Natural Cockroach Control


Borax has been used in laundry products, household cleaners and more for decades. You might already have a box at home. It’s a versatile, natural mineral and, you’ll be happy to hear, an effective tool in your pest control arsenal!

It’s easy to get started.

Here’s your super simple breakdown of this simple and effective product—everything you need to know about borax for roaches, and how to put it to use it in your home.

Refresher: What’s Borax Anyway?

Borax is a naturally occurring mineral that’s common in quite a few household items: flame retardants, laundry detergent, cleaning sprays and more. If you have kids, there’s a chance you’ve already used it to make slime!

Borax is also a great natural cockroach killer. Compared to most chemical pest control treatments, it’s a relatively low-risk product. You should still keep it out of reach of children and pets (they might be more sensitive to it, especially if eaten) but you can use it carefully around your house without leaving chemical residue or nasty smells everywhere.

Are Borax and Boric Acid the Same Thing?

Nope—well, not quite. Borax (sodium borate) is a natural mineral. Boric acid is the chemical that comes from borax when it’s processed and purified with hydrochloric acid. Borax is the more common household item but both borax and boric acid will help get rid of roaches.

How Borax Kills Roaches

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach sadly looking at the pile of borax powder it's walked through.

For borax to work as an effective cockroach killer, the roaches have to eat it. Borax doesn’t attract roaches but we’ve got some recipes for baits that the roaches won’t be able to resist (see below!).

Borax works by sticking to a cockroach’s legs via static electricity—that’s the same thing that makes your hair stand up when you rub a balloon on your head. Later, once it’s gone back to its hiding place, the roach will clean itself by eating the white powder. Once it’s eaten it, the borax acts like poison in the roach’s stomach.

It also damages a cockroach’s exoskeleton (and its digestive system). Borax is technically sodium tetraborate and the “sodium” part penetrates the roaches’ exoskeletons and dehydrates them. Cockroaches already dehydrate easily, which is why borax is so effective at killing them.

Does borax kill roaches instantly?

A roach that steps in borax won’t die instantly. Instead, they’ll go back to their hiding place before eating the borax dust their legs picked up. You might not see the dead bugs lying around out in the open but you should notice a drop in their numbers in a week or two.

How to Use Borax to Kill Roaches

Illustration of a cupboard shelf with a bowl of sugar, a box of borax, and a box of baking soda, roach character unhappily looking on.

You can buy borax powder in many grocery stores, often in the laundry or soap aisle. Hardware and pool supply stores might also carry large tubs of the powder. Some stores even sell it as a liquid or a spray.

In general, borax is most effective as a powder. That way, it’s easy to spread and mix with other baits and it sticks better to roaches’ legs.

Here are a few simple recipes for borax dusts and other baits that’ll kill cockroaches in your house!

1. Borax and Sugar

Will borax and sugar kill roaches? It sure will, and it’s one of the easiest recipes for borax pest control. It’s as easy as mixing equal parts borax and sugar, pouring the mixture into a squeezable bottle and dusting the areas where you’ve seen roaches. A powdered sugar dispenser or similar container will also work, as long as you can spread a light dusting. Just don’t use the same dispenser to put powdered sugar on your pancakes!

In this recipe, the sugar attracts the roaches and the borax that’s mixed in gets eaten along with the sugar. That’s all it takes!

Expert tip: Add a couple of pennies, marbles or tiny rocks to the bottle to break up clumps when you shake it.

2. Baking Soda and Borax Bug Killer

If you’re already using either borax or baking soda, it might be overkill to use both. Baking soda is a roach killer, itself. It’s already deadly to roaches and could even be used as a substitute for borax. Baking soda kills cockroaches by causing gas to build up in their digestive systems.

But both products are pretty easy to find and inexpensive, so there isn’t really a downside to combining them. So you can mix borax and baking soda but you’d be better off adding one of the other baits in this article to attract the roaches.

3. How to Get Rid of Roaches with Borax and Tasty Cockroach Baits

Try to think of some kind of food that cockroaches aren’t attracted to. We’ll wait.

While there are some natural cockroach repellents out there, pretty much everything that’s at all edible will bring hungry cockroaches scurrying. To make your borax cockroach baits as effective as possible, you’ll want to use the foods they love the most.

