In general, roaches are attracted to three things: food, water, and shelter. A messy car full of crumbs, trash, open drinks, and half-eaten food is the perfect place for roaches to make their home.

While the best way to keep roaches out of your car is to prevent them from showing up in the first place by keeping your vehicle clean, sometimes it’s too late for prevention and your car may already be infested. In this article, we’ll tell you how to get rid of roaches in a car.

In This Article:

  • Things to Do Before Treating the Problem

  • The Cheapest Method: Boric Acid

  • Other Options

  • The Fastest Method: Bug Bomb (But Only as a Last Resort)

  • How to Prevent Roaches from Coming Back

Things to Do Before Treating the Problem

We’ll be covering the many possible ways for you to get rid of roaches, including everything from natural methods to a roach bomb as a last resort.

The first thing you should do after you spot a roach in your car is to immediately take steps to resolve the problem. If you see one roach in your car, more are sure to follow. The longer you wait to remedy the situation, the worse things will get.

There are two things you absolutely need to do in order to minimize the roach infestation:

1. Clean Out Your Car.

The roaches are probably in your car in the first place because they were attracted to a food source. Roaches eat pretty much everything, including paper wrappers. You’ll want to thoroughly clean out your car after spotting a roach. Get rid of everything that a cockroach could potentially eat, and we mean everything — throw out any food that has been opened, empty containers, wrappers, and even papers you might have lying around. All of these things are food to a roach. Be sure to check your glove compartment, trunk, side panels, seat pockets, and under the seats.

After getting rid of the trash, vacuum all areas of your car, including the trunk. Remove any mats and rugs and clean them separately; don’t put them back in the car until the infestation is clear. If you can, it might be a good idea to use a handheld rug shampooer to clean the seats and carpet. This will help to get rid of any eggs.

2. Impose a Food Ban.

Let’s face it — we all probably eat in our cars. Imposing a food ban may be really hard, but it’s wise. Food is the number one reason why roaches are in your car. If you stop giving them a food source, they’ll stop coming around. After cleaning your car, don’t let anyone eat in it anymore, including yourself. If you absolutely have to eat on the go, clean up immediately. It might be a good idea to keep a handheld vacuum in the car.

Roaches are nocturnal creatures, so it’s best to deploy these methods at night and check them in the morning. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a safe overnight method for getting rid of roaches in your car. Expect it to take at least one month to be sure that the infestation is completely gone. Don’t be discouraged if any of these methods don’t work out on their own — you may have to combine a few to effectively get the job done.

The Cheapest Method for Getting Rich of Roaches in a Car: Boric Acid

Boric acid is a naturally occurring pesticide. It is typically sold as a ready-to-use powder. Many pesticides include boric acid, but it can also be used on its own.

Boric acid works in two ways. First, the particles stick to the roaches’ legs and body. Boric acid is slightly abrasive and will help dehydrate the roach. Despite being associated with filth, roaches do clean themselves. This is where the boric acid now stuck to the roach’s legs comes in: during cleaning, the roach will ingest the boric acid. The acid is highly toxic to the roach and destroys its digestion system.

To properly use boric acid, you’ll want to sprinkle only a thin layer in any areas you suspect the roaches to be hiding. You can even mix the boric acid with a little sugar as bait.

  • Cost: You can purchase a 16 oz bottle of boric acid for $6.99 on Amazon, which should be more than enough to kill the roaches in your car.
  • Pros: Boric acid is relatively safe for people and pets. You only need a small amount for it to be effective. Boric acid works quickly; after contact with the boric acid, a roach will die within 72 hours, and nymphs and juveniles usually die within 24 – 48 hours. Boric acid remains potent as long as it stays dry. Roaches can’t become resistant and will continue unknowingly walking over boric acid as long as it’s present in the area they inhabit.
  • Cons: Although it is generally safe, boric acid can be harmful if you’re exposed to high amounts. Boric acid can irritate skin. If ingested, it can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach aches, and diarrhea. Inhaling boric acid can cause coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, and nosebleeds. If you come into contact with boric acid in the form of borax, it can be highly corrosive to skin and eyes. The National Pesticide Information Center has more information about safely using boric acid.

Other Options

Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

Diatomaceous earth is a fine powder that is both abrasive and absorbent. It is one of the best natural insecticides. DE begins to work when the abrasive particles cut through the exoskeleton of a cockroach. This causes the roach to weaken and its fluids to leak out. The DE then absorbs all the moisture from the roach’s body, which eventually causes it to dry out and die.

To use DE properly, use it only on dry surfaces and sprinkle lightly. Spread DE anywhere you think the roaches may be hiding, like under your seats and in any crevices.

