How to Get Rid of Cockroaches on a Boat

How to Get Rid of Cockroaches on a Boat

You probably thought that cleaning stains and food debris on your boat was a lot of work until some ugly little heads called cockroaches infest your boat. Then the work becomes overwhelmingly stressful. 

Cockroaches are cunning insects that can be pretty hard to get rid of once they get onto your boat. They can make your cleaning work be the worst experience. 

While they pose serious health risks, roaches have a robust immune system, making it nearly impossible to get rid of them instantly. 

Things get even worse when they get on board, and you ignore them at first sight. You’ll be surprised at how fast they infest with precision. 

Cleaning a boat with roaches becomes a huge issue as they reach maturity and reproduce within a few days. 

Some people even choose to live harmoniously with the roach family as the chase gets harder and harder. But you shouldn’t give up as they can be destructive, especially if you are dealing with the German cockroach.

So, what should you do when there is a cockroach infestation on your boat? I’d suggest that you act as soon as possible. 

Here, we’ll talk about some of the most effective ways to get rid of cockroaches on a boat. But first, let’s have a look at how roaches get on a boat. 

How Do Cockroaches Get on a Boat

I’m the kind of person who prefers knowing the root of a problem when solving it. And I think this is a fantastic strategy as it helps me prevent the issue’s occurrence in the future. 

So, before you stop the cockroach or ant invasion, you may wonder how they found their way onto your boat in the first place. 

Well, there are several ways in which cockroaches can get on your boat. While they thrive best in warm and humid climates, they can still survive in temperate areas as long as they have access to food and warmth. 

You may not see them crawling confidently in broad daylight, as they prefer dark and damp areas. And there are some spaces in boats that can offer such an environment. 

Roaches can live in local docks and marinas as there are plenty of hiding places in such areas. When you park your boat in these parks, it becomes easy for them to get on board without your knowledge. 

If your boat houses any food and there are some dark and humid areas, it attracts more and more roaches to board. 

Another way cockroaches can get on your boat is you bringing them, probably through grocery bags, boxes, and any other item that could be contaminated. 

Once they are in your watercraft, roaches can make your boating life extremely unpleasant and unhealthy. So, it’s high time you get rid of them.

Some boat owners may thinkremoving mildew is a priority and roaches are harmless, but the truth is, they carry loads of bacteria that can get to your food, causing food poisoning and diarrhea. 

The German cockroach could be the leading cause of your breathing problems and skin rashes as it can trigger such sensitivities. 

Besides health issues, cockroaches can also cause electrical damage in your boat since they can quickly get into tight spaces and damage the wires. 

As they crawl around the boat, they can also cause high voltage shorts that may cost you lots of money to repair. 

Since a pair of roaches can reproduce nearly half a million younger ones within a year, it would help if you stop them on sight before they multiply. 

But how do you do that? Read on to learn some useful ways to keep roaches at bay!

How to Get Rid of Cockroaches on a Boat

How to Get Rid of Cockroaches on a Boat

A few years ago, I had a horrifying experience when roaches and ants invaded my boat. I noticed the infestation several weeks later after going food shopping and bringing on various vegetables and fruits packed in a cardboard box.

Surprisingly, I found that most of the solutions for getting rid of roaches and ants are inexpensive, but you need to think about each of them before deciding to use them. 

That said, let’s talk about the 7 effective ways to get rid of cockroaches on your boat:

Decide on Where to Set Roach Traps and Poisons 

The first thing you want to do when killing cockroaches is decide on which places you’ll set traps and poisons. 

I’d suggest you start with the areas where you have seen the cockroaches specifically and the darker places they love to hide. 

Clean Up the Susceptible Areas Thoroughly

Once you discover where roaches will likely hang out, clean these places thoroughly as the bugs love dirt and rotting foods. 

Don’t assume that your boat is clean without checking each area well to remove any mess that would attract roaches. 

Keep in mind that cockroaches can sniff any filth and march their troops to the dirty area for feasting. 

