When Rebekah emailed us with a doozie of a question we were pretty much left scratching our heads. Here’s it is:
Q: I’ve become an addict of your blog – just ask my husband! I can’t help but check it multiple times a day. Your posts are always so informative and they keep me motivated to keep working on our 1960’s home. Anyway, my husband and I purchased the brick ranch with a lovely yard about four months ago. My only problem is that we’re starting to see more pests (i.e. roaches… ewww!) due to the weather getting colder here in Georgia. I can’t live in a house and accept that the pests will always be there. We woke up at 4am last night because one crawled up my husband’s arm. Help! I was hoping you or your readers had some recommendations for in-house pest control. I know that pests might come with the territory of living in an older home, but I have to believe there’s a cure out there. I’m an uber-clean person (vacuuming & dusting once a week) plus we don’t leave food out and we keep everything off of the floor as much as possible. I hope my only option is NOT to hire a pest control company but if it is then so be it. Any advice? – Rebekah
A: Yup, we were stumped. Luckily (knock on wood, oops that spooked the dog and now he’s barking) we’ve never had to deal with roaches or other pests like (shiver) mice as of yet. But we did suggest that Rebekah try google-ing around for “natural pest remedies” or “getting rid of roaches” or even hanging out in the pest control aisle at her local home improvement store to see what she can find (maybe even asking an expert there what they recommend). We’re thinking there are little things like roach motels that can poison them or trap those creepy little buggers, so they might be nice to hide behind things and in corners- but Rebekah would definitely have to be careful that pets and kids don’t get into them!
In short, we tossed out a few paltry common sense ideas but wondered if any of our lovely readers had more tried and true advice to share. After all you guys were so helpful when it came to our annoying bathroom drain debacle (which we gleefully solved here), so we’re hoping that a few of you have some great ideas to toss out for Rebekah. Any natural remedies or not so natural cures that work like a charm? Any specific products or treatments that did the trick for you? Any ideas for finding the root of the problem (ie: holes? cracks?) and sealing things up at the source? Feel free to chime in and save the day. We’re hoping that regular “Calling All Experts” posts like these will become a great resource for anyone with common issues like clogged drains and pesky pets- and we definitely plan to rely on them whenever we need help right along with the rest of you!
Jenny Ice says
We also live in a old house, and Vegas Roach Traps work great!
I’ve never had to deal with roaches (ew!), but a great natural fix for ants is to place cotton balls soaked in mint extract around in counter top and cabinet corners. Good luck, Rebekah!!!
Hi guys! I know its not a natural rememdy…but get the roach spray made by “Bengal”. It is odorless and flushes them out and keeps them out for several months after treatment. I don’t have ANY pests because I regularly treat my house about 4 times a year for maintenance. As for mice, I have four guardian cats. :)
Hope that helps!
Our house was built in 1887, so we had a pest problem when we first moved in. My husband now keeps the creepy crawlies out by spraying Ortho Home Defense about twice a year. You spray it around the outside foundation of your house and it creates a barrier that bugs won’t cross. After 20 or 30 minutes it’s completely safe for pets and kids, and it doesn’t hurt the plants or grass. It works like a charm for us.
yuck, I hate mice, insects and the like..which is probably why I’ll never live too far south, however we recently had a mouse issue and tried all kinds of traps and tricks. One thing my boyfriend purchased were some ultrasonic repellents that plug right into the wall and send out a sound wave (that we can’t hear) that is supposed to keep all kinds of unwanted guests out! Not only have we not seen, heard or seen any signs of mice, but we’ve noticed a huge decrease in the amount of spiders running around. In fact I haven’t seen one since! Might be worth a shot. Good luck!
Katie Tudini says
Hi Sherry & Rebekah!
I also live in GA and own a 1968 brick ranch! I know exactly which “pest” your speakin of, the palmetto bug. It looks like the Roach’s cousin. They are driven by water(not waste)! They start creepin’ in out of the cold and into our houses starting in the fall abnd through the winter.
We had a problem when we first bought our house 3 years ago and have been very successful using Ortho Home Defense House spray. We use it once a year around the exterior windows & walls. We also used it inside along our basement wells. This product works great (be careful to follow the directions & precautions). Now when the bugs enters our home they die almost immediately.
Hope this helps,they fast, gross, and hard to kill! eeek!
