Control of Cockroaches

- Use sanitation, baits, and insecticide treatments -

Summary: The most important steps are elimination of water sources and sanitation. Very low toxicity borate powder insecticide should be deployed behind appliances. Next, special baits should be used for long-term control and so called "crack & crevice" insecticides can be added to baiting in commercial buildings like restaurants.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

In single-family homes cockroach control comes down to good sanitation combined with baits and/or insecticides. Borate powder is a low toxicity insecticide and there are several new gel, paste, and dry flowable baits (see below). In commercial buildings, like apartments and restaurants, a slightly more aggressive approach is often used. The two different approaches are outlined below.

Cockroach control in single-family homes

Treatment in a single-family home can be a do it yourself project. Roach control in single-family homes should be relatively simple because you can control what happens in every room. If you eliminate sources of food and water in every part of the house you can achieve control with easy-to-use baits and dust insecticides. Don't use aerosol sprays as these will just cause roaches to scatter and make baits ineffective.

picture of German roach

German roach (adult); notice long antennae and dark stripes behind the head

Eliminate sources of food and water. Be ruthless -- clean any exposed sources of cooking grease, sugars and other foodstuff. Also repair leaky pipes and other sources of water. Cleaning and water source elimination is the most important part of roach control.

Next, apply a borate powder insecticide in places where roaches travel. Cockroaches, and many other pests, follow walls, only rarely venturing out into the room. Place a thin layer of powder behind appliances and cabinets, and under sinks, and so forth and replace this powder when it is disturbed. Inexpensive borate powders can be found at home and garden stores.

Finally, cockroach baits can be used in these same areas. Some of the time you can skip the use of baits in single-family dwellings if you have done a good job of sanitation and water source control. If, however, you need some extra help try one of the new baits, they are expensive but very effective (see Professional Cockroach Baits).

Cockroach control in commercial buildings

Cockroach control in commercial buildings*** is generally more difficult because you may not be able to control what happens in every part of the building. If there may be areas of the building that are not cleaned and treated, for whatever reason, and these can serve as continual sources of cockroaches that re-infest the building.

Therefore it may be necessary to treat areas that are accessible with residual insecticides and then aggressively use professional baits to disrupt the populations in the parts of the building that you don't have access to. It is possible that you won't be able to achieve complete elimination of the cockroach population so you may have to be content with suppression only. Use the check list below to guide your control program.

***Commercial buildings include warehouses, apartments, restaurants, school dormitories, office buildings, hospitals, food processing plants, manufacturing facilities, ships, boats, trains, and so forth.

Control checklist:

(1) Eliminate sources of food and water as much as possible. This is always the first thing you should do. If food and water sources are not reduced no amount of insecticide will achieve control.

(2) Apply borate powder insecticide behind appliances, under cabinets, along baseboards, and so forth. Borate is a very effective and low toxicity insecticide.

(3) Optional: apply a residual insecticide, such as deltamethrin, as a crack & crevice treatment.

(4) Use professional baits and replace baits as needed to maintain control (see Professional Baits).

Pest Control Sources: Borate powder, "crack & crevice" insecticides, and professional baits are available here (, our affiliate).

In most regions you don't need to control cockroaches outdoors except perhaps in sewers and similar underground utility lines. Cockroaches in general are adapted to warm, tropical climates and don't do well outdoors where it is cold. However, if you live in a warm climate such as the southern US, you may need to treat outdoors around the foundation of the structure to prevent roaches from entering the building or home. Both residual insecticides and water resistant poison baits are available for this application (see Professional Baits).

Related Articles

What are Cockroaches?

Cockroach Identification

Using Boric Acid (Borate) Insecticides

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