Borax has been used in laundry products, household cleaners and more for decades. You might already have a box at home. It’s a versatile, natural mineral and, you’ll be happy to hear, an effective tool in your pest control arsenal!
It’s easy to get started.
Here’s your super simple breakdown of this simple and effective product—everything you need to know about borax for roaches, and how to put it to use it in your home.
Refresher: What’s Borax Anyway?
Borax is a naturally occurring mineral that’s common in quite a few household items: flame retardants, laundry detergent, cleaning sprays and more. If you have kids, there’s a chance you’ve already used it to make slime!
Borax is also a great natural cockroach killer. Compared to most chemical pest control treatments, it’s a relatively low-risk product. You should still keep it out of reach of children and pets (they might be more sensitive to it, especially if eaten) but you can use it carefully around your house without leaving chemical residue or nasty smells everywhere.
Are Borax and Boric Acid the Same Thing?
Nope—well, not quite. Borax (sodium borate) is a natural mineral. Boric acid is the chemical that comes from borax when it’s processed and purified with hydrochloric acid. Borax is the more common household item but both borax and boric acid will help get rid of roaches.
How Borax Kills Roaches
For borax to work as an effective cockroach killer, the roaches have to eat it. Borax doesn’t attract roaches but we’ve got some recipes for baits that the roaches won’t be able to resist (see below!).
Borax works by sticking to a cockroach’s legs via static electricity—that’s the same thing that makes your hair stand up when you rub a balloon on your head. Later, once it’s gone back to its hiding place, the roach will clean itself by eating the white powder. Once it’s eaten it, the borax acts like poison in the roach’s stomach.
It also damages a cockroach’s exoskeleton (and its digestive system). Borax is technically sodium tetraborate and the “sodium” part penetrates the roaches’ exoskeletons and dehydrates them. Cockroaches already dehydrate easily, which is why borax is so effective at killing them.
Does borax kill roaches instantly?
A roach that steps in borax won’t die instantly. Instead, they’ll go back to their hiding place before eating the borax dust their legs picked up. You might not see the dead bugs lying around out in the open but you should notice a drop in their numbers in a week or two.
How to Use Borax to Kill Roaches
You can buy borax powder in many grocery stores, often in the laundry or soap aisle. Hardware and pool supply stores might also carry large tubs of the powder. Some stores even sell it as a liquid or a spray.
In general, borax is most effective as a powder. That way, it’s easy to spread and mix with other baits and it sticks better to roaches’ legs.
Here are a few simple recipes for borax dusts and other baits that’ll kill cockroaches in your house!
1. Borax and Sugar
Will borax and sugar kill roaches? It sure will, and it’s one of the easiest recipes for borax pest control. It’s as easy as mixing equal parts borax and sugar, pouring the mixture into a squeezable bottle and dusting the areas where you’ve seen roaches. A powdered sugar dispenser or similar container will also work, as long as you can spread a light dusting. Just don’t use the same dispenser to put powdered sugar on your pancakes!
In this recipe, the sugar attracts the roaches and the borax that’s mixed in gets eaten along with the sugar. That’s all it takes!
Expert tip: Add a couple of pennies, marbles or tiny rocks to the bottle to break up clumps when you shake it.
2. Baking Soda and Borax Bug Killer
If you’re already using either borax or baking soda, it might be overkill to use both. Baking soda is a roach killer, itself. It’s already deadly to roaches and could even be used as a substitute for borax. Baking soda kills cockroaches by causing gas to build up in their digestive systems.
But both products are pretty easy to find and inexpensive, so there isn’t really a downside to combining them. So you can mix borax and baking soda but you’d be better off adding one of the other baits in this article to attract the roaches.
3. How to Get Rid of Roaches with Borax and Tasty Cockroach Baits
Try to think of some kind of food that cockroaches aren’t attracted to. We’ll wait.
While there are some natural cockroach repellents out there, pretty much everything that’s at all edible will bring hungry cockroaches scurrying. To make your borax cockroach baits as effective as possible, you’ll want to use the foods they love the most.
- Egg yolks – Place a raw egg yolk in a small cup, shot glass or similar container and lightly sprinkle borax powder onto it.
