How to Use Bay Leaves to Eliminate Roaches

The cockroach or roach is one of Mother Nature's leading recycling machines, munching on decaying matter to clean up or reduce what otherwise would make the world a pretty smelly place. Roaches, as useful as they are at cleaning up, likely don't qualify as hired help when it comes to your home. It may not take much to send them packing, however; the humble bay leaf from the Laurus nobilis 'bay laurel' tree along with regular sanitation practices can repel them elsewhere, eliminating them from your personal space.

Keeping Roaches at Bay

Bay leaves can help to deter or repel roaches; they don't kill the bugs, but likely produce a scent that cockroaches find irritating or offensive, similar to how some repellents work on . Dry or fresh, the leaves are not particularly crumbly, and thus not difficult to sweep up later. Use them in creative, simple ways:

  • Scatter the leaves around the home wherever you've seen cockroaches gather, focusing especially on food-prep and eating areas.
  • Fill open containers or bowls with bay leaves, like you would potpourri, and place them where needed.
  • Put a few in and under the garbage can.
  • Sprinkle them inside the cupboards, under the stove and behind the fridge.

Dry bay leaves retain their fragrant scent for up to a year, but fresh ones have a more potent, bitter aroma that may work better to keep roaches away.

If cockroaches are an ongoing problem in your home, it can be beneficial to grow bay laurel houseplants. The bay laurel tree grows in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11, but they can flourish anywhere when potted indoors.

A Clean Sweep

Roaches mistake the lure of food smells as an open invitation to invade a home, so stop sending them mixed signals by cleaning up promptly after making a meal or having a snack:

  • Sweep the floor.
  • Wipe the counters.
  • Put away meal-prep foods.
  • Wash dirty dishes, pots and utensils.

Other ways to reduce alluring scents and implement crumb control in the home include:

  • Storing packaged dry goods in jars or canisters with tight-fitting lids.
  • Eating only in designated areas, such as the kitchen or dining room.
  • Vacuuming the floors and seating weekly or as needed.
  • Cleaning the cupboards and pantry seasonally or at least twice a year.

Herbal Alternative

Nepeta cataria 'catnip' is another herb that roaches find repulsive or repelling, explains the Iowa State University; so, unless you have a feline occupant that might experience a sensory overload from bowls of leaves placed throughout the home, give it a try -- catnip oil makes an effective mosquito repellent, reports the university. If you live in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 4, contemplate growing this cockroach-repelling herb outdoors -- in pots to control spreading -- to harvest, as needed; or, if you live anywhere else, grow it indoors.