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Are you serious about getting rid of cockroaches but don’t want to resort to pesticides and other dangerous chemicals? The internet is full of DIY techniques using plants, spices, herbs and more that are said to repel roaches or force them to leave.

Do any of them really work? Yes! We’ve got the rundown on all-natural cockroach repellent – which work, and which don’t.

Ready? Let’s see…

Hint: Need more natural ways to repel cockroaches? Try our Essential Oils for Roaches, and How to Keep Roaches Away guides. You may also want to see our Natural Roach Killer guide.

What Do Cockroaches Hate?

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach being stopped by a stop sign before entering a house.

Despite cockroaches’ reputation for living almost anywhere and eating almost anything, there are a few things that they just can’t stand. Most species are picky about the temperature, some are picky about the humidity, and a few really hate lights.

But you don’t want to freeze yourself in your own house and run fans in every room just to make the cockroaches uncomfortable. And be careful about using lights—some roaches will run away but others love them.

Luckily, for those looking for an all-natural roach repellent, there are more than a few out there, and almost all of them involve one thing: smell.

What Smells Repel Cockroaches?

Several strong, specific scents have been shown to deter roaches and other insects. Let’s go through some of the most common ideas for using herbs, spices, plants and essential oils to repel cockroaches and see if these home remedies are worth trying.

How to Use Essential Oils as Natural Roach Repellent

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach being frightened away by a bottle of essential oil

Essential oils give off potent, often pleasant, scents that many people diffuse to relax or rejuvenate themselves. Some of these strong fragrances seem to do the trick against cockroaches, too.

Tea Tree Oil

Many homeowners report that roaches don’t like tea tree oil. You can combine 1 part vinegar and 4 parts water with a few drops of tea tree oil and apply the mixture with a spray bottle to deter cockroaches from specific areas.

Buy: MAJESTIC PURE Tea Tree Oil – Pure and Natural Therapeutic Grade Tea Tree Essential Oil – Melaleuca Alternifolia – 4 fl oz

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil has a strong scent that seems to have some success in repelling roaches. You can dilute it with water and spray areas you think cockroaches might have nested.

Buy: NOW Essential Oils, Eucalyptus Oil, Clarifying Aromatherapy Scent, Steam Distilled, 100% Pure, Vegan, 4 Fl Oz (1 Count)

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is one of the most relaxing, stress-reducing essential oils available. But while it’s calming and comforting us, it’s driving insects away! Based on reports from people who have tried it, there’s a good chance that spraying lavender oil or pouring it into small dishes tells cockroaches and other pests to turn around and leave.

Cypress Oil & Peppermint Oil

According to some, you can keep cockroaches away with peppermint oil and cypress oil. As with most of these essential oils, their effectiveness is based mostly on anecdotal evidence, not scientific research. Nonetheless, some people claim success with water-diluted peppermint or cypress oil sprays – and there is some scientific evidence to back that up.

At the very least, there are worse scents than cypress and peppermint to fill your home with while you test these methods. Each of these essential oils gives off a fresh, invigorating odor that will help ease your mind, even if it doesn’t turn out to be completely successful against your roach problem.

Buy: Majestic Pure Peppermint Essential Oil, Pure and Natural, Therapeutic Grade Peppermint Oil, 4 fl. oz.

What Herbs, Spices and Plants Keep Roaches Away?

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach worriedly eyeballing a crown of garlic

Mint Plants & Oil

Mint plants give off a strong odor that’ll quickly freshen up any room. They’re also one of the best natural cockroach repellent plants you can grow.

Mint essential oil is a potent natural insect repellent and a good first choice when trying DIY solutions. Plus, mint plants are fun to grow and great for cooking and cocktails! Research has found that it’s also toxic to at least two species of roaches (the American cockroach and the German cockroach), which makes it all the more powerful as part of your cockroach elimination plan.

Buy: Seed Needs, Peppermint Herb (Mentha piperita) Twin Pack of 1,000 Seeds Each Non-GMO

Bay Leaves

Another common belief is that bay leaves’ strong smell can keep roaches at bay. Some fresh bay leaves probably aren’t going to stop a large infestation, but their scent could be enough to deter a few roaches. They also contain eucalyptol, an organic compound that repels bugs. (Rosemary and tea tree leaves contain it, too.)

You can place fresh bay leaves in small bowls near the places you think the cockroaches are hiding, or where you don’t want them going, like your cupboards, cabinets and pantry.

Buy: Yamees Bay Leaves – Bay Leaves Bulk – Bay Leaves Whole – Laurel Leaves – Bulk Spices – 3 Ounce Bag

Cinnamon

What about that favorite spice on crème brûlée, French toast, coffee and more—cinnamon? There’s no doubt it’s one strong scent, but unfortunately its odor, alone, isn’t as effective as bay leaves or mint oil. However, combining fresh cinnamon sticks with other fragrant herbs and spices might keep some insects away.

Pandan Leaves

Pandan leaves are popular ingredients in Southeast Asian cooking but they’re not much of a cockroach repellent. There’s a chance that these bugs will avoid the fragrant leaves but they’re not potent enough to keep the pests out of your house for good.