- Peanut butter – Leave a spoonful of peanut butter in a bowl or on a plastic lid and sprinkle borax onto it.
- Cocoa powder – Just like sugar, it’s a sweet bait that roaches can’t resist and mixes well with the borax powder.
- Liquid baits – As you’ll see in a moment, you probably don’t want to mix borax with liquid baits. Instead, you can sprinkle borax dust around the container you’ve put the bait in so the roaches will walk through it.
All of these bait-and-borax combos can be hidden in corners, cupboards, electrical outlets, and by applying borax to other strategic areas.
Other Borax Solutions
Not every claim about using borax for roaches is entirely accurate. We’ve got the details on some of the most common homeowner questions.
Does borax spray work?
Probably not. You can dissolve borax in water to use in a spray bottle. However, mixing it with water will probably cancel out the dehydrating effects that make it so powerful against roaches. It could still be effective if they ingest it, but it’s less likely to work than a powder that sticks to their legs.
Do borax and vinegar work together?
Nope. Vinegar has been touted as a cockroach repellent and killer but neither is true.
Vinegar can clean cooking surfaces and your garbage disposal, reducing the chances that roaches will be attracted by food smells or that they’ll spread bacteria. However, it doesn’t have any negative effects on the roaches. Mixing borax powder with vinegar will only reduce the effectiveness of the borax. And roaches may end up the winners.
Borax balls for roaches
This method works but it requires some very attractive bait because you need the cockroaches to eat the mixture on the spot. One simple recipe includes borax powder and flour or sugar mixed with cornstarch and onion powder. Then, you slowly stir in water until you can form balls from the “dough.”
Once you’ve made a few balls, you can put them in small bowls or baggies and hide them in areas where you’ve seen roach activity (but where kids and pets can’t get to them).
Expert tip: You can also use boric acid and milk as substitutes for water and borax – cockroaches won’t know the difference.
Using Borax for Roaches – Some Quick Tips
- It’s better to use a light dusting of borax powder so that the roaches don’t notice and avoid it.
- Stick to dry mixtures or use boric acid, instead.
- Keep replacing your baits and add a fresh coating of borax dust regularly to kill more cockroaches.
- Be aware that while borax is a naturally occurring mineral, it is NOT safe for you, your children, or your pets to ingest. So keep it far away from pet food, people food, and anywhere little hands might get hold of it.
Borax won’t be a one-and-done solution. You’ll have to keep up with the cockroaches, especially if there are more than a few hiding in your house.
Keep in mind that for true infestations, you’d be wise to leave the job to a professional pest control service. But by beginning your own borax pest control program – with a good mixture of borax and roach bait – you’ll have what it takes to start kicking cockroaches out for good!
Want to learn about other all-natural solutions for your cockroach problems? Check out our overview of natural cockroach repellents and our breakdown of the essential oils that can keep roaches away.
Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by Rae Osborn, 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.
Rae Osborn, PhD.
Dr. Rae Osborn holds Honors Bachelor of Science degrees in Zoology and Entomology, and a Master of Science in Entomology from the University of Natal in South Africa. She holds a PhD in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, where her research was in Entomology. You can learn more about our contributors here.
- Strong, Charles A., et al. (1993) Oral Toxicity and Repellency of Borates to German Cockroaches. Journal of Economic Entomology. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/86.5.1458
- Helmenstine, Anne Marie Ph.D. (2020) What Is Borax and How Is It Used? ThoughtCo. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-borax-where-to-get–608509
- Miley, Michelle (2017) How to Use 20 Mule Team Borax -Roaches. Hunker. Retrieved from https://www.hunker.com/13420313/how-to-use–20-mule-team-borax-to-kill-roaches
I really appreciate how detailed your article is because I have an outdoor aviary. Once a month or so I do a through cleaning by lifting up a large metal oil pan on which I put all the bird dishes and stored containers of seed. When I picked up the pan I discovered cockroaches! I had our pest control man come over and he brought sticky traps with bait. The traps did catch a few roaches but mostly dirt. Yesterday, I put the borax mixed with sugar under the metal pan. My fear is to not do something harmful to my canaries and finches and doves. Any suggestions to further get rid of these pests.