  1. Egg yolks – Place a raw egg yolk in a small cup, shot glass or similar container and lightly sprinkle borax powder onto it.
  2. Peanut butter – Leave a spoonful of peanut butter in a bowl or on a plastic lid and sprinkle borax onto it.
  3. Cocoa powder – Just like sugar, it’s a sweet bait that roaches can’t resist and mixes well with the borax powder.
  4. Liquid baits – As you’ll see in a moment, you probably don’t want to mix borax with liquid baits. Instead, you can sprinkle borax dust around the container you’ve put the bait in so the roaches will walk through it.

All of these bait-and-borax combos can be hidden in corners, cupboards, electrical outlets, and by applying borax to other strategic areas.

Other Borax Solutions

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach shaking its fist at a bottle of borax roach spray

Not every claim about using borax for roaches is entirely accurate. We’ve got the details on some of the most common homeowner questions.

Does borax spray work?

Probably not. You can dissolve borax in water to use in a spray bottle. However, mixing it with water will probably cancel out the dehydrating effects that make it so powerful against roaches. It could still be effective if they ingest it, but it’s less likely to work than a powder that sticks to their legs.

Do borax and vinegar work together?

Nope. Vinegar has been touted as a cockroach repellent and killer but neither is true.

Vinegar can clean cooking surfaces and your garbage disposal, reducing the chances that roaches will be attracted by food smells or that they’ll spread bacteria. However, it doesn’t have any negative effects on the roaches. Mixing borax powder with vinegar will only reduce the effectiveness of the borax. And roaches may end up the winners.

Borax balls for roaches

This method works but it requires some very attractive bait because you need the cockroaches to eat the mixture on the spot. One simple recipe includes borax powder and flour or sugar mixed with cornstarch and onion powder. Then, you slowly stir in water until you can form balls from the “dough.”

Once you’ve made a few balls, you can put them in small bowls or baggies and hide them in areas where you’ve seen roach activity (but where kids and pets can’t get to them).

Expert tip: You can also use boric acid and milk as substitutes for water and borax – cockroaches won’t know the difference.

Using Borax for Roaches – Some Quick Tips

Illustration of a dead cockroach beside a borax box. Label reads: "Quick Tips."
  1. It’s better to use a light dusting of borax powder so that the roaches don’t notice and avoid it.
  2. Stick to dry mixtures or use boric acid, instead.
  3. Keep replacing your baits and add a fresh coating of borax dust regularly to kill more cockroaches.
  4. Be aware that while borax is a naturally occurring mineral, it is NOT safe for you, your children, or your pets to ingest. So keep it far away from pet food, people food, and anywhere little hands might get hold of it.


Borax won’t be a one-and-done solution. You’ll have to keep up with the cockroaches, especially if there are more than a few hiding in your house.

Keep in mind that for true infestations, you’d be wise to leave the job to a professional pest control service. But by beginning your own borax pest control program – with a good mixture of borax and roach bait – you’ll have what it takes to start kicking cockroaches out for good!

Want to learn about other all-natural solutions for your cockroach problems? Check out our overview of natural cockroach repellents and our breakdown of the essential oils that can keep roaches away.

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by Rae Osborn, PhD.

Disclaimer: This page is strictly for informational use. When using insecticides, keep in mind—the label is the law. Insecticides should be applied correctly and safely when needed, and according to the laws of your state or country.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Science Editor

Dr. Rae Osborn holds Honors Bachelor of Science degrees in Zoology and Entomology, and a Master of Science in Entomology from the University of Natal in South Africa. She holds a PhD in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, where her research was in Entomology. You can learn more about our contributors here.


  1. Strong, Charles A., et al. (1993) Oral Toxicity and Repellency of Borates to German Cockroaches. Journal of Economic Entomology. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/86.5.1458
  2. Helmenstine, Anne Marie Ph.D. (2020) What Is Borax and How Is It Used? ThoughtCo. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-borax-where-to-get–608509
  3. Miley, Michelle (2017) How to Use 20 Mule Team Borax -Roaches. Hunker. Retrieved from https://www.hunker.com/13420313/how-to-use–20-mule-team-borax-to-kill-roaches

If you’ve seen one cockroach or signs of a few hanging around your home, you’re probably looking for an easy, natural solution to deal with them before you start calling the local pest control service.

Could peppermint essential oil be an effective natural way to get rid of cockroaches?

Well, there are just a few things to know before you start wiping down every surface in your home with the stuff.

