Do Cockroaches Clean Themselves?

When you think of cockroaches, the word clean is the last thing that’ll come to your mind. We view these insects as creatures that belong in filth. However, even if they are found in filthy areas, that doesn’t mean the insect stays dirty. 

Despite common belief, cockroaches clean themselves. These insects constantly groom themselves by cleaning their antennae in a catlike fashion. This removes any environmental buildup, such as dirt and grime, and keeps their antenna and olfactory senses in top shape. 

Why Do Cockroaches Clean Themselves? 

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the Russian Academy of Sciences figured out why cockroaches display antennae-cleaning behavior. 

They hypothesized that build-up impairs the antennae’s olfactory abilities, making roaches less receptive to olfactory signals. 

The experiment exposed roaches with clean and unclean antennae to odor and sex pheromones. They observed that the former group was more responsive to the odors than the other group. 

The researchers also looked at the ungroomed antennae to see what exactly roaches clean off. It turns out that in addition to dirt and grime, these insects also accumulate cuticular hydrocarbons. 

Cuticular hydrocarbons are fat molecules secreted by the roaches to regulate water loss. This secretion also coats the antennae interfering with the insect’s senses. 

Do Cockroaches Clean Themselves?

How Do Roaches Clean Themselves? 

Roaches have multiple series of short cleaning sessions, which they perform when they are out and actively exploring. 

This is when they contact bacteria, dirt, and various sticky substances. They take breaks to clean their antennae and ensure their senses stay sharp. 

According to the Scientific World Journal, self-grooming is an innate behavior which means insects are genetically hardwired to perform it. According to the Journal of Comparative Neurology, this behavior is controlled by neurons that send signals to the legs and mouth, resulting in this habit.

Are Cockroaches Clean Insects?

They may be serious about cleanliness, but you can’t describe roaches as “clean” creatures. They only wash the parts of their bodies that help them navigate and sense things. Unfortunately, this means that they’re still carrying loads of harmful bacteria. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), cockroaches can deposit dangerous bacteria like salmonella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus on your food. 

In addition, the World Health Organization believes that cockroaches are carriers of intestinal diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera.

Cockroaches also cause allergies, with research stating that these insects are the most common source of indoor allergens. The enzymes present in the shed skin, excrement, saliva, and eggs of roaches trigger allergic reactions.

Therefore you must keep your food covered and take measures to keep your home free of cockroaches. 

Do Cockroaches Clean Themselves after Touching a Human?

You’ve probably heard this before; cockroaches clean themselves after touching a human. And if you’ve been wondering whether it’s a fact or a myth, we’re here to tell you that it is true. 

However, roaches don’t clean themselves because they find humans dirty. Instead, they do it because they view us as a threat and typically have a grooming session after coming in contact with any other living creature, especially predators. 

For humans, in particular, roaches may do it to wash off any bacteria picked up by their antennae. They also run away when you’re wearing a scent that repels them since roaches don’t like strong smells.  

Do Cockroaches Clean Themselves after Touching a Human?

Grooming and Insecticides

Grooming is a common phenomenon in all insects, and they do it for the same reasons; to maintain their olfactory senses to find food, locate a suitable mate, and sense danger. 

This behavior in insects can be used to our advantage by helping us design more effective pesticides. For example, a pest-killing mist that settles on the insects’ antennae should be quickly ingested by the creature because of regular grooming. 

Using this technique may be more effective than relying on other delivery methods. For example, insecticides that stick to the cockroach’s body may take longer to penetrate due to the thick cuticle.  

This may also explain why some pesticides work better than others. 

How to Keep Cockroaches Away 

There are many natural remedies that you can use to kill cockroaches, such as diatomaceous earth and boric acid. 

However, preventing bugs is a better solution than killing them. Here are four ways you can keep roaches away. 

Vinegar and Hot Water

You may think you’ve cleaned your kitchen for the night, but roaches are experts in sniffing leftover food and grease stains. Therefore you must wipe your kitchen well before heading to bed. 

One excellent solution is vinegar and hot water. Perfect for those stubborn food stains and an excellent disinfectant to pour down your drain, this solution may help keep bugs at bay. 

You can also substitute vinegar with lemon to achieve the same results. 

Essential Oils 

Cockroaches have a powerful sense of smell and are repelled by strong scents. Essential oils like peppermint, lavender, and tea tree are some examples of strong aromatic compounds. 

Spray some essential oils around your kitchen or bathroom to keep creepy crawlies away. 

Cinnamon Powder 

Since strong smells repel roaches, cinnamon powder can help keep them away. Sprinkle some freshly ground powder on slabs and in cabinets. 


Cucumbers are fresh and hydrating vegetables great for keeping away roaches. You may think cucumbers don’t have a strong smell, but roaches will disagree with you. 

These pests can’t stand the aroma and essence of cucumbers. 

Neem Extract 

Neem leaves and oil can be another strong-smelling alternative to use. The pungent smell will keep the bugs at bay, keeping your kitchen roach-free. 


The mere mention of roaches is enough to make your skin crawl, and unfortunately, these are one of the most common household pests. 

Roaches may constantly clean themselves, but these insects are still filthy and carry numerous diseases. Try to keep them away as much as you can and if you spot any in your home, take measures to reduce their population. 

However, if none of your control methods work, you may have a roach infestation for which you need to seek professional help to keep your home pest and disease-free. 

Similar Posts