Roaches are the last thing you should have to worry about in your car. Unfortunately, once these disgusting pests have settled in, what started as a small problem can often get much worse.
We’re going to show you exactly how to get rid of roaches in car interiors—permanently, and in a few simple steps.
Ready to quit riding shotgun with roaches and really make it stick?
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The Problem: How Do Roaches Get in Your Car, Anyway?
Let’s be clear. Cockroaches are the worst kind of passengers. They stink, go to the bathroom everywhere, and carry types of bacteria that could potentially make you and your passengers very, very sick.
Most people understand that, and while few of us would ever knowingly invite roaches into our cars, the fact is that they rarely end up there without some kind of human help.
Roaches by nature are not only good at infesting our stuff, they’re also expert hitchhikers inside the things we tote around. They can hide in almost anything we buy, borrow, carry, or wear, and can hide their eggs in those things, too.
Shopping bags for example, can easily become an entry point, and if you’re unlucky enough to be handed an infested bag of groceries at the store, you could soon be in for a hideous, long-lasting surprise.
Roaches also ride in suitcases, yard sale boxes, purses and backpacks, clothes from the laundromat and other places—all of which usually make a pit stop in your car before you bring them home.
Once inside your car, roaches will stick around for the cereal your kids dropped under the seat, the hamburger wrapper you thought you threw away, and all the other tasty treats that eventually got lost inside your car.
Needing very little to survive, and delighting in all the delicious crumbs you’ve left them, roaches will happily settle in for the long term, and quickly start to breed.
How To Get Roaches Out of Car Interiors with the “Special Ops” Approach
When you get serious about ending a roach problem, there’s something that’s important to understand: roaches are extremely good at what they do, and they don’t go down without a fight.
For car roaches that means setting aside the illusion of instant or effortless solutions (we’re looking at you, worthless roach bombs), in favor of a targeted, tactical, (what we call) Special Ops approach.
A Special Ops approach hits roaches hard in a couple of different ways. It takes a little more work at the beginning, and yes—a little bit more time, but it kills roaches more completely and for the much longer term.
The first important step in Special Ops is finding where the cockroaches are hiding in your car.
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Special Ops 1. How to Get Roaches Out of Your Car by Identifying Where They Hang Out
Finding the disgusting cockroach hideouts in your car does more than toughen up your character. It shows you exactly where you’re going to bring the fight.
The best way to begin this little task is with an exercise you’ll hear some exterminators refer to as “thinking like a roach.”
How to Think Like a Roach
Thinking like a roach is really pretty simple in a car, and sounds something like “Boy, I’m hungry. Where are all the crumbs?”
Thinking like a roach will probably lead you first to the space beneath the seats, where all crumbs, straw wrappers, empty water bottles and loose change fall, never to be seen again. You’d be surprised (unless you’re a parent) at just how much “food” collects down there —making it the perfect place for an ever-growing cockroach nest.
Next stop: the floor mats. Whether you’ve got plastic mats or fabric carpets, the stains and crumbs on top are typically only half the story. Underneath, check for tiny, car-loving German roaches or even tinier roach eggs. Flat and small, these bugs and the eggs they lay are perfectly designed to live and multiply, literally right underneath your feet.
The trunk holds plenty of areas where cockroaches like hiding, too. You might even have storage space or a spare tire compartment under the floor of the trunk that could be harboring them in large numbers.
Finally, roach thinking should lead you to areas like the tire-changing tool compartments, door pockets, glove compartment, air conditioning vents, and that fast-food-bag-turned-garbage-receptacle wedged between the seats.
Now that you’ve raided the roaches’ potential hideouts, it’s time to target those areas in two specific steps—
Special Ops 2. How to Get Rid of Roaches in Your Car by Hitting Target Areas Hard
The next part of Special Ops is taking what you learned about your tiny enemy’s comfy lifestyle and turning it against them: First taking away everything they love about your car, then killing them where they live.
Step 1: How to Make Your Car a Lousy Place For Roaches
While there’s nothing like a roach-infested car to turn one’s thoughts to murder, it’s not quite time to exterminate the little buggers yet.
What you’ll need to do first is to clean and clear out your car, removing anything and everything that could potentially provide a food source to a roach.
If you haven’t already removed the carpets, opened compartments and slid the seats out of the way, do it now. Then get in there with the best vacuum you can find and vacuum your car—every nook, cranny, crack and crevice.
If you don’t have a portable vacuum, drive to the nearest car wash. Most have powerful vacuums available for a few quarters. The vacuum is key because it’ll suck up even the tiniest crumbs from carpet fibers and let you reach into tight areas you wouldn’t be able to reach with your hand.
