What Do Roaches Smell Like? How To Get Rid of Dead Cockroach Smell

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | January 3, 2024

Woman wonders what do roaches smell like, what do dead cockroaches smell like, and wishes there was a guide explaining roach smell (smell of cockroach infestation) explained and how to get rid of cockroach smell.

What do roaches smell like? If you’re asking that question, you probably suspect you may have a roach problem.

Roaches are one of the yuckiest pests to deal with, and many species are notoriously hard to eradicate.

But, if you’re noticing a scent that doesn’t seem right after you’ve used pest control for roaches, you might wonder, who do roaches (and dead cockroaches) smell like?

This guide explains the answer to the question, what do roaches smell like (and why they smell), and outlines effective ways you can get rid of a dead roach smell quickly and completely.

How To Get Rid of Cockroach Smell

To get rid of that stubborn roach smell, start by vacuuming from ceiling to floor, hitting every nook and cranny. We’re talking about the tops of cabinets, inside drawers, under sinks–anywhere you’ve seen roaches or their droppings.

Suck up any roach poop, shed skins, and survivors you come across. Once you’re done vacuuming everything, seal up the bag tight and toss it out so no survivors escape.

Next up: disinfectant time! Grab some strong EPA-approved spray and thoroughly cover any obvious roach nests or trails. If they got into cabinets or there’s still a funky smell somewhere, really soak those zones.

Let the spray sink in for at least 10 minutes. If it still smells after that, repeat the process.

Now, it’s time to break out a degreaser and scrub those areas to get rid of sticky roach droppings. Keep scrubbing until you can’t see any leavings.

Graphic with text and images that shows how to get rid of cockroach smell which can be through vacuuming thoroughly, application of disinfectant, and scrubbing of degreaser.

Then, spray the area again with disinfectant to kill any leftover bacteria. When the chemical smell fades, so should the roach odor.

It’s not glamorous. But if you’re wondering how to get rid of cockroach smell, this 1-2 vacuum-and-disinfect punch will do the trick.

Responding to the Smell of Cockroach Infestation: How To Get Rid of Roach Smell for Good

If you suspect that your roach problem is a full-blown infestation, act fast. This means tidying up your home and removing any attractants.

In severe cases, it may mean contacting a professional exterminator.

Whatever the case, time is of the essence, so respond to the smell of cockroach infections by laying down the law with some hardcore roach control and learning how to get rid of the roach smell for good.2

Do Roaches Smell?

Think cockroaches give you the creeps? That’s not their only effect on your senses.

Turns out, roaches actually stink too. Why?

Mostly because they release special chemicals to talk to each other. These substances, called cuticular hydrocarbons, live on roach bodies and legs.

What are roaches chatting about? Food, shelter, and mating, for starters.

The roach aromas help them find each other and group up. Next time you catch an odd, unpleasant whiff, follow your nose.

Chances are high that a roach colony may be secretly communicating somewhere inside your home.

What Do Cockroaches Smell Like?

Have you noticed odd, greasy smells wafting through your home lately? Take note – this could signal an unwelcome guest (or possibly thousands).

But what do cockroaches smell like exactly? In most cases, they give off a distinct oily odor that, once sniffed, is instantly recognizable.

What Creates That Cockroach Smell?

Cockroach smell arises from pheromones and other scents used to signal other roaches.1 A few roaches aren’t likely to raise a stink.

But a large group can produce a very strong, unpleasant odor that grows more intense as their numbers rise. If you pick up persistent whiffs of something oily in your home, don’t ignore it.

Your nose likely detects a growing cockroach colony seeking to attract more members.

What Do Dead Roaches Smell Like?

So, now you know why live roaches smell. But what do dead roaches smell like?

Here’s a gross fact: When roaches die, their bodies release an oily chemical called oleic acid as they decay. This gives off a powerful and putrid “death stench” that actually attracts more live roaches.

So, if you kill some roaches without totally cleaning up the stinky remains, the lingering odor can quickly multiply your roach situation. Bizarre but true.

What Do Roaches Smell Like? Does Roach Smell Go Away?