So we put together the scoop on peppermint oil for roaches right here.

Hint: Need more natural ways to control cockroaches? Try our Essential Oils for Roaches, Natural Cockroach Repellent, Borax for Roaches, and How to Keep Roaches Away guides!

How Does Peppermint Oil Repel Roaches?

If there’s one thing no one doubts, it’s that peppermint oil has a strong smell. It’s a refreshing fragrance, one that’s unmistakable and potent with a capital “P”.

Is that enough to send roaches packing? Indeed, several studies suggest it is.

The Scientific Evidence

A 2001 study by researchers at Auburn University tested the effects of mint oil on two of the most common species of cockroaches: American roaches and German roaches.

What they found is surprising—and great news for the millions of homeowners across the U.S. looking for an easy, safe, natural way to repel cockroaches.

During each day of their 14-day experiment, the mint oil repelled 100% of the roaches. 100%! That’s a significant result.

It’s also big news for anyone dealing with a cockroach problem who’s nervous about using dangerous chemicals or who’s not yet ready to call a professional pest control service.

Peppermint oil poses relatively little risk to children and pets (though you should still keep them from ingesting it). And it comes with another benefit: it’ll quickly freshen up an entire room!

What’s really interesting is that peppermint oil has another trick up its sleeve: its effects go beyond repelling cockroaches.

Does Peppermint Oil Kill Roaches?

Not only is peppermint oil a natural cockroach repellent—it’s also toxic to roaches (and for the record, to bed bugs, too).

The same Auburn University study found that mint oil killed both German and American cockroaches when they came into contact with it for an extended period.

What Makes Peppermint Oil Toxic to Insects?

Research shows that menthone (which is a compound similar to menthol) is the ingredient that makes peppermint oil a potential roach killer. Menthone is the compound that gives mint oil its “minty” fragrance and it’s present in the oils of most common mint plants.

What does that mean for your DIY pest control system? Unfortunately, you probably won’t kill many cockroaches with peppermint oil. In the experiment, the roaches were continuously exposed to the mint oil.

Under normal circumstances, cockroaches are simply too fast to be affected by brief contact. Plus, mint oil is a repellent, so the roaches will likely stay away from it. It’s possible that cockroaches avoid the scent of mint oil because it’s poisonous to them.

The bottom line is it would take much more physical exposure to kill the cockroaches than you’re likely to get with a spray bottle.

How to use peppermint oil to repel roaches in your home

Peppermint oil is super-easy to use in your home. It’s not foolproof but it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to experiment with to see what works best.

You don’t need any fancy equipment to start; just mix 10 to 15 drops of the pure peppermint essential oil with water in a spray bottle. (You can also use other kinds of mint essential oil as they’ll also contain menthone.) Then, spray generously on walls, counters and other surfaces where you’ve seen cockroach activity. This should be enough to deter roaches, at least for a time.

As an alternative to peppermint oil spray, you can also wet cotton balls with peppermint oil and water and place them in cupboards, along walls or in closets.

You will have to reapply pretty frequently so the fragrance doesn’t wear off. Since cockroaches are nocturnal, your best bet is to reapply each night before you go to bed. That way, when the roaches are most active, your peppermint oil repellent is at its strongest.

For a stronger solution, you can even mix in some white vinegar. If you didn’t believe us before, believe us now: that’s a strong scent. Use 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water and then mix in those 10 or 15 drops of peppermint oil. Then, spray away. Don’t be afraid to spray in your cabinets and pantry, your bathroom and other areas where you don’t want to find roaches.

Tip: If you’re also using baits to kill cockroaches, don’t spray peppermint oil on the baits. You might think it’ll make the baits more effective but because peppermint oil is also an insect repellent, it will instead convince roaches to avoid the baits. You can use both peppermint oil and baits but you should apply them in separate areas of your home. (The same goes for traps: you’ll want to put baits in your traps, not a repellent like peppermint oil.)

The Verdict: Will Peppermint Oil Repel Roaches in Your Home?

Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for: does peppermint oil for roaches make sense?

The answer is yes!

Peppermint essential oil can likely deter roaches in your household.

Like all pest control solutions, it depends on your specific circumstances, the size of your roach problem and the way you apply the treatment. But with patience and perseverance, there’s a good chance you’ll see at least some difference by using peppermint oil to repel roaches.

