Pest control: roaches

Tips for getting rid of roaches in your home yourself without calling an exterminator.

In many cities, roaches are a fact of life. Anyone who has ever lived in an apartment or other type of shared home has had to contend with these pests at one time or another. Contrary to popular belief, roaches in the home are not a reflection upon the cleanliness of the housekeeper. It does help roach control, however, to maintain a clean home.

Roaches aren't only a problem in this country; they infest homes all around the globe. In fact, they're considered the world's most common house pest. Just because they're everywhere, doesn't mean they're welcome in our homes. They're unsightly and unsanitary.

Rather than encourage roaches, it's important not to give them any reason to enter your home. Cleanliness is key. Sweep up all crumbs and food particles and mop up all standing water. Make sure your trash is kept covered and brought outside when it starts to become too much for your indoor receptacle. Foods stored in cabinets and on shelves should be tightly sealed so as to not provide temptation. Wipe all counters and table tops and sweep floors every day to cut off their food supply.

Pets also aid in roach control. They won't totally eliminate pests, but they'll help keep down the amount of roaches entering your home. Besides dogs and cats, a gecko will provide insect control inside your house. In fact, many city apartment dwellers admit to purchasing a gecko for the sole purpose of letting it run loose in their homes to dine on roaches. Some people don't see their geckos for weeks, yet know they are there because the bug population in their apartments has gone down. This is a safe and environmentally sound way of controlling your household's roach population.

If your house is neat and there is no exposed food or crumbs, yet roaches still come to call, you have several options. The most popular (and expensive) is to call an exterminator who will put out pesticides or bait traps. Exterminators will work with you to find the best roach control options for your situation. For instance, if you have pets or young children, they'll spray pesticides that aren't harmful, instead of leaving bait traps. If that's not an issue, they'll plan a more aggressive assault.

If you're not interested in bringing in a professional, your supermarket shelves host a variety of roach eliminating baits and sprays. To choose the best one for your situation, read the label carefully. Children and pets should be your first consideration. Don't buy roach traps or "motels" if animals or small children are in the home. Sprays are a much better option, but you'd be well advised to open all windows or send all small bodies out of the house while spraying any kind of harsh chemicals. Always follow recommended precautions and wear a face mask and gloves when spraying insecticides in the home. Make sure no food or beverages are exposed, including pet foods. Wash your hands thoroughly when you're done.

You can purchase foggers or "bombs" (also called "residual sprays") for your home. This is a more aggressive approach best used for an infestation and not the occasional bug sighting. In addition to having all foods stored away in air tight containers, hang plastic sheets over any shelves that leave dishes, glasses, silverware or food exposed and tape them down to make sure no fog can get through. All pets and people should leave the home for at least a day to avoid harmful fumes. Be sure to follow all the precautions on the products label and leave the house. Unlike the over-the-counter sprays you can purchase at the supermarket, foggers and bombs not only kill roaches on contact, they'll also continue to kill for about two weeks.

A less potent solution is boric acid. Safe and organic, boric acid is better for homes with little ones running around. This powder should be applied in all cracks and crevices. A baby's nasal aspirator works well for this. (Don't let humans use it afterwards though.) Roaches will not only be stricken after exposure to boric acid, but they'll drag the powder along with them, sharing it with other roaches in their path.

Since roaches get into your home through cracks in the walls, seal off all cracks. Don't give them a chance to enter your home. If you live in a large apartment building, it might be difficult to completely eliminate roaches as your neighbors may be bringing them in as well. Unless you can set up some sort of building-wide meeting and convince all your neighbors to practice cleanliness and extermination, you won't be able to completely eliminate roaches. Instead, you'll have to contain them on your own either by bringing in a professional exterminator or doing a little extermination of your own. Without the cooperation of your neighbors, those bugs will probably return.

If roaches are an issue, and even if they're not, try some preventative maintenance. Store all food in airtight containers or zip lock plastic bags. Make sure there are no crumbs on tables, counter tops or floors and don't let trash get out of control. In addition, never leave water to puddle on counter tops or in sinks and don't let dirty dishes pile up. By eliminating the roaches' food supply, you are, in essence, telling them they're not welcome in your home.

It's either that or get a gecko.

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