Most people describe dead roach odors as a strong, oily stink with a musty undertone. It’s a stubborn odor that lasts and lasts.

But does roach smell go away in time? Unfortunately, even after you banish the bugs, funky odors may remain.

That’s because roach droppings and exoskeletons also contain smelly signaling chemicals. So, roach stench often outlasts the invaders themselves.

Graphic with text and image that shows what do cockroaches smell like such as greasy smells, unpleasant oily odor, and putrid stench.

Don’t shoot the messenger!

What Do Roaches Smell Like When They’re Really Gone for Good?

In short: roaches shouldn’t smell like anything if they’re really gone and you’ve cleaned and disinfected. If you continue to notice an odor, you probably still have a problem.

Want to banish that bothersome roach reek for good? First, you have to eliminate all the bugs.

But your work isn’t finished once they depart. An ongoing roach prevention plan is key to keeping your home permanently stink-free.

Implement integrated pest management to cover all bases. This multi-pronged approach involves:

Deep Cleaning and Disinfecting

This means keeping counters and floors crumb-free. It also means quickly tossing trash and eliminating clutter where roaches set up shop.

Stay vigilant and snap into action when you see stragglers. Remove dead roaches ASAP and thoroughly clean the area so others don’t follow their trail back in.

With diligent eradication and long-term prevention, you’ll be able to breathe easy again!

How To Get Rid of Roaches on Your Own

Not sure you’re ready for chemical solutions provided by an exterminator? Consider these natural alternatives for minor roach problems.

Natural Ways To Get Rid of Roaches

Mother Nature has some potent ways to ward off roaches. So, what do cockroaches hate?

Various essential oils like citrus, lavender, and eucalyptus make roaches scatter. You can also use the following plants to keep roaches away.

Bay Leaves Pack a Roach Repelling Punch

Bay leaves have a powerful scent that disturbs roaches. They won’t fully solve an infestation, but they can make your home less hospitable when you place them in cabinets or inside strategically placed bowls of water.

Cucumbers Offer Temporary Results

Fresh cucumber slices are revolting to roaches. However, the effect fades fast.

For short-term prevention, you can use them to keep roaches away from picnics and barbecues. Just be sure to reapply often for optimal impact.

Mint Sends Roaches Running

Out of every potential scent, mint has the most scientific street cred for shooing away roaches.3 Make some mint mixtures and spread them along baseboards and entry points.

How To Get Rid of Roaches Coming From Neighbors

Are roaches invading your home from a neighbor’s messy unit? Although you can’t break into their apartment and clean it, you can take steps to defend your home from foreign pests.

First Up: Seal Your Abode

Focus on any cracks or gaps in shared walls, especially around pipe openings. Use caulk or spray foam sealants to block these areas so roaches can’t squeeze inside.

Become a Clean Freak

Maintain an immaculate home, vigorously cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. Don’t leave any dirty dishes or water sitting out to attract roaches looking for food and water.

Store all snacks and food (including pet food!) in sealed containers so roaches can’t break in.

Take Out the Trash

Don’t give roaches a comfy place to kick back and stay a while. Regularly throw out your garbage and avoid household clutter piles, which provide shelter roaches love.

Chat Up Your Neighbor

If roaches persist from next door, kindly discuss the issue with your neighbor first. If you don’t get anywhere, consider reaching out to your landlord.

If all else fails, your local health department can tell you how to get rid of roaches coming from neighbors.

Roaches in Airbnb: Here’s What To Do

What do roaches smell like in an Airbnb? Like a ruined vacation.

Nothing spoils a getaway like uninvited creepy-crawly guests. If you spot roaches scuttling around your Airbnb rental, notify the host right away.

Many Airbnb owners will respond quickly by calling pest control or moving you to a fresh roach-free unit. If your host leaves you hanging, take control as best you can.

Wipe down surfaces with disinfectant, vacuum regularly, and limit food sources to try to starve the roaches out.

Some natural repellents like mint, bay leaves, or eucalyptus oil might also help drive roaches in Airbnbs away temporarily, so you can enjoy an insect-free stay.