Then, clear out everything you could possibly live without.
Sure, if your car tends to look a little like a closet, you’re not alone. But all that clutter makes it easy for cockroaches to hide and breed. Empty your car of clothes, food containers, shopping bags and everything else that inevitably collects, piles up, and takes over.
Tip: If you use a van, truck or SUV to carry equipment, building supplies or cargo like mulch, firewood and recycling, you’re at high risk of a roach infestation. If your vehicle carries outdoor materials, be especially careful and clean as often as possible.
Step 2: How to Kill Roaches in Car Interiors Minus the Useless Bomb
We already mentioned that you shouldn’t use a bug bomb in your car, so we should probably tell you why.
For one thing, those bombs can stain and discolor your upholstery and headliner, leaving your car not only full of roaches, but looking worse than it did before.
And though a great big burst of fog might sound great for reaching every nook and cranny, it doesn’t always reach those places, or reach them with a lethal dose. The result is a car which still has roaches which have been driven more deeply in.
A better way to kill cockroaches in a car is a product called gel bait. Gel bait is a sort of sneaky secret weapon that’s applied in tiny amounts in or near the trouble spots you identified and vacuumed earlier. And it works in two exciting ways.
First, it entices roaches to eat it, slowly killing those that do. Then it spreads to others in the colony as they consume their fallen kin. A quality cockroach bait is so powerful that just a few drops can wipe out nearly every single cockroach in a car, often within a matter of days.
A suggested second step for a really bad infestation is an application of insect growth regulator (IGR) which not only attacks any cockroach nymphs that survived a round of baiting, but stimulates the entire colony to eat more bait. Pairing IGR with bait, you can completely eliminate even the worst car cockroach infestation within a single short-lived generation.
The Alternative Approach: How to Get Rid of Cockroaches in a Car Naturally
If you’re hesitant to start putting chemicals under your seats, you’ll be happy to know there are also a couple of effective natural ways to get rid of cockroaches in your car.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is an excellent cockroach killing product and it’s virtually non-toxic. Simply sprinkle a thin layer onto carpets and under seats. It kills cockroaches when they walk through it—they don’t even have to eat it!
Borax is another natural powder that kills roaches. Boric acid, which is made from the same mineral, works too! Roaches have to eat this one though, so mix it with a little peanut butter to make it tasty, fill some bottle caps with the mixture, and slip them deep underneath your seats.
What Happens if my Pets Eat This Stuff?
Luckily, the products we suggest aren’t nearly as toxic to pets as they are to roaches. Most of the ingredients found in gel baits are food-based, IGR formulas haven’t been found to be dangerous for pets, and when borax and diatomaceous earth are used in the slight quantities recommended, they shouldn’t present any harm.
That being said, please take care to limit the amount of product that you use, and place them where pets or children can’t reach them.
Tips to Prevent Cockroaches in Your Car
Easy Mode: Close the windows.
Yes, cockroaches are hitchhikers, but some like wood roaches are little explorers, too. Many can climb steep surfaces. And some can fly. Keep car doors and windows closed to keep them out. Avoid parking near wooded areas if you can and be careful at the local dump.
Inspect after trips to a hotel, campsite or yard sale.
You can’t avoid carrying luggage, boxes and the occasional bag of mulch in your car but you can be proactive and take a good look in the trunk after you’ve dropped everything off.
Spa Day: Treat your car to a wash and vacuum.
Keep your car clean! And every few weeks take ten minutes to remove the mats, vacuum the carpets and toss any garbage that’s collected. For the finishing touch, fill a bag with all of the things that you’ve “been meaning to” take into the house and take it into the house (of course, checking everything for roaches first).
Starve Them Out
Really want to break a cockroach’s heart? Avoid eating in the car and ask others not to do it either. Without all those food crumbs raining down, roaches will have nothing left to eat but each other.
Somehow, our cars don’t always get the same careful treatment as our homes. But cars are still at risk for roach infestations and it’s just as important to protect them.
Now that you know how to get rid of roaches in car interiors, it’s time to get to work.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s unlikely that a roach infestation will grow so large in your car that you’ll need professional help. Since it’s a confined space, there are only so many places where they can spread.
Using a combination of cleaning, gel baits, IGR if necessary, or natural alternatives, you should be able to eliminate roaches in a car yourself.
- Azuma, Tsukasa (2018) How To Get Rid Of Roaches Out Of Car – The Nifty Tricks. Car From Japan. Retrieved from https://carfromjapan.com/article/car-maintenance/how-to-get-rid-of-roaches-out-of-car/