If I Have Roaches, Does That Mean My House Is Dirty?

Marissa Meyer

The sight of a roach scurrying at your feet is sure to give you the creeps and leave you wondering if your housekeeping skills leave something to be desired. Unclean homes are attractive sources of food and shelter for roaches, but even the cleanest dwellings are not immune to pest infestations.

Thorough cleaning reduces the likelihood of unwanted insect visitors, but the occasional roach sighting does not necessarily mean you have a dirty home.

Types of Roaches

The breed of roach you find in your home can help you determine the cause of infestation. According to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, more than 4,000 species of cockroach are known to exist, although only five are known to invade human habitats. German cockroaches thrive on household waste and scraps, so having them in your home usually indicates some uncleanliness that is providing a food source. The German cockroach can be identified by its light brown color and dual stripes below its head.

Another common roach species is the American cockroach. This scavenger is attracted to water and moisture. An occasional American cockroach sighting, especially at night when they are most active, is often a fluke related more to climate and moisture levels than household cleanliness.

Uncleanliness as an Attractant

Food particles, overflowing trash cans, standing water and household clutter make homes attractive roach habitats. When these factors are extreme, heavy roach infestations occur, sometimes to the point of causing human inhabitants to suffer allergies and asthma from breathing cockroach waste. Professional extermination is usually the only way to salvage a severely infested home.

Since roaches are highly adaptable, some may settle into houses that are clean and offer minimal sources of food. Opportunistic roaches can survive on small water droplets or crumbs, paint particles and bar soap -- all things found in apparently immaculate homes. Infestations in clean, well-maintained homes are usually mild and can be cleared up by cleaning more frequently, sealing cracks through which roaches can enter and setting up household traps.

Other Attractants

The environment outside your home can contribute to indoor roach infestations. Stacks of firewood near your home can harbor lots of cockroaches, some of which may wander inside through cracks in your walls or foundation. Wood chips or wood mulch also attract roaches in search of food and shelter. Weeds and vegetation entice roaches to spend time along your home's perimeter. Keep your yard well maintained and your windows and doorways sealed to prevent roaches from entering. Excessive moisture makes your home attractive to thirsty pests. Use a dehumidifier to keep your living areas, basement and attic dry.

Impact on Household Cleanliness

Roaches that wander in and out can make clean homes dirtier. They feed off plant and animal material, so their waste and feet may introduce germs and disease they've picked up outside. When roaches subsist on household substances, they usually do not go outside and therefore only spread dirt and germs already present in the home. Large populations of roaches can exacerbate the health threats that are already present in an unclean house, since substances like dust, roach excrement and raw meat are often tracked before they are cleaned up.