Let’s set the stage for this post (which is a true story). You walk into your rental home for the very first time after getting your keys. After looking around the living room (which the front door led to), you decide to check out the kitchen. It certainly wasn’t modern (who really needs granite countertops anyways), but it was perfect for just one person. As you’re looking around the room, you notice lots of coffee grounds on the edge between the countertops and the walls. You also notice coffee grounds on the washer and dryer (which are in the kitchen, as well). Strange, you think to yourself. The previous tenant must have loved their coffee.
As I found out a month later…those weren’t coffee grounds. Any guesses?
Disclaimer: If you really, really don’t like pests, you may want to stop reading here. I can’t stand pests, but when you live on your own, you gotta do what you gotta do…
I moved into the rental home in late December. The heat was off, and it was a cool 42 degrees inside when I got there (in case you don’t know, the cold usually sends most bugs/pests into “hibernation”. When it gets warmer, the bugs/pests come out to play).
About a month after I moved in, I went into the kitchen for more rice and teriyaki beef. As I was scooping the rice into my bowl, I noticed a bug out of the corner of my eye on the kitchen counter. I assumed it was a spider, so I ran to the bedroom, grabbed my sandal, and went back to the kitchen to kill it.
When I actually looked at the bug, I saw that it was about ¾ inches long, had a hard shell, was reddish-brown, and had two long antennae. It was at this point where my heart rate instantly sped up. I hoped and prayed it wasn’t what I thought it was.
I stood there, staring at it, sandal in hand, and realized I had two options. 1) I could not kill it and stay awake thinking about how I knew I had a living cockroach in the house, or 2) kill it and know that it was dead. Now, I didn’t have any bug killers or anything, so my sandal would just have to do. To make a very long ordeal a whole lot shorter, I hit everything but the cockroach and it disappeared in the crack between the countertop and the wall.
Evidence of cockroaches:
- Coffee grounds
They’re really not coffee grounds – they’re just cockroach droppings. They’re usually found in cabinets, along the edges of a wall, and in dark places. When they’re out on the countertops and on the washer/dryer, you have a pretty big problem.
- Seeing one
It’s a big problem when you see one. It’s an even bigger problem when you see one when every single light in the kitchen is on. They’re nocturnal and really like the dark, so if you’re seeing them in the light….need I say more?
After reading a lot about cockroaches online, many sites said you could smell them – they usually smell musty or oily. I couldn’t have told you this, mainly because I was living in a home built as part of an Army base in the 1940s, so any smell like that I would have associated with the age of the house – not a bug.
People joke that if there ever was an apocalypse, cockroaches would be the only ones to survive. And I don’t think they’re wrong. With the many cockroaches I did come across, here’s how I dealt with them.
How to get rid of them:
This was my go-to method. There’s something so satisfying about using your snowboot to stomp on a pesky cockroach and seeing its guts come out of its body. Hey, if you keep stomping on it, its head will eventually come off (although it makes a bigger mess for you to clean up). I really don’t like bugs.
- Roach spray
The roach spray that I found didn’t actually kill them (much to my surprise when it “came back to life” a few minutes later). However, it does slow them down and gives you enough time to stomp on them with your snowboot (because a sandal is clearly not big enough for this job).
- Roach traps
These were little black boxes that had a solid poison in them (some companies called them roach motels). The roach would think the poison was food and take it back to its nest, where they would all have a potluck and hopefully die. I don’t know if this actually worked, as I never found the nest (not that I especially cared to), but it did give me peace of mind.
- Boric acid…lots and lots of boric acid
Boric acid dries the cockroach out, essentially turning them into mush from the outside in (similar to diatomaceous earth, which slices open their exoskeleton). Now, you want to make sure you do not breathe in the boric acid dust, as it will damage your lungs (nor do you want to touch it…wear gloves). A mask will stop the boric acid dust, because these particles are a whole lot larger than a virus…but that’s a different subject.
Here’s what you want to do with the boric acid:
- You could dump it right onto a roach, but that seems more difficult than a spray/snowboot, since you first need to make sure you’re protected from the powder.
- Line the baseboards with a very thin dusting…you want to make sure that you cannot see it, because roaches will avoid large amounts.
- If you have carpet, dump boric acid onto it and then take a broom to distribute it all around. Leave the boric acid on the carpet for as long as you can (at least four hours, or overnight if possible). Then, vacuum up the excess powder.
- Seal all holes/cracks – size of a dime
My landlord wasn’t very good about fixing holes/cracks in the house (or getting rid of these pests), so my dad came up the weekend right after I found my first roach and we set to sealing everything up.
Here’s a good rule of thumb…if you can shove a dime through, a cockroach can also fit through. An interesting thing about roaches is that they are able to contort their bodies to fit in very small places.
We used duct tape to seal any holes where pipes were connected through the wall and spray foam wasn’t used. We also used duct tape to seal cracks in the ceiling. We used backer rod and caulk to seal the space between the countertop and the wall (which was about ¾ inches). We checked under/behind the stove, fridge, furnace, washer, dryer, and in the cabinets. We sealed everything with either duct tape or caulk. You have no idea (or maybe you do) how relieving it is when all of those holes/cracks are sealed.
- Washing machine
This was my personal favorite. Somehow, a cockroach ended up in my washing machine while I was cleaning my jeans and towels. I noticed because I kept finding parts of the roach – body, legs, etc – while I was trying to put my clothes in the dryer. My devious side loved the idea of drowning and dismembering the roach…if it had survived, then it would have had the opportunity to be cooked in the dryer. After all, it deserved a long, slow death for the near heart attack it caused me.
For someone who really didn’t like even tiny garden spiders before I moved into my own place, I think I handled it pretty well, considering I only screamed once (when I opened a bathroom cabinet and a cockroach was staring me in the face). Hopefully this has given you some signs to look for before you move into a new place, and some ways to try to deal with it if you’re stuck in this situation.
Unfortunately, cockroaches were not my only problem in my rental home. Stay tuned for the second installment in this series.
Image: https://drawception.com/panel/drawing/2bU43336/a-roach-loves-it-s-coffee/ (I wanted to include one that I had squished, but didn’t want to get too graphic 🤩)
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