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Introduction

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:

Illustration of cockroach droppings on a wall, under a magnifying glass, beside a light switch

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

Illustration of cockroach droppings from large species, as shown under a magnifying glass

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

Magnifying glass showing droppings from small roach species such as brown banded and German roaches

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?

Can cockroach poop 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

Vacuum cleaner cleaning carpet
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

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

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.

Vacuum

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.

Clean

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.

Dispose

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.

Suggested Products If You Have a Cockroach Problem


To Find Cockroach Hiding Spots and Kill Them Quickly When You Have Just a Few

Recommended for all cockroaches

Exterminator’s Choice Sticky Glue Traps

Used to measure and monitor a cockroach infestation and provide some supplemental control.

BASF PT P.I. Contact Insecticide

P.I. is a spray insecticide that kills roaches fast. Best when used as a supplement to other treatments, it’s not inexpensive, but far more effective than off-the-shelf sprays.

To Kill Cockroaches Inside Your Home When You Have a Serious Problem

Recommended for German cockroaches and Brown banded cockroaches, as well as American cockroaches (Palmetto bugs, Water bugs, Tree roaches, Sewer roaches), and Oriental cockroaches when they enter in large numbers.

Rockwell Labs CimeXa Dust Insecticide

CimeXa is an effective indoor crack and crevice treatment. For best results, use alongside Advion Gel Bait and Gentrol IGR.

HARRIS Diatomaceous Earth Powder Duster

Insecticidal dusts like CimeXa work best when applied with a duster tool. This inexpensive diatomaceous earth duster works fine with CimeXa, Delta Dust, and other recommended dusts.

Syngenta Advion Cockroach Gel Bait

Advion first poisons the roaches that eat it, then others in a secondary kill. For the most effective indoor treatment, combine with CimeXa insecticidal dust and Gentrol IGR.

Gentrol Point Source IGR

Gentrol is an insect growth regulator (IGR) that interferes with roach reproduction. It’s most effective used alongside Advion Gel Bait and CimeXa insecticidal dust.

To Kill Cockroaches Outdoors Before They Have a Chance to Get Inside

Recommended for American cockroaches (Palmetto bugs, Water bugs, Tree roaches, Sewer roaches), Oriental cockroaches, and Smokybrown cockroaches.

Bayer Polyzone Suspend Insecticide

When used on exterior foundations, entries, and walls, Suspend insecticidal liquid stops outdoor roaches before they get in. It requires a separate sprayer (see below), and works best alongside a granular outdoor bait like Intice and an outdoor crack and crevice treatment like Delta Dust.

Chapin 1 Gallon Multi-Purpose Sprayer

Liquid pesticides require a separate sprayer. This inexpensive pump sprayer works fine for smaller jobs.

InTice Perimeter Insect Control Bait Granules

InTice is a granular bait that kills roaches outdoors and in spaces like your garage or attic. Used alongside a spray treatment like Bayer Suspend and a crack and crevice treatment like Delta Dust, it can protect the entire perimeter of your home.

Delta Dust Insecticide Dust

Waterproof and long-lasting, Delta Dust is a crack and crevice treatment effective in high-moisture areas such as attics, exterior walls, and plumbing lines. Delta Dust is regulated and unavailable in some areas.

Next Steps

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

How to clean roach droppings off circuit boards?

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.

How to Clean Droppins Off Books?

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.

Are Roaches Attracted to Dog Feces? Do Cockroaches Eat Cat Feces?

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.

6 Comments

  1. Hello. I live in an apartment building. Why do the roaches keep defecating in my kitchen cabinets where I have prescriptions and vitamins, herbs,? I’ve taped off as many cracks and crevices as I can and started caulking with clear silicone. The Harris roach tablets did nothing, I spray around a bleach & water mix some nights, I tried mint oil and tea tree oil. I think the oils attract them. The glue traps did nothing, the gel tube poison hardens up. I spray Raid when I see a roach.

    • Terri Martin Reply

      Hello. I have found that the product ‘Roach Away’ is very effective. It has borac acid in the powdered formula, the same that is used in laundry detergent, 20 Mule Team. Sprinkle it under your fridge, dishwasher and stove and other places where roaches creep. I use in conjunction with that, Home Defense bug spray, and roach bait traps. It can take up to 4 months to be rid of them because it has to go through several cycles of hatchings. I have had two experiences with renters bringing roaches into my rentals, and these methods have worked for me. Even professional extermination can take that long to see results. Good luck!

  2. Whats happens to roach stuff when it gets old from a large roach. I found one single black thing in my trash can under the bag. I dont even know if it was a dropping. Its hard. I know mouse droppings get hard and crumbles when pressed. This doesnt crumble but i can squeeze it. Dont they usually leave multiple droppings?

  3. droppings left by american roach how do they age? I know new ones are soft and oily. I found one black thing in my trash can underneath the garbage bag. It was black the size of a grain of rice. It was hard and doesn’t break easily. it can be bend. Dry. I thought it was a piece of food so i touched it with my hand. Now Im not sure as it looks like droppings.

  4. Hi, I had a roach infestation a few years ago, since then I’ve seen no more roaches and done many thorough deep cleans, but I can still smell them. I’ve cleaned with disinfectant, bleach, baking soda, orange cleaner, pinesol, plain soap and water, everything I’ve read that can supposedly help get rid of the smell and nothing has worked. Do you have any suggestions for something that will work that I haven’t tried?

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