Cockroach Control

More PRI Pest Management Bulletins

Dealing with cockroaches?

Cockroaches can contaminate food and surfaces, destroy fabric and paper, transmit disease, cause allergies, and leave foul odors behind.

Reduce the risk of infestation with low impact measures including home cleaning and exclusion tactics.

See PRI’s Top-Ten List for Keeping Pests Out and Kids Safe. Use PRI’s tool, PestSmart, to find low-hazard insecticide products.

Preventing and Managing Cockroach Infestations

Cockroaches are nocturnal creatures that love dark, warm, moist hiding places in cracks, crevices, or hard-to-reach corners. The first step to eradicating an infestation is removing food sources and hiding places, especially since cockroaches only return to habitable places. With a little detective work, a persistent strategy, and preventative measures, you can make your house an unattractive place for roaches, which will not only manage an infestation, but also prevent them in the future.

Pest Smart mobile app

Read on for information on low-impact methods for cockroach control. Also included is a comparison of products commonly used in cockroach insecticides.

Interested in finding out more about specific cockroach insecticide products? The Pest Smart app is now available in the iTunes Store. Conveniently access pesticide data on your iPhone and iPad while on the job, in the store, and at home.

  • Search by product name or registration number.
  • Search by pest to find pesticide products that target common household and garden pests like ants, fleas, cockroaches, lawn weeds and aphids.
  • Quickly verify the eligibility of a pesticide product for use in the LEED v4-certified Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program.
  • Compare products and find least-toxic alternatives to streamline decision-making.
  • Link to PRI’s Pest Management Bulletins to learn about low-impact methods of pest control that minimize pesticide use and exposure.

Low Impact Approaches

The following cockroach control measures are effective in disrupting the roach life cycle, killing existing roaches, and their colony when implemented together. The guidelines below also serve as excellent preventative measures that effectively stop cockroach invasions before they begin.


Look for cockroach hiding spots in warm, dark, tight places near food and water using a flashlight and mirror. Confirm any suspected habitats by using sticky traps. These traps will not attract cockroaches, but they will allow you to determine if you have an infestation, and where the bugs are living. Sticky traps should be placed at the seam of floors and walls, and in potential high traffic areas. Carefully check large appliances and furniture or items that have been in storage for cockroach egg cases and destroy them.

Knife and fork

Home Cleaning

If you have an infestation, eliminate food sources by cleaning up crumbs on floors, in cracks and crevices, or on counters. Wipe up spills and clean dirty dishes as soon as possible, and keep food in sealed containers or in the refrigerator. Throw trash away in containers with liners and tight lids, and empty them frequently. Regularly vacuum cracks and crevices to remove any food sources, including cockroach eggs or droppings, since feces contain pheromones that attract other roaches and feed young ones. Frequent vacuuming also goes a long way in preventing cockroach allergies.



Eliminate Habitat and Prevent Entry

Removing cockroach hiding places and entry points will drive cockroaches away and prevent future infestations. Inside the home, seal cracks in dark places like cupboards or building cracks with caulk, repair water leaks, and remove moisture in crawl spaces and other dark areas by increasing ventilation. Weather-seal doors and gaps around windows, and caulk around escutcheon plates that surround pipes or faucets that provide access to the wall voids or any other area that roaches could easily enter or hide. Eliminate clutter, especially piles of magazines, newspapers, cardboard or rags.  Outside, remove stacks of wood and trash to minimize potential moist habitats, and trim shrubs and branches to increase light and ventilation.

Roach Control Pesticides

If your house is so old and full of cracks and crevices that you simply can’t caulk them all, pesticide baits will complement your roach control efforts. Avoid aerosol sprays of pesticides or foggers. They indiscriminately contaminate all surfaces in the treated area and are an inhalation and asthma hazard.

Potential Consequences of Using Cockroach Control Pesticides

Recognized that when you use cockroach control pesticides, you should be ready to deal with these potential consequences:

  • Boric acid pesticides are toxic to plants and if this type of pesticide is placed inside a potted plant or other area where water may carry the pesticide to plants, your plants will be affected.
  • Use of aerosol sprays or foggers guarantees exposure to the pesticidal active ingredient, through inhalation of the spray droplets and contamination of exposed surfaces. See US EPA’s page on foggers.
  • If bait stations are left out in the open, children or pets can be exposed to pesticides if they put a bait station in their mouths and chew on it.

Precautions to Take When Using Roach Control Pesticides

If you determine that pesticides are necessary, take these precautionary steps to reduce the potential for adverse effects:

  • Indoors, place pesticide bait stations only in locations that are completely inaccessible to children and pets—inside walls, under heavy appliances, or in enclosed crawlspaces. Never put baits where they can contaminate food.
  • Once all signs of pests are gone, remove bait stations promptly to avoid attracting new populations of roaches.
  • Always read and follow the label instructions on the pesticide product to avoid harm to yourself, children, pets and others. The label is the law and you could be liable for any damage resulting from not following the label instructions.
  • Use only US EPA approved products (see Regulatory Update below for details).

Types of Roach Control Pesticides

There are many roach control products sold, including bait, gel, granule, and aerosol spray formulations. When using these chemical products, take precautions to minimize human, pet, and environmental exposure. The information below will help you understand the risks associated with the active ingredients in these products.

Baits and Gels
Baits are formulated as granules or solid blocks, gels, or liquids. Some bait products already have the active ingredient in the bait station, and others are packaged as a liquid that you pour into a bait container provided in the package. The likelihood of exposure to the chemicals is lower if you use the bait stations that don’t require you to handle the product other than to set it out. Gels typically come packaged with a syringe or a tube for dispensing.

