Home Pest Guide: How to Get Rid of Mice & Roaches

Successfully getting rid of mice and roaches in your home requires time and effort. While your exterminator can certainly help, residents and homeowners also play an important role.

This guide was written to walk you through some simple steps you can take at home to keep pests out, such as cleaning, keeping food sealed, vacuuming regularly, and disposing of garbage properly.

Use this as a handy reference to address and prevent any pest issues that you might encounter. 

Home Pest Control Guide for Residents

How to Use This Guide

This approach to pest control at home is based on the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a safe and scientifically-proven approach that aims to:

  • Deprive pests of food and water sources
  • Eliminate hiding spots and harborage areas for pests
  • Seal entry points that allow pests to enter your home

By doing this, you can get rid of pests and stop them from coming back by removing the conditions that attract them in the first place.

Follow each step carefully and avoid overlooking any nooks or crannies where pests are hiding, feeding, or reproducing. 

You don’t need to complete everything at once — just take it one step at a time. Pest issues don’t get solved overnight, so expect it to take a few days or weeks to start seeing results.

Step 1: Finding Signs of Pests

Household pests like mice and roaches are not only a nuisance, they can also contaminate food, damage property, and worsen allergies or asthma

If you’re concerned about these pests getting into your apartment or home, it’s important to understand how big the problem is, where they’re coming from, and what is attracting them. 

To find out where pests are active, look out for these common signs.

Signs of Mice: 

  • Sightings — Usually after dusk and before dawn when mice are most active.
  • Droppings — Brown, rice-shaped pellets that are about ⅛ to ¼ inch long.
  • Gnaw marks — Small groove-like teeth marks, especially near holes and cracks.
  • Runways — Greasy, dirty-looking streaks along walls and baseboards, often found with rub marks, droppings, and footprints nearby.
  • Nests — Appear as piles of scavenged materials like food wrappers, torn fabrics, paper, strings, and pillow stuffings.
  • Urine pillars — Small vertical mounds that are up to 2 inches high and ½ inch wide, made up of urine, grease, hair, and dirt.

Signs of Cockroaches: 

  • Sightings — American cockroaches are large (1½ to 2 inches), dark, and reddish-brown. German cockroaches are smaller (about ½ inches) and tan colored. 
  • Nymphs — Look like adults but much smaller (as small as ⅛ inch), can be white or dark brown in color, and lack wings.
  • Droppings — Small brown or black dots resembling coffee grounds.
  • Smear marks — Dark, irregular-shaped stains made up of liquified roach feces in areas with high moisture like kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Egg cases — Brown, cylindrical, and roughly the size of a kidney bean (2 to 5 millimeters). Usually found in warm, humid places near sources of food. 
  • Shed skins — Brittle, light brown, cockroach-shaped shells left behind after molting.

How to Inspect Your Home for Pests

Starting with your kitchen and bathrooms, go through each room in your home and note down any areas where pests are active. 

Look carefully behind and underneath furniture and around appliances. Use a flashlight or phone to illuminate dark and hard-to-reach areas.

Check around trash cans, especially if you don’t have a tightly-sealed lid. Other high-risk places frequented by pests include cabinets and drawers where food is stored, under sinks, and near drains and pipes where there’s a lot of moisture. If you have pets, check near their food and water bowls as well.

Lastly, look closely in closets and storage areas, especially top shelves, back corners or closets where seasonal items like winter coats are stored. 

If you’re dealing with a moderate to severe insect infestation, have a vacuum handy during your inspection to suck up any bugs that you come across. After you’re done, remember to empty the vacuum into a sealed garbage bag for disposal.

Step 2: Cleaning Up

Regularly cleaning your home and removing excess clutter is a very important step to help control and prevent pests. By doing so, you’ll make it harder for pests to get inside, move around, and stay out of sight. 

Reduce Clutter

  • Store old clothing or linens in large plastic bins or sealed plastic bags. 
  • Avoid storing items in cardboard boxes, as those are easy for rodents and roaches to chew through — and makes great nesting material.
  • Recycle old piles of newspapers, paper bags, and cardboard.

Vacuum 

  • Vacuum any dust, dirt, and food crumbs off of the floor. 
  • Using a hose and crevice tool, vacuum behind and underneath kitchen appliances like fridges and stoves.
  • Empty food cabinets and throw away any old food or items with signs of pests.
  • When you’re done, empty the vacuum into a sealed plastic bag and throw it out.

Remove Grime

  • Use soap or detergent to clean floors and remove dirt and grime on a regular basis.
  • Scrub and rinse kitchen surfaces around and behind stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers — as much as can be done safely.
  • Wash countertops, tables, and surfaces where food is stored, prepared, or eaten. 
  • Remove grease and food stains from stovetops, burners, and exhaust hoods.
  • Clean out drawers, cabinets, and shelves in kitchens and bathrooms.

Wash Rugs and Curtains

  • Vacuum rugs and carpeted areas regularly to remove dirt, food, and other organic matter that attract pests.
  • Steam clean rugs and carpets to kill insect larvae and eggs.
  • Use an upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner to clean curtains.
  • Brush the tops of curtains along the rod with a long-handled dusting tool.

Clean Kitchen Appliances

  • Scrub grease and food stains off of frequently-used appliances like microwaves, toasters, and stovetops.
  • Unplug small appliances and vacuum them out.
  • If you suspect that pests are living inside of a small appliance, seal it in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer overnight.