My parents have had this same exact problem lately (here in South Carolina) & they are seriously freaking out. My parents did call a pest control company & they came out and sprayed but he did give my Mom a piece of advice. He said that they come from the outside and aren’t coming in because of a dirty home (seriously, you could eat off the floor in their home!) but because they are attracted to light. My parents have a night light that they turn on at night in the kitchen and the bathroom. Supposedly they are attracted to the light and come inside looking for shelter & food (especially in the cooler temps).
Carol in Indian Springs Village says
We’ve used Boric Acid powder to eliminate them. I’m sure you would need to keep the pets out of it but we put it in the walls when building the house and now we put it around the permimeter and also in the lower cabinets near sinks to keep them at bay. We’ve also put it on the outside threshold of our exterior doors so if they come in that way they have to cross over and get it on their legs.
Boric Acid powder is the best thing to use. Farmers use it on their migrant camps, you can buy it cheap at Family Dollar stores.
When we moved into our house it had been empty for several months and the roaches had taken over. One fell from the overhead vent and landed on me as I was sleeping. We tried that Ortho Home Defense and it certainly left a lot of roach carcasses, but we kept seeing live ones as well. Finally after literally two bottles of that spray stuff we tried Hot Shot Liquid roach baits and that got rid of all of them. Not sure if it was the combination or the type of roach or what, and def. not eco, child, or pet friendly, but it worked.
I live in GA too and I’m having the same problem..and like you I clean, clean, clean. I’ve caught them around the door way, and the vents..I think they are just coming in any way they can to get out of the cold..I think I’m going to see if there are any safe vent covers for this problem..and also spray some of that Bengal stuff yall are talking about around the doors,windows, and vents. Thanks guys!
My family bought a 1950s rambler last year, and the previous residents left us some not-so-nice gifts. We’ve discovered a few non-harmful chemical ways to combat pests.
1. Orange oil. Buy the most concentrated kind you can find. Spray it around the exit/entrance of your house. Go into your basement/crawlspace and spray the heck out of it. Bonus: it works on termites!
2. Powdered Borax. You can buy it in the laundry aisle. Roaches HATE it. We sprinkled it behind all the new baseboards we installed, we poured it into any cracks, holes, etc (especially in the kitchen!) before sealing them. And I haven’t seen a roach in months and months. You can also mix it with water and spray it around.
3. Fixing cracks. If you have any gaps, holes, or cracks in your living area, plug ’em up!! For any big holes (left by moving ductwork, maybe), use an expanding foam sealer available at any home-improvement shop.
4. I know you already said you are a clean person, but even neat freaks miss some areas. Have you scrubbed all of the insides of your kitchen drawers and cabinets? Hosed off the condenser coil of your fridge? (For some reason, the roaches LOVED that coil!)
Good luck! They WILL go away, if you’re diligent, because there are so many other places to live in squalor!
I’m not an expert on pest control by any means, but if you spray roaches with chemicals the roaches of the next generation become immune those chemicals. As for natural remedies you could try to use borax to make roach bait (but be careful if you have small children or pets because it’s a stomach poison) or I’ve heard that diatomaceous earth works well and on all types of bugs not just roaches.
We lived in Texas for over five years and had only one roach the entire time. The apartment we rented was built in the early 1970’s and the ONLY reason we didn’t have a bug problem was the great pest control guy our landlord hired! My sister recently moved to Tennessee and has been having some pest issues, even in their newer home. Hiring a pest control company is a necessity in the south – despite the cost you’ll be glad you did it!
I feel her pain!! I live in Georgia and they really are all over – it doesn’t matter how clean you keep your house/apartment.
Is she in the Atlanta area? There is a place called Do It Yourself Pest Control on Chamblee Tucker Road that I have heard VERY good things about. It came recommended from someone who wanted pest remedies that were pet-safe.
We had a roach problem a few years ago and I will say that the best thing you can do is figure out where they are coming from or why. We had some deliveries in cardboard boxes sitting in our garage and realized that how the nasty guys got there in the first place.
The boric acid does help. We sprinkled Borax behind the refrigerator, stove, in the back of cabinets, etc. We also had an exterminator tell us that contact paper in your cabinets is one of the worst things you can have, bugs are attracted to the sticky backing. My final suggestion would be bay leaves. Leave a few on your counters, in your cabinets, anyplace you have a problem… just replace them when they no longer smell. Good luck!
