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When you find yourself face-to-face with a roach infestation, certain discoveries are unpleasant, while others are just plain… awful.
Roach droppings for most of us fit right into the awful category. And if you’ve been unlucky enough to find the stuff somewhere (like where your family eats and sleeps and lives), you’re probably not only thoroughly disgusted. But angry. And more than a little confused.
After all, roaches haven’t just been attacking your home. They’ve been using it for a toilet. And if there are enough droppings around that you’ve actually seen it (think for a moment about all the droppings in places you can’t see), the roaches have been winning. That is, until right now.
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If you can manage to hold your nose to the end of this article, you’ll not only have a better idea of how and why roach droppings got into your home. But how to get rid of it, along with all the roaches too. Ready?
What’s Inside Cockroach Droppings
Cockroach droppings are made up of all sorts of things that roaches have digested: Food from your cupboards, counters, and drawers. Garbage. Rotting flesh. And dead insects, including the carcasses of other cockroaches.
Cockroaches don’t pee (a not-so fun fact), but instead secrete solid and semi-solid waste. All of which varies in appearance, depending on the size, age, and species of roach you’re dealing with.
What Cockroach Droppings Look Like
What does roach feces look like? What you find will probably look something like this:
Generally speaking, cockroach droppings are dark brown or black pellets. They’re either roundish chunks or oval-shaped, and much of what you find will simply appear as smears and stains on the surfaces that cockroaches have been crawling over.
Of course, before a full-blown infestation, roach droppings will be so minimal and scattered that you may not even see them. While on the other hand, during a large infestation they’ll be almost impossible to miss, along with other nasty cockroach stuff like egg cases, discarded shells, and cockroach body parts.
Since you’ve managed to make it this far, let’s take a closer look at some of the tell-take signs that the leading culprits leave behind.
Droppings From Large Cockroaches
If there were a single rule of thumb that helped identify roaches by their frass (the more proper name for insect droppings), it would be this: Larger roaches make bigger droppings. American, SmokyBrown, and Oriental cockroaches are all considered larger species. They are usually more than 1 inch long. They produce solid, cylindrical feces that can be as large as a grain of rice.
If you were to look closely, you’d see ridges running from one end of the dropping to the other – giving it an appearance sort of like a fennel seed.
Do you have mice, too? Other than cockroach frass being smaller, this is one of the main differences between mouse droppings and those of cockroaches. Because mouse droppings will be mostly smooth. It will also be pointed at each end (unlike roach feces which is blunt), and sometimes has small hairs from the animal’s body stuck to it (which roaches of course don’t have).
Droppings From Small Cockroaches
The droppings from small cockroaches is different. Not just in size, but in shape. Small species like Brown-Banded and German cockroaches leave behind tiny brown or black specks or stains. The droppings can look like coarse ground coffee or grains of coarse black pepper, while the stains can be inky, smeared, or raised.
If you had to distinguish German cockroach frass from that of Brown-Banded cockroaches, you’d find that German roach frass was moister (more smeary), due to the German roach’s preference for wetter environments.
Frass From Baby Cockroaches
Baby cockroaches (called nymphs) produce feces similar to adult roaches, but smaller. The droppings of large cockroach nymphs are small, cylindrical, and ridged, while those of small cockroach nymphs are minuscule brown or black specks.
Does Roach Feces Have a Smell?
Does cockroach feces have a smell? Absolutely. It stinks. It also has an acrid, oily odor, but what your nose smells is only half the story. Because the odor roach droppings give off harbors a sinister secret.
It conveys signals to other cockroaches that they’re around, provides a trail for other roaches to follow, and ultimately helps them find each other.
Which means that the smell of roach excrement isn’t just bad. It’s actually attracting more roaches.
Can There Be Droppings But No Roaches?
In a word, yes. There can droppings from roaches that once lived inside your house, but have died or somehow left (like from a past extermination). Unless a roach or other insect eats it, or you knuckle down and clean it up, the droppings will just sit there, slowly decaying and sometimes molding for many, many years.
One way to tell if you have an active cockroach infestation is to clean up all the droppings you’ve found, then monitor your home to see if more appears. If it stays roach dropping-free, you probably don’t have a current infestation. If you find that more droppings appear however, it means it’s time to get those roaches out.