Step 3: Managing Food, Water, and Garbage

Pests thrive on crumbs, garbage, improperly-stored foods, and any type of moisture source — whether it’s a leaky drain or the condensation that forms around air conditioning vents.

Properly managing food, water, and garbage takes away what pests need in order to live and reproduce in your home. While this won’t immediately solve an existing pest issue, it will control the population over time and prevent new pests from moving in. 

Put Food Away at Night

  • Don’t leave food or open food containers out overnight. 
  • Wash and dry dishes before going to bed.
  • Wipe crumbs or food stains from stovetops, counters, and tables. 
  • Don’t leave pet food out overnight.

Store Food Securely

  • Place open food items in resealable containers.
  • Keep dry foods in tightly-sealed containers made of plastic, glass, or metal — with lids.
  • Store pantry staples like rice, flour, and nuts in the refrigerator whenever possible.
  • Safely store large bags of pet food in large plastic bins or metal garbage cans with lids. 

Keep Your Home Dry

  • Look for and repair any dripping pipes or faucets.
  • Close drains with rubber or metal drain covers when not in use.
  • After a shower, open bathroom windows to vent the steam.
  • If a leak occurs, repair the source of the leak and dry the affected area as quickly as possible.

Manage Garbage

  • Use metal garbage cans with tight-fitting lids, especially for kitchen trash.
  • Clean garbage cans and recycling bins regularly to reduce odors.
  • Rinse and dry recyclables before placing them in the designated bins. 
  • Tie garbage bags tightly before disposing them into chutes or building trash bins.
  • If your building has a chute, don’t overstuff them or throw liquids or sharp objects down the chute.
  • Do not leave bagged garbage on the floor in compactor rooms
  • Do not leave bagged garbage out on the curb overnight.

Step 4: Sealing Pest Entry Points

Pests tend to find their way into your home from outside in search of food and shelter. House mice can squeeze through holes as small as a dime, while cockroaches can fit through cracks as tiny as 1/16 of an inch. 

By making some simple repairs to fill holes and seal cracks, especially around walls, floors, and sinks, you can stop pests from coming into your home. All you need are some relatively inexpensive materials that you can find at most hardware stores.

What You’ll Need:

  • Safety Gloves
  • 100% silicone caulk and a caulking gun
  • Water-based latex paint and a brush
  • Stainless steel wool or copper mesh
  • Spackle or joint compound and a spackling knife
  • Escutcheon plates
  • Weather stripping and door sweeps
  • Duct tape or staple gun
  • Wire mesh screen

Seal Gaps and Cracks

  • Look for small gaps and cracks near baseboards where the floor meets the wall, inside and around cabinets, behind kitchen appliances, near sinks and tubs, and around radiators and plumbing lines.
  • Use a caulking gun to seal narrow gaps with 100% silicone caulk.
  • Paint over small cracks in walls, floors, or woodwork with a water-based latex paint.

Fill Large Holes 

  • Stuff steel wool or copper mesh inside any holes larger than ½ inch wide to prevent mice from chewing through it.
  • Use spackle or joint compound to seal large gaps and holes.
  • Seal large gaps around plumbing lines and gas pipes and install escutcheon plates around the piping.

Seal Doors, Windows, and Vents

  • Install door sweeps to close gaps underneath any doors leading outside or to a building common space.
  • Mend any tears in window screens using staples or duct tape.
  • Secure wire screens over bathroom and kitchen vents using caulk or staples to block pests from entering through vents.

Step 5: Using Pest Control Products Safely

A common mistake people make is turning to pesticides first. Store-bought pesticide sprays only kill a small number of pests and won’t get rid of an infestation. Over time, pests may also develop resistance to these sprays. 

Try using non-chemical pest control products and methods first. Use chemical pesticides only as a last resort, and do so in a safe manner by carefully following instructions on the label.

For Cockroaches

  • Insect Dusts (boric acid, diatomaceous earth, or silica gel)
  • Gel Bait
  • Bait Stations 
  • Glue Traps

For Mice

  • Rodenticide Bait Stations (Only use baits that come in tamper-proof containers. Never use loose baits.)
  • Snap Traps
  • Glue Traps

Use Pesticides Carefully

  • When pesticides are needed, use them carefully according to the instructions on their label in order to protect people and pets.
  • Do not use more than the recommended amount.
  • Do not use a pesticide for any insect or rodent that isn’t named on the label.
  • Never use foggers, bombs, or loose rodent bait.
  • Never use illegal products such as Chinese Chalk, Tres Pasitos, or Tempo.
  • Safely store chemical pesticides and place traps out of the reach of children and pets.

In Case of Accidental Pesticide Exposure

  • Contact the Poison Control Center: (212) 764-7667
  • If pesticides are accidentally swallowed, go to the nearest emergency room or call the Poison Control Center for instructions. 
  • If pesticides get in your eye, hold your eyelid open and flush your eye with clean running water from a tap or hose for at least 15 minutes and call the Poison Control Center.
  • If pesticides splash on your skin, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. Discard contaminated clothing or thoroughly was it separately from other laundry.
  • If your pet ingests rodenticide, call your vet or your nearest pet emergency service immediately.

Need Help Getting Rid of Pests in New York City?

Contact MMPC today! Whether you’re a homeowner, landlord, or tenant, we have the knowledge and experience to resolve any type of pest issue using long-lasting, eco-friendly methods. Call (212) 219-8218 or click the link below to fill out our contact form.