:46 PM on October 29, 2009

How many apartments are in the building? You are fighting the whole building, you cannot win.

NYC apartment story here. Seal up everything edible, and I mean everything, in plastic or glass containers. Or inside sealed refrigerators. Allow absolutely nothing that is not actively being prepared, cooked, or eaten to remain exposed. Clean dishes when dirty. Be fanatic about this.

Even in roach infested buildings, I have seen this work.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:44 PM on October 29, 2009

In Hawaii we swear by Hoy Hoy Brand roach traps. No poison in them; they are just sticky traps with food bait to lure them in. Very cheap; 3 dollars for a pack of four. They look like Combat-type roach traps. They are made in Japan. I've gotten entirely rid of roach infestations with them. And yes what Indogo Jones said. Leave them no food to speak of but they can eat anything including each other and dead skin, hair, glue etc. Eradication over time with an active campaign is the only solution. If they are next door aqnd you are in an apartment building that is entirely infested you will only keep them at bay, not entirely eradicate the population, since they know no boundaries. Living in a tropical environment roaches are part of the landscape. Hate 'em though.
posted by Muirwylde at 4:06 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

How many apartments are in the building? You are fighting the whole building, you cannot win.

Pest control employee here: Yeah, for roaches you definitely need a professional and the entire structure should be treated.

Say it like Kropotkin: yes, yes, a thousand times yes. They will move into the adjacent apartment, and then, if that one is treated, they'll come right back.
posted by Beardman at 7:46 PM on October 29, 2009

Combat roach traps are the only thing I've ever needed.

My neighbor swears by "roach chalk" that she gets at the dollar store. It's boric acid in a chalk form that you can draw on places that the bugs frequent. It's supposed to be great for ants, too.

IndigoJones' advice to seal all edibles up is a good practice even if you do get rid of the roaches, especially if you live in a humid climate.
posted by zinfandel at 7:47 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

The foggers do little more than irritate the bugs. An exterminator described them as 'only useful for getting them to crawl through the poison we laid more.'
posted by IAmBroom at 7:56 PM on October 29, 2009

First off, let me sympathize with the traumatic roach experiences. I woke up to one snuggling on my shoulder once...never will I get over that!

Can you get your landlord to have the whole building sprayed by a pro? That should really help.

Also, you may need to do some investigating to find out if there is some hidden place they are holed up, and then spray the shit out of those places. We currently have a problem with German Cockroaches (little teeny insidious ones), and the exterminator found them hanging out in our butcher block...ewwwwwww. Also my boyfriend found them in the garbage can between the insert and the can.

Also, Raid makes a product that has a nice little WD40-style's great for sticking in cracks to get the hidden ones.
posted by radioamy at 9:36 PM on October 29, 2009

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