The Best Things You Can Do for Your Kitchen, According to Exterminators

updated Jul 16, 2020
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After some in-depth conversations with a few professional exterminators, I have two main takeaways. The first is that the presence of pests in the kitchen does not mean that you’re dirty. The second is that there are plenty of things you can do to help prevent bugs and rodents from making a home in yours.  

Obviously, keeping a clean kitchen — with food stored away properly — is important (for many reasons!), but there’s a lot more to it. Here are some of the best things you can do for your kitchen, according to exterminators, when it comes to keeping out unwanted pests.

Credit: Diana Liang

1. Make sure the kitchen is dry.

We all know that leaving out food and crumbs is an invitation to unwanted guests, but standing water is also bad. In fact, when I spoke with Mr. Marche Shelton, owner of Nexpro Pest Control in Atlanta, Georgia, about what residents can do to keep their kitchens pest-free, he had this to say: “One of the first things is to keep everything dry. Make sure there’s no excess water around the counter and no water sitting around anywhere in the kitchen.”

Shelton reminds us that it’s not just cooking or cleaning water that can draw pests, who require a water source to survive. “Check to make sure there are no leaks.” Not only do leaky pipes or dripping faucets waste water and pose the typical moisture problems of rotting wood and mildew, but they can also make your kitchen hospitable to roaches and other pests. 

2. Keep your kitchen clutter free.

This tip is especially helpful in terms of roaches. Shelton emphasizes the importance of not giving roaches places to scurry into. He says that we must “cut down on harborage areas for cockroaches.” He advises: “Get rid of clutter in the kitchen. Don’t store plastic bags in your cabinets. That draws bugs. Don’t keep boxes to small appliances. Roaches love cardboard and plastic bags.” By cutting down on areas where bugs can hide and shelter, you’re making your kitchen less hospitable to roaches and cutting down on areas where they are comfortable living and reproducing. 

3. Inspect and clean new-to-you used items. 

According to Paul Rushing, branch manager of Capelouto in Tallahassee, Florida, the most common type of kitchen infestation is with German roaches. German roaches are small and they do not fly. (This is important to know because the other two types of roaches you can see in and around your home don’t usually pose a problem for your kitchen. If you see a larger roach or a smaller roach that looks like a German roach but it flies, you can assume they came from outside for a visit rather than freaking out that your kitchen may have a roach problem.) 

“German roaches usually get transported, he says. “They often come in from used appliances or in boxes. People bring them in.”

Although roaches can “hitchhike from anywhere,” such as in fruit boxes that spent time in a delivery truck with roaches or on a suitcase that’s been in a roach-infested hotel room, the most common route is used kitchen appliances. He suggests monitoring what you bring into the house, inspecting it, and cleaning it thoroughly before you bring it inside.

Credit: Raymond Forbes LLC/Stocksy

4. Don’t leave any food out. 

This one feels like a no-brainer, until you realize that your quick-pickled onions are in an open bowl on the counter and the Kringle from Trader Joe’s that you’ve been chipping away at each morning for a breakfast treat is too. Make sure these types of foods are put away in sealed containers. Putting food away prevents all kinds of pests, including roaches and ants. Shelton points that roaches are particularly drawn to fermented foods, as they “like the sugary aroma.” 

It’s also important to clean up small bits of food. Rushing is very clear: “Don’t leave pots and pans in the sink. Clean up when you cook.” You don’t want to go in to (finally) wash the dishes and find a mouse licking up your plate!

5. Clean under your appliances.

In addition to cleaning up visible crumbs and putting away any food that you tend to leave out on the counters, it’s very important to clean under your appliances because lots of food scraps and crumbs tend to fall between your counters and the sides of your stove and refrigerator. Make sure pulling them out and cleaning under them is part of your regular cleaning routine. This will help get rid of anything that could attract mice and roaches.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. Put small appliances away.

If you need another reason to get those small appliances off the counters, add pest control to the list. Not only do small appliances entice pests with water or crumbs, but they also offer a highway to hiding places that’s much loved by roaches: power supplies. Rushing tells us this: “Roaches love to infest power supplies. Including outlets, and you often find them hiding where things are plugged in. This includes plugs for coffee makers, toasters,  etc. — especially if they’re plugged in and rarely used.” Instead of keeping that small appliance out and waiting indefinitely, we should, “unplug it, clean it, and put it away.”