So, clean all the areas and wipe them down, pulling any gear out to ensure that everything in the boat is immaculate. You can also use a vacuum cleaner if need be. 

This will ensure that roaches don’t have a reason to return to your boat once they are gone. 

Use a Roach Killer Spray in All the Affected Areas

Find a roach spray that doesn’t have harsh chemicals and use it in the affected areas. Cockroach sprays like Aunt Fannie’s Remedy Liquid are safe for kids and pets yet effective against roaches and other creepy pests like ants. 

Spray heavily on storage areas, which may be dark and humid, and any other tight and hard-to-reach places as chances are that roaches are hiding there. 

However, you should use it moderately on eating areas for extra safety. If you are using a tougher spray with toxic chemicals, avoid spraying the eating area altogether to prevent contamination. 

At the same time, get tougher on areas that are hard to reach, like gaps between furniture, seatbacks, and any other place where your pets or small children can’t reach. 

Mooring lines are also a significant roach problem area as these critters like to climb. So, inspect the mooring lines well and spray the insecticide or dust some white powder boric acid. 

When using any cockroach killer spray, it’s important to carefully follow the directions given on the packaging.

Sprinkle Boric Acid 

While boric acid may not work for pontoon boats as it gets blown away quickly, it can work magic on other types of boats. 

If your boat has an under-deck accommodation, sprinkle some boric acid in such areas. You can also use it in eating areas, as it’s non-toxic to humans but an absolute roach killer. 

Now, you might wonder whether the acidity in this acid will mess up with your boat’s surfaces. 

The good news is that boric acid is a weak acid, and it won’t eat up the carpets of any of your boat’s surfaces. 

I’ve even seen some wood preservatives that use this acid for furniture preservation. So, there is nothing to worry about. 

Sprinkle more boric acid powder on places where roaches might be hanging out, and it will cling to them. Later, they will ingest the powder and die. 

Lay Down Bait Traps

Lay Down Bait Traps

Another product that will add peace of mind when it comes to getting rid of roaches on a boat is bait traps. 

Laying down some traps will not only keep roaches away but will also kill ants and any other tiny bugs that find their way to your boat. 

I love the fact that cockroach traps are eco-friendly and free of harsh chemicals, which make them safe for marine environments. 

You can just leave them on deck spaces and put others in the dark and humid areas that cockroaches love staying. Then after some time, you’ll spot some dead little critters.

Re-position some more cockroach traps in areas where they die most. Since most roaches eat their dead members, those who come back for the carcasses will also consume the lethal chemical and die as well.

Roach motels are also excellent baits, though they may not cope with a full-scale infestation. You can use them at the first sign of these critters. 

Use Pest Control Pouches to Block Cockroach Infestation 

If you don’t want your hard work to go to waste or keep doing the same thing over and over again, you can use some pest control pouches. 

The good thing about pest control pouches is that they can kill bugs and prevent them from coming back completely.

These pest control pouches can last up to 12 months and work pretty simply. You just need to leave them in areas that cockroaches love and sit back. 

One more impressive thing about pest control pouches is that they don’t have a nasty smell as they use natural ingredients such as cedar, cinnamon, rosemary, and lemongrass. 

While pest control pouches don’t pose any health risk to humans, they are deadly to roaches and ants.

Use Bug Bombs 

Bug bombs are ideal for roach control on boats with enclosed rooms or a galley. They are not great for pontoon or bass boats

The only downside of using bug bombs is that the pesticide shoots up in the air, even though roaches tend to crawl around on walls or surfaces instead of flying through the air. So, I wouldn’t recommend this unless your own boat is enclosed. 

But if your aim is killing flying insects like weevils, mosquitos, or termites, a bug bomb is a great solution. It will also kill any weevil eggs or crawling pests when it settles on the surface. 

Store Food Properly

Food attracts roaches and keeps them in your boat as they have to eat. So, you can end the German cockroach problem by storing your food properly to starve the little critters. 

