By Zachary Ciras on November 30, 2020.

I live in an apartment and have had occasional cockroach problems. Lately, management seems to be cutting back on pest control services, no doubt because many tenants are having trouble paying rent. What can I do to help keep cockroaches out of my apartment until normal exterminator services resume?

A. W., Portsmouth, NH

All cockroaches need to survive and reproduce is food, a little water, and plenty of hiding places. First of all, do what you can to keep them out of your apartment in the first place by sealing openings where cables, electrical conduits, and pipes enter walls. Block openings around hallway doors and be careful about bringing in items of unknown origin.

Do what you can to clean up clutter and stacks of materials that provide cockroach hiding places (harborage). Then, tackle sanitation issues as they relate to cockroaches. Re-evaluate how you use, store, and dispose of food.


  • It doesn’t take many food crumbs or drips to feed a roach, so always wipe up crumbs and spills on counters, tables, and floors.
  • Also, take a look inside your pantry, breadbox, and cabinets. You’ll no doubt find plenty of crumbs on the shelves that contain food packages.
  • Wipe up spills on top of the stove, inside the oven, and in the pan drawer below.
  • Don’t store bulk produce such as onions, potatoes, or apples in open bins, and especially not under the kitchen sink. Refrigerate them if possible.
  • Don’t leave pet food (or kid food!) sitting out for long periods, and especially not overnight.
  • Always have a plastic bag liner in your garbage can. If possible, take the sealed bag to the trash chute or dumpster every night. At the very least, seal or tie off the bag when you go to bed at night so that there is no food available for night-roaming cockroaches.
  • Treat separate recycling bins like other garbage cans. Rinse food or drink containers and don’t allow spills to accumulate in the bottom of the bin.

German cockroaches dining on food scraps. Male roach and female roach with ootheca (egg capsule). Shutterstock.


Even if cockroaches have plenty of available food, they won’t be happy unless there are lots of available cracks and crevices that they can squeeze into to escape the real world. Pest-proofing means not only sealing up openings that allow cockroaches into an area, but also sealing or removing hiding places that they can live in once inside.

  • Either you or building maintenance should seal up any gaps or openings that connect into wall or ceiling void spaces, and especially those that could connect to other apartments. Cockroaches use electrical lines, cables, or pipes to move from one unit to another. Openings around pipes under sinks are common roach highways.
  • If your apartment door does not have a threshold or sweep at the bottom to close it tightly (management may need to distribute flyers under doors), place a draft “snake” along the inside bottom of your door.
  • Declutter! Dispose of stacks of magazines or papers, cardboard boxes, piles of clothes, and any other unnecessary hoarded items. Get rid of what you can and organize or properly store the rest. Cockroaches like to hide, and breed, and poop in tight, dark undisturbed spaces, and the closer to the kitchen the better.


Don’t try to use “bug bombs” or “foggers” (total-release aerosol cans) to kill roaches in your apartment. Bug bombs aren’t safe and just aren’t very effective. They don’t reach cockroaches in hiding (and aren’t they all?), any effects don’t last, and egg cases will still hatch. See Please Don’t “Bomb” Your Brains Out Using Foggers!

The safest and most effective cockroach control used by professionals is cockroach bait, applied as a gel or in tamper-resistant bait stations (pucks). You may not be able to get to a store these days to buy your own cockroach bait stations and you may not even be able to find them online, so prevention, sanitation, and vigilance are your standbys for now. Then when pest control services return to normal in your building, you’ll be well ahead of the game!

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