Hopefully, you’ll see quick results! You can learn more about where cockroaches hide, how to keep them away for good and lots more in our other articles.

Good luck!


  1. 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
  2. Phillips, Alicia Kyser (2009) Toxicity and Repellency of Essential Oils to the German Cockroach. Auburn University. Retrieved from https://etd.auburn.edu/bitstream/handle/10415/1942/thesis%20draft%209.pdf?sequence=1&ts=1424397356350

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The essential oils craze goes beyond soothing aromas and relaxation. Many homeowners claim essential oils can repel cockroaches and yes – science has shown that some of them can!

Why use essential oils for roaches? Well, they’re easy to buy, safer than pesticides and they smell much better than most pest control chemicals. They’re all-natural and easy to apply with a spray bottle in hard-to-reach places.

Of course, there are also oils that aren’t likely to do anything more than please your nose while roaches continue to wander through your house.

We’ll give you a tour through the wild world of essential oils as cockroach repellent and show you what works and what doesn’t.

Hint: Need more natural ways to control cockroaches? Try our Peppermint Oil for Roaches, Natural Cockroach Repellent, and How to Keep Roaches Away guides!

1. Peppermint Oil and Other Mint Oils

Does it work? Yes.
How to use: Mix several drops of peppermint oil with water and spray near roach activity.

Many homeowners claim that peppermint essential oil is potent enough to keep many species of cockroaches (and rodents) out of their homes. If you’ve ever opened a bottle too close to your face, you’ll understand why—that’s an eye-watering fragrance!

One study found that the essential oil from mint plants is more than a roach repellent—it’s actually toxic to these bugs (at least to the German cockroaches and American cockroaches tested).

Diluting a few drops of peppermint oil with water and spraying it on walls or on cotton balls that you place throughout your home could effectively repel roaches. You add 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water for a stronger solution.

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

2. Eucalyptus Oil

Does it work? Yes!
How to use: Mix with water and spray onto surfaces where roaches are active.

Eucalyptus essential oil has a fresh fragrance that, surprisingly, seems to confuse or alarm cockroaches. This stuff is strong and you’ll only need to mix a few drops with water and spray it around the cockroaches’ hotspots to repel them.

Research has also shown that eucalyptus essential oil is toxic to roaches. That makes it a great all-natural product to use as part of your cockroach prevention system.

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

3. Lavender Oil

Does it work? On its own: probably not…
How to use: Mix with water, citronella and other essential oils.

Few scents bring peace to a room like lavender. Ironically, it has quite the opposite effect on insects. Lavender essential oil naturally repels many insects, including flies and gnats, but its effects on cockroaches are still unproven.

Despite it being unclear whether or not lavender’s insect-repelling properties affect cockroaches on their own, you can add it to solutions with other oils to boost the fragrance. One study found that a combination of citronella, lemon, rose, lavender and basil oils was an effective insect repellent when mixed with water.

Buy: Majestic Pure Lavender Oil, Natural, Therapeutic Grade, Premium Quality Blend of Lavender Essential Oil, 4 fl. Oz

4. Citronella Oil

Does it work? Possibly.
How to use: Mix with other essential oils, dilute with water and spray the mixture.

You’ve probably seen citronella listed as an ingredient on countless insect-repellent candles and other outdoor products. Citronella essential oil has similar insect-repellent effects—at least against mosquitoes, gnats and other flying bugs.

Unfortunately, a citronella oil treatment only lasts for an hour or two. Its effects on cockroaches aren’t fully understood so it’s best used in combination with other essential oils for cockroaches.

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

5. Tea Tree Oil

Does it work? Probably.
How to use: Mix with water (and probably other oils) and spray in concentrated areas.

In some places, tea tree oil is used as an antiseptic. It’s also a natural insect repellent that’s toxic to cockroaches. Like mint oil, tea tree oil can be mixed with water and vinegar to produce a roach repellent solution that you can spray in cracks and crevices to keep bugs away.

Unfortunately, cockroaches might simply be too resilient or fast for any amount you can easily apply. As with several of these oils, it’s probably going to be most effective in combination with other oils or other preventative measures.

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

6. Cypress Oil

Does it work? Yes.
How to use: Mix with water and other essential oils to spray onto surfaces.

Cypress oil is usually extracted from the Mediterranean cypress. Cypress trees are naturally insect-repellent and landscapers often recommend using cypress mulch to keep bugs away.

