7 things that attract roaches to your home — and how to fix it

A cockroach eating from a dinner plate while someone prepares food in the background
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At one point or another, we’ve all flicked the lights on to be greeted by a rogue roach. And where there’s one, there’s often several. Cockroaches are an unwelcome pest in any home — they spread disease and can multiply quickly if not dealt with promptly. And while it’s all well and good learning how to get rid of roaches, sometimes it seems they just keep coming back. So why do roaches seemingly love our homes?

There are several factors which could be contributing to a regular roach problem. These need to be dealt with, otherwise roaches will keep trying to find a way in, no matter what measures you take to keep them out. If you’re interested to learn the specifics, we’ve rounded up 7 things that attract roaches to your home — and how to fix them, so you can take the necessary steps. 

Plus, here's 7 telltale signs of roaches in your home.

1. Residual food 

A cockroach eating a cookie

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Food is a big attraction for roaches — they need it to survive, just as we do, and an easy meal left on display indoors is much more appetizing versus what can be found outside. Cockroaches are omnivores, which means they will eat both plants and animals, but they’re particularly attracted to any sweet items left lying around, such as candy. They'll also enjoy meat which provides them with a source of protein. For this reason, any leftover pet food can easily attract roaches. Feed your pets a smaller amount more regularly, so food isn't left out. Make sure residual pet food is sealed away.

Roaches have a strong sense of smell, so even the smallest fragments of residual food can bring them in. For instance, dirty dishes can provide a meal, as can empty chocolate wrappers found around the home. In short, it takes less than a solid sugared donut left on display to attract roaches. So keep an eye on crumbs around the house and deal with any potential food sources immediately. It also helps if you run one of the best vacuum cleaners regularly, so nothing can be found at floor level. A tidy home will ultimately be less inviting to roaches. 

2. Standing water 

A cockroach sitting on a toothbrush next to a faucet

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Cockroaches need regular access to water, otherwise they will die of thirst in as little as a week. It doesn’t need to be a large source; roaches are often attracted to leaky pipes, dripping faucets, small spills and generally damp environments. For that reason, they can frequent bathrooms, laundry rooms and basements. 

Consider where you spotted your roach and whether standing water might be playing a part in its placement. If there’s an obvious water source, such as a pet bowl, remove it immediately and place it somewhere less reachable for any roaches. If a leaking faucet is prevalent, learn how to fix a leaky bathtub faucet to remedy the problem. You could also invest in one of the best water leak detectors to check the quality of your pipes and find any alternative leaks. One of the best dehumidifiers can help remove excess humidity from a room which may be attracting roaches as well.  

3. Shelter 

A roach poking out from behind a door frame

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While roaches are very hardy, they’re also intelligent and will appreciate warmth and shelter as much as the next pest. If it’s particularly cold outside, or the elements are less than inviting, they will take refuge. Cockroaches prefer to be kept in warm, ideally humid environments, and your home could provide just that.

Unfortunately, there’s little you can do to prevent this factor, but you can roach-proof your home to make it less accessible as a shelter. Make sure all windows and doors are sealed, with no small gaps through which a roach might enter. Caulk any areas where necessary to fill in the gaps. If you leave any windows open, make sure a sufficient screen is in place to keep roaches out. 

4. Sweet smells 

A cockroach in a laundry hamper

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While the sweet smell of residual food might be attracting roaches into your home, don’t forget that alternative smells may be contributing too. For instance, a sweet bowl of potpourri could be luring them in, as could a sickly sweet scented candle. We recommend replacing such candles with scents which are more likely to repel roaches, such as lavender or lemongrass. An example being the Yankee Candle Dried Lavender & Oak Scented ($16.88, Amazon). 

Dirty smells which are unrelated to food can be enticing to roaches as well — dirty laundry is a prime example of this. This carries residual sweat and perfumes which is all too appealing to roaches. Plus, there may be spills from meals contributing to the aroma as well. Considering this, make sure you keep rotating your dirty laundry hamper and don’t leave items sitting in there for too long. Used gym gear in particular should be handled quickly — here’s 5 reasons you should always wash sportswear separately.  

5. Open trash

Overflowing garbage

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Just because you’ve tossed away all residual food, your roach problem doesn’t necessarily stop there. If your trash can or garbage isn’t sealed away effectively, it will continue to attract roaches into your home. Make sure your trash is taken out regularly, before it starts to overflow. The lid should remain closed at all times to keep its aroma contained. During the hotter months, keep an eye on how often you take out the trash because it will rot and smell more quickly at a higher temperature and attract further pests. 

Even once your trash is out of the house, make sure it remains contained until it’s collected, otherwise you will be attracting roaches as well as other pests to the vicinity. If raccoons are a particular problem, you can invest in a lock, such as Blazer Brand Strong Strap Stretch Latch ($32.48, Amazon). Remember to take the time to clean your trash can when needed too, otherwise spills and stains can continue to attract roaches even once the food is removed. 

6. Untidy yard 

A blue watering can next to potted plants outside

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Even if your home is spotless, an untidy yard will still be all too enticing to roaches. And a yard full of roaches only increases the chances of them finding their way into your home. Make sure your yard doesn’t offer any of the above resources, including food, water and shelter. Standing water should be removed, such as dripping rain barrels or leaky gutters or stagnant water in watering cans, as should any potential shelters. You want your yard to be tidy and open to make it less appealing to roaches. 

If you’re keen to keep roaches at bay, you could also try planting some of these 7 plants that repel roaches for a bug-free home

7. Cardboard boxes

A roach sitting on cardboard

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Finally, cardboard boxes are a big attraction for roaches. Often found in the attic, or places which we rarely frequent, they offer shelter, warmth, solitude and even a food source. So, it’s no wonder roaches are such a big fan. Make sure you declutter your basement and attic, and remove any unnecessary boxes; replace these where possible with alternative storage methods, such as plastic containers. By keeping the space open and clear, just like your yard, you’re making it a less appealing environment for roaches. 

Likewise, paper is another guilty pleasure for roaches for the same reasons. So, don’t leave newspapers, magazines or books lying around — even the adhesive will provide a snack. Such quiet conditions will provide an ideal space to nest as well.

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Katie Mortram
Homes Editor

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be air purifiers, as the information provided and the difference between performances is extensive.