War on cockroaches
September 8, 2011 12:33 PM   Subscribe

How do you combat cockroaches on your own? Roach motels, boric acid... What else?

A friend of mine saw a cockroach marching around her kitchen this morning. Apparently it disappeared through a crack in the baseboard, suggesting it's not a small roach one should regard as a one-off (or that's what I gathered from previous questions).

Her landlord previously sprayed the whole building against roaches. She didn't have any at the time. She doesn't expect reporting the roach to the building super will result in action, as he doesn't get stuff done, and she's worried that if she goes to the landlord (some faceless company) they'll somehow blame her for not cleaning properly when they sprayed at the start of the summer.

Is there a good way for her to try to seal the baseboards? At what point does she definitely go to the landlord or the super?
posted by hoyland to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Please tell your friend in the future to let them spray her apartment even if she doesn't have critters. They will run until they find a safe haven, wouldn't you?

That being said, have her ask the landlord to arrange an exterminator to come in since she missed the spraying.

In the meanwhile, buy raid and spray the space between the baseboards and floors. Spray the place where the cabinets meet the floor as well. Boric acid works well too, but then you may find having a line of powder around the perimeter of the kitchen is not what you want.

You can't keep them out completely even if you seal everything up. They will find a way to get in. You can seal the baseboards with silicone, but usually it is not done because it is left unsealed due to the expansion and contraction of the walls/baseboards from hot and cold weather.

If you decide to put silicone in the cracks, remember to use tape so that you don't get silicone everywhere. Tape above and below the crack, use soapy water and a towel around your finger to help you bead (or use a credit card) and remove the tape after the silicone cures.

By the way...I HATE cockroaches!!
posted by Yellow at 12:50 PM on September 8, 2011

You can seal the baseboards with insulation foam or caulk, but it's difficult to do in a way that doesn't look crappy, even if you have some experience.

Boric acid is messy and only marginally effective, in my experience, and she definitely doesn't want to be spraying large quantities of Raid (which contains pyrethrins, now listed as a possible carcinogen by the EPA, and carbamate, which is a neurotoxin) in her kitchen.

Other things that we've done that have made a difference:

1. Roaches are seeking water as well as food - don't leave anything to soak overnight in the sink. Dry dishes and wipe the excess water out of the sink when you're done.

2. Carefully and regularly clean areas where they're entering and likely to congregate (e.g. under the sink, behind the fridge, in the back corners of drawers.) There will likely be roach droppings - which look like coffee grounds - there, which serve as food for young and attract other roaches. Declutter to give them less cover.

3. Make sure all food that's not in the fridge is in sealed containers. Use a trash can w/a snug-fitting lid and empty it often.

There is more good advice on this page. She can reduce the number considerably by making the kitchen a less attractive environment for them.

Also, tell her not to kill house centipedes if she finds them - they're eager roach hunters.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:01 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

My college roommate went hunting for them with a butane lighter and spray can flamethrower. Then he crucified one of the torched bugs with some thread on a pair of toothpicks and stuck it up near the spot where they were getting in as a warning to the others.

I swear to God, it worked.
posted by Naberius at 1:22 PM on September 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

My mom used diatometric earth for fleas and ants, but I'm not sure if it would work for cockroaches. The plusses of it, though, are that it is all-natural so if she has any pets it won't harm them (my mom actually sprinkles it on the cats to kill the fleas on them as well).
posted by DoubleLune at 1:29 PM on September 8, 2011

Naberius, your roommate gave cockroaches a new religion in which your old apartment is hell.

Diatomaceous earth does work on roaches, especially when you cut their water supply.

Hoyland, has your friend checked the back and bottom of the fridge for condensation? It's probably on rollers and there is usually a grill on the bottom of the front that comes off.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:46 PM on September 8, 2011

Response by poster: That being said, have her ask the landlord to arrange an exterminator to come in since she missed the spraying.

To clarify, she didn't miss the spraying. They had everyone shift their stuff, put the food in the fridge, etc and sprayed the whole building. This was (I think) in late spring or early summer.
posted by hoyland at 3:56 PM on September 8, 2011

3rding diatomaceous earth. Or just have a book/magazine/shoe handy.
posted by Gilbert at 3:57 PM on September 8, 2011

I had really good luck with the glue traps at the bottom of this page. My friend found them two for a dollar at the 99 cent store. They smell like food to roaches, and when they crawl in, they get stuck and can't leave. It's a pretty elegant solution.

Before using these, I had been meticulous about sealing up potential food sources, I'd sprayed, used boric acid, without much change. After setting out a couple of these traps, the roaches were pretty much gone after a week or two.

By the way, a single big roach is probably not a problem; it probably just came in from outside. A small roach is a problem, because that means it was born recently, and there are many others around.
posted by malapropist at 5:01 PM on September 8, 2011

From what I understand, spraying for roaches is not the best way to treat the problem. It sounds like your building is taking the cheap, least effective way out. Your friend should get Combat small roach baits, boric acid, expanding foam, and caulk. Whatever cracks can be sealed with foam or caulk should be sealed. If they are getting in/out via a secret passageway that is inaccessible and cannot sensibly be sealed, boric acid can be sprayed into that. It should not be applied anywhere it can be seen or touched, i.e. not around the perimeter of your kitchen.

And then the Combat baits can be placed according to their package instructions to take care of any others that may still manage to find their way in.

It may take a few weeks for this to all work completely, but it does work. The glue traps are a good idea too. I would recommend using all these things together.
posted by wondermouse at 5:10 PM on September 8, 2011

Pandan Leaves! I swear by them. Pandan leaves repel roaches because they HATE the smell and it upsets their respiratory system. I had a FILTHY neighbor who cussed me out when I tried to give him some Raid roach traps with egg stoppers. He said to me "Roaches are everywhere in this city, its not a big deal." I was like "Oh hell no." I found out about Pandan leaves and I never saw another roach in my apartment until I moved out.

I don't know what city you are in (I'm in NYC) but if you can find a Thai or Malaysian Food supply store in your area that sells them you are all set. Get the good ones from Thailand. They are sold frozen. It smells like Jasmine rice.
posted by JNoire at 10:01 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

a combination of poison roach traps, boric acid and electronic insect repellent things that plug into wall sockets (these emit sounds that bugs and mice hate but you can't hear) worked well for me - along with making sure i had nothing left out they could eat

but that was a low level infestation
posted by pyramid termite at 10:38 PM on September 8, 2011

« Older Dark red jeans in London!   |   Help me understand fruit flies Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.