Q. In the next few days I will be moving into a new house. The current resident tells me roaches are a problem. He offered to “bomb” the place with insecticide, but that will not work for me.

What are the alternatives to toxic approaches for this age-old challenge? Is there something I could put in place before I move in? What can I use for the long term?

A. The advice column by Heloise has offered various recipes involving boric acid. Mix boric acid and flour (half and half) and place this powder on several jar lids. You can also substitute sugar or cornmeal for flour. Then place the lids in the back of the cabinet under your sink, in cupboards and behind the fridge. Keep them away from food, children and pets.

Another formula (Heloise’s Famous Roach Recipe) combines 1/4 cup cooking oil or bacon drippings, 1/8 cup sugar, 8 oz. boric acid, 1/2 cup flour and ample water to form a dough. “Mix all, form small balls of dough and set out in open plastic sandwich bags (to retain moisture longer; when hardened, replace with new dough).”

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  1. Anonymous
    Reply

    I have a bad roach problem too done all I know.

  2. T. Nicole T.
    Reply

    Hello,
    I just moved into an apartment complex in an “urban” area. When I viewed the apartment to. Consider renting, there were no immediate signs of roaches. When I moved in my belongings, all roach hell broke loose, they were crawling around everywhere.
    I’ve done some research and learned that boric acid is most effective. But when I spoke to other residents concerning the pest problem they said and I qoute “boric acid don’t work on deez roaches”. I would move but I’ve alrady signed a 6month lease. Please help me!

  3. Tina
    Reply

    Have you tried to use bay leaves? Put them in drawers, cabinets, window seals, etc. They don’t smell bad and are supposed to work for many different types of ants and many different insects.

  4. JH
    Reply

    Boric acid is highly effective and inexpensive but must be used with care. Keep it away from all pets and children, and do not place where they can get to it. The EPA and CDC has warned of reproductive, developmental and neurological damage. It has known health risks including genital and brain damage, anemia, infertility, birth defects and even death.

  5. Amy C.
    Reply

    I once had roaches (large) and mice (small) in my apartment in the city years ago. The mice were so smart, that they knew to jump over the sticky traps…and they’d jump over them in front of you!
    Anyway, my boyfriend rushed over one night after I saw a huge roach in my cupboard, screamed & started crying while talking with him on the phone. I had been so startled by the roach and was so scared by it (it had been on the inside of the cupboard door when I opened it) that I slammed the cupboard door shut and then taped it closed while I was waiting for my boyfriend to get there.
    He brought two things with him…boric acid powder…and “great stuff” (hole filler foam that dries hard.)
    First he found, chased and killed the one in my cupboard. Then he went under the sink and in every other crevice that a bug or mouse could possibly get in, poured the boric acid in and then sealed each hole up. It totally worked. Never another roach or mouse. So….SEAL ALL HOLES/CRACKS,ETC. and USE BORIC ACID. (Incidentally, I ended up marrying the guy a year later!)
    Also, my understanding is that boric acid is not totally harmless to humans…so wear gloves, don’t overdue it and keep your distance with it.

  6. BW
    Reply

    Curious… I had a sewer line break and flood the back of my home (MBR, MBath, & MC). It’s been about a month and the contractor had drilled a hole through to the outside patio and then inside one interior wall for a coaxial cable, which turned out wasn’t needed.
    Today, I was walking through the construction area and EEE!!!, there were baby, mommy & daddy roaches all over the place. After plugging the holes with paper towels, I quickly went to my PC to find out what I could do to kill them in a natural way.
    When I saw your remedy of boric acid, I remembered that’s what I had done a long time ago and it worked. (I just used Borax detergent. I hope that’s the same thing.)
    But… I’m curious as to why add sugar or cooking oil? Wouldn’t that bring out the ants from all over the neighborhood? Really curious. I’m in TX and I hate ants worse than anything, except maybe snakes!! I would really like to know the answer. Thanks!

  7. Allen Nielson
    Reply

    Years ago I read an article in Mother Earth news about controlling hard shell insects without pesticides. It consisted of mixing powdered sugar with 20 mule team borax and grind into a fine powder and sprinkle it around (works wonderfully). Also another remedy is diatomaceous earth which is a fine powder that penetrates the skin or shell of the insect and then desicates the animal by a mechanical method which they cannot develop an immunity to (works on all hard shell insects but harmless to humans or mammals). Only danger to humans is breathing too much of the fine dust.

  8. LF
    Reply

    Living in Florida does have its perks along with tropical type bugs, common roaches, and those huge palmetto bugs are infamous and hard to be rid of. However, being allergic and intolerable of insecticides and bug sprays, thirty years ago a friend told me of the boric acid/sugar method, which I have been using ever since with tremendous success inside the house.