Place bait stations near the areas where you have seen roaches, but be sure they are out of reach of children and pets and not near food that could become contaminated. Place gels in cracks and crevices behind and under appliances, cabinets, sinks, or closets. Roaches will take the bait and the population should drop rapidly over a few days.

There are several different pesticide active ingredients used in roach baits. If you use the same kind of pesticide every time, the roaches will become resistant to the pesticide and it will no longer work well. To solve this problem, buy several different bait products containing different active ingredients. The first time you put baits out, select one of them and use it. Next time, use a different product, and rotate through the products as needed. If you find that one isn’t working very well, switch to another one—you may have roaches that are already resistant.

Aerosol Sprays and Foggers

Use of aerosol sprays or foggers is not recommended, due to the high probability of exposure during the application from inhaling the aerosol. Fogging also leaves pesticide residues distributed throughout the home environment and is an explosion risk in homes with gas appliances. Outdoor sprays can drift away and pose a risk to non-target wildlife such as bees or other beneficial insects.

Comparison of Roach Control Pesticide Active Ingredients

Type of Active Ingredient Representative Chemicals* Hazards Formulation
*For groups of active ingredients of the same type.
Avermectin High acute toxicity in pure form, but the concentrations used in ant baits (less than 0.01%) have low acute toxicity. Toxic to the nervous system and to the developing fetus at very low doses. Not absorbed through the skin to any great extent. Highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates. Gel, Dust, Aerosol, Solution, Granular, Impregnated materials
Borates Borax
Boric acid
Sodium metaborate
Low acute toxicity. Not absorbed through the skin; however, ingestion of small amounts of boric acid every day over several months has been shown to reduce sperm counts in laboratory animals. Toxic to plants. Gel, Solution, Paste, Dust, Aerosol, Granular
Diatomaceous Earth Crystalline silica Causes lung irritation when inhaled. Long-term exposure to diatomaceous earth dust is associated with lung cancer in occupational settings. Dust
Fipronil Moderately acutely toxic by ingestion, but not absorbed substantially through the skin. Toxic to the nervous system. Classified as a Possible carcinogen by US EPA. High toxicity to aquatic life and to birds. Gel, Pelleted, Powder, Solutions, Granular, Impregnated materials
Hydramethylnon Low acute toxicity to humans. Not extensively absorbed through the skin. Toxic to the developing fetus and interferes with reproduction at moderate doses. High toxicity to aquatic life. Gel, Pelleted, Solution, Granular
Indoxacarb Has moderate to low acute and chronic oral toxicity to humans. High toxicity to aquatic life. Solution, Granular, Gel, Impregnated materials
Insect Growth Regulators Hydroprene Methoprene Pyriproxifen Very low acute and longer-term toxicity to humans. High toxicity to aquatic invertebrates. Most products with IGRs also contain an insecticide, usually a pyrethroid. Aerosol, Solution, Impregnated materials
Neonicotinoids Acetamiprid
Moderate acute toxicity to humans and absorbed through the skin to some extent. Toxic to the nervous system. Imidacloprid has been shown to reduce sperm counts in laboratory animals with long-term exposure. Highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates and bees. Gel, Granular, Solution, Aerosol, Impregnated materials
Pyrethroids Allethrin
Cyhalothrin Cypermethrin
Moderate acute ingestion and inhalation toxicity. Sensitizer, causing allergic reactions and asthma in some people. Toxic to the nervous system. Highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates and bees. Most products containing pyrethroids also contain a synergist that increases the insecticidal activity of the pyrethroid. Typical synergists include piperonyl butoxide (PBO) and N-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide. US EPA considers both of these synergists Possible carcinogens. Solution, Granular, Aerosol
Organophosphates Acephate Chlorpyrifos, DDVP
High acute toxicity to humans at low concentrations. Toxic to the nervous system, especially for children. Highly toxic to aquatic life. Aerosol, Solution, Granular, Impregnated materials
N-Methyl carbamates Carbaryl
High acute toxicity to humans at low concentrations. Toxic to the nervous system, especially for children. Highly toxic to aquatic life. Aerosol, Granular, Solution, Impregnated materials

Regulatory Updates on Roach Control Pesticides

Pyrethroid pesticides applied as perimeter barrier sprays outside around homes and other buildings have been found in water runoff and in the sediment in urban creeks, resulting in high toxicity to the small invertebrates that serve as an essential part of the food web for fish and other aquatic animals. In response to this environmental impact, in August 2012, the US EPA required manufacturers to revise the Directions for Use on labels for pyrethroid pesticide products in an effort to reduce ecological exposures through runoff and drift. A specific list of pyrethroids was subject to reregistration under these updated requirements, affecting over 2000 end-use products.

Several roach-control products have been highlighted by US EPA as unregistered and illegal to use in the U.S.

  • Insecticidal chalk: Also known as “Miraculous Chalk” or “Chinese Chalk,” these products are often for sale in Chinese grocery stores. The chalk can contain several different insecticides, but because it is not labeled, you won’t be able to find out what the active ingredient is. The problem with this chalk is that it looks exactly like regular chalk, and children have been poisoned by eating the chalk.

On October 29, 2008, the EPA released a statement that stated that the seven products containing sulfluramid currently being sold will stop December 21, 2013. All products containing sulfluramid will be phased out by 2016.

References and Additional Resources

National Pesticide Information Center: Understanding and Controlling Cockroaches
University of Connecticut: Integrated Pest Management for Cockroaches
University of California Davis: Pests of Homes, Structures, People, and Pets: Cockroaches
University of Nebraska – Lincoln: Cockroaches
US Environmental Protection Agency: Get Rid of Roaches – revised brochure