Roughly 1 in 10 households in the US have reported seeing a cockroach at one time and up to 63% of homes have cockroach allergens. This makes roaches the most common household pest in the United States.
While there are many parts of your home where cockroaches like hiding, one place you can find them frequently is in your kitchen cabinets.
You may now realize this, but your kitchen cabinets have all the makings of a potential roach hotel.
Roaches like darkness, closed spaces, and regular access to food and water. So your kitchen cabinets have everything roaches need to set up shop and cause problems in your home.
It’s possible for the DIYer to get rid of cockroaches in your kitchen cabinets in a few easy steps – and as always, we’re here to tell you how to do it.
Determining You Have Roaches
Obviously there’s no point treating for roaches until you know you have them, but it’s pretty easy to tell if you have a roach problem in common spots like your kitchen, cabinets, or dishwasher.
First of all, if you see a single roach, it’s a good sign there are more hiding out of sight. Roaches can enter your house multiple ways. In apartments and townhomes, the most common cause is they coming from shared walls with a neighbor. They can crawl through pipes and gaps in the wall very easily.
Unless you’re lucky enough to catch the very first roach that comes into your home to multiply, a single roach usually is enough to indicate a problem.
If you find one, take some time to look for others. Use a flashlight to look in cracks and crevices around your home and in your kitchen cabinets.
Roaches are nocturnal, so look for them at night when they’re most active. You may also find other signs of roaches like small particles of frass (droppings) and broken body parts.
If you’re seeing cockroaches around your kitchen cabinets, try taking an aerosol spray and shooting it into any gaps or cracks to see if cockroaches scurry out. Regular “canned air” works if you don’t want to spray chemicals at this point.
Cockroaches also like to live under appliances, so checking under ovens and refrigerators is also a good move.
Once you spot a few cockroaches you know it’s time to start treatment.
4 Steps to Get Rid of Roaches from Kitchen Cabinets
Treating your kitchen for cockroaches isn’t quick and easy, but it can be handled safely and effectively without spraying pesticides in the home.
Here are the 4 steps you need to follow to clear the cockroaches from your kitchen.
1. Place Cockroach Traps
If you know you have roaches, traps are a good strategy for monitoring your infestation.
But beware! Traps alone are almost never enough to handle an infestation. They are really more of a cockroach surveillance tool to see how your treatment is progressing.
Glue traps are versatile enough to be useful for cockroach infestations because you can put them in all sorts of places – in the back of cabinets, behind and under appliances, underneath the sink, and really any other small space you think they may be hiding.
Glue traps are basically the same thing as flypaper – they trap roaches with a sticky surface and the insects starve and die when they can’t move.
I recommend putting glue traps wherever you’re seeing the most activity. There’s a good option to put in the back of a cabinet because there’s no concerns of chemical exposure to your food, and you can still use your cabinets in the meantime.
Under the kitchen sink is also a very wise placement!
2. Flush and Vacuum
Flushing with an aerosol pesticide is a common initial treatment method for roaches because it can get into the nooks and crannies that are hard to reach with other methods.
The steps for flushing roaches is as follows –
- Prepare your equipment. You need an aerosol can with a straw (pesticide aerosol like the one above is great for treating infestations and can be applied safely to within cracks, but you can also use compressed air), a vacuum (ideally with a HEPA filter), and maybe a flashlight.
- Flush the roaches. Spray the can into cracks in the back of your cabinets, under the cabinets, anywhere that you think the roaches are living. This disturbance will cause them to scatter from their hiding place as they feel they are under attack.
- Vacuum the roaches. While the roaches are running, you want to quickly vacuum them up. Also vacuum up any debris or dust that the aerosol kicks out, as cockroaches create a lot of allergens that are not healthy for your home.
A vacuum with a HEPA filter is best for this purpose – otherwise you may risk leaving behind dangerous allergens.
While a strategy that revolves around vacuuming may seem not very exciting, you can remove up to 50% of the adult cockroaches in this one step!
This will cut weeks off the time it takes you to fully eradicate the cockroaches from your home.
3. Treat Cracks and Crevices
Flushing and vacuuming can get a lot of the job done but is unlikely to get all roaches and their eggs. Even a single pregnant roach left behind can reinfest your home and put you back at square one. So don’t let up.
