Cockroaches are opportunistic. Unlike most animals, they thrive in human environments. The insect’s incredible ability to adapt to almost any environment on Earth leads to frequent close encounters with humans. Unfortunately, the typical response is, needless to say, less than hospitable.

In fact, homeowners in the U.S. spend nearly $5 billion a year on pesticides in a vain attempt to create “pest-free” homes. Not only are these substances toxic to children and animal companions, they also don’t solve the problem over the long term. The best way to remove roaches from your home is simply to keep a clean house. Eliminating sources of food, water, and shelter is a far more effective—and certainly more humane—way to resolve conflicts with these critters.

Did You Know?

Cockroaches first appeared in the Paleozoic era, approximately 400 million years ago, and they have changed very little since then. These insects have probably withstood the test of time because of their ability to survive extreme natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and fire.

Although cockroaches have preferred food sources, if they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat almost anything. Even products that humans cannot eat, such as starch-based paints, wallpaper paste, envelope glue, and bar soaps, can provide critical nutrients for these tiny animals.

Cockroaches can also hold their breath for up to 40 minutes and can run about 59 inches per second—proportionally, that’s three times as fast as a cheetah!

Humane Cockroach Control

As with most uninvited guests, the best defense is a good offense. Cockroaches are incredible survivors—they aren’t going anywhere! That said, the best way to keep roaches and other insects out is to make your home as undesirable to them as possible.

Killing cockroaches is cruel and futile. Unless you make your home less attractive and accessible to them, killing some roaches will simply create a void that others will soon fill. It’s just a matter of time.

To roach-proof your home, keep food in tightly sealed containers, never leave dishes unwashed—especially at night—and wipe your counters thoroughly. Water is a precious resource for roaches, so even a few drops in your kitchen sink would be equivalent to a couple of glasses to you and me. Keep typically moist areas dry, sweep floors, and vacuum frequently.

After your animal companions have eaten, wash their bowls. Use garbage cans with tight-fitting lids, and remove stacks of newspapers, magazines, brown-paper bags, and cardboard boxes from your home promptly. Those big messes that you put off cleaning for far too long can be a huge source of attraction to roaches, so pull out refrigerators, stoves, and freezers and clean behind and beside them. Wash the outside of the appliance and vacuum dusty areas around motors. Clean under burners and clean under the stove top by lifting it. If you have a gas stove, be sure to remember the inside and outside of the oven and the broiler area. It is important to remove grease—this is a popular food source for cockroaches.

Outside your home, remove stacks of firewood near the house to eliminate hiding places and food sources for both cockroaches and termites. Put a few inches of gravel in your water-meter box to reduce moisture. Thin out vegetation growing near your house and keep windows and doorways screened and well sealed with weatherstripping and caulk.

Once you have taken away food and hiding places for roaches, you can place bay leaves, cucumbers, garlic, hedgeapples, or catnip in high and damp spaces around your home to repel them. Gentrol is an insect-growth regulator that eliminates the reproductive potential of cockroaches without killing them. You can call 1-800-248-7763 or visit for a local distributor of Gentrol.

If you would like to trap and release the roaches humanely, make your own live traps by taping newspaper to the outside of a glass jar, smearing Vaseline along the inside of the lip of the jar, and placing food (fruits, bread, vegetables) inside. You will find that the roaches who climb into the jar are unable to climb back out through the Vaseline, and you can release them outside.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind