There are few calls more urgent in the exterminator’s world, than from people who’ve discovered a nest of German roaches. The bugs are nasty, smelly, unhealthy to have around, and ruin literally everything they touch.
Though not the easiest bug to get rid of, you don’t have to live with German roaches anymore. And you won’t need an exterminator if you learn to take care of them yourself.
Today you’ll learn how to get rid of German roaches in 3 simple proven steps, with techniques and tools that anyone can use.
Ready to take back what’s yours? Let’s go.
The German Roach Rap Sheet
First the bad news—
German cockroaches are notoriously difficult to control.
They breed and spread with dizzying speed, survive on very little, and don’t give up without a fight. They’ll infest your home winter or summer, destroy everything they touch, and so long as they’re fat and happy, will never… ever… leave.
Bombs won’t kill them all, sprays only scratch the surface, and as you’re trying to figure out a solution, all those tiny roaches are multiplying and getting worse.
But there is some good news, and it has to do with what’s proven to work before. The plan below isn’t the only solution, but it’s best way to get rid of German roaches that we know.
Here’s how to get rid of German cockroaches forever, step-by-step:
Step 1: Create a Battle Plan by Identifying German Cockroach “Hot Spots”
Let’s talk about battle plans and how you create one for German roaches.
Professional exterminators don’t go into a home and start spraying right away. They create a strategy based on information, and predictably, because it almost always does, the solution falls into place.
The core of that plan is a piece of detective work known as an inspection, which informs everything they do next. And while that might seem an obvious first step, few non-professionals do it, usually to their loss.
The inspection accomplishes a number of things, two of which are essential if you want to get rid of German roaches yourself:
- It provides a picture of how bad the overall problem is, and –
- It shows you where the roaches are most active.
If you do it right, the inspection tells you not only whether you can handle the problem yourself (if you discover that your home is literally seething with roaches, you may want to pass on the DIY), but precisely where to focus your efforts.
So an inspection is the first step in this plan, and there are two ways you can choose to do it:
By going room-by-room, and recording the signs of cockroaches that you find, or by combining those same observations with the evidence gained from sticky traps, which provide more accurate information.
Here’s how to do either kind:
Option #1. Do a visual inspection
Beside being absolutely free, a visual inspection has the advantage of being something you can do right now to put a solution into action. Like certain other problems, roaches don’t wait around as we take time to make a decision. With every day that passes, the problem gets worse. So the sooner you begin, the better.
To do a proper inspection, you’ll need a strong flashlight, a hand mirror, a step stool for high-up places, and a towel or knee pad to comfortably kneel on. You’ll also want a notepad and pen to jot down your observations, along with a piece of chalk to mark areas directly.
Being German roaches, you’ll want to start in the kitchen.
Begin your inspection in the kitchen
With plenty of food, warmth, and water to be found, the kitchen is a German roach’s favorite spot. You’ll find them everywhere in the kitchen, typically far more than any other room. A good place to begin is the refrigerator area, which German cockroaches love.
You don’t want to be shy with the refrigerator. With a little careful tugging, they’re usually easily moved. Pull the refrigerator a short distance away from the wall and look behind and underneath it—on the floor, the wall, and every surface of the refrigerator itself. Examine the coils and the motor area, the refrigerator’s adjustable feet, and the sealing strip along the door.
Now what do you see?
Any bits of shell, cockroach droppings, tiny corpses, or living cockroaches themselves?
Jot down the location in your notebook, along with a brief description of how much cockroach activity you see. If you found significant activity, mark the nearby floor or wall with a little bit of chalk. You’ll be returning to that spot later (and the chalk will help you find it).
Move on to the stove, pulling it away from the wall if that’s safe to do. Examine the sides and back of the stove, as well as the flooring underneath it. Examine the wall and cabinet surfaces next to and behind it.
Lift the stove top and peer underneath it. Examine the burners and drip pans. Remove the clock face if possible, and examine the internal mechanics or electronics. Examine the inside of the oven, the inside of the broiler, and any voids underneath it. Look under the oven itself with your flashlight as best you can.
Jot down your description, place a little mark of chalk where you find cockroach activity, and move on to the dishwasher, examining it in the same way. Pay special attention to the gaskets which sometimes fail and let cockroaches in.
Now that you’ve got the hang of it, move on to every other area of your kitchen, including your sink and under-sink areas, your cabinets, drawers, and shelves. Look underneath dish mats and drying racks, under pet food bowls, and underneath, around, and inside trash cans.
Look behind pictures and wall calendars, behind and inside wall clocks, under bubbles and gaps in the wallpaper, inside ceiling light fixtures and, being cautious, inside electrical outlets (you’ll need a screwdriver to remove the face plates).
