Besides just being repulsive, cockroaches may contribute to allergies, and they can deposit microbes on your food and utensils that could make you sick.

DIY Solutions

The best way to avoid and get rid of cucarachas is good sanitation.

You can also eliminate access to your kitchen and other likely infestation sites by applying caulk to seal cracks and other entry points.

Since cockroaches breed in free-standing water, eliminate leaks and pooling in kitchens, bathrooms, crawlspaces, and basements.

Lay traps, either sticky ones (good to let you know where the bugs are coming from) or so-called “bait stations” (including brands such as Combat, Maxforce, and Raid). Sticky traps probably won’t solve an infestation, but baits might eradicate a small one. However, because bait stations dispense slow-acting poisons, it may be a week or so before you get results.

Boric acid is another effective roach killer. You slowly blow it into cracks and crevices, or lightly spread it in areas where humans won’t come into contact with it—behind window and door frames, on closet and bookcase shelves, on and behind baseboards and molding strips, and in basements, behind and under washing machines or in wall cracks. Keep the dust dry and undisturbed; if it gets wet, the area will have to be re-treated.

If your tidiness and entry-level pesticides don’t kill the horde, or you need immediate relief from a severe infestation, you (or a pro) can try a chemical insecticide spray or dust. Most contain pyrethroids, which agitate, repel, and quickly kill roaches. Although pyrethroids usually work quickly, some cockroaches are resistant or learn to avoid them. And because the effectiveness of these poisons is fairly short-term, your infestation may return when eggs hatch (egg cases are often resistant to pyrethroids).

Regardless of what cockroach control method you use, it may miss some areas and require re-treatment—but probably just on a spot basis. In apartments, continual treatment may be needed if your neighbors are not as careful as you are. But once cockroaches are completely eliminated in a detached house, you can expect to be free of the problem—unless a new population is introduced.

Safety First

From an environmental and human safety standpoint, traps and baits pose few if any risks. And boric acid powder has very low toxicity to humans.

Pyrethroid sprays decompose fairly rapidly—usually within a few weeks—and the concentrations found in aerosol cans are not very dangerous to humans. But pyrethroid sprays can have powerful, immediate effects on humans who inhale, ingest, or touch them in concentrated form. Effects range from mild (dizziness, fatigue, blurred vision) to severe (unconsciousness, muscle twitches, difficulty breathing, death).

Be safe: Whether you or a pro uses pesticides in your kitchen or bath, move the contents of drawers, cabinets, and pantries to another room, and don’t replace them until the spray is dry. Never use more poison than specified on the label.

Hiring Help

If you can’t (or don’t want to) tackle your roach problem, you can turn to a professional. They have several advantages over you: greater ability to ID pests, more knowledge of their behavior, better equipment, access to stronger chemicals, and more experience.

If you do decide to use a pro, you’ll need to choose between signing a contract for regular treatment (usually monthly or every other month) or paying for treatments as you need them. Some companies offer only one arrangement or the other; others offer a choice. Because most infestations are solved with one visit, we recommend paying for individual treatments. Even if you have a severe infestation—or have American or brown-banded cockroaches, whose eggs sometimes take 60 to 70 days to hatch, making one-shot elimination difficult—it probably will take only two treatments to debug your place.

Some companies offer a choice between signing up for an annual contract vs. paying for treatments one at a time. Because most companies let you cancel their term contracts without penalty, compare the cost of one or two pay-as-you-go treatments with the cost of a few months of service under a contract.