  • Cost: Diatomaceous earth comes in food grade form and costs $8.99 for one pound on Amazon, which should be plenty to take care of a roach infestation in a vehicle.
  • Pros: DE is natural, organic, and safe for people (including babies and children) and pets. Since DE is a dust, roaches have no resistance to its effects; this makes DE one of the most effective ways of killing off roaches. DE remains effective as long as it stays dry and undisturbed. It’s easy to clean; all you need to do is vacuum up the dust. DE can be reapplied and used as often as needed. It’s also great for getting rid of other pests, including fleas and bedbugs.
  • Cons: Fortunately, DE has very few negative attributes. DE is “Generally Recognized as Safe” by the FDA. However, DE can be harmful when large quantities are inhaled. When handled improperly, diatomaceous earth can cause skin irritation, coughing, and shortness of breath. DE can also irritate your eyes. Be sure to wear disposable gloves when spreading it around.

Disposable Bait Traps

This method is one of the most popular and convenient ways to get rid of roaches in your car. Bait traps are straightforward to use. All you have to do is set them out at night in areas where the roaches may be hiding, such as in the trunk, under the seats, and on the floor. Throw the traps out in the morning before using your car. Repeat the process until your vehicle is free of roaches.

  • Cost: An 8-count pack of Combat brand roach traps costs $9.99 on Amazon, which may or may not be enough to get rid of a roach infestation in your vehicle, depending on how effective the traps are.
  • Pros: Bait traps are convenient and inexpensive. It’s easy to DIY your own bait traps with material you have lying around the house. A popular DIY method is to take fabric softener sheets or glue traps (like the kind used for rats) and sprinkle on homemade bait, such as baking soda mixed with sugar or beer. Bait traps are a safer alternative to harsher methods like diatomaceous earth or boric acid.
  • Cons: Bait traps might not be all that effective for your situation. From our research, there have been reports that roaches have learned to avoid commercial bait traps. Using bait traps may also take longer to completely get rid of the roaches. The trap only kills the roaches that are lured onto it, so you might not be able to kill the roaches fast enough before they reproduce.

The Fastest Method for Treating a Roach Infested Car: Roach Bomb/Fogger

If you’ve never used a bug bomb before, it works by releasing a large amount of insecticide into the air. The released insecticide treats all the exposed surfaces where it lands. Although using a bug bomb in your car isn’t generally recommended, if your infestation is bad enough, it might be the only solution to your problem.

Only use a bug bomb as a last resort, and contact a professional. Never attempt to do this method yourself. Since these products are typically used in houses, we could not find any specific information regarding a price for using a bug bomb in a vehicle. If this is the last available option, you’ll have to call around to local businesses to find out which companies would be willing to bug bomb your car and to ask for prices. (Try a Google search for “roach extermination near me” to get some phone numbers.)

  • Cost: Price can vary widely, as this is a non-standard service; you’ll need to call local exterminators to see who would be willing to bug bomb your car and at what cost.
  • Pros: If done correctly, the bug bomb should get rid of the roast infestation completely. This is the fastest method for ridding your car of roaches.
  • Cons: The insecticide used in bug bombs is dangerous. You’ll need to make sure that you take everything out of your car before the bug bomb is used. Afterwards, you’ll need to air your car out and clean as many surfaces as you can. It might also be a good idea to blast out the air in the vents for a while with the car doors open. The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of general safety precautions to take when using a bug bomb.

How to Prevent Roaches from Coming Back

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to stop a roach infestation in your car is to prevent one from happening in the first place. Here are a few tips on how to keep roaches away from your car (these tips will work for your house or apartment too):

  1. Always keep your car clean! This is easier said than done, but keeping your car tidy goes a long way in preventing the roaches from showing up in the first place.
  2. Try not to eat in the car. Crumbs and leftovers will attract roaches. If you do eat in the car, clean up right away.
  3. Sprinkle crushed bay leaves, cucumber slices, or garlic cloves around the car. All of these are natural repellents and should help keep the roaches at bay.
  4. Catnip is another natural repellent. You can put dry catnip in little mesh bags around the car, or make a spray by boiling a few scoops of catnip in water, letting the mixture cool, and putting it in a spray bottle.
  5. Rub tea tree oil over areas that roaches frequent, such as the trunk and under the seats.
  6. Make a spray by mixing a few drops of essential mint oil with a cup of water. Spray this solution around the car.

In Summary

Although your initial reaction to seeing a roach in your car may be panic, there are several ways to rid your car of roaches. Following the advice in this article will help you get rid of a roach infestation and prevent the pests from coming back. Remember to keep your car as clean as possible and try your best not to eat on the go. If you can, try out the other methods, like diatomaceous earth, boric acid, or bait traps before resorting to a bug bomb. Once you’ve gotten rid of the roaches, use a few of our prevention tips to keep your car roach-free.