I can’t help with the roach problem–we have our own roaches periodically in our 1950s North Carolina house–but I will pass along how my husband solved our mice problem. He stuffed scented dryer sheets and/or cotton balls doused with a little lavender oil in every crevice he could find in the kitchen (including in all the cabinets). Worked like a charm. He periodically replaces the dryer sheets and cotton balls when they’ve stopped smelling; it’s the scent that keeps the critters away.
Definiteley boric acid. Unscrew all your switchplates and the plates around your outlets and put it in there. Watch out for any loose wires. Of course, put them back once you’re done. It works!
Sarah Ferguson says
We’ve lived in a 1978 brick ranch in Alabama for about a year, and we had the same problem this fall. We picked up some Raid roach traps at the grocery store, and I haven’t seen any since.
I’m glad this discussion is happening, though- I will definitely check out the Ortho Home Defense.
We also live in GA. For roaches we initially used the little plastic roach baits and that helped, but after finding a bunch of roach droppings in the attic space above our storage closet, we brought in the professionals. I know this is a last resort for you, but wanted to comment that since we started using a professional service, we RARELY see them, and when we do they are dead. The difference has been dramatic. The first time our guy came to spray, he did inside and outside, but now he comes monthly and just sprays outside.
Julianne Hendrickson says
We had to patch any area where there might have been a tiny hole in the concrete or eves of our house.
I live in Atlanta too and those bugs creep me out. It has nothing to do with cleanliness and they are HUGE roach-like monsters. The only thing that has worked for me is the Ortho Home Defense. Good luck!
Yet another Georgian here: call the company that handles your termite control and have them quote a price for insect extermination. You can usually get much better rates by bundling the two services.
gini barth says
this book – Grandmother’s CRITTER RIDDER by Myles H Bader – under $5 at Amazon, will give you ways to eradicate & forever remove any pest from your lives with harmless ingredients & simple methods safe for you & yours. seriously, no spider webs, no mice & no roaches – using natural ingredients like extracts with water in a spray bottle. Roach motels work, too, but look so nasty in a home & all those insecticides are so last century (& expensive!).
Ditto the figure out where they are coming from and why and if possible seal it up! When I was a kid we had crickets coming up through a crevice between the baseboard and the floor. Another thing is that if your neighbors house is close to yours, you may want to let them know about the pest problem because pests especially roaches have been known to migrate from one house or one apartment to another.
Hayley Baum says
We ALSO live in Georgia (Ft. Benning) and unfortunately, critters are part of the deal when moving to the south. Even new houses are prone to roaches if placed near wooded areas. Lucky for us, the army has people spray for us whenever we call, and it has worked wonderfully. I still find them upside down in my basement… so you still have to SEE them unfortunately, but dead is better than alive! (Crunching them is the worst part, makes me gag…) But them upside down lets me know it’s working. SERIOUSLY– give in and call the pest control. It is soo worth the peace of mind.
Your housekeeping is not to blame for this problem, though keeping things clean can keep it from getting worse. I use boric acid (Zap-A-Roach is the brand at WalMart) for roaches and ants. Bay leaves are said to be repellant.
I did some reading on the web recently and found that these guys can live for a week without food, but only a day or so without water. Drying the sinks before going to bed at night was part of the advice, but I think they could just go down in the drain to get water if they needed to.
So I’m using boric acid and traps and hope I don’t have to use anything stronger.
Three words: Get a cat.
I also live in Georgia in an older home, surrounded by mature trees, and have had roach problems as well- they are so gross!
If you decide to call in the pros, check out Norpest Green from Northwest Exterminating. They use a ‘green’ product derived from plant extracts – not chemicals. Good luck!
I also live in GA. In a 1970s brick ranch.
We had a ton of roaches/waterbugs (GROSS!!) when we first bought the place and I was constantly spraying stuff around the doors and windows. I got so sick of it that I had my hubby get the pest bombs and bomb the entire house and attic. We spent one day away from the house, then came home to clean up many many dead roaches on the floor. Since then (that was about 6 months ago) I hardly ever have any bugs in the house, and in the rare case we do find one, it is already dead on its back!
Hope this helps you!
I am also a big fan of the Ortho Home Defense. We do it quarterly around the exterior, and every 6 months on the inside. The label says it protects for a year inside the home. This is a huge must in our North Carolina neighboorhood. We get huge Palmetto bugs, which is just a roach with wings! Gross!!! If you use roach motels or anything the bug eats to kill it, be careful, as pets can eat the poisioned bugs!!
