Though not as prolific as their cousins the German cockroach, American cockroaches are still a handful.

These warmth-loving critters live in damp, warm areas outdoors, particularly on trees, feasting on algae, tiny wood particles, leaves, small insects, and other decaying organic matter.

A shortage of food sources, shelter, or water forces them indoors, particularly in basements, kitchens, and bathrooms. This happens and when it does, it can quickly bloom into an infestation and cause a world of pain.

If you’ve spotted an American cockroach in your house, here’s everything you need to know about how to get rid of American cockroaches.

Why You Should Get Rid of American Cockroaches

Like most cockroaches, American cockroaches are carriers of diseases that are harmful to humans, such as salmonella.

The viruses and bacteria that they carry are transmitted to the surfaces they travel on through their droppings and skin. Eating food that has been contaminated by American cockroaches can lead to diarrhea, cramps, fever, and severe food poisoning.

Cockroach shedding and feces can also cause humans allergic reactions. This can also trigger allergies in children, pets, and some adults.

The Importance of Identifying American Cockroaches

American cockroaches, as mentioned earlier, can present a huge problem to homeowners. Infestations of these pests can trigger a range of health problems in those living in and using the space.

Even the sight of one cockroach can mean an infestation, which is why it’s important to identify cockroaches in your home quickly. Identifying them will also help you take quick action to eliminate them.

American cockroach - Periplaneta Americana isolated on white

Why Opt for Professional Cockroach Extermination Services

Though there is a ton of home remedies available to those who want to tackle roach infestations on their own, these are nowhere close to being as effective as using a professional extermination company.

Professionals will be able to recommend the best course of action not just to solve your current infestation problem but also to prevent such future infestations. A pest control company knows what to do to get rid of your infestations much quicker than using organic home remedies.

Though you’ll be spending considerably more money on these services than if you go the DIY extermination route

Many pest control companies do offer satisfaction guarantees and follow-up services.

Identifying American Cockroaches

There are three ways that you can use to identify American cockroaches—their physical characteristics, infestation signs, and common hiding spots.

Physical Characteristics

ColorDark brown to reddish-brown, featuring a pale light brown/yellow pattern on the back of the head, in the shape of figure 8.
Body ShapeFlat and oval
Body SizeAdults can grow between 1.25 to 2 inches in length; 1.5 inches is the average size.
LegsThese roaches have six long, spindly legs that help them scurry.
WingsYes; both males and females are capable of gliding short distances in temperatures above 80℉ (which is why they’re also called flying roaches or water bugs). Males typically have longer wings.
Region FoundWorldwide
BehaviorAmerican roaches are fast movers. They rely on their legs to get them to places and very rarely use their wings. They are typically found outdoors.

Signs of a Cockroach Infestation

Here are some indicators of an American cockroach infestation:

  • Spotting a Live Cockroach: If you see one of these pests around the house, it very likely means that you have more, even if you don’t see them. If you spot a scurrying insect, especially in the dark, prepare for war!
  • Roach Droppings: Roaches can also be identified by their droppings, which are black/reddish-brown specks that resemble mouse droppings (though roach droppings are smaller and smoother with blunt ends).

    These droppings (and a lot of them!) will be found near hiding areas, around the stove and under your fridge, your trash cans, countertops, and other spots where you store food.
  • Egg Casings and Shedding of their Skin: When newborns hatch, they leave behind egg casings. When they reach the nymph stage, they also cast off their skin. These two indicators can confirm the presence of a colony. You may also spot eggs in certain spots (they look like tiny pills).
  • Foul Odor: American cockroaches stink—in the literal sense! American roaches exude an unpleasant, musty, pungent odor, thanks to a combination of their pheromones and the filth they live in.

    This odor serves as a means of communication with other roaches, guiding them to safe spots, and as a shining beacon of infestation for you.

