Natural Cockroach Repellent


Some things in New York City are unavoidable. High rent. Loud sirens. And cockroaches. I haven’t been able to do anything about the first two, but seem to have found a natural solution for the third.

I’m a live-and-let-live kind of guy. Mice, spiders, Republicans… they don’t faze me. But show me cockroach and I turn into a club-weilding maniac. My building’s an old walk-up, so vermin can be kind of a given; but I knew there had to be a way to keep them at bay. Literally.

Roaches love scents and it’s usually the wafting smells from your place that lure them in. What they can’t stand, however, are bay leaves.

What To Do:

Take a handful of bay leaves — those tiny bits at the bottom of your spice jar are perfect — and grind them up as finely as possible. I don’t really indulge in guacamole or Wicca, so I don’t own a mortar and pestle, but I’d imagine that or a coffee grinder would work great. Otherwise, do what I do: throw the leaves in a baggie or your palm and break them up by hand.

Natural Cockroach Repellent


Now, sprinkle a hearty dusting wherever you suspect your roaches are entering your apartment. I have a gap underneath my front door that could let in rabbits, so I put most of mine down there. Other trouble areas like windows, the coffeemaker, and even the backs of framed pictures get a dusting.

Natural Cockroach Repellent

(Caution: extremely complicated.)

For years, I’d reluctantly used traditional Combat baits, which didn’t seem to do anything but offer my roaches better accommodations. But for the last year, since I started sprinkling bay leaves everywhere, the drop-off in cockroach sightings has been staggering. Bay leaves are a repellent, not a poison; so I know all those roaches have got to be somewhere, but so long as it’s not my apartment, that’s fine by me.

I’ve also heard that roaches hate the smell of catnip, so if that’s easier, try that and let me know. But if you have dogs or cats, it might not be the best choice, since catnip can drive them nuts, too.


Side note: if you haven’t already vermin-proofed your apartment, take a weekend and do it. Buy some steel wool and some spray-foam insulation (sorry, no earth-friendly alternative to that one, I’m afraid) and fill every pest-sized point of entry. Places like where pipes meet walls, around outlets and light fixtures, and underneath escutcheons. The one and only time I ever let an exterminator into my place — yes, it was that bad — he looked at my patchwork and said, “Damn. Can you come to my place?”

5 responses to “Natural Cockroach Repellent

  1. I’m a classic bug-meet-boot-be-gone. But this sounds intriguing and quite simple. (and maybe it’ll work on scorpions!) I appreciate that you’ve spent the time on the practical research. Looking forward to more great tips!

  2. ahh, definitely doing this! i’m a recent nyc transplant and i had my 1st ever cockroach encounter the day i moved in!! not a great first impression, haha.

    • Well, welcome to NYC and trust me, you’ll have lots more. 🙂 Bay leaves definitely work, but I found fresh cat mint works really well. It’s just harder to come by if you don’t grow it yourself, so I left it out; but if you can get a couple sprigs, smoosh it across the threshold of your apartment door, or in the corners of your counter tops, or wherever else you suspect they are — and the smell will keep them away. (Also: cat mint is a great deterrent for ants, too!)

  3. Wow! I’m SO GLAD someone else knows this! This is an ‘ole family method. Dandelions work well too! I have NO roaches and have lived in roachy apartment buildings for years. When I would tell my neighbors, they just look at me like “country black woman”, but couldn’t understand why I stayed roach free while they’re calling the exterminator every month––talk about progress! LOL!

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