Jot down your descriptions in your notebook and mark what you need to with chalk. If you think you might have missed a spot, scan the room in sections—up high, eye-level, and down low.
Then move on to other rooms
You’ll inspect other rooms in exactly the same way, beginning with rooms that offer the easiest access to food, warmth, and water. German cockroaches like bathrooms for those reasons, so take your inspection there next, paying special attention to dark, moist, hidden areas, like the holes where pipes enter the wall, and under-sink cabinets.
Move on to bedrooms, closets, and other areas of your home, repeating the same process—pulling objects away from the walls when practical and safe, examining the areas behind them, jotting down observations in your notebook, and marking any problem areas that you find.
Option #2. Couple a visual inspection with sticky traps
Where a visual inspection can be a game-changer in a plan to get rid of German cockroaches, sticky traps take things to the next level. Professional exterminators don’t usually call these devices sticky traps, but insect monitors, which is a better description of how they’re used.
Here’s why you may want to use them:
First, they actually do kill roaches, typically within just hours of laying them down. They don’t wipe out cockroach populations the way the products in Step 2 below do, but help to reduce them, especially at the beginning.
Second and more importantly, sticky traps take the guesswork out of your inspection. Rather than having to rely on signs of activity that may have happened months ago, you’ll know where all the hot spots are right now.
To use sticky traps (or monitors) in this phase of the plan, you’ll do the same inspection you did above, but lay down sticky traps at the same time you jot down your observations.
You’ll mark each trap with its location, mark the area nearby with chalk, and gather up all your traps in a couple of days. Then you’ll count the cockroaches in the trap, jot down the ares with the highest activity in your notebook, and know exactly where to hit in Step 2.
—The cost for sticky traps? About a dollar each. Less in bulk and multi-packs.
Step 2: Eliminate German Roaches with a Multi-pronged Attack
Okay, now that you’ve found areas of high activity, it’s time to get to work.
You’ll be targeting the high-activity areas revealed by your inspection, and hitting them with several different tools: a vacuum cleaner, cockroach baits, insecticidal dust, and for a final wallop (in an optional last step) a dose of Insect Growth Regulator (IGR).
Why not just one product? Because German cockroaches are difficult to completely eradicate and can come back if you don’t strike them hard. The best exterminators do this. You’ll be glad you did it, too.
So let’s start with a technique and tool you already know quite well: the vacuum cleaner.
1. Suction up visible German Roaches with a vacuum cleaner
How do you get rid of German roaches with a vacuum cleaner? By surprise, mostly. And by going after more than just the bugs themselves—namely, parts of their habitat. You cant get rid of German roaches entirely with a vacuum cleaner, but it’s an excellent way to start.
Using the location information in your notebook, visit the first hot spot on your list and vacuum up everything you see. You’re going to want to suction up everything that’s not clean—crumbs, debris, debris, body parts, cockroach eggs, and every panicking, scrambling roach that dashes by your feet.
Many people find this job more than a little satisfying, not just because it’s slightly murderous, but because it feels good to physically reclaim your home.
Use your vacuum cleaner’s attachments to your advantage, especially the brush and crevice tools (that you can use to scrape surfaces and poke deeply into cracks). If the mood strikes you, you can grab a bucket and do some scrubbing too, but don’t use any harsh or smelly chemicals right now. Dish soap and water would be about right.
When you’re done vacuuming and possibly cleaning, remove the bags from your vacuum cleaner, gather up any rags you used, and carefully dispose of them in a tightly sealed plastic bag. If there’s any chance a critter could discover and rip into it, pop the bag into the freezer for a few hours. The cold will kill any living cockroaches inside.
2. Poison German roaches with gel bait
Vacuuming didn’t only get rid of dead and living roaches, egg cases, and a bunch of disgusting gunk. It reduced the food supply for the colony, making products like cockroach gel bait more effective.
Gel baits—another favorite of professional exterminators—are formulations of attractant and pesticide that deliver a lethal poison when eaten. Roaches don’t die right away, but over time, typically when they return to the nest, bringing the poison with them to further spread.
The tiny amount of poison in the gel isn’t enough to harm you, your family, or your pets, but a single syringe or station of bait can often be enough to wipe out an entire German cockroach colony.
To use gel baits, you’ll return again to your home’s cockroach hot spots, then squeeze modest, pea-sized drops into any cracks and crevices that you find nearby. Within a few days you’ll notice dead or dying roaches. Within a couple of weeks, you’ll have wiped out scores or hundreds more.
