If you’ve seen a cockroach in your home, I assure you there are many more hiding in dark places waiting to contaminate your kitchen benches, cutlery and more. They are not just undesirable pests, these disease carrying critters shed skin, lay eggs (called Oothecae) and poop – and can cause you some serious health issues.
There are various methods to kill cockroaches, pesticides and sprays being the most popular. If you’re looking for non toxic cockroach control, you’ve probably wondered – does steam kill cockroaches?
According to the Illinois Department of Health, steam is an effective method of killing cockroaches due to the high heat. As cockroaches have an exoskeleton, the heat will dry out vital organs until they are unable to breathe. Prolonged exposure to heat is the key.
Steam can also be used to sanitize areas post cockroach removal. A steamer designed specifically for pest control is a preferred choice over your average home steam cleaner. This is because most home steamers heat water to 212°F, however the steam temperature drops quickly.
Using a commercial steam cleaner with higher steam temperatures will have a better effect on eliminating roaches. Take a look at the temperatures that kill roaches below vs the time it takes to kill a cockroach.
What Heat Temperature Kills Roaches?
According to GreenTech Heat Solutions, a German cockroach can take up to 58 minutes to die at a temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Increase that temperature to 130°F and a German cockroach will die in 7 minutes.
But what do you do if you don’t want to stand there for 7 minutes trying to steam a cockroach who will be doing everything in its power to get away from the heat?
Get a hotter steamer, or call a pest management professional.
Cockroaches can tolerate heat better than humans can. If you want to tackle DIY cockroach eradication, I’d suggest the Polti Cimex Eradicator Steamer which outputs steam at up to 356°F. Commonly used by professionals as a steam treatment for bed bugs, this machine outputs dry hot steam at a low pressure – so you don’t blow the bugs (or roaches) across the room.
It is pricey, and may not be affordable for everyone, so I’ve also included some tips below to help with keeping your pest infestation under control.
If you prefer to engage a professional, GreenTech Heat Solutions have a list of contractors across the US who offer pest control via heat treatment to effectively eradicate cockroaches.
What is the Most Common Type of Cockroach?
Despite their being over 4500 types of cockroaches in the world, there are 8 main species that tend to infest in and around your home. They are:
Small (approx 0.5 inches long) brown roaches, German roaches are the most common type found in homes. German roaches rapidly grow and reproduce and can soon become an infestation. Find them usually in kitchens, bathrooms, pantry and food preparation areas, with a preferred temperature between 59°F and 95°F.
Mostly found outside, Oriental cockroaches feed on decaying matter, plant, animal, or food scraps. If they make their way inside, you will find them in cool, moist areas such as the basement, laundry or under kitchen sink, with preferred temperatures between 68 and 86°F. They are slower moving than other types of cockroaches.
At around 2 inches long, the American cockroach is the largest of the species. These roaches like to hide in warm moist locations, so you will usually find them under your bathroom, laundry or kitchen sink, around bins, in your garden, and drains. They prefer to live in temperatures between 68°F and 84°F.
As equally as invasive to homes as the German cockroach, Brown-banded roaches have narrow bodies with bands of either yellow or light brown on their wings, abdomen and thorax. They are found across most of the US, but not in the same location in your home as German cockroaches. They like warm and dry locations, such as your bookshelves, in and around clutter, behind wall hangings etc.
Aptly named, Woods cockroaches consist of 16 different species, all of which live in moist woodlands native to North America. They can be brought inside on firewood, but are not likely to survive long. Thorough cleaning is still warranted however. Like all other species of roaches, Woods cockroaches can trigger asthma and allergies and contaminate food.
1.5 inches in length, Smokybrown cockroaches have wings that are longer than their body and fly at night. If you have outside lighting, they will be attracted to this. They generally prefer to remain outdoors, hiding in moist areas such as guttering, amongst foliage or under siding and roofing shingles. If they make their way indoors they will stay close to moisture.
Despite the name, Australian cockroaches are not unique to Australia. These creepy crawlies are around 1.25 inches in length, can fly short distances, and generally live in damp areas such as wood piles, pipes, trunks of trees – anywhere that is damp and humid. Australian cockroaches usually remain outside until Winter, then they look for moist, humid areas in your home such as your drains, bathtub, sinks and shower.
If you live in Florida or the Southern US, you’ve likely come across Asian cockroaches. Very similar in size to German cockroaches (approx 0.5 inches long) they usually hang about outside in shady areas, feeding on anything decomposing. As Asian cockroaches can fly, they can make their way inside and will gravitate towards the light.
All cockroaches listed above can trigger asthma, allergy symptoms, contaminate food and food preparation areas, and make you sick. The worst kind of cockroaches are the German, Brown-banded, American and Oriental.
Does Dryer Heat Kill Roaches?
Most clothes dryers heat up to 135°F, making this an effective way of killing cockroaches in your clothing. It may take several hours to kill the cockroaches at this temperature, so run the dryer for as hot and as long as your clothing will tolerate.
