How Do Cockroaches Get In? 7 Ways Cockroaches Enter Homes

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Surprise! You have a cockroach infestation. Once you make this unpleasant discovery, it’s natural to feel a little offended. “But my house is so clean,” you may think. “My doors are self-shutting and never left open. My windows are screened. What did I do wrong to stop roaches from getting in?”

It’s not you—it’s them. Cockroaches are common in Arizona; the types you’ll encounter are most likely the German cockroach, the American cockroach, the Turkestan cockroach, the Surinam cockroach, and the Brownbanded cockroach. Regardless of the species, cockroaches are very sneaky about getting into homes and other buildings. Despite best efforts and diligent cleanliness, there are many ways cockroaches end up inside. Here are just a few ways that cockroaches creep into homes—and the measures you can take to stop them from invading.

Corrugated Cardboard and Newspaper

Cockroaches are attracted to paper, and it’s for a very specific reason. They communicate with each other through chemical pheromones that they secrete; paper absorbs this pheromone. Essentially, paper helps cockroaches find one another and organize themselves.

What to Do: Replace all cardboard boxes with plastic bins, and do not take and store cardboard products inside. Do not store any newspaper piles indoors or around the house—recycle it!


Cockroaches are crafty enough to crawl in and out through drains and pipes; this is especially a problem in apartment buildings, where drain pipes are used as highways between apartments. Cockroaches thrive in the Arizona heat (in fact, they hide and do not develop or reproduce at temperatures lower than 45°F) so late spring and summer is the high season to be on guard and monitor your drains.

What to Do: Place stoppers and metal baskets over all sink and shower drains in the house. If there’s a bathroom shower or laundry room sink in your home that is not being used regularly, close it up completely when it’s not in use. Above all, keep all drains squeaky clean!

Cracks in the Foundation and Exterior Walls

Although cockroaches can grow to be quite sizeable, some species can still shimmy through cracks and openings as narrow as 1/16 of an inch wide! This means that any openings in a building’s foundation or exterior walls are an open invitation for roaches. Any other gaps around pipes, windows, vents, etc., will also allow roaches to enter.

What to Do: The best measure against roaches entering through cracks is to seal any gaps you may find with a caulking gun. You can also use steel wool, copper mesh, and weather stripping to seal cracks.

Under Doors

This is one of the most common ports of entry for cockroaches, as some species are attracted to the light coming from inside buildings and the space is often large enough for them to slip through.

What to Do: Change any bulbs near doorways from white light to yellow light, which will curb the attraction. On the doors themselves, you can add door sweeps to the bottom edge that form a seal between the door and the threshold.

Clothing and Baggage

Cockroaches stow themselves away on paper grocery bags, briefcases, purses, backpacks, and other unsuspecting personal items. Sometimes it’s the cockroach’s eggs that end up hitching a ride inside.

What to Do: It’s almost impossible to check everything that enters the house for cockroaches or their eggs, but minimizing paper bag usage and regularly washing your bags can help.

Dry Pet Food

Cockroaches aren’t that picky about what they eat. Your bag of dry puppy chow or cat food may be what is attracting the cockroach invasion.

What to Do: Don’t store pet food in garages or sheds before bringing it into the house. Once it’s inside, be careful to store it in a plastic airtight container rather than its opened packaging.

Seasoned Firewood

If you have an indoor fireplace and regularly bring bundles of cut firewood into the house, beware of cockroaches hitching a ride. Cockroaches can live in and around of wood, too!

What to Do: Bring only enough firewood inside for one fire; don’t store the extra in your indoor living space. Also, try not to leave large stocks of firewood outside for season after season—this creates a potential breeding site for cockroaches.

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