It’s possible to eliminate the entire colony with gel bait, but a second product, insecticidal dust, will kill roaches that the gel bait may have missed.
—The cost for gel bait? About $30 to treat your entire house.
3. Kill German roaches with insecticidal dust
Roaches depend on their hard, protective exoskeletons to shield their tissues and retain moisture. When their exoskeletons become damaged, they dehydrate and quickly die.
Insecticidal dust takes advantage of this vulnerability by damaging roaches’ exoskeletons. It abrades their bodies as they crawl through it and also poisons them after they groom themselves and ingest it. It’s an excellent complement to gel bait because the products attack German roaches in different ways.
To use insecticidal dust, you’ll “puff” the product with a “hand duster” into voids you haven’t “baited”—inside cracks and crevices, gaps between moldings, long window sills, and behind electrical face plates and fixtures.
Too much dust will scare them off, but a fine layer will kill cockroaches extremely well. You’ll want to puff it deeply into cracks where it can coat multiple surfaces. Inside walls a single application of dust can work for years.
By the end of this stage you may have killed your last German cockroach, but a last product, insect growth regulator (IGR), will keep an infestation from coming back.
—The cost of insecticidal dust? About $25 for an inexpensive hand duster and a bottle of CimeXa.
4. Stop German roaches from reproducing with insect growth regulator
German roaches’ biggest advantage is their ability to quickly reproduce. A single German cockroach female can produce over 400 nymphs in her lifetime, and your home can become infested with German roaches within just a matter of months.
Insect growth regulators (IGR) interfere with that cycle by stopping roaches from reproducing. Used alongside baits and insecticidal dusts, IGR’s offer a kind of insurance policy that attack the cockroach life cycle and keep them from springing back.
Like baits, dusts, and vacuuming, you’ll apply IGR only where it’s needed most. Unlike baits and dusts which have to be eaten or touched, IGR’s travel through the air as a vapor, settling on their shells where it’s absorbed.
If you decide to use one, an IGR can help to “seal the deal,” and since they also stimulate roach’s appetite, they can make gel baits more effective.
—The cost for a dose of IGR? $15- $30.
Step 3: Keep German Roaches from Coming Back
You’ve met the enemy head-on, and with just a handful of tools, won a major battle.
In this final step, you’ll make sure you don’t have to face an infestation again. You’ll make it harder for German cockroaches to discover your home, and harder to survive should they get in.
Keeping German roaches out
Here’s an important question to ask yourself: How did German roaches manage to get inside your home in the first place? Do you know?
If you live in an apartment they might have made their way through your neighbor’s walls (see below), but there’s another way they do it, too. They hitchhike. German roaches are expert hitchhikers that climb into things you might not expect, and end up in new territory like your home.
They might have hitchhiked into your home through:
- Second-hand bargains. Love them? German cockroaches love them too! And will happily travel back with you from thrift shops, yard sales, and in boxes of free stuff sitting by the road.
- A visit to a roach-infested home. Unrecognized infestations are no joke. A quick visit to an ailing aunt may be all it takes to bring back a tiny stowaway inside your purse or pant cuff.
- Groceries. It’s only a short hop from an infested grocery store to your home. Grocery bags are notoriously easy for German cockroaches to crawl into, and they’ll end up not only in your home, but your car as well.
Your first task if you want to keep German roaches from coming back is to consider how they might have gotten in originally, and to figure out a way to keep them from doing it again.
Making your home inhospitable to German roaches
The next task is to make your home a barren, awful place for German roaches. The sort of place that when they pay a visit, they’ll turn around and run. You can do that by depriving them of the two things they can’t live without—food and water.
Do a second inspection of your home if you need to—beginning with kitchens and bathrooms—to find the water sources that have been keeping the colony alive. These could be leaky pipes or faucets, drips from window sills or air conditioners, pools of water that collect around the sink or bathtub, or areas of condensation.
Fix what needs fixing, and begin mopping up moisture where it occurs.
Next, start eliminating food sources by storing pantry items and cooking ingredients in hard, airtight containers. If you have pets, don’t leave their food out overnight. Use a trash can with a lid and change the bag frequently.
Finally, focus on your cleaning habits, which make a big difference in what roaches find to eat. Wash the dishes and rinse the garbage disposal every night. Clean it with baking soda and vinegar every few weeks, too. Make it a habit to sweep and vacuum the floors at least every 2–3 days, removing every crumb that could provide a roach a meal.
Read on: How to Keep Roaches Away for Good
A serious pest deserves a serious pest control plan. Using the one here, you’ll know how to get rid of German roaches, and keep them away for good. Now all you need to do is start.
You’ve got this!