When To Call an Exterminator for Roaches

So, you’ve tried all the DIY tricks without sustained success. You may need to call in some professional reinforcements.

how to get rid of cockroach smell

(Image: Wonderlane6)

Here are some signs it might be time to pick up the phone.

Roaches Keep Bouncing Back

If methods like traps, spraying, and cleaning aren’t making a dent, you may have an extensive infestation on your hands. When roaches reappear quickly in full force despite your best efforts, you’re dealing with a major league bug problem that calls for heavy hitters.

You See Generations of Roaches

Are you seeing roaches at every phase of life? That’s a sign of an active breeding colony.

Eggs, baby nymphs, and grown adults all point toward a deep-rooted problem. That’s when to call an exterminator for roaches.

The faster you act, the better the outcome.

How To Keep Cockroaches Away

What do roaches smell like when you fail to follow through on your extermination efforts? You don’t want to know.

So, take steps to finish off these invaders and keep them from coming back. Roaches can be stubborn once they’ve moved into your home.

That’s why it’s important to learn how to keep cockroaches away. Adopt diligent housekeeping habits that roaches hate to make your home inhospitable. Here are some tips to help you along:

Kick Out the Crumbs

As scavenging bugs, roaches live for leftovers and crumbs we leave behind. For us, it’s a tiny fragment of food.

For them, it’s a veritable feast. Maintain spotless surfaces–especially in the kitchen.

Stick to a strict cleaning routine (even when you’re tired!). Tackle messes quickly and store everything in sealed containers.

Roaches will see your tidy place and move on to better targets.

Cut Off the Water Cooler

Like all living creatures, roaches need water to survive. Dry up potential water sources by fixing any dripping faucets.

Wipe down sink reservoirs and make sure your pipes aren’t leaky. Without reliable watering holes, roaches will have to wet their whistles elsewhere.

Barricade Entry Points

Roaches are small and wiggly enough to squeeze through the tiniest places. Combat this superpower by caulking cracks and sealing holes with spray foam.

Pay attention to seams and potential gaps where plumbing and vents meet walls. A well-fortified home tells roaches they’ve laid siege to the wrong castle!

You won’t have to ask, ‘What do roaches smell like?’ when you’ve given them no way inside.

What Do Roaches Smell Like? Nothing if They Aren’t There

The number-one weapon against roaches is cleanliness because it limits their ability to access food, water, and shelter.

So, what do roaches smell like? – nothing when you use the above steps to eliminate your roach problem for good!

Frequently Asked Questions About What Do Roaches Smell Like

What Attracts Roaches?

Above all else, roaches love to eat. Be diligent about cleaning food prep zones and storing food to make your home less attractive to these smelly critters.

Does Bleach Kill Roaches?

If you’re searching your pantry for quick roach-killing methods, you may be asking, ‘Does bleach kill roaches?’ The answer is yes, but the roaches have to either soak in the bleach or swallow it down–just spraying bleach onto surfaces won’t do a lot of good.

How Many Cockroach Eggs Can One Adult Lay?

Brace yourself. Believe it or not, a single American roach female can lay up to 40 cockroach eggs in one birth cycle and produce a whopping 30 of these cycles in her lifetime.5

Read More About What Do Roaches Smell Like?


1Michigan State University. (2023). American Cockroach. Michigan State University. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from <https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/american-cockroach>

2Ogg, B., Ogg, C., & Ferraro, D. (2006, July). COCKROACH CONTROL MANUAL. University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from <https://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/roach/cockroach%20manual.pdf>

3Salt Lake City. (2023). Alternative Pesticides. SLC.gov. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from <https://www.slc.gov/sustainability/pesticidefree-2/alternative-pesticides/>

4Hawkins, A. (2023, September 18). How Much Does a Roach Exterminator Cost? 2023 Guide. Market Watch Guides. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from <https://www.marketwatch.com/guides/home-improvement/roach-exterminator-cost/>

5Victoria State Government. (2018, October 23). Cockroaches. Better Health. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/cockroaches>

6Pest-Exterminator Photo by Wonderlane. CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Cropped and Resized. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/5689119122/>