Step 1. Make friends with someone who has a walk-in freezer.
August 14, 2018 7:57 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for ways to handle a roach infestation on a new-to-us couch that don't involve treating with pyrethrins (because we've tried that already and it definitely didn't work). Am willing to accept "give up on the couch, nothing you can do to it would be guaranteed successful, and the longer you have it near your house the more likely your roach problem will become permanent so you should take it to the landfill yesterday," if that's really the best thing to do.

We got a new couch from Salvation Army (or some similar place, maybe it was Goodwill, doesn't matter). My husband spent a long time cleaning it up and organizing a space in the basement for it, we brought it down, it fits perfectly and looked nice, and then about 6 hours later we saw the very first German cockroach we have ever seen in our home (in 9 yr.), on the couch. Followed by a second, near the couch.

The couch was moved out immediately, sprayed liberally with a pyrethrin-based insecticide, and the whole basement sprayed as well. A third (dead) cockroach was spotted the next day, near where the couch had been.

So last night, we go to move it back inside, on the theory that surely no roaches survived the spraying, and we get as far as a few of the cushions when I saw roach #4, on the cushion I was bringing downstairs. So the cushions went back out, and the couch didn't come in.

The couch wasn't expensive and has no sentimental value, but if not for the roaches, it's exactly what we're looking for for that particular spot, and we don't have a lot more money to throw at this particular problem, so we're motivated to find a way to keep it if one exists. (It's supposed to rain in about 7 hours, though, so the couch can't stay where it is for much longer.)

• We could move it to the garage and set off a bug bomb in there, but the bug bombs we have contain pyrethrins, so I wouldn't expect them to work, if the first spray didn't.
• We could find some way to wrap the couch in airtight plastic and wait for a few hard freezes this winter, which would kill the roaches but has the disadvantage of needing three months.
• The idea has come up that perhaps the couch could be sealed in airtight plastic somehow, followed by throwing a bunch of dry ice in through a single quickly-plugged hole, to freeze the couch before winter, but that might require a prohibitively large amount of dry ice. (I haven't done the math.) And also might require us to hold the cold temperatures longer than we could achieve with dry ice alone; I don't know how cold a roach has to be, or for how long, before it's definitely been killed.
(• I'm kinda feeling like what we really need is a friend with a gigantic walk-in freezer, but we don't have one.)
• We're also considering calling a professional exterminator, who would have more insecticidal options available than we could get over the counter, but I'm unsure whether they would treat a single item of furniture by itself, or whether this has enough chance of succeeding to be worth the cost.
• Boric acid? Diatomaceous earth? Gel bait?

The ideal solution would cost no money and would definitely, 100%-guaranteed, eliminate all the roaches beyond a shadow of a doubt. It's not necessarily a problem if the solution is cumbersome or difficult to execute; we have more time than money.
posted by Spathe Cadet to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Give up on the couch, nothing you can do to it would be guaranteed successful, and the longer you have it near your house the more likely your roach problem will become permanent so you should take it to the landfill yesterday.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:23 AM on August 14, 2018 [29 favorites]

Get rid of it. Not only are German cockroaches notoriously pernicious, the chemicals in insecticides aren't doing you any favors either.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 8:28 AM on August 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

Agree, by keeping the couch you risk a much bigger problem as they migrate from the couch to intractable positions within your home.
posted by French Fry at 8:29 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'd attempt at least to return it to the store you bought it from for a refund. Infested furniture? That's not a legitimate thing to be selling. But, yes, get rid of it.
posted by quince at 8:30 AM on August 14, 2018 [15 favorites]

If it was other bugs, I would have ideas, but cockroaches can literally survive being frozen and walk away after they thaw. Forget the couch, ask for a refund.
posted by corb at 8:38 AM on August 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

Set the couch on fire. Burn down the house. Move to a new city.

But seriously, don’t bring it it back inside. It doesn’t matter if it gets wet because it’s unfit for use by humans now. Leave it on the curb, call for a large item garbage pickup.
posted by rodlymight at 8:44 AM on August 14, 2018 [13 favorites]

When you put it out for garbage pick-up you should put a sign on it so no one else takes it.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:48 AM on August 14, 2018 [8 favorites]

You'll find another couch. Get rid of it. ASAP.

How did you get the couch to your house? If it was in a vehicle owned by you or any of your friends, the vehicle may now have cockroaches in it. You may want to check that out. It's possible that the cockroaches were in the vehicle (or rented truck or whatever) beforehand and got into the couch on the moving trip, but to be safe I would also never go into that store again.
posted by the webmistress at 8:53 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Okay. I hear you. We're disappointed, but I hear you. And thanks.

I'm not sure how we're going to dispose of it (and the husband's pretty upset, so he doesn't want to talk about it right now), but I'll let you know what happens.

We're both pretty pessimistic about getting any kind of satisfaction from the store, since we're not willing to load the couch back on our car to return it to them, but I feel like it can't hurt to call them and complain, at least. So I'll report back about that too.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 9:00 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure how we're going to dispose of it

I once took apart a couch with a hacksaw and some determination (and loud music!).