Everyone has already said it, but I just want to reiterate. I live in SC, but have lived in GA as well. You have to determine if you have palmetto bugs or german roaches. If they are the big nasty ones (palmetto bugs), there isn’t much you can do. You have to spray outside the house. We have always had a service come and spray periodically.
If they are the little german or brown roaches, that is a more serious problem which should be addressed by a company. They live in your home and are very difficult to get rid of.
Luckily we just moved into a 70s ranch in a swampy area, and no bugs yet! We lived in much older homes before, so I feel like this house is airtight in comparison.
Wow! Thanks so much for so many helpful tips and ideas! We knew we could count on you guys. Keep ’em coming!
From “the Bugman”‘s column in the SF Chronicle who writes on low/no toxic ways to get rid of pests:
“You can get a product called Niban Insect Bait, which is made from boric acid, and place the bait in the units in areas where roaches are seen: under the sink, under and behind appliances, behind furniture, around the hot water heater, in the garages and similar places. Make sure to keep the bait out of the reach of children and pets. Even though boric acid is relatively safe, I never recommend putting any pest products where kids or pets can get into it. Niban Insect Bait is not available in stores, but can be obtained online. One distributor is pestcontrolsupplies.com.”
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/06/16/DD51186FR4.DTL#ixzz0WNRyeCLa
Nerd Girl says
Water bugs. Yech. I’m sorry, but I resort to chemicals when it comes to bugs. My husband sprays the perimeter of our home 3 or 4 times a year and that pretty much keeps the bugs at bay. He also sprays the entry from the garage into the house. I don’t know what he uses, but it’s something he picked up from Lowe’s.
Leia Cutcliffe says
I understand your pain! I can not stand those nasty little critters. We had a problem during the remodel of our home around the doors, and even base boards, so we used the product Great Stuff to seal some areas around the door jams, and caulked all the base boards and door molding. It helped a lot!
Anne K says
I lived in the south for a few years and hated the battle with the roaches and other pests. A friend of mine told me to place some hedgeapples (osage oranges) around the house. The funny thing is we had an abundance in our yard! I brought some in to the house to help with the bugs but they also looked pretty good too!
Now I see that people are actually selling them on the internet!! Who knew I was sitting on a gold mine!
Ashley B says
My husband and I rent a super old house that was INFESTED with all sorts of bugs and roaches! ew! We do have someone come out and spray once every 3 months, which does keep them away. But we have also used in the past a spray you buy from home depot/lowes and spray the outside perimeter of the house. We also bought some of that foam insulation and sprayed any holes under our sinks (bugs kept ending up on our bathroom vanity!) I would try the spray you buy in a store first. If that doesn’t keep them away. You may need professional help. Roaches are tough little critters.
Bug bomb the house about twice a year, and use (I don’t know what its called) white powdery stuff around the outside of your home. Its supposed to be safe for kids and pets but I can’t remember the name…but it works great!
Also, roaches freak me out so much I didn’t realize the picture was a pattern on the china at first because I just scrolled down to get it off my screen as quickly as possible. I would NEVER want that china. EVER.
spray a mixture of peppermint (or other natural oil–eucaluptus, lemon, etc.) oil and rubbing alcohol (1 part to 10 parts) along the interior perimeter of the house.
We live in a big apartment building in Philadelphia and contend with roaches & mice too. I’ve come to terms that you will still get them no matter how well you clean!
We put out traps in all crevices and installed the ultrasonic waves contraption into the outlet. We still see a roach or two on the kitchen floor in the morning but they are usually dead.
For mice, use steel wool to plug up holes (mice can get in through a 1/4 -1/2 inch). They can’t chew through it.
Definitely boric acid. When we lived in Texas we lived in a rented duplex with the same problem (I would always see them on the ceiling above the bed before I was going to sleep….gross). We called an organic pest control company. All they did was put boric acid around the perimeter of the house and in all of the little nooks and crannies under the bathroom and kitchen sinks. The pest guy explained that roaches are extremely clean, so when they walk through the boric acid, they immediately clean their legs by licking it off. The ingested soap kills them. We treated once and never saw another roach in the two years we lived there. Best part was not having to worry about our health or the health of our pets.
Oh Rebekah, I feel your pain! When my husband and I bought our first house — 1950’s cape in the city — we unearthed a little roach problem that still gives me chills. I very seriously considered putting the house back on the market and sleeping in the car.