Buy: Pandanus Leaves, Dried | Aromatic and Delicious Blade-like Leaf | Popular Ingredient in Southeast Asian and South Asian Delicacies 0.5 oz.

Garlic

Don’t forget about what’s probably your first choice when you think about strong odors and fragrant foods: garlic! Can the bane of vampires also keep cockroaches out of your kitchen? It’s possible! Roaches seem to dislike the scent, so sprinkling a little garlic powder in specific areas could turn them away.

However, you won’t want to pour garlic powder, mint oil or any of these herbs and spices all over your house—that would be smelly. So despite their positive effects, these DIY solutions probably aren’t going to eliminate your cockroach problem; they might simply move it to another area of your home.

Can You Repel Roaches With Fruits and Vegetables?

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach unworried about a slice of lemon

You might’ve heard claims that lemons are a great natural cockroach repellent. Many people advise homeowners to clean areas of their kitchens and bathrooms with lemon juice and water. However, this might help control roaches because it means more thorough cleaning, not necessarily because it means they’re deterred by the smell.

Others think placing crushed or ground lemon peels in high-risk areas could repel roaches. Again, the lemon-scented mixture might not be effective without the cleaning that usually goes with it.

How to Repel Roaches With Other Household Items

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach running away from a citronella candle

Catnip

Catnip might not be your first thought when you’re facing a roach problem—after all, it drives your cat crazy in the wrong way! But roaches have exactly the opposite reaction to this herb (which is part of the mint family). Nepetalactone, which is one of the main ingredients in catnip, is a strong repellent of cockroaches and some other bugs and could be very effective against your unwanted pest guests.

Buy: OurPets Cosmic Catnip, 100% Natural, Premium North-American Grown Catnip

Coffee Grounds

Some homeowners have also reported success when using coffee grounds as a natural cockroach deterrent. Fresh grounds could be placed in shallow containers on the floor or in cabinets to keep bugs out of specific areas.

Citronella Candles

Will citronella candles keep cockroaches away? You see them on patios, at picnics and around campsites all over the world. But citronella candles typically target flying insects, like mosquitos and gnats. They might make a few flying cockroaches stop buzzing toward the lights, but it’s probably not going to stop them from marching into your home.

Citronella Oil

However, citronella oil can be a more effective roach repellent. Even better, it’s non-toxic and pet-safe! Applying it is as simple as using a paper towel to wipe a little of the oil in the areas around their entry points and anywhere you’ve spotted them before.

Buy: 2oz – Artizen Citronella Essential Oil (100% Pure & Natural – UNDILUTED) Therapeutic Grade – Huge 2 Ounce Bottle – Perfect for Aromatherapy

Can You Scare Roaches Away?

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach running away from being squashed

You might wonder if you can scare roaches away with noise or lights. Well, that’s an easy one—yes, they’re terrified of you! That’s why they freeze in their tracks or run (or fly!) away as soon as you flick on a light and see them.

Unfortunately, you won’t scare them all the way out of your house. If they’ve made themselves comfortable, they’ll just hide in cupboards, cracks or crevices until it’s safe to come out again and continue searching for food.

There’s another category of products that you might’ve seen commercials for: “ultrasonic pest repellers” or other kinds of sound machines. While it could be debated whether these are a “natural” roach deterrent, they do claim to work, and do it without chemicals. Unfortunately, most of the research done so far shows that these aren’t effective ways to keep cockroaches, rodents or other pests out.

Conclusion

The best natural ways to get rid of roaches are the tried-and-true methods: thorough cleaning, natural insecticides (such as food-grade diatomaceous earth and boric acid) and a call to your local pest control company. Essential oils, herbs and spices won’t kill roaches and, though they might be able to deter them from certain areas, they probably won’t convince them to move on to another habitat—somewhere where you’re not their roommate.

But if you do choose to battle these bugs yourself, you can learn even more about the details of each cockroach species, their eggs, their diets and much more by exploring our other guides and articles. Good luck!


Sources

  1. Yigzaw, Erika (2017) Green Cleaning: 10 Essential Oils That Naturally Repel Insects. American College of Healthcare Sciences. Retrieved from https://info.achs.edu/blog/green-cleaning-repel-insects
  2. Appel, Arthur G. et al. (2001) Repellency and Toxicity of Mint Oil to American and German Cockroaches. Auburn University Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. Retrieved from https://scentsoc.org/Volumes/JAUE/v18/149.pdf
  3. Banish, Daizy et al. (2008) Eucalyptus essential oil as a natural pesticide. Forest Ecology and Management. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378112708006166?via%3Dihub
  4. Wagers, Kay (2017) Citronella As Roach Repellent. Hunker. Retrieved from https://www.hunker.com/13406775/citronella-as-roach-repellent
  5. Myth Busted: Is Pandan Leaf an Effective Cockroach Repellent? Rentokil. Retrieved from https://www.rentokil.com.sg/my-pest-control-quick-tips/pest-myths/myth-busted-is-pandan-leaf-an-effective-cockroach-repellent/

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