Cartoon illustration of a woman vacuuming her floor, an angry cockroach looking on

Prevent Roaches Through Sanitation #1. Getting Rid of Stuff

Active Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours

Cockroaches love homes that provide shelter and plenty of tasty things to eat. In this Roach-Free Recipe, you'll deprive them of both by clearing out clutter and items they've damaged or infested.

This sanitation recipe is the first of three and works best if you've already found and gotten rid of the infestation.

Also see: A Simple 5-Step Guide For Getting Rid of Roaches.


  • Large, Heavy-Duty Garbage Bags


Purchase Materials

  1. Purchase a box of heavy-duty garbage bags. You'll be throwing out lots of stuff, some that's possibly infested. Contractor bags work best.

Turn on Lights. Put on Music.

  1. Music may not sound like a roach removal tool, but a pair of earbuds and your favorite tunes will make this chore much easier. There's also something to be said for a positive attitude going in, especially in tasks like this where a little elbow grease can directly improve your quality of life. Lighting up the space is also a good idea. It may not do anything to motivate you, but is going to help you see.

Grab Your Box of Garbage Bags and Do a Thorough Purge

  1. Unless you're dealing with a very small problem, roaches have probably soiled your stuff. Some of it may be worth salvaging, but much of it (especially involving food) may not.
  2. In this step, you'll work room-by-room, identifying soiled items and throwing them away. At the same time, you'll do a more general clean-out, tossing items that might be attracting roaches, or could attract them in the future.
  3. Since kitchens are a little different from other rooms—and in several ways more important, you may want to start there:

In the Kitchen (Where You'll Want to Work Extra Hard)

  1. Grab your garbage bags and step stool and head to your kitchen cabinets. Empty them of everything and transfer those items to a workspace like a countertop or a table.
  2. Separate items into four piles: Food in Boxes; Food in Jars, Storage Containers and Cans; Loose Unpackaged Food; and Non-Food Items (dishes, utensils, paper products, etc). Then do this:
  3. Food in Boxes. If a box is open - even slightly - roaches could have gotten in. Do you take a chance? No. Just throw the item out. If the box is stained with roach debris, the porous cardboard creates a health hazard. You should throw that box out, too. If the box is unopened and undamaged (and you're sure, right?), you can leave it on the workspace for now.
  4. Food in Jars, Storage Containers and Cans. If a jar or can has been opened, roaches may have contaminated the space between the jar and lid—and you should throw it out. If sealed but roaches have soiled the outside, it may be possible to wash it later, so you can keep it if you want.
  5. Loose, Unpackaged Food. Foods like fresh fruits and vegetables or uncovered bowls of snacks are easy targets for roaches and may be absolutely crawling with them when you're not looking, especially at night. If it's something like a thick-skinned banana, you can try to wash it later, but your safest bet is to throw most unpackaged foods out.
  6. Non-Food Items. Most non-porous items (like dishes and utensils) can probably be cleaned of roach debris (you'll do it later). Porous items like paper goods become a health hazard when soiled by roaches. So definitely throw those items out.
  7. With the contaminated items thrown away, scan what remains on your workspace and consider—do you really need all that stuff? Roaches are attracted not only to food, but to clutter. Grab your garbage bag again and pitch items you can probably live without.
  8. Next, move on to other areas of your kitchen - to shelves, cubbies, the top of the fridge, etc., sorting and throwing out in the same way. When you're done, seal up the garbage bags you've filled, leave your workspace (you'll be returning to it later), and move onto another room—

In the Bathroom, Bedroom (And Every Other Room)

  1. Since food handling isn't as much an issue outside the kitchen, cleaning out other rooms is a little simpler.
  2. With your garbage bag in hand, do a walk-through in the room, bagging up obvious items that have been soiled, and anything that looks like trash.
  3. Open drawers, cabinets, trunks, and storage boxes, doing the same thing - first throwing away roach-damaged items, then anything you consider trash.
  4. Kneel down and do the same for the spaces underneath things (like under couches, chairs and beds). Then use your step stool to go through higher areas like shelf tops and the tops of bookcases.
  5. One you've bagged up the most obvious stuff, you're going to want to tackle clutter, throwing away anything you don't really care about or need. Pay special attention to:
  6. Paper clutter, including magazines, newspapers, catalogs, cardboard boxes, and piles of paperwork and mail. Roaches don't just hide inside these things. They eat them.
  7. Toys, playthings, puzzles, old homework, and kids artwork. Lots of kids stuff is made from paper that roaches eat, along with paints, inks, and glue (that they eat, too). If you can stand to part with it, get rid of it.
  8. Old clothes, boots, gloves, and shoes. Roaches like to hide in clothes and can eat the leather in your footwear.

Whew! Nice Work!

  1. After you've gotten rid of as much clutter and infested stuff as you can... Congratulations! You're another step closer to living in a permanently roach-free home. So seal up the garbage bags you've filled, take them outside, and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. You're ready for the next step!

  2. Next Sanitation Step 2: Cleaning What Roaches Left Behind

1 Comment

  1. I positively appreciate this article. Thank you for all the non poisonous herbal and natural based
    Suggestions. This evening I used Mrs Meyers In my bathroom. Last night, a large roach scuttled into the space under the toilet. I really thought I could head it off at the pass. How did it squeeze in there? Obviously there is more space than I was aware. It was the first LARGE one I have seen in the house. I hate them. Thank you for the tips

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