We explored various things and have done what most people say is a racket — hired Orkin for ongoing service. They’ve been coming for almost five years now. We pay about $80 every two months for them to spray inside and out and the problem is kept at bay. We have learned that you really cannot eradicate a roach problem unless you excavate your property, which isn’t typically an option; but that you can manage it. There’s not a lot of comfort in that, but it’s better than trying to live with the nasty beasts.
That said, we do see one or two roaches from time to time — usually with heavy rain, a dramatic shift in the weather, and right after Orkin comes out. But it’s more like two or three times a year, rather than every other day.
They assure us that the spray is safe for us and our pets, though admittedly I have not researched it myself and it does concern me. I’m eager to read through all the reader suggestions here to see if there are better options, though I’m not sure I have the psychological stability to weather the experiment!
Best of luck to you…
When we lived in Texas we had a roach problem. The area where we lived was heaven for the big tree roaches; the ones that fly. I know, right? One of the things you really need to watch out for is not leaving paper or cardboard around. They love that stuff. Also, our house was very old and had muslin-backed wallpaper. They loved the glue that was used to put it up.
Can’t really help with the eco-friendly bug stuff. We used Raid because we just really really really didn’t want them in the house!
I actually slammed my shoulder into a door frame running from one that was dive-bombing me. :P
I grew up in a 100 year old house in rural Kentucky. There are some houses that it is just nearly impossible to keep the critters out of (our problem was ants every summer).
I know you say you don’t leave food sitting out but it might help to invest in some air tight glass or plastic containers to store your food in. That was the only thing that stopped our ants.
Here in Texas roaches are a part of life (most, most, most unfortunately). The best thing to do is to drill small holes above the baseboards of your walls and to blow boric acid behind the walls. Gets the little devils before they make an entrance in your living room. Or before they crawl up your arm.
A few years back our neighbors treated their home and their cockroaches migrated over to our house. It was awful – within a couple weeks we were storing ALL our food in the fridge just to keep roaches off of it, and washing everything before we used it (yes even clean dishes). It was a nightmare, so I asked a pest control guy what to do. He told me about Combat Roach Killer (it’s in a syringe looking thing and is about the color of peanut butter). He told me the trick to using this stuff was to use it SPARINGLY (or else the roaches won’t touch it), put a small drop in a few corners underneath cabinets, or in corners here and there (like pantry, behind fridge etc), and put a drop or two behind each electrical outlet cover. The roaches love this stuff, they eat it go back to their nest where they die. Because roaches eat each other’s bodies, the roaches in the nest die too. I followed his instructions and I couldn’t believe it, within days the problem was almost gone, within 2 weeks we had not a single roach. This stuff works! If you have young kids I would only put it in places where they can’t reach, just to be cautious.
Michael Mc says
We just purchased our home and it needs new insulation. One of the types we are looking into is TAP Insulation which supposedly also protects against pests. You may not need insulation but if you do, maybe a solution…
Michael Mc says
And with Clare’s comment, my parents have done this and said it works great (especially after putting it in the junction boxes). I plan on doing this as well.
Casey is right- a cat is about the most natural thing you can do to get these critters! In my old apartment (a 100 year old duplex) we had roaches. We finally broke down and our landlord called an exterminator. I haven’t done my research on the chemicals they use, but he said that after a day they are harmless to humans. They make a perimeter around your house that roaches can’t cross.
Meanwhile though, it’s important to know where they are coming from. Get some sticky mouse traps (I would never use these on mice, but had no problem using them for roaches) and put them right near suspected entryways for creepy crawlies. Ours were under a crack in the baseboard, and where the back door didn’t seal when it closed. The next morning there were three (yikes!) squirming roaches on the one by the door, so we knew we had to fix that door immediately. Between that and the “perimeter”, our house was cured.
Another tip: If you’re seeing roaches only at night, it’s not too big of a deal. But if you’re seeing them during the day, that could mean a more major infestation in which case you might want to involve the professionals.
PS- that picture you used is great- it totally grosses me out!
Ok, not sure what types of bugs you have but living here in nyc let me tell you, roaches are almost indestructible. You must get a professional in, they have the poison that not only kills the pests but kills the reproduction function of said pests. Having said that, if your bugs aren’t roaches, don’t know if you need the big guns, but I would stop at nothing when it comes to pests. Bring in the professionals!