Why waste your money on a cockroach spray that either doesn’t work the way you need it to, or isn’t safe around your kids and pets?
Roach sprays are perfect for killing roaches as you find them, and many keep working after they’ve dried. But if you choose the wrong one, you’re bound to be disappointed. And you might just make the problem worse!
We’ve created a simple guide to help you choose the best cockroach killer spray for your needs:
We’ll break down what’s good and bad about some of the most popular roach sprays out there and offer some handy tips for getting the best results out of whichever one you pick.
Ready to start spraying your roach problem away? Let’s go!
Note: This article will help you pick an indoor roach spray: aerosols and hand-held trigger sprayers. Looking for liquids to put in a pump sprayer? Check out the article here.
Remember, when using insecticides, the label is the law—read and follow the instructions carefully, not only for your own safety, but to make sure each treatment is as effective as possible.
Choosing the Best Roach Spray: Fast-Acting Killers or Poisons That Work Behind the Scenes?
When it comes to killing roaches, not everyone has the same goal in mind. Some want to kill individual bugs quickly, while others want to attack the colony for a thorough eradication. You’ve got a choice:
- Kill quickly with contact sprays: These are fine for those moments you discover a little monster crawling across the counter and need to kill it before it crawls out of sight.
- Attack the hidden colony with residual sprays: these are made for a longer-term approach. They kill the roaches that are hiding out of sight and keep killing them for a longer period of time.
Thing is, most contact sprays also come with some residual effects. They just have different timelines in mind. A contact spray might be effective for anywhere between a few days and a few weeks after you’ve sprayed. A residual spray is designed to work for months at a time.
A Quick Word About “Knockdown”
As you read about roach spray products, you’ll frequently see the term “knockdown.”
Knockdown is when the active ingredients in a contact killer attack a roach’s nervous system, stopping the bug—but not necessarily killing it—in its tracks.
While residuals are typically judged by how long they work before having to be reapplied, contact killers are judged by how fast they stop a roach so you can get rid of it.
Since there’s a certain emotional component to killing bugs, know that a slower knockdown doesn’t mean the bug is going to run off to live another day. It just means it may take a few more minutes for the roach to die. In sprays with a focus on residual effects, this might be intentional.
If your goal is to kill the roach as close to instantly as possible, look for a spray that focuses on fast knockdown.
Best Roach Spray Picks
With plenty of products on the market, what’s the best roach killer spray? Let’s see…
Bengal Gold Roach Spray: Residual Spray
Powerful, professional-strength residual insecticide with added IGR (especially good for German cockroaches). Kills roaches and prevents them from reproducing. Indoor/outdoor.
Zevo Roach Spray: Instant Kill
A pet-friendly, people-safe, naturally strong roach spray. Uses essential oils for fast knockdown. Indoor/outdoor.
#1: Bengal Gold Roach Spray
|The most powerful cockroach killer spray on the list. A combination insecticide + IGR||Not the quickest knockdown|
Active Ingredient: 2% Permethrin
One of the most powerful roach sprays available in stores, Bengal Gold Roach Spray packs a punch to rival professional spray products. It’s a permethrin-based product that also features an IGR component (pyriproxyfen, a.k.a. “Nylar”) that stops juvenile roaches from completing their development (keeping them from reproducing). That’s a killer combination for eliminating an infestation.
#2: Zevo Roach Spray
|Safe for people and pet-friendly||“Lightly” scented might not be what you want|
Active Ingredients: 0.25% Geraniol, 0.25% Cinnamon Oil
Zevo is an all-natural roach spray that kills pests with essential oils. Using a combination of geraniol (from flower oils) and cinnamon oil, and pumped from a spray bottle, it targets roaches’ nervous systems for fast (but not instant) knockdown.
#3: Hot Shot Roach Spray
|12-week residual effect||Slow knockdown; not for outdoor use|
Active Ingredient: 0.75% Imiprothrin
Hot Shot Roach Spray is a basic, effective instant roach spray that kills on contact, albeit with a slower knockdown rate than other sprays. It’s a good multipurpose choice to start with.
As a bonus, it also disinfects surfaces (but shouldn’t be used on counters or anything that food touches). Choose one of several available scents so you won’t mind spraying it around your house!
#4A: Ortho Ant & Roach Killer 1
|Kills on contact and eliminates germs||Weaker formula|
Active Ingredients: Cypermethrin 0.030%; Pyrethrins 0.011%ETOC (Prallethrin) 0.011%
Ortho Ant & Roach Killer 1 is the original Ortho contact spray. It uses a slightly weaker formula but kills cockroaches quickly and kills bacteria they’ve left behind.