Your local municipal waste people may have a free or paid drop site, free pickup for heavy items (scheduled) or pay-to-pick-up large items.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:05 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Burn it. With fire and extreme prejudice.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:32 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

You can kill them with heat. Get sheets of silver backed 1 inch foam insulation and box it up, using aluminum foil tape. Include inside a small radiator heater, fan, and temperature probe. Heat to 140+ degrees for 8 hours. There are pest control companies doing essentially the same thing, some have trucks that you load your stuff into to get baked.
posted by Sophont at 9:32 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've heard of that for bedbugs but not roaches.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:36 AM on August 14, 2018

ArgentCorvid since Combat is very effective, less need for heat treatment, thus less publicity.
posted by Sophont at 9:43 AM on August 14, 2018

If we have the choice between

1) keeping it on the property until Thursday, or
2) loading it onto the car and possibly (re-?)infesting the car today,

which should we do?
posted by Spathe Cadet at 9:47 AM on August 14, 2018

No matter what you do with it, I would plastic bag it ASAP.
(cheap plastic drop cloths and masking tape).
posted by H21 at 9:57 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Nice couch cheap. Cockroaches no extra charge. $cash. You must pick up."

If I saw this on craig's list and I already had roaches, I would jump at this.
posted by H21 at 10:08 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Keep it outside or in the garage until Thursday.
posted by mskyle at 10:21 AM on August 14, 2018

I'd light it on fire... not joking. Bring it into the backyard and light it. Worst case scenario you'll get a warning for no backyard fires.
posted by bbqturtle at 10:40 AM on August 14, 2018

Oh fuck German cockroaches. Once you have them in your home, they're really hard to get rid of. There's only one "OTC" treatment for them, it's called MaxForce Magnum. You want to use it liberally in your basement to make sure you nuke all those fuckers with fire.
posted by radioamy at 10:41 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Don't put it back in your car if you can avoid it. The very last thing I would want in my car is a GD cockroach running across my lap while I'm driving. Wrap in plastic drop cloths and duct tape as mentioned above, and leave it outside if you can. If it must come back inside, no further than the garage.

In future, when buying soft furniture second-hand, wrap in plastic and leave in the garage for a couple days and see what comes crawling out before introducing it to the house! Won't kill bed bugs but will let you see bigger critters.
posted by assenav at 10:59 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Go rent a storage unit. Stick the furniture in it. Set off the best fogger or fumigator you can get from the hardware store, and walk away. Come back in a few days and treat it again. Perhaps this will cure your problem. Perhaps not. Is the total cost worth it. I don't know.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 12:32 PM on August 14, 2018

Get rid of it, and couches can be had brand new in the $200 range. You can save up for that.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:09 PM on August 14, 2018

MaxForce Magnum is fipronil, the same poison that's in Combat baits. If your roaches are laughing at your Combat baits, they'll be laughing at MaxForce Magnum, too, because they've developed immunity.

Dump this nightmare couch yesterday and pray that you have escaped, but if you have German roaches in your basement, now, do this thing:

Get a container of boric acid. Mix boric acid and some kind of trashy sweet glop like corn syrup or cheap pancake syrup or some offbrand ketchup you have hanging out in your fridge or a sachet of duck sauce from your last Chinese takeout meal--any cheap and sweet thick liquid--to make a paste. You don't need to make a whole ton, just about a tablespoonful. Using a toothpick or something, put small lentils of this paste on cardstock--perfect use for the direct-mail fliers of political candidates you despise. Cut the cardstock up into square-inch pieces and dollop them with the mixture and scatter them all around the basement in the little nooks and crannies where roaches like to frolic. Presto, they are all dead dead dead. (If it's been a couple months and they're not dead, if these are some kind of superroach, it's time to get serious and scientific. Follow the instructions herein to the extent possible under the law for a layperson:
posted by Don Pepino at 1:43 PM on August 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

Please do not put a known German-cockroach-infested couch in a storage unit, much less try to treat it there.
Wrap the sofa, call the secondhand store, call your local waste removal service, and focus your efforts on making sure your basement's clear. I'm so sorry that this has happened.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:18 PM on August 14, 2018 [10 favorites]

ArgentCorvid: "I've heard of that for bedbugs but not roaches."

Works for roaches too. (Actually it works on most insects, bed bugs are just especially vulnerable).
posted by Mitheral at 11:49 PM on August 14, 2018

Garbage collector has taken the couch.

As the couch was somewhere on our property for 1 week, it's possible that we may have roaches now, but we did the best we could do under the circumstances, and the couch and basement had at least been thoroughly sprayed for five out of those seven days, and it's not like the couch was visibly swarming with roaches.

Have not yet put down boric acid, but we bought some, so that will happen soon (probably on or before the weekend).

Store wouldn't refund money, but did offer husband store credit. So he's still upset, but he's not quite as upset. We remain disappointed about what could have been, but will get over it.

Thank you to everybody for your help.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 8:39 AM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

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