  9. TERRY B
    Reply

    Your articles are very helpful, but some can be more simplified such as the boric acid for roaches. I lived in Florida for 20 yrs where all types of roaches are a fact of life. All you really need to do is sprinkle boric acid around the kitchen basboards, behind the stove, fridge etc. It works just as well by itself. To increase the effectivness, all you have to do is sprinkle sugar with it or on it. Complicated receipes aren’t necessary. Hope this helps. Thanks

  10. nb
    Reply

    Thirty-five years ago, a coworker who had lived in the inner city told me to sprinkle powdered boric acid where the floor and walls (or cabinets) met. I did this (just a 1/2 inch line) and the roaches disappeared within a few days…permanently. The boric acid is not harmful to pets or people and is easy to vacuum up when the roaches were gone. I’ve used it ever since then in different locations, and it works every time!

  11. CG
    Reply

    It’s not natural but it keeps the poison out of the house–I let Terminix put a ring of treatment around the foundation of the house on the outside. Then I put somewhat natural traps with no odors on the inside, in potential problem areas. The ring around the house keeps the bugs out. But if one gets in, it usually finds the traps. Story over. Been doing it this way for years and years. Terminix helps me identify problem areas on the outside, like holes. I fill those with foam and foil. They also walk through and look at the inside and advise on problem areas which I clean up or fix. Wallah! Roach-free house, without pesticides on the inside. Yeah!

  12. KC
    Reply

    As a former apartment owner, roaches were sometimes a problem. I would never rent an apartment with roaches. I don’t want to live in a place like that and neither would my residents, so I don’t do it.
    First, I wouldn’t move into an apartment with roaches.
    Second, you should be able to spot the signs (droppings).
    Third, tell the owner to get rid of the roaches before you move in. It’s a health violation.
    Fourth, if you move in and the roaches are still there, they’ll get in your stuff and are much more difficult to get rid of.
    Fifth, the best and easiest time to get rid of them completely is when the apartment is vacant.
    The first thing to understand is that roaches are in a home for a reason. Take away the attraction and they will be easier to get rid of.
    Roaches hate clean stuff!!
    Clean everything in your whole house.
    To rid an empty apartment of roaches, we did the following:
    1) Filled all holes in drywall everywhere in the apartment, especially around pipes.
    Made sure no pipes were leaking or faucets dripping.
    Made sure the hot water heater was not leaking and the valves /pipes did not leak at all. Even slow drips provide water to the roaches.
    2) Bombed it (you can do all the other steps and see if they work in an occupied apartment).
    3) Cleaned the inside of every cabinet in the kitchen with a 20% vinegar solution. Cleaned it again with a 10% bleach solution. Be careful, this can stain the exterior finish. Dry everything thoroughly. A fan is helpful to speed up the process.
    4) Primed and painted the inside of every kitchen cabinet–back of cabs, shelves, drawers, pantry–everything. This will cover any invisible, soaked-in grease or other spilled food products.
    5) Pulled out the removable cabinet drawers throughout the apartment and sprinkled boric acid powder.
    6) Installed multiple “roach motel” traps and checked them regularly. Replace as necessary.
    7) After all the adult roaches are gone, the babies will show up within 30 days. Keep up the treatment for at least 60 days, especially behind the refrigerator,
    8) If your broom is old, get a new one that doesn’t have anything on it.
    9) Reapply the boric acid every week or so. Make sure the boric acid does not get into the “roach motels”.
    10) Be sure to check around the outside of the house to make sure there’s no garbage laying around, pipes leaking or some other attractant (food source) for the roaches.
    Good luck! Don’t give up without a fight.

  13. S. O.
    Reply

    The boric acid sprinkled in back of cabinets and other hidden places works like a charm and kills ants as well as roaches. I had a problem with ants coming through the window frame in my over-the-sink window and cured it with a little piece of cardboard with a drop of syrup and boric acid. The ants carried it back to the nest and Voila! no more ants. Now I use plain boric acid sprinkled judiciously where pets can’t get into it as a precaution against any infestation.

  14. SM
    Reply

    I bought boric acid and it worked just as well (actually better!) than the monthly insecticide spraying I am forced to endure where I live.
    Can anyone here tell me of a natural ingredient I can use for those little blonde ants??? FYI, I live in a tropical location.

  15. Sheiila Henderson
    Reply

    Concerning a natural remedy for roaches: boric acid; You do not have to make a concoction like the famous Heloise recipe, though it works; simply sprinkle boric acid powder all over the places that those horrid roaches crawl and travel; when they crawl through it, it gets all over their bodies, invades their system, and kills them!! Also, when they walk through the powder they carry it back to their nests and then they all die together! It is about the only thing out there that truly works well and safely. (I usually bought a cheap generic version of the boric acid powder in a squeeze bottle sold as roach powder.) It even worked on those horrid “waterbugs” that we occasionally got while living in Louisiana.

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