    Additionally, this odor is at its most noticeable when large numbers congregate, so a very strong odor, especially from your bathroom, kitchen, or pantry, is a sure sign of a huge bunch of roaches.
  • Smears: Roaches also leave behind brown, irregularly shaped smears on the surfaces they traverse, so look for these on your counters and walls.

Common American Cockroach Hiding Spots

American cockroaches, like all cockroaches, love damp, humid areas, and dark. American cockroaches prefer warm environments where they can find food and water. When they venture indoors, they look for similar environments.

Here are some common spots, indoors and outdoors, where American cockroaches shelter:

  • Outdoors: American cockroaches shelter in mulch, trees, wood, and compost piles, underneath roof shingles, in yard debris, and under logs, stones, and rocks, outdoors. These are the same hiding areas that a wood roach would look to hide.
  • Indoors: American cockroaches favor crawl spaces, floor drains, garbage cans, basements, bathrooms, walls, sump pumps, attics, bathtubs, kitchen cabinets, drawers, under sinks (and other spots where the plumbing goes into the wall), shelves, and walls, indoors.
guy and women spraying for bugs

Preventing American Cockroach Infestations

Prevention is always better than cure, so here are three measures you can employ to prevent infestations.

Keeping Your Environment Clean

Cleaning your house will eliminate much of the food, shelter, and water that draws American cockroaches indoors.

Keep your kitchen clean, wiping your counters, cleaning up spills immediately, sweeping away crumbs, and taking out food waste instead of letting it accumulate in the trash can. Using tight-fitting garbage lids will also help, as will keeping your trash cans in dry spots.

Additionally, don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink for too long, and once you’re done with the dishes, dry the sink. Regularly clean your appliances, too.

To make sure there are no food crumbs or particles anywhere else in the house, vacuum thoroughly at least once a week. Ventilate your crawl spaces, bathrooms, and other moist spaces properly to prevent moisture from building up, and also keep the U-traps in your spare bathrooms filled by periodically running water.

Keeping the outside area is just as important, so make sure you remove rotting leaves from gutters and window wells, store firewood away from the house, and throw away old piles of paper and boxes.

Eliminate Sources of Food and Water

Apart from the above, store your food and supplies in airtight containers so that the roaches can’t get to them. This applies to any leftovers, as well.

Additionally, don’t leave pet food out in the open. Pet food will definitely attract roaches to come into your home.

clean house to prevent pests

Sealing Entry Points

Sweating pipes, leaky plumbing, and broken sewer lines are all entry points for American cockroaches. Mend, fix, and insulate all entry points to eliminate American cockroaches entry points.

Filling or capping floor drains with water is also a good practice, as is drying out any moisture-prone/damp areas. You can use caulk or foam spray to seal up any other entry points, such as cracks in the walls and the foundation.

Ensuring that the doors and windows sit snugly in their frames will also minimize the risk of roach entry.

Calling In the Professionals to Kill Cockroaches

If you still have an infestation on your hands despite following the above to the “T”, it’s time to bring in the heavyweights!

As mentioned earlier, professionals provide quicker, more powerful options that are both efficient and effective. You can also enjoy service guarantees and follow-up services.

When you call in a professional, you can expect a combination of the below methods, depending on the intensity of the infestation:

  • Insecticide Sprays: Insecticides are sprayed in and around entry points outdoors to deter American roaches. This is more effective for prevention than killing active infestations and can cost anywhere between $35 and $100. Residual sprays like the one in the roach kit work for up to 3 months killing cockroaches.
  • Gel Bait: To deal with active infestations, exterminators may set gel bait around in and around common hiding spots.

    Roaches feed on these poisoned baits, but don’t die right away—the chemicals live long enough to transmit to other roaches in the nest from the poisoned roach (either through pheromones or from feeding on the roaches that have died from poisoning), killing them too even if they haven’t fed on the baits.

Though highly effective, this process can take a week or two to work. Usually, one application suffices, but very severe cases may warrant a follow-up treatment. This option can set you back by $100 to $600.