Frequently Asked Questions
German cockroaches are light tan in color, which distinguishes them from other small roaches. They’re tiny, barely the size of a penny, and winged. Look for a pair of dark stripes running down their backs.
The unfortunate answer is yes… very. German roaches are the worst of all the roaches when it comes to home invasions and getting rid of them is no walk in the park. From their rapid reproduction to their ability to scavenge from almost any food source, German roaches are incredible survivalists.
Once they’re in, they’re there to stay… at least, until you start following our 3-stage system above!
German cockroaches are an indoor roach species; they almost never live outside. While other species prefer to live among the mulch and branches around the outside of homes, German roaches thrive inside, hiding under kitchen appliances and in cardboard boxes in basements and attics.
German cockroaches usually spread by riding along in bags, boxes, clothing and vehicles. That’s right—if you’ve found German roaches in your home, they were probably brought there accidentally.
These pests hide in furniture, yard sale items, suitcases and grocery bags. They might even hide in trouser cuffs of coat pockets. Often, though, they simply come from a neighboring house or apartment.
The best way to know if you’re dealing with German roaches is to see one of these critters crawling across the floor. Then, you’ll get a good look at its light brown color and dark strips. Other signs of roaches include droppings (which look like black pepper), egg cases (tiny brown cylinders) and a musty smell.
German cockroaches enter homes for 3 basic reasons: food, water and a place to live. Food is anything from a full-to-the-brim garbage bag to dirty dishes in the sink or crumbs on the floor. These scavengers drink the condensation on pipes and the water dripping from leaky faucets. As for hiding places—anywhere that’s dark, damp and warm is fair game.
It’s not as easy as you might think… Even squishing them with your shoe or the end of a broomstick might not kill them. German cockroaches have hard but flexible exoskeletons that can withstand immense pressure. The surest way to kill roaches is with a good insecticide, natural or chemical.
The best pesticide for German roaches generally, is gel bait and the most popular product is Advion gel bait.
It’s simple to use, highly effective and kills more than just the roach that ate it. That’s right—it spreads. With the combination of its powerful pesticide and its ability to kill roaches right inside their nest, it’s your best chance at eradicating a German cockroach infestation.
No, roach bombs are rarely effective against German roaches. They might actually make the problem worse, coating your home in dangerous chemicals while forcing the roaches to spread out into more locations around the house.
Although they have wings, German cockroaches don’t fly.
After hatching, baby German cockroaches grow to be adults in about 60–100 days. Then, they live for about 6 months, on average.
You’re not in danger of being bitten by a German cockroach; they almost never bite humans. They’re much more likely to run away from any kind of danger. Only in the very largest infestations have German roaches been known to bite fingernails or hair.
A female German cockroach produces an egg case that she carries around until it’s time for the eggs to hatch. The egg case can contain as many as 50 eggs. A day or two before they hatch, the female attaches the egg case to a surface where it’s well-hidden and far out of reach from humans or other animals. Then, the baby cockroaches hatch and begin fending for themselves.
Yes, your car can also fall into the clutches of a hungry German roach population. How should you get rid of them?
Step 1: Don’t use roach bombs or foggers.
Step 2: Check out our Roach-Free Recipe, which will take you step-by-step through the process of getting rid of roaches in your car.
German roaches aren’t as adventurous as their American or Smokybrown cousins. They usually stay indoors, hiding near their food source and only venturing out at night.
However, German roaches can travel long distances if they’re hitchhiking in a package, luggage or a moving van! After all, they traveled across the ocean to the U.S. aboard ships hundreds of years ago.
They might seem indestructible but German roaches have predators, too. Frogs and some other amphibians eat these pests. Some beetles and spiders also catch cockroaches for prey. Unfortunately, once German roaches have found a home in your home, there are few predators to threaten them… other than you, that is.
Getting rid of German roaches forever means killing them at the nest and eliminating food and water sources so they can’t rebound after every treatment. It’ll take a combination of insecticides (natural or otherwise), detective skills, perseverance and good cleaning habits—in other words, our 3-stage German roach control system!
Find even more tips for dealing with the fearsome German roach and other species with our comprehensive guide to getting rid of cockroaches forever.
- Ogg, Barb et al. (2006) Cockroach Control Manual. University of Nebraska Extension. Retrieved from https://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/roach/cockroach%20manual.pdf
- How to Get Rid of German Cockroaches. Ortho. Retrieved from https://www.ortho.com/en-us/library/bugs/how-get-rid-german-cockroaches
- Nagro, Anne (2019) Rethinking German Cockroach Control. Pest Control Technology Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.pctonline.com/article/rethinking-german-cockroach-control/