If you have a kitchen on your boat, keep all the food containers tightly closed. 

Any food crumbs, stains, and spills in your boat will provide a steady food source to the roaches, and they will keep coming back. 

 So, clean your boat regularly and keep the roaches uncomfortable to deny them a reason to return. 

Inspect Any Cardboard Boxes and Groceries

Some boat owners are responsible for unknowingly bringing roaches on the boat. 

Cardboard boxes and grocery crates are among the worse cockroach culprits. So, you should never bring them onto your boat. 

And if you have to use cardboard boxes in your boat, you need to inspect them well as they may have some roaches hiding at the corners. 

Even if the cardboard seems clean, there may be some cockroach eggs that will hatch aboard. So, be sure to wipe the cardboard box well or spray an insecticide on them if possible. 

How to Prevent Roach Infestation from Your Boat

How to Prevent Roach Infestation from Your Boat

If you have succeeded in getting rid of cockroaches on your boat, it’s time to learn how to prevent them in the future. 

You can follow these simple tips to keep cockroaches at bay:

  • Keep your boats clean and dry as cockroaches won’t survive for more than a week without water
  • If you have a kitchen on board, clean the preparation areas with dish soap to remove any grease and stains
  • Eat on one spot and clean it immediately after meals to remove any crumbs
  • Keep the containers where you store your food sealed all the time and ensure that all bottle tops are tightly closed.
  • Empty the trash and clean the bin often to keep ants and cockroaches away.
  • Fit mosquito nets on any holes to block cockroaches and ants from creeping in. 
  • Cover any sugary products like cake mixes, cookies, chocolate, and cereals as they attract cockroaches and ants.
  • Inspect cardboard boxes or avoid bringing them all together. 



Q: What Kills Cockroaches Immediately? 

A: There are several things that can kill cockroaches immediately, including boric acid, roach spray, diatomaceous earth powder, and borax. 

Roach sprays are great for killing them instantly, but you need to go for non-toxic ones to avoid harming your kids and pets. 

Boric acid can also work magic overnight, especially when paired with something that cockroaches love. You can use raw eggs or condensed milk with boric acid to bait and kill cockroaches. 

If you live in countries like South America or Spain where it’s hard to find this acid in most shops, try to look in bigger pharmacies.

Diatomaceous earth powder is an excellent way to kill roaches hiding in cracks and dark areas. Keep in mind that some cockroaches are less than one inch long and can fit in tiny crevices. 

Since the diatomaceous powder works by dehydrating cockroaches to kill them immediately, you should use it in dry places. 

Q: What Attracts Cockroaches to Your Boat?

A: Dirt, trash, food crumbs, water, dark areas, and humidity are the main cockroach attractions. If your boat has these things, cockroaches will have a place to make a nest while still enjoying a steady source of food. 

So, you should clean your boat regularly and dry it well to ensure that the environment is not conducive for cockroaches. 

Q: What Smell Will Keep Cockroaches Away?

A:  Cockroaches hate the smell of crushed bay leaves, cinnamon, garlic, cedarwood oil, peppermint oil, cypress oil, and coffee grounds. You can use them in your boat to keep cockroaches away. 

If you want a disinfectant with a strong smell, you can go for vinegar or bleach. Other scent-based essential oils like tea tree oil and eucalyptus may also drive the roaches, ants, and other pests away. 



Getting rid of cockroaches can be frustrating, especially if you don’t see better results within a few days. 

However, you need to be patient and diligent as it may take a couple of days to see any significant results when killing roaches with non-toxic methods. 

Besides, using only a single method may not work effectively, so I highly recommend combining several tricks and cleaning thoroughly. 

Once you succeed in getting rid of roaches and ants, you’ll want to clean your boat regularly, use pest control pouches, and avoid keeping dirty dishes in the boat to prevent them from coming back. 

If the above methods don’t seem to work for you, it might be time to employ a pest control specialist to help. 

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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