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Everything You Need to Get Rid Of Cockroaches

Don’t let this be you. Photo: Bert Hardy Advertising Archive/Getty Images

Most New Yorkers, no matter how diligent at taking out the trash, scrubbing floors, and dishwashing, will eventually end up encountering a roach or two. If you’ve started to notice more unwanted roommates, don’t panic. There are plenty of solutions to eradicate the pests. To start, it is essential to “remove any source of food, any source of water, and any clutter,” in your apartment to make it harder for the roaches to live and thrive, says Andy Linares, founder of New York City-based Bug Off Pest Control Center. This includes dog and cat food, which Linares calls a “roach magnet” that people often overlook. We spoke to Linares and two other pest control experts about the baits, traps, and insulation tools you’ll need to prevent and get rid of cockroaches.

Best sealant to prevent cockroaches

According to Mike Deutsch, entomologist-in-residence at Manhattan’s Arrow Exterminating Company, “One of the ways to control these things is to repair structural gaps that cockroaches like to hide in.” Since roaches harbor in cracks and crevices, you want to seal up any openings you spot using a spackling paste or any kind of silicone caulking. Donald Clark, owner of New York City-based Alleycat Exterminating, loves DAP’s silicone caulk because it’s paintable, so you can cover it up once it dries.

Best trap to detect cockroaches

“Victor sticky traps are excellent,” says Deutsch, adding that they use thousands and thousands of them every year. Not only do they collect insects, but “they also help you monitor situations and zero in on where you need to look.” Since roaches do not move that far from where they’re hatched, if you pick up a sticky trap and it’s filled with cockroaches, you’re generally in the right spot, he explains.

Best flashlight to detect roaches

“The best thing to do is to hunt these guys down and figure out where they’re nesting,” says Deutsch. For example, you may see what looks like pepper on the wall or floor, which is actually roach feces. Or you may see little moving hairs in cracks, which are actually the tips of antennae. Deutsch says that in order to clearly see the telltale signs, you’ll need a very good flashlight. “All my technicians use a Streamlight, the same used by police and first responders,” he says.

Best liquid insecticide

Once you have figured out where the cockroaches are congregating — often in the bathroom or kitchen, where there are food or water sources — you’ll want to “follow up with directed application of an aerosol or a liquid insecticide,” says Deutsch. Aerosols, while simple to spray, they often have lower levels of active ingredients, which is why he prefers a liquid insecticide like Ortho Home Defense. It also has an easy-to-use wand that comfortably sprays the liquid into any cracks, crevices, and hiding places.

Best all-natural desiccant

Safer Diatomaceous Earth
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In place of liquid insecticide, you can lay down diatomaceous earth, which is “classified by the EPA as ‘reduced-risk’ and is considered very, very safe and low in toxicity — it’s not even registered a pesticide,” says Deutsch. The product is actually a desiccant that destroys the exoskeleton of the insect when it walks through the powder but is completely pet- and human-safe. It’s made up of ground-up diatom fossils, an organic product, and produces no fumes or vapors. If you’re unsure of which brand to buy, Clarke says that since there is only one grade of diatomaceous earth available, buying the cheapest brand you can find is best.

Best all-natural insecticide spray

If you prefer an all-natural insecticide to kill roaches on sight, Clark says he likes Nature-Cide, which uses clove oil and cottonseed oil to suffocate the insect on contact.

Best cockroach gel bait

In terms of long-term cockroach control, the experts we spoke to all agreed that gel baits are the best bet. Gel bait works by disguising insecticide as food. “The one we use is called Alpine,” says Deutsch, adding that the roaches will find it, ingest it, metabolize it, and then die. Clark told us that the best method is to put down pea-sized amounts of gel in the cleats and corners of cabinets, under the counters, and in the hinges of your dishwasher. For preventative measures, “make sure you put down fresh gel every few months,” he says. If you’re dealing with a serious infestation, “the gel will be gone in a couple of days, so the key to success is to use enough and maintain a constant supply of the material,” adds Deutsch.

Best vacuum cleaner to remove cockroaches

$166

For severe infestations, all three of our experts agreed that a vacuum can be more expedient than an insecticide in removing bugs. “You can neatly eliminate a considerable percentage of the population in one shot,” explains Linares. For example, if you find that they are hiding behind a picture frame, “you need to get your vacuum cleaner ready, because when you move the picture frame, the roaches will probably run all over the place,” Deutsch explains. Both Deutsch and Linares recommend the Atrix backpack vacuum, which comes with an assortment of attachments designed to get into small cracks and crevices where the roaches may be hiding. It’s also equipped with a HEPA filter that can trap insects, contain them, and prevent any airborne contaminants that could cause respiratory problems. “Just vacuum them up, remove the plastic bag, tie it up, and throw it out,” says Deutsch. Clark also cautions that it is essential to also vacuum up any roach feces, as well, since it contains hormones that serve as a tracking signal to lead other roaches to the area.

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Everything You Need to Get Rid Of Cockroaches