Can Cockroach Droppings Make You Sick?
Even if you don’t have an active infestation, roach feces is a bad thing to have around. Can roach it make you sick? Yes, it can.
Cockroach droppings (and shed skin) contain proteins that trigger allergies and asthma attacks in some people. They may even cause children to develop asthma. These proteins can linger in the home even longer than the feces themselves, remaining dangerous for years after the roaches themselves have gone.
Not only that, but cockroaches’ eating and living habits bring them into contact with bacteria, mold, fungi, viruses, and worms that they leave behind in their feces.
Couple that with the fact that roaches go to the bathroom literally everywhere, including in the food that you and your family eat.
Let that sink in for a moment. It means that if cockroaches are living anywhere inside your home, there’s a good chance you’re ingesting cockroach excrement.
Now consider this: Food poisoning can be caused by roach feces. And if the harmful bacteria that’s sometimes carried by cockroaches spreads from your digestive system to your blood stream, it could – potentially – even kill you.
How to Clean Roach Droppings
Cleaning feces and cockroach smear marks is nobody’s idea of a good time. But with your family’s health and safety on the line, you’ll be more than glad you did.
Suit up before you get to work. Old clothes are fine, and put on a pair of gloves. Purchase a protective face mask or a respirator to reduce exposure to potential airborne allergens.
Plan to vacuum first, using the vacuum to remove loose, dry roach droppings that have accumulated over time. Since vacuuming can stir up allergens, you’ll want to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to keep the air around you safe. If a HEPA vacuum isn’t available, soak the feces in disinfectant spray instead, then wipe it up by hand.
Everywhere that you find roach feces will require different cleaning methods.
- For carpets, start with the vacuuming tips above (you can scrape off any dried, stuck-on cockroach pellets before vacuuming to get most of it off first). Next, either use a carpet detergent (read the label to determine how much to dilute it) or mix up white vinegar, dish soap, and water (one teaspoon each of vinegar and soap to a full spray bottle of water) and spray the area. Scrub to work the soap into the carpeting. Let it fully dry before vacuuming again.
- On walls and hardwood, tile, cabinets, or vinyl flooring, choose a disinfectant spray that is safe for the material. Spray the affected area and leave it on for the recommended amount of time, then scrub to get out the stains.
- If you find roach droppings on your clothes, first scrape off any dried there, then treat stains and wash in the warmest water that is safe for the fabric.
- Cockroaches can also infest mattresses. As with clothing, the first step is to scrape off the dry feces. Next, mix disinfectant soap and warm water in a spray bottle, spray the area, and scrub with a coarse sponge. Spray again with just water to rinse the soap out, then let the mattress air dry.
Since cockroach feces is so unhealthy, you’ll want to wash or throw away anything that comes into contact with it. When you’ve finished the job, be sure to wash (or throw away) your gloves and work clothes, and dispose of rags and vacuum bags, preferably in sealed plastic trash bags that animals or other people can’t get to.
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Cleaning up roach debris is the first step to living cockroach-free and ultimately reclaiming your home. The next steps are to get the roaches that have set up residence, and to keep them from coming back. You can attempt to do that by yourself (and we’ll show you how here), or call in a professional pest control service to do it for you (we’ll show you how to do that here).
Either way, by knowing what to look for and knowing what to do, you don’t have to live with the stains, bad smells, and health risks of cockroach droppings even one more day, so long as you take action.
Frequently Asked Questions
Circuit boards are delicate. They need to be protected from water and kept away from cleaning agents. They also need to be protected from static electricity when exposed.
Take the same precautions you normally would when removing or exposing the board (such as wearing an anti-static wrist band). Then gently vacuum up loose roach droppings. Dip a small, soft nylon brush in isopropyl alcohol, remove excess alcohol, then carefully rub the material that remains.
Because books are handled regularly, you might first consider whether those contaminated with cockroach feces should be simply thrown away. Otherwise, this site offers a good place to start on cleaning them.
Cockroaches aren’t especially attracted to dog or cat feces, but will eat it when they find it. If you’re trying to eliminate roaches and are removing potential food sources, you should plan to remove any dog and cat feces, too.