Get Rid of Cockroaches

Roaches carry disease and are a cause of asthma, but well placed caulk and boric acid powder can help you get rid of cockroaches.

  • Cockroaches
    Boric acid is a safe and effective solution to a pesky cockroach problem.
    illustration courtesy LINDA HELTON

  • Cockroaches

Can you suggest a safe and effective way to get rid of cockroaches in my otherwise clean apartment?

 — Joel, New York, New York

Cockroaches are one of the oldest and most successful organisms on earth. They've been around some 350 million years and have survived several global catastrophes — including whatever killed the dinosaurs. Their evolutionary tenacity is directly attributable to their appetite: Roaches will eat any organic matter — from dried up wallpaper paste to fresh pizza crumbs. Our revulsion toward them seems to be as deeply ingrained as their ability to survive, and with good reason: They carry mites and disease, and their droppings rank second only to those of dust mites as a cause of asthma. Incidentally, asthma has recently been recognized as epidemic among inner-city children.

Cockroach complaints are common among New Yorkers because the underground conduits for trains, storm water and sewage, natural gas, fresh water and wiring of all types connect the city's apartment buildings. These subterranean networks also teem with several species of cockroach.

Some roaches prefer damp places, like bathrooms, and others like it dry. But all roaches are attracted by anything they find edible, so obsessive cleanliness will get you only so far. Roaches can survive, even thrive, on specks of leather that flake off your shoes and the dust that falls from natural-fiber clothes. When it comes to fighting roaches, the best offense is a strong defense: Caulk your home.

Get a $25 air-powered gun and use an air compressor ($300, or $50 a day to rent). Use 100% inorganic caulk; most brands are comprised of the same gypsum that goes into drywall board, and even cockroaches won't eat it. Avoid any brand that might contain a binder based on natural gum. You may find a caulk that contains boric acid, a mild but effective cockroach toxin.

11/26/2018 9:36:58 PM

Can you still find boric acid caulk anywhere? games that were available in 2001 through 2010 now seem difficult to find.

11/26/2018 9:36:57 PM

Can you still find boric acid caulk anywhere? games that were available in 2001 through 2010 now seem difficult to find.

5/19/2018 4:42:25 AM

Cockroaches live in small cracks and crevices around your home, which can make your life difficult.

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