  • Glue Traps: Strategically placing glue traps helps exterminators narrow down the pests’ hiding spots. These typically serve as a precursor to gel baits and cost the same.
  • Fumigation: Though rarely used to combat roach infestations, fumigation may be used if the hiding spots are hard to reach. The chemical vapors go through even the smallest cracks, effectively killing not just roaches but any other pests, too.

    Fumigation is expensive ($1,200-$2,500) and requires you to vacate the premises for 24-72 hours.
  • House Tenting: The most expensive option, house tenting is required when the infestation spans the house and the whole area needs fumigation. Tents are installed to envelop the whole house and prevent the fumigant from escaping.

    This process takes three days, during which time no people, pets, and even houseplants are allowed in the vicinity. House tenting is rarely required for roach infestations, but if you find it necessary, you’ll be shelling out anywhere between $2,500 and $7,500 for this service.

Some exterminators may charge you by the intensity level of the infestation and the square footage of your house, or just the latter alone. On average, most people pay around $150 for just one round of extermination.

If you need to have the professional exterminator follow up with additional spraying it will cost you every time they come to spray or administer gel. That can get quite expensive.

DIY Pest Control Options

Our Pick
Roach Kit

Roach Kit


Keep pesky cockroaches away for good with this Roach Control Kit! This multi-pronged approach to pest control combines:

  • Catchmaster 100i roach Monitor glue boards,
  • Maxforce FC Magnum roach bait gel,
  • Gentrol Point Source Stations
  • Temprid FX insecticide concentrate.
  • Everything you need in one kit
  • Easy to use
  • Kill roaches fast
  • Cheaper than exterminator

A DIY option is a good call when the infestation is not very severe and you also want to keep down the costs—as we’ve seen, professional exterminators can be quite expensive!

You can use insecticides such as Temprid or Talstar or gels such as Advion and Max Force if you’re attempting extermination on your own. These are inexpensive, easy to use, and can be safe if done correctly (of course, proper precautions need to be taken).

Roach kits can also work for oriental roaches, German roaches, and most all other roaches. Insecticide granules and dust can be effective. These require more care, especially if you have pets or children around, as they can get these on themselves or ingest them.

Home Cockroach Remedies

If you’re keen on keeping it organic, you can try home remedies such as essential oils, boric acid, and homemade cockroach baits.

  • Essential Oils: Some studies show that certain essential oils can keep away American cockroaches. Peppermint, catnip, and oregano oils can repel roaches, while cedar, rosemary, and eucalyptus oils can kill them.

    Simply dilute a few drops of the oil you’re using and spray it directly on the walls and other hiding spots, or drench cotton balls with the liquid and place these around the house. If you don’t mind the smell, you can also add some diluted vinegar (one part vinegar to two parts water) to the mix.

We do not recommend this because it just does not work well but we did want to discuss it since other people have discussed it online.

  • Boric Acid: Boric acid may be in the form of dust or gel, but is super effective, regardless of the form! The acid’s electrostatic charge lets it attach itself to the roach’s body when it passes through a treated patch. When the insect grooms itself, it also ingests the acid, which attacks the nervous system and causes death.

Using boric acid is as simple as spreading it over the targeted surfaces and letting it work its magic!

  • DIY Cockroach Baits: From baking soda and sugar to lemons to fabric softeners and water to beer-soaked bread, there are several DIY baits you can use to lure and kill American cockroaches.

    The basic principle is to mix one exterminating element with one cockroach-attracting element and place this around hiding spots to get the job done.

The Final Word

Left unaddressed, an American cockroach infestation can become a huge issue, bringing diseases and filth into your house.

Whether you choose to exterminate them on your own or call in the professionals, ensure that you’re tackling the issue at the earliest. Severe infestations are not only dangerous and unhealthy but can also turn out to be a huge drain on your finances.

Preventative measures will go a long way in deterring roaches, so don’t skip these and set yourself up for an infestation. Done right, these will not only keep away the roaches but also save you a ton of time, effort, energy, money, and stress!