Our next step to getting rid of cockroaches from your kitchen cabinets is treating the cracks and crevices with a dust-based, non-chemical product.
This is step can make or break how effective you are at ridding the infestation in the long run and will likely take the most time to do properly.
Diatomaceous earth or a silica-based dust like Cimexa (commonly used for bed bugs, but effective on nearly any crawling insect) are good candidates for the job.
The benefit of using one of these dusts is that the effects are physical. They damage the exoskeleton of the insects, which makes them dry out and die.
Because it’s not a chemical effect, the product can last for a long time, often up to 10 years if undisturbed and free of moisture. It’s also possible to remove it with a vacuum if desired.
Treat every crack you can find. Especially the small cracks at the back of cabinets, where plumbing and electrical lines run through your cabinets or into the wall.
When treating with a dust, the way to apply it is with a duster of some sort. These handheld devices let you shoot puffs of the dust in a controlled manner, allowing it to spread out evenly and cover a wider area.
If too much diatomaceous earth or silica dust is piled up in one area, the bugs will simply avoid it. Ideally the dust will be spread out evenly, the bugs will walk on it, and unknowingly sign their own death warrant!
What About Pesticide Sprays?
You can certainly use a pesticide spray instead of a dust for treating cockroaches, many professional exterminators will spray all around the floorboards of your kitchen and cabinets.
That being said, we think most people would prefer to keep chemicals out of their cupboards and we don’t blame them.
If you are willing to spray, then you can hit the same cracks and crevices that we talked about with the dust, as well as coating baseboards where cockroaches are likely to travel and come into contact with the pesticide.
I recommend using Spectre 2 SC for this purpose. This pesticide is non-repellent so cockroaches will unknowingly come into contact with it, and end up spreading it to other cockroaches in their harborage for a quicker killing action.
4. Apply a Cockroach Gel Bait
Baits are a great pest control strategy because the insects do some of the work for you. Placing a gel bait with an insecticide in it attracts the roaches, encourages them to pick up the bait, and then they bring the toxic bait back to their hiding places and spread it around to the other roaches.
Cockroaches are particularly vile and eat each others vomit. Cockroaches will also eat other cockroaches, so there’s many ways for one cockroach to spread the bait to multiple others!
A little bait goes a long way, so apply it in small dabs (dime-sized), about 6-12 inches apart across the bottom of the cabinet. It’s usually best to bait along the corners of the cabinets or the back edges.
Gel bait isn’t a liquid or aerosol, so it won’t spread onto your products through the air or be messy. This will keep anything still in your kitchen cabinets from getting contaminated. For easier clean up, you can use a bait tray or index cards to apply the bait on which can then be tossed out later.
Check the bait every morning and replace it if it’s been eaten, or after 72 hours (it can go stale otherwise). If the cockroaches don’t take the bait, then you may need to try baiting elsewhere.
It’s also possible that there’s something about the cockroach bait that they aren’t finding attractive. I recommend using Advion Evolution Cockroach Gel Bait, which has been studied to be the most attractive to common cockroach species.
You can also check out our full guide on the best cockroach baits.
After applying the bait, don’t be tempted to spray pesticides in the area. Remember – you want the roaches to eat it. If there are smelly pesticides around it, it can make the bait unattractive and the cockroaches won’t touch it.
Most people report a significant reduction in the cockroach population within 48-72 hours of the cockroaches taking the bait, but it may take a few weeks to get full elimination of the cockroach infestation.
The important thing to remember is to keep baiting as long as you’re seeing cockroaches, and to stop when don’t see them anymore. The glue traps we mentioned earlier come in very handy for monitoring the cockroach population so you know if you need to keep baiting.
Other Tips for Cockroach Elimination and Prevention
- Seal as many cracks and crevices in your home as you can. The fewer spaces roaches have to move around, the easier they are to prevent and eliminate.
- Fix any leaking pipes or other plumbing problems. Moisture attracts roaches because, like any organism, they need water to live.
- Remove any food sources that roaches may be eating. Make sure to seal food in tight packaging, clean up spills right away, and do periodic cleanouts of your cabinets to make sure there’s nothing broken or unsealed that you may have missed.
- Don’t forget about pet food! Roaches will happily eat dog and cat food as well, so seal these items up as well.