#4B. Ortho Home Defense Ant, Roach, Spider Killer 2
|Kills on contact and disinfects||Pets and children must stay away until dry|
Active Ingredients: 0.030% Cypermethrin, 0.011% Pyrethrins, 0.011% ETOC (Prallethrin), 0.008%
As a newer replacement for Ortho 1, Ortho Home Defense 2 is a non-staining aerosol that kills cockroaches quickly when sprayed directly on the insect.
#4C. Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer for Cracks & Crevices
|Expanding foam boosts coverage||Can must be held upright when spraying|
Active Ingredient: 0.030% Deltamethrin
Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer for Cracks & Crevices sprays on as a liquid, then turns into an expanding foam, reaching into spaces a normal spray would miss. The active ingredient, Deltamethrin, degrades over a period of one to two weeks.
#4D. Ortho Home Defense Ant & Roach Killer with Essential Oils
|Safe for use around kids and pets||Weaker than other sprays|
Active Ingredients: 0.950% Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, 0.364% Cinnamon Oil, 0.213% Geraniol, 0.142% Castor Oil, 0.069% Cornmint Oil, and 0.069% Clove Oil
Ortho Home Defense Ant & Roach Killer with Essential Oils uses a combination of roach-killing essential oils along with a surfactant (a compound similar to dish soap) which coats and attacks their bodies.
#5. Black Flag Dry Ant & Roach Killer
|One of the stronger formulas on the list||Slow knockdown; fumes may cause irritation|
Active Ingredients: Imiprothrin 0.100%; Gamma-cyhalothrin 0.025%
Black Flag Ant & Roach Killer spray uses a powerful 0.1% Imiprothrin formula to kill cockroaches on contact and keep killing them for up to 6 months. This dry spray is non-staining and easy to wipe up after you’ve sprayed.
#6: Raid Ant & Roach Spray
|Odorless residual effects for up to 4 weeks||Weaker formula than Hot Shot|
Active Ingredient: 0.6% Imiprothrin
Another kill-on-contact spray with lasting impact, Raid Ant and Roach Spray is good for about 4 weeks after application. Just spray until the surface is wet (or the bug is dead) and let it dry.
#7: Black Flag Roach Killer Spray
|Fast knockdown, lasting effects||Not the strongest formula|
Active Ingredient: 0.1% Imiprothrin
Black Flag roach spray kills roaches on contact and keeps working as a residual insecticide for up to 16 weeks (longer than several other sprays). With a 0.1% pyrethroid-based formula, it’s a product with a mid-range power level.
#8: Combat Max Ant and Roach Killer Foam Spray
|Foam expands so you can see exactly where you’ve applied before it dries invisibly||Not for use on porous or delicate surfaces|
Active Ingredient 0.05% Neo-Pynamin, 0.05% Cypermethrin
Combat Max And and Roach Killer Foam Spray kills roaches on contact with a fast-acting foam formula. Spray it in cracks, crevices and holes and watch the foam expand to coat the entire surface with roach-killing insecticide. It dries and disappears but its active ingredients keep working for months.
#9: Temprid Ready to Spray
|Non-aerosol, Bag-on-Valve system for 360º spraying||Weaker formula; not for spraying directly on roaches|
Active Ingredient: 0.05% Imidacloprid, 0.02% beta-Cyfluthrin
Temprid Ready to Spray is a versatile home roach spray that sprays in any direction—even upside-down—so you can apply it in very hard to reach areas. It’s best used as a spot treatment for cracks and crevices.
Tips for Using Roach Spray
Check out these tips for using the above roach sprays to kill cockroaches and keep them out of your home!
How to Get the Best Results from a Spray’s Residual Effects
If you’re using an instant-kill spray, your target is obvious: hit the darn roach.
But if your spray comes with days or weeks of additional residual coverage, we’ve got some tips for maximizing your success.
The kitchen and bathroom are usually the biggest hotspots; that’s probably where you first spotted the roaches. When you kill one in those rooms, let the spray dry. Other roaches (yes, there are probably more hiding nearby) might come out at night and fall victim to the leftover insecticide themselves.
If the roach escaped into a crevice before it died, have no fear! It’ll still die. And in the process, may spread the poison to other roaches that come into contact with it, poisoning them, too.
Avoid overuse. If the spray doesn’t contain a residual meant to be left behind, (such as Zevo), go ahead and wipe up any excess. If you’ve left a puddle on the floor, go ahead and wipe it up. You don’t want anyone slipping and falling on the stuff (or a pet licking it up).
And most importantly, use sprays smartly. Read product labels and follow directions exactly, not just to be as effective as possible, but to keep your family safe.
Which brings us to…
Are Roach Sprays Safe Around Kids, Pets and… Bees?
While most cockroach sprays are mostly safe to use around your family and kids (our bodies break down the active ingredients quickly), that’s not always true for your pets.