I’d also recommend re-washing and drying your clothing after the roaches have died.
Use your steam cleaner to kill any germs inside your dryer, around the seals, door, filter etc.
What Temperature Kills Roach Eggs?
Roach eggs will start to break down when exposed to temperatures above 120°F. They don’t die instantly however, and may need to be exposed to heat for some time.
Professional cockroach exterminators generally expose cockroaches and their eggs to temperatures between 140°F and 150°F for five to six hours.
The hotter the heat, the faster the roach eggs will die.
Can Cockroaches Survive in a Hot Car?
To effectively kill cockroaches in your car, the internal temperature would need to reach at least 120°F and remain that way for hours. Roaches will try and escape the heat by looking for hiding places such as under the seat, in the doors, and into your vents.
Unless these areas area heated above 120°F for a prolonged period, a cockroach is not likely to die. The heat may reduce the roaches lifespan however.
The Problem With Insecticides (aside from the toxic chemicals)
Cockroaches are developing resistance to insecticides. Michael Scarf, a Professor at Purdue University states: “Cockroaches developing resistance to multiple classes of insecticides at once will make controlling these pests almost impossible with chemicals alone.”
His study identified that cockroaches are becoming resistant to multiple insecticides, with immunity also passing to their offspring.
Their recommendation is to increase sanitization, use a combination of roach traps and chemical treatments and vacuuming. This is where steam cleaning can help, by using steam to sanitize every possible surface that will tolerate it.
This is especially important in kitchens and food preparation areas. Steam can help to eradicate bacteria carried by cockroaches such as salmonella and E.coli. These bacteria can cause illnesses such as food poisoning.
How to Use Your Vacuum to Help Remove Cockroach Infestations
Any household vacuum can be adjusted to help remove a roach infestation. Adult roaches usually congregate together near food sources, so look in cupboards for any cracks or crevices, behind and under your fridge and areas near food preparation surfaces for any potential hiding spots.
Signs of cockroaches include tiny dark brown or black specs (which are actually bits of cockroach feces), shed skin, cockroach eggs, and of course, seeing cockroaches themselves.
Use your vacuum hose and a narrow tube attachment to get as close to crevices as possible. This will help to remove cockroach nymphs, shed skin, fecal matter and live roaches.
You can then aim your steam cleaner in the cracks and crevices to flush out any more hiding cockroaches.
Vacuuming alone will not kill roaches or their eggs – you then need to treat the contents of the vacuum cleaner to ensure the roaches die. The easiest way to do this is to place the canister of the vacuum (or vacuum bag if you have a bagged vacuum cleaner) in the freezer.
Cockroaches cannot withstand freezing temperatures either, so place the bag in your freezer for at least 24 hours.
Natural Methods of Repelling Cockroaches
Along with keeping your home as clean as possible and storing food in sealed containers, these natural cockroach repellents are likely already in your pantry or laundry.
- Bay leaves
- Garlic Powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Lemon Juice
- Vinegar and Peppermint Oil
- Neem Oil
- Boric Acid (also known as Borax)
- Baking Soda and Sugar
This video explains how to use these products as well as some DIY home made traps using natural ingredients.
Also, if you have pets in your home, keep pet food stored in sealed containers and wash pet bowls after each meal.
Tips to Keep Cockroaches Under Control
Domestic cockroaches will look for moist areas, which is why they are regularly found under sinks, where leaky pipes are common. Check your home for any drips or leaks and fix them.
Use your steam cleaner to clean inside cupboards, kitchen cabinet doors, baseboards, down drains etc. Be vigilant with cleaning and maintaining hygienic surfaces.
Put plugs in your drains at night to keep the roaches from crawling down to get to water. Empty your pet bowl overnight also, so they cannot use this as a water source.
You can purchase readily available pesticides and insect growth regulators such as Vendetta Plus Cockroach Gel. Insect growth regulators don’t kill cockroaches, but will cause deformities that stop the breeding cycle.
The cockroach gel can be placed on door hinges inside cupboards, in bottle tops around the edges of the floor, or any trouble spots where you see avenues of cockroach movement. They come in syringe-type applicators and a small spot is all you need. It will dry out, so replenish the gel every couple of days.
I’m not usually one to recommend chemicals, but if you have a major bug infestation, it may be necessary. Given the evidence of cockroach resistance to pesticides it is only a matter of time before baits for cockroaches stop working.
Gel baits and sticky traps seem to be the most effective in cockroach elimination, especially if you live in an apartment where cockroaches can easily move from one apartment to the next.
Enjoy Your Cockroach-Free Home
Now that you understand how heat and steam can kill cockroaches, you can get started cleaning, vacuuming and steaming these bacteria carrying critters.
Remember that roaches love to hide, so it may take several treatments with a high heat steam cleaner to effectively eliminate an infestation.
Keep at it though. Before long you will have eliminated cockroaches naturally, and can enjoy your home without worrying about where cockroaches have crawled and what they’ve left behind.