In your home, you can take advantage of the insect-repellent effects of cypress essential oil by mixing it with water and spraying onto areas where you’ve seen cockroach activity. You can also mix in some peppermint oil if you want a stronger solution.

Buy: Artizen Cypress Essential Oil (100% PURE & NATURAL – UNDILUTED) Therapeutic Grade – Huge 1oz Bottle

7. Cedar Oil

Does it work? Yes!
How to use: Mix with water or rubbing alcohol and spray onto surfaces.

Cedar is a popular wood in closets and storage areas for a reason: it smells fantastic and keeps clothes and other stored objects fresh. And cedar essential oil is more than a fine-smelling repellent—it’s an all-natural insecticide! That means it can supplement any other essential oil repellents you’re using by killing insects that decide to stick around.

You can use cedar oil like most other essential oils: dilute it with water and spray where you don’t want roaches.

Buy: Artizen Cedarwood Essential Oil (100% PURE & NATURAL – UNDILUTED) Therapeutic Grade – Huge 1oz Bottle

8. Catnip Oil

Does it work? Yes!
How to use: Mix with water and rubbing alcohol and spray onto surfaces.

You read it right. That catnip—the same stuff that drives your house cat wild. Catnip works because cockroaches hate the smell. And catnip essential oil is a natural insect repellent.

You can use catnip oil in your home by mixing a few drops with 1 part water and 1 part rubbing alcohol and spraying it wherever you need to repel cockroaches. You can also combine it with rosemary oil for a particularly potent roach repellent.

Buy: Plant Therapy Catnip Essential Oil 100% Pure, Undiluted, Natural Aromatherapy, Therapeutic Grade 10 mL (1/3 oz)

9. Rosemary Oil

Does it work? Yes!
How to use: Mix with water and spray onto surfaces or use in traps.

Rosemary is a delicious herb to keep stocked (or grow!) in the kitchen, perfect for roasting chicken or turkey. Meanwhile, rosemary essential oil is highly toxic to cockroaches and can be used as a natural roach repellent.

According to a 2016 study, rosemary oil is one of the most toxic essential oils for roaches. Researchers tested it on brown-banded cockroaches and saw a 100% success rate.

For rosemary oil to be effective, roaches have to come into contact with it. You’ll have to spray surfaces with it frequently. You can also use it in traps for the best chance of success.

10. Oregano Oil

Does it work? Yes!
How to use: Mix with water and spray generously in infested areas.

Oregano essential oil is a powerful cockroach repellent that researchers found to be effective for up to a week after application. That’s longer than most of the oils on this list and makes it a viable addition to your cockroach prevention plan.

You can mix several drops of the oregano oil with water and spray it generously in areas where you suspect cockroaches are hiding and areas from which you want them to stay away. It should force the cockroaches to avoid those areas for a few days, at least.

Buy: Oregano Essential Oil – 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade Oregano Oil – 10ml

What to Expect When Using Essential Oils as Cockroach Repellents

When using oils, one thing’s guaranteed: your house is going to smell great. But beyond that, it depends on which ones you’re using.

The repellent effects of some oils are backed by science but some are only backed by other homeowners’ experiences. That doesn’t mean they won’t work, but be ready to do plenty of experimenting along the way.

You probably already know that cockroaches are stubborn, resilient pests. If you’re dealing with more than a few cockroaches, a “nest,” or a true cockroach infestation, it’s probably going to take more than essential oils to get rid of them.

Downsides to Using Essential Oils as Roach Repellent

One downside to using essential oils for cockroaches is that you have to continuously reapply them before they lose their strength and stop working. Not all oils are completely safe for children and pets, either. Whether you’re using essential oils or other bug-killing products, always read the directions and warnings. Then, you’re good to go!

Which Essential Oils Give You the Best Shot?

If you’re looking for home remedies for preventing cockroaches naturally, check out our roundup of the other popular natural cockroach repellents that are out there!

Don’t be intimidated by cockroaches. With our guides to what attracts roaches and how to prevent them, you’ve got what you need to solve your cockroach problem.

Go get ’em!


