Does Bombing a House for Roaches Work?

Cockroaches can aggravate allergies and spread bacteria, and they are just plain gross. If you find them in your home, you'll likely want to rid your home of them as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, cockroach bombs and foggers aren't the best way to make them disappear. Thank goodness there are other ways to get rid of them.

Cockroach, winged adult
credit: MariusLtu/iStock/GettyImages
Does Bombing a House for Roaches Work?

Bug Bomb Theory

If you're fighting a cockroach problem, bug bombs sound like a pretty simple solution. Bug bombs contain potent insecticides meant to stop pests in their tracks. You simply place the bombs in your home and set them off. They then release pesticide into the area that kills any bugs that come into contact with it.

It sounds simple and effective, and sometimes it is. Cockroaches, however, are one of several insects that bug bombs fail to eradicate.

Bug Bomb Reality

Cockroaches are shy little buggers who like to go about their lives relatively unnoticed. As a result, they hide in any crack or crevice they can find. If you have a roach problem, you likely have roaches inside your walls, between your floorboards and underneath household appliances. Cockroaches can even hide inside your appliances.

It's this hiding behavior that makes roach bombs ineffective. When activated, a bug bomb propels its contents upward. Gravity then acts on the released aerosol particles, pulling them down to the floor. Gravity has limits, however. It can pull the pesticide to the ground, but it can't force it into small cracks or sweep it under or into appliances where roaches hide.

Cockroach bombs may kill individual roaches who happen to be out and about when you bomb your house, but a large portion of your roach population will remain. Bombs are effective against flying insects but often fall short on their grounded cousins. They also fail if a population has developed a resistance to the specific pesticide that the fogger uses.

Bug Bomb Dangers

In addition to being somewhat ineffective, bug bombs sometimes prove dangerous. Foggers used near an ignition source can and sometimes do explode. Dangerous explosions can also occur when someone uses too many foggers for the size of the space. The result is a highly concentrated pocket of flammable material that needs only a slight bit of encouragement to burst into flames.

Bug bombs can also prove dangerous to neighbors. The spray emitted by a fogger can find its way into adjacent apartments or homes and make the people and pets inside them sick. Bombs also leave pesticide residue on kitchen countertops and other unsafe areas.

The Old College Try

Although they have their shortcomings, it can be worth trying roach foggers if you catch a cockroach problem early. A visit from an exterminator can easily cost around $300, while a few bug bombs can be had for around $100 or less. If you're trying to fix a small problem on a fixed budget, you may find yourself tempted to at least give bug bombs a try. If you do, make sure you use them properly.

Before activating your foggers, pick up dirty laundry and other clutter that may prevent the fogger contents from reaching your floor. You should also put away any dishes and cover your kitchen counter and dining tables with old newspapers to avoid contaminating food preparation surfaces. Do the same with your bathroom vanity. Tuck away any food as well as any toys with which your children or pets play.

After activating bug bombs in your home, you, your family members and pets will all need to leave the area for at least two to four hours. When you leave, place signage on all the doors to the home warning others that bug bombs are in use. Upon returning home after the bombing, air out your home, throw away the old newspaper coverings you used and wipe down counters and tables with soapy water.

Bait Stations Are a Better Bet

If bug bombs have already failed you or if you're not willing to take a chance that they will, there are more effective alternatives you can try. One is setting out bait stations. These stations are small, so you can easily tuck them into tight spaces where kids and pets won't get to them.

Bait stations contain a poisonous substance that attracts cockroaches looking for a meal. The cockroaches eat some of this substance, usually in the form of a gel or pellets, and then carry some back to the nest with them to feed other roaches. When roaches who eat the poison die, they themselves become toxic, in turn killing any roaches who cannibalize their dead bodies.

Bait stations are far more effective than roach motels or traps. Roach traps lure roaches in with tasty bait and then hold them in place using glue boards. Unfortunately, this trick only works a few times. After that, other roaches notice the carcasses of their fallen brethren and wisely avoid the traps.

Dusts and Powders

Insecticide dusts and powders are also more effective for roaches than bug bombs and foggers. You can buy commercial insecticide powder at your local hardware store or try boric acid or diatomaceous earth. To use them, put these powders into a container with a pointed tip and squeeze them into cracks and crevices where you see or suspect roaches. You can also sprinkle powder along baseboards and behind appliances.

Like all insecticides, you should apply these powders only where pets and kids can't reach them. Keep them well away from food and food preparation surfaces as well. Never spray powders into electronic equipment, as the powder could damage sensitive components. It's also important to apply powder thinly since roaches will avoid mounds of it when they see it.

Call in the Big Guns

If you're trying and failing to fix your cockroach problem on your own, it may be time to admit defeat and call a professional exterminator. It's been proven that roaches can survive large amounts of nuclear radiation, so it's not all that surprising that they might survive you. Eliminating roaches is challenging, and even the pros sometimes need more than one try to completely eradicate the problem. This option can be costly, but it's worth every penny to be rid of your roaches.

Preventing Future Problems

Once you're rid of your roaches, take steps to keep them away. Keep your kitchen as clean as you possibly can. Seal all food in airtight containers and dispose of old or unwanted food in a trash can with a lid. Wipe down your kitchen counters and eating surfaces religiously after every meal, and never let dirty dishes sit until later.

To catch any crumbs you may miss, vacuum or sweep your kitchen floor every few days. Make sure you include the spaces under and behind your appliances every few cleanings. Pulling out your stove and moving your refrigerator are admittedly not fun things to do. Get complacent, however, and these areas are prone to collecting the types of dirt and debris that attract unwanted guests.

In addition to upping your cleaning game, take steps to keep roaches from ever coming into your home. Seal cracks and gaps in your foundation and anywhere pipes or wires come into your home. Install sweeps under doors to seal cracks there and wrap your home in a protective barrier by sprinkling diatomaceous earth around your foundation. Trim tree branches away from your home so they don't serve as bridges into your home.


Michelle Miley

Michelle Miley

Home is where the heart is, and Michelle frequently pens articles about ways to keep yours looking great and feeling cozy. Whether you want help organizing your closet, picking a paint color or finishing drywall, Michelle has you covered. If she's not puttering in the house, you'll find her in the garden playing in the dirt. Her garden articles provide tips and insight that anyone can use to turn a brown thumb green. You'll find her work on Modern Mom, The Nest and eHow as well as sprinkled throughout your other online home decor and improvement favorites.