Those active ingredients known as pyrethroids can seriously harm cats if ingested, and though dogs fare better, pyrethroids in quantity can hurt them, too. Pyrethroids aren’t known to be dangerous for birds, but fish are much more sensitive. Pyrethroids can easily kill your fish if these chemicals contaminate their water.
The solution for pet parents is to either buy a different roach spray that doesn’t contain pyrethroids (for example, Zevo Roach Spray, which uses essential oils to kill roaches)… or to take precautions:
- Don’t spray near your dog or cat’s food and water, and don’t spray directly on or near them—you don’t want them licking the insecticide off.
- Don’t leave a puddle of spray where a dog or cat might want to lick up—that’s probably too much to be safe. And cover your fish tank carefully any time you use a cockroach spray nearby.
Also worth noting: Pyrethroids and neonicotinoids are toxic to certain beneficial insects that you may find occasionally buzzing around inside your home. These bugs tend to flowers and generally help the environment. Better to catch a bee or dragonfly in a cup and usher it out the door than have it land somewhere that’s been treated with cockroach spray, which might kill it.
Why You Might See More Roaches Coming Out After Spraying
No, you’re not imagining things! There’s a chance you’ll see more of these annoying pests emerging in the day or two after you’ve sprayed.
These are the roaches that are trying to escape, and they’re signs that you’ve sprayed the correct areas! The more important metric is how many roaches you see after one or two weeks of treatment.
You might also see more dead roaches lying on the floor. For some reason, roaches seem to come out into the open to die, often lying on their backs. It’ll look weird at first but it’s actually a positive side effect of your roach spraying efforts!
Do Roach Sprays Kill Other Bugs?
Yep! Many of the same active ingredients that get rid of cockroaches also kill fleas, ticks, spiders, mosquitoes and ants. In fact, many products include “Ant & Roach Spray” in the name.
Add Roach Spray to Your Roach Control System
Even the best cockroach spray shouldn’t be your only weapon when you have a serious cockroach problem.
Because roaches are adaptable creatures that have a habit of outsmarting a lot of the ways we use to kill them. Go ahead and “knock down” that ugly roach in the bathtub, but dab some gel baits in cracks and crevices elsewhere in the bathroom to kill even more roaches as they feed.
When you discover a cockroach nest, feel free to spray it! While you’re at it, puff some insecticidal dust like boric acid, diatomaceous earth—or better yet, CimeXa—into the area where you found it. Dust behind outlets, in cracks in the floorboards and in holes in the wall, too.
A spray may be great for taking care of a stray roach or even a dozen if you hit the right crevice, but they’re just not designed to target the heart of the colony like poisoned baits and deadly dusts.
Roach bait complements sprays by killing roaches as they feed. Even better, they attract roaches out from their hiding spots and spread their poison among the colony. Insecticidal dusts work with sprays by killing roaches as they crawl around searching for food.
And cockroach traps (like roach motels) are especially useful because they’ll show you whether or not your spray treatments are working. How? By counting the cockroaches they’re catching over time, you’ll know if your problem is improving or getting worse.
Or, take a cue from Zevo’s formula and use your own essential oils to repel and kill roaches! In minutes, you can make a homemade roach spray that works with just peppermint essential oil, cedar essential oil and water.
The best roach spray for most people does one thing well: it stops a sprayed roach in its tracks with the fastest knockdown. As a bonus, a good roach spray keeps killing any roaches that come by for days or weeks after that first spray.
Choose one that meets your needs—nontoxic for pet owners, residual-focused for wide applications, quick knockdown for anybody who doesn’t want to chase a half-dead roach under the fridge.
With the right spray, a little determination and a healthy side of sanitation, you’ll be on your way to a roach-free home sooner than you might think!
You can do this!
Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by James Miksanek, PhD.
Disclaimer: This page is strictly for informational use. When using insecticides, keep in mind—the label is the law. Insecticides should be applied correctly and safely when needed, and according to the laws of your state or country.
Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.
James Miksanek, PhD.
James is an entomologist and adjunct professor of biology. His background is in biological control, and he has a passion for ecology and environmental science. His research has addressed a variety of topics including pest control and the management of invasive species. You can learn more about our contributors here.
- Pyriproxyfen: PubChem Compound Summary for CID 91753. (2020) National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Pyriproxyfen.
- Martins, Ademir Jesus and Denise Valle (2012) “The Pyrethroid Knockdown Resistance.” Soloneski, Sonia and Marcelo Larramendy, eds. Insecticides: Basic and Other Applications. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=_-GdDwAAQBAJ&lpg=PA17&ots=8WOEUp0YpJ&dq=pyrethroid%20knockdown&lr&pg=PA17#v=onepage
- Brutlag, Ahna and Dr. Heather Handley. Pyrethrin/Pyrethroid Poisoning in Dogs. VCA Hospitals. Retrieved from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/pyrethrin-pyrethroid-poisoning-in-dogs