  1. 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
  2. Peterson, Chris et al. (2002) Behavioral Activity of Catnip Essential Oil Components to the German Cockroach. Iowa State University. Retrieved from https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/ent_pubs/333/
  3. Maia, Marta Ferreira and Sarah J Moore (2011) Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing. Malaria Journal. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3059459/
  4. Sharififard, Mona et al. (2016) Evaluation of Some Plant Essential Oils against the Brown-Banded Cockroach, Supella longipalpa (Blattaria: Ectobiidae): A Mechanical Vector of Human Pathogens. Journal of Arthropod-Borne Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5186743/
  5. Koul, Opender et al. (2008) Essential Oils as Green Pesticides: Potential and Constraints. Biopesticides International. Retrieved from http://projects.nri.org/adappt/docs/63–84.pdf

Keeping cockroaches out of your house might sound like an impossible task but there’s good news! There are simple steps you can take right now to better defend your house against roaches (as well as other pests).

From cleaning and organizing to sealing up entry points and using natural repellents, here’s how to keep roaches away from your home- forever.

A Simple 5-Step Guide For Getting Rid of Roaches

“Print or Follow on Your Phone. It’s FREE!”

Make Your House So Clean Roaches Won’t Be Interested

Cockroaches only become a problem when they invade homes, businesses and other buildings. And they only enter buildings when there are better conditions and more food inside than outside.

Most cockroach infestations start in the kitchen or bathroom and there’s a good reason for that: roaches are attracted to food and water. Those are the places to start your anti-cockroach efforts, and we have lots of tips for doubling down on cleaning up!

Stop Serving Roaches Dinner on a Silver Platter

What do roaches eat? Well, just about everything. But beyond decomposing leaves and garbage, their food sources are primarily food, the same kinds of things we eat: crumbs, grease, sweet treats and other leftovers.

The biggest boosts to your cleaning routine are the simple ones: always clean your dishes, wipe counters, put away leftovers and keep the floors crumb-free. Vacuuming and wiping your counters and tables are quick ways to remove roaches’ main food sources.

But good cleaning goes beyond sweeping up crumbs.

Deep Cleaning Tips: Don’t Forget These Areas

There are a few places you might be forgetting (or hesitating) to clean around your kitchen and bathroom. When’s the last time you cleaned the drip pans under the burners on your stove? It’s easy to forget how much oil splatter and crumbs they collect. Luckily, it’s also pretty easy to take them out and scrub them with a sponge.

If you enjoy using a garbage disposal in your kitchen sink, it’s probably built up some gunk and bacteria after all of the food waste it shreds. It might even start to stink and if you’ve started to smell it, you can be sure cockroaches did a long time ago.

You can easily clean your garbage disposal without any disassembly in just a few minutes. Start by grinding a handful of ice cubes to loosen any buildup from the blades. Then mix 2 parts vinegar to 1 part baking soda and let the disposal soak in that bacteria-killing solution for 10–15 minutes.

Finally, fill the sink at least halfway with water, drop in some of your favorite-smelling dish soap and run the disposal until the water drains. That’s it!

Oh, and don’t forget to dust, sweep or vacuum behind your refrigerator/stove from time to time. The combination of crumbs swept underneath and warmth from the appliance is as enticing to roaches as a beachfront property in the Hamptons. Clean those hard-to-reach areas to keep roaches away.

Seal Up Your Stored Food to Keep Hungry Pests Out

There’s nothing like a fully-stocked pantry to make a home-chef excited about cooking dinner. But those “closed” bags of flour and boxes of cereal might not be enough to keep pests out of your food. Tiny German cockroaches will have no problem sneaking into a bag of sugar with a hole in the top.

The best containers for storing food are made of hard glass and metal. Plastic works too, just make sure it’s in good shape. And, of course, make sure any containers you’re using have lids that form a good seal.

Your Pet Doesn’t Want to Share Their Food With Roaches, Either

When it comes to eating others’ food, roaches don’t discriminate between people or pets. Unfortunately, pets are rarely tidy eaters and you might be in the habit of leaving pet food out overnight. Each of those is like putting out a fresh dinner plate for cockroaches.

How to keep cockroaches away from your dog’s or cat’s food? Try to pour only enough food for the day and give their bowl a quick wipe before bed—that’s all it takes!

Change the Trash Often

Speaking of leaving food out overnight, that trash bag that’s almost full but not quite is like a smorgasbord for cockroaches. Take your garbage bags outside as soon as they’re full and, if possible, store them in a can away from your house. That way any lurking American cockroaches won’t follow the smell of dinner right to your front porch.

