Switching the kitchen light on reveals skittering brown bodies fleeing, disappearing into tiny cracks and crevices. The cockroaches have moved in with you. These opportunistic insects thrive in dark, moist environments; water and a few crumbs are enough to attract them into the cleanest home. While vinegar is sometimes mentioned as a natural remedy to roaches, white household vinegar is better used to clean your counter tops than as an insecticide.
Vinegar as a Cleaner
The vinegar itself does not repel or kill roaches. Still, cleaning the kitchen thoroughly, and sanitizing the sink, food preparation and cooking areas, helps discourage roaches that come in seeking a snack. Colorado State University Extension says that room temperature (77 degrees Fahrenheit), undiluted vinegar sprayed onto a counter top and left for 10 minutes effectively kills Salmonella -- one of the germs carried by cockroaches into homes. When warmed to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, vinegar kills Salmonella even more quickly, in one minute.
When using vinegar as a household cleaner, wear gloves and safety goggles. Vinegar, even at a 5 percent strength, is an acid and can damage your eyes and burn your skin.
Green Cockroach Solutions
Among the less toxic solutions to cockroaches is boric acid powder. You can take your pick of approaches:
1. Boric Acid on Its Own
Blown into cracks and crevices with a hair dryer set on low, or sprinkled along the walls behind appliances, the boric acid particles cling to the cockroaches' feet. When the roach grooms itself and cleans its feet, it ingests the powder, which interferes with the insect's metabolism.
2. Sugar and Boric Acid
Mix equal parts sugar and boric acid. Sprinkle the mixture along the roach trails or brush it into cracks inside and behind cabinets. The roaches eat the mixture and the boric acid poisons them. Boric acid also desiccates insects, drying them out and killing them.
3. Boric Acid Bait
Mix equal parts boric acid, flour and sugar with enough milk to make a paste. Place the bait in small, disposable containers behind appliances and in the back of cupboards. The roaches eat the bait and scuttle back into their hiding places, where they die. Other roaches eat the dead roaches or the poisoned droppings and they also die.
- Wear a dust mask, safety goggles and gloves when working with boric acid powder. While it is relatively nontoxic, the mineral dust can affect your eyes and lungs.
- Keep boric acid baits out of reach of children and pets.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln suggests using jar traps to capture and dispose of cockroaches. A glass mayonnaise jar provides the trap. A thin layer of petroleum jelly smeared onto the inner slanted shoulders prevents the cockroaches from crawling back out of the trap. Drop a small piece of banana peel into the jar. At night, the roaches will swarm into the jar. In the morning, put the lid on the jar and put it in the trash.
Ruth de Jauregui
With degrees in fine and commercial art and Spanish, Ruth de Jauregui is an old-school graphic artist, book designer and published author. De Jauregui authored 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden, available as an ebook. She enthusiastically pursues creative and community interests, including gardening, home improvement and social issues.