Do You Want to Know How I Got Rid of Them?


“Do You Want to Know How I Got Rid of Them?”

At first, I tried chemicals. Raid was readily available at the corner convenience store, in several formulas aimed at various vermin. Cockroaches weren’t the only pests in the buildings. Other brands also competed at eye-level on the shelves. I realized the problem was widespread.

One morning I opened my kitchen cabinet and found a big cockroach sitting in the middle of my breakfast bowl, rotating its feelers, as if offering itself up in sacrifice for my breakfast. The Raid had worn off. I shrieked and dropped the bowl, giving the roach an escape route. 

I pulled everything from every cabinet in the kitchen, cleaned and wiped all the little spaces between boards and doors and wall.  On a whim, I picked up a roll of gray industrial tape that I’d left on the counter the day before.   Isilver tape stuck lengths of tape over the openings in which I expected roaches might hide. For the next week I kept vigil over the cabinets, opening them several times a day just to surprise any cockroach that thought he had privacy in there. The surprise was on me, however, because I did not see a single roach anywhere!

I phoned Asma to tell her about my new approach.

At first, I taped only the insides of cabinets and closets. When I realized how efficient the method was— far better than chemicals, which reek and then stop working— I taped other areas of the apartment. Over time I perfected the technique, learning how to choose the narrowest width needed, and how to apply it straight, without wrinkles.  I sent my husband out for three more rolls of industrial strength silver tape.

three roles tape

Once that tape stuck, there was no ripping it off. Even a thumb-sized cockroach could not emerge from behind it. I taped door frames, baseboards, stoop, and window frames. I did a neat job so it wouldn’t look  industrial.  An imaginative person could have looked at the strips and thought  they were a decorative statement.

My most significant accomplishment was taping the bathroom. This technique evolved over several years of vacations, because while we were abroad, all cockroaches knew it, and gave themselves carte blanche to move in and set up housekeeping. They liked the bathroom best, even better than the kitchen.

I simply taped every crack and orifice I could find. Each year, the roaches would find new ones, and each year, I’d tape up the new ones. The bathroom actually became a room of visual delight, what with strips and squares of silver tape lining seams and covering holes. I should have photographed it. 

more silver tapeThe day we’d leave for vacation, I’d save the bathroom taping for last. At the last minute, after the luggage had been taken out and the kids were whining, “Mom, come on,” I would tape the entire toilet lid and seat cover where they met the bowl.

When the entire bathroom looked ready to board the plane with us, we were ready to leave. Later, while listening to the drone of the jet engines, I would turn my attention to all the neat stories I’d tell the people back home.  I would stop worrying about cockroaches, secure in the hope that I’d foiled the yearly immigration. I wondered whether I’d be able to boast of my lovely taping to anyone in the States. No, probably not. I wondered if I might at least meet someone  with whom I could share my favorite movie, Joe’s Apartment.

I did! My mom loved it; we laughed like kids. My sister, however, didn’t last beyond Joe’s first infestation.

Joe's Apartment

About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions, and narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
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16 Responses to Do You Want to Know How I Got Rid of Them?

  1. ~W~ says:

    A light bulb moment brought a happy ending to the roach story.

  2. birdpress says:

    Wow, I wish you had taken pictures! Why did you need to tape the toilet seat though? I can’t quite figure that one out.

  3. Shahrzad says:

    lol.. What a story.. I think the sewer system in Saudi is not good. That’s why you had to get too many roach maybe.
    Here in Iran they sell a kind of paste in drugstores that is harmless and natural and not chemical. People use it to remove rouches in places there is any. Roaches like it so much and they eat it, but it makes them so thirsty and they go back to sewer system and drink water as much they explode.

  4. Maryam says:

    That was a great trick, Gosh !!!! I hate those Bugs, I just couldn tolerate them atall … !!! 🙂

  5. UTP says:

    we get an excellent tube with a brown gel here in Sharjah…works wonders…I havent seen a cockroach for the longest of times….


  6. Marahm says:

    Back in the early nineties, when I lived in that apartment, the German product was not available. All we had were chemicals and tape.

    I probably went overboard with taping the toilet seat. My obssession with getting rid of roaches was not in direct proportion to the number of roaches I found. My campaign against them got personal.

    Roaches have no respect. If they would have stayed on their side of the wall, emerging because they had taken a wrong turn, I might not have gone so ballistic.

    Roaches, however, like the challenge. They’re more curious than a two-year-old human being, and even more mobile. I am pleased to report that I did not import any infant roaches into my home here in the States when I repatriated in 1998. For years, I was on the look-out.

  7. Solace says:

    My mother was telling me that an effective “remedy” for cockroaches is chalk. You have to grate it and sprinkle it all over, apparently the cockroaches will disappear. I don’t have any in my house, so I haven’t tried it yet.

  8. coolred38 says:

    Back in the day (20 year ago) there was this product that came in a can…u add some water and it immediately stated smoking. You opened all the cabinets, drawers etc…and left for a few hours. When you came back to the room you discovered that not only were you sharing your space with large cockroaches(and small ones) that for some reason could not die tucked away in a crack somewhere but always crawled with their last remaining breath to the middle of the floor before kicking the bucket and flipping onto their backsides….but that you also were hosting a myriad of creatures ranging from spiders to crickets to even the odd lizard. All succumbed to the power of the bug bomb. I was always both freaked and amazed that that many creatures with that many legs were sharing space with me….ewwwww!

    i miss those bug bombs…nothing else even comes close to being as effective.

  9. Marahm says:

    Chalk sounds like a treatment I would have tried willingly. It’s natural and odorless. If anyone reading this tries it, let us know how it works.

    The Bug Bomb sounds too good to be true. It’s probably highly toxic to humans as well as vermin. Nothing that effective could exist without thumping human beings directly on the nervous system, the coagulation factors, the lungs, liver, bone marrow, fetus, or all combined. I would have used it without a second thought.

  10. Solace says:

    We still have those bug bombs here in South Africa, but I really am too scared to use them. I cannot imagine it being good for us humans as Marahm pointed out.

  11. a HAZMAT team could’nt do a better job.!
    whn we recenlty moved to a new place we had the whole house n nearby sewer pipes done professionally by a friend.
    no more! 😀

  12. Aafke says:

    I would have loved photos of your battlezone!

  13. intlxpatr says:

    Marahm, I learned from native Floridians about 20 Mule Team Borax, a very old fashioned laundry additive that boosts cleaning. Borax is not harmful to pets, and roaches – and FLEAS – hate it. It creates a dry, alkaline environment they can’t tolerate.

    Dying laughing at all the duct tape! It’s the greatest stuff for just about everything.

    BTW – I had fifteen minutes and a topic to write on for my blog and I’ve totally blown it, exploring your blog. LLOOLLL!

  14. Marahm says:

    I almost wish I had cockroaches again so I can try all the great cures suggested in response to this post!

    Hope to see you here often!

  15. kullervo says:

    I have not seen a Cockroach in 35—fourty years here in the NE corner of USA, possibly because our winters send them all to flarida which is a southeastern state down in the tropics. Right now it is about –2°C outside with moderate snow, visibility 150 m. or so, but so far only a few mm on the ground; what we call a “dusting” . . . maybe if your air conditioning goes out you can read this and imagine yourself in a cooler climate . . .I wouldn’t live in the tropics for all the money in the world. No Cockroach here either.

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