How to Seal Up Your Home to Keep Roaches Away

There’s plenty you can do to remove cockroaches’ food sources and cut down on their hiding places but the real win is preventing roaches from coming inside in the first place. That starts with eliminating the things that attract them.

By making some quick adjustments and tiny repairs, you can seal your house from cockroaches and other pest invaders in no time.

Window Screens Are Your Friends

Bar the doors, board up the windows! Right?

…No, not exactly.

Keeping roaches out is simpler than that. Make sure all of your windows (and doors) have screens on them before you leave them open. There are several species of flying cockroaches and some of them are attracted to lights. They’ll fly right through an open window to attack lamps, fans and TV screens.

P.S. You can learn all about how to get rid of flying cockroaches with our in-depth guide.

Seal Holes, Cracks and Crevices

Take a good look at the floors and walls in each room of your house, especially the kitchen and bathrooms.

See those pipes coming in for your sink and toilet? You should seal up any gaps around them with caulking. Noticed cracks and holes where the wall meets the floor? Seal those up, too. Roaches are almost flat and can squeeze through tiny crevices to hide. Closing up the spaces roaches use to enter your home will go a long way toward keeping them out.

Close Up the Drains and Stop the Leaks

Speaking of sink pipes, did you know some cockroaches crawl through the pipes to get from their hiding places to your bathroom and kitchen? You can stop them in their tracks by plugging your sinks at night and installing a cover on your bathtub or shower drain with holes that are too small for a roach to fit through.

Fixing any leaks will also cut off an easy source of water for pests and make them think twice about getting comfortable.

Organize Those Storage Areas

If you’re like most people, your attic is the junk drawer of your home. It’s probably stuffy, dark and full of boxes. Guess what roaches love: dark, humid, cluttered places. (Your basement’s not off the hook, either.)

The best thing you can do is declutter: organize those files, photos and holiday decorations. You’re better off using plastic bins with lids—cockroaches love cardboard boxes and using bins will help keep the dust off of your definitely-important stuff, anyway.

Ventilation is also key in attics and basements. Adding a vent and fan (or simply moving one temporarily) can help dry out the room, which is probably better for the things you’re storing there, too!

While we’re at it, make sure your closets aren’t trapping humidity and attracting cockroaches. These bugs don’t usually live in bedrooms but organizing and dehumidifying your wardrobe will help prevent cockroaches.

How to Keep Cockroaches Away From Your Garage

All of those organizing and ventilation tips will also help keep your garage cockroach-free.

Garages are tough spots to defend against pests because there are so many ways for tiny bugs to get in. It’s more about reducing potential hiding spots and generally making it less attractive to roaches. Shelving is a great way to store boxes off the ground and make it harder for cockroaches to get to them.

Are There Natural Cockroach Repellents?

There are! You can find out which DIY solutions to try and which to skip in our breakdown of the most popular natural cockroach repellents. There are lots of (good and bad) ideas out there from bay leaves to garlic, so here’s a quick overview.

With their potent scents, some essential oils are pretty effective at repelling cockroaches. Lavender oil, peppermint oil and others can overwhelm a roach’s sense of smell and cause it to avoid the area.

A few herbs and spices can also do the trick. Plants from the mint family are especially effective and their insect-repellent powers are backed by research.

Meanwhile, that bag of catnip that your cat won’t stop trying to open is actually a strong cockroach repellent. It just might be tricky to keep your cat away while it does its job!

When to Call in the Professionals

With the tips in this article and the in-depth information we’ve got throughout the site, you’re prepared to tackle most small cockroach infestations.

When you’re facing a serious problem or a true roach infestation, natural ingredients might not be enough. That’s where a roach control professional can help. They’ll have the expertise to find exactly which areas to target and the tools and techniques to get rid of the roaches for good.

You Can Start Preventing Cockroaches Today

We’ve said it before, but finding cockroaches in your house doesn’t mean you’re a bad homeowner. These bugs are clever and determined and, although we can always clean a little more than we do, we’re often not to blame for a few pests.

Now that you know how to keep roaches away, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. With patience, determination, and small adjustments to your home and lifestyle, you’ll be well on your way to a pest-free home!

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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 these Essential Oils for Roaches, and How to Keep Roaches Away guides. You may also want to learn how to kill roaches naturally with this 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


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.


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 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.


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!


  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/