San Francisco Department of the Environment

How can I control insect pests in my house?

Cockroaches and ants can be controlled through prevention and less toxic products. 

Use plain soapy water to kill crawling insects and clean up ant trails.

Insecticidal sprays and foggers may kill some of your pests, but so will simple soapy water – without all the hazards of pesticides. Soapy water is also effective at removing ants’ chemical trails, making it harder for them to find their way back. Don’t forget: Just killing the pests you see will not prevent future pest problems.


Seal out pests for good.

For bugs, a crumb is a feast! 

Seal up food in airtight containers, and seal up holes and cracks to keep pests out. 


If pests persist, use ant or cockroach baits instead of sprays.

You may have to wait a week or two for complete control, but baits have proven more effective than insecticides and foggers.


Related Content

Pest Management for Residents
Managing Pests in Your Home (English) (PDF, 2 pages) / Manejo de Plagas en su Casa (Español)  / 屋內害蟲治理 (中文)

Additional Resources

Pest Management Factsheets (English) or  (Español) (Our Water, Our World website) - Guidelines for specific pests
Pest Notes Library (UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website) - Guidelines for specific pests 
IPM Toolkit for Family Child Care Homes (Calif. Dept. of Pesticide Regulation) - practical information about using IPM to manage pest problems in family child care homes and similar settings.


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