How to Get Rid of Cockroaches on a Boat [7 Effective Ways]

how to get rid of cockroaches on a boat

You would think that water stains and discolored vinyl boat seats would be the worst of your pontoon boat cleaning worries. But when those roaches start to rear their ugly little heads, you’ll learn that keeping your boat clean takes a lot more than just a scrub here and there.

Cockroaches can be a major pain and they pose a serious health risk to you and your passengers. So at the first sign of a roach infestation, it’s important that you act fast. Wondering how to get rid of cockroaches on a boat? Here’s everything you need to know.

How Do Cockroaches Get on Boats?

First things first -- how do cockroaches even get on boats in the first place? Well, although cockroaches thrive best in tropical climates, they can live in temperate areas. In the United States, cockroaches can be found in close proximity to humans where they can find a stable food source and enough warmth and humidity to stay alive.

You won’t really see them walking around in broad daylight since they like dark and damp environments. Fortunately for roaches, there are loads of worthy hiding spots at local docks and marinas. And that’s probably how they got on your boat.

Parking at your local marina gives roaches an opportunity to creep on board while you’re not looking. They can be especially attracted to boats loaded with food, or those that are particularly damp. And because most boats meet these conditions, there’s really no wondering how roaches end up on board.

If they didn’t come from your local marina, you might have personally brought them on board. Contaminated grocery bags, boxes, and other items carried on board containing a roach might introduce the pest to your space, giving them an invitation to get comfortable on board.

Why Should You Get Rid of Cockroaches?

If the mere idea of a cockroach on board doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, there are a bunch of other reasons why you might want to consider getting rid of them. These include:


Cockroaches carry loads of disease. Covered in all sorts of bacteria, this vermin can crawl on your food, leaving contamination that can cause food poisoning, diarrhea, Staphyloccocus infections, E. coli, salmonella, and more.

Electrical Damage

These pests love to nestle where it’s warm and dark. And because they’re small, they can live in the tight spaces between electrical components, causing damage to your wiring and other fixtures. As they move around, they can short high voltage components that can cost big bucks to repair.


If you’ve got family and friends with allergies on board, a cockroach infestation can trigger the worst of their sensitivities. Roaches have been known to exacerbate asthma, and cause all sorts of rashes and breathing problems.

How to Get Rid of Cockroaches on a Boat

A single pair of cockroaches can produce over 400,000 other roaches in a single year. And when you consider the fact that a cockroach can reach maturity in just 35 days, it’s easy to picture out how rapidly a full-blown infestation can develop. That said, it pays to act the moment you spot that first roach on board. If you suspect there’s an infestation, try these tips.

1. Lay Out Some Traps

non-toxic cockroach traps

There are lots of different kinds of roach traps on the market, but some of them use non-toxic substances that make them ideal for boats with pets and kids on board. These traps are best laid out where you think your roach problem is coming from. That includes dark, damp spaces where they might prefer staying.

On the deck, you’re going to want to place your traps along the corners and outskirts of your space, since cockroaches often walk close to the walls to avoid being seen. Inspect your traps regularly and re-position a new trap where you manage to catch the most roaches.

Some traps contain bait that cockroaches eat, although it won’t kill them on the spot. The chemical stays in their system, buying them time to scuttle back to their nest where they die after a few minutes or hours. And since cockroaches have been known to eat their dead, any other members of the nest consume the lethal chemical and die as well.

We recommend the Hoy Hoy Non-Toxic Trap a Roach Traps.

2. Keep Your Boat Dry

Some online guides will tell you to keep your boat clean, and that might help. But experts assert that cockroaches will stay in a space regardless of whether it’s clean or not. The biggest factor for roach control would be whether your space is always wet or dry.

They thrive best where it’s hot and humid, and warm wet places are their favorite little nooks. So if your boat is always moist, then you’re probably creating the right conditions to keep your cockroach problem going.

After every trip, see to it that you dry down your boat. Give it some time to soak in the sun and inspect your space for any water leaks or pooling water. Air everything out to keep humidity low and see to it that you don’t leave any wet rags lying around.

3. Properly Store Food

Hey, a roach has to eat. But if there isn’t any food around, then they might as well look for greener pastures. Food crumbs, spills, and trash provide roaches a steady source of food that they can keep coming back to. This keeps them comfortable and fed, so they won’t have a reason to leave your boat voluntarily.

If you’ve got a kitchen on board, make sure to properly store any food. Cover up your containers and clean up after every meal. Wipe away spills and stains, and use a chemical cleanser to get rid of the smell of food.

4. Use a Pest Control Spray

organic pest control spray to rid cockroaches on boats

In tight, hard-to-reach areas where there might be roaches, you might want to try using a spray. Keep in mind though that most commercially manufactured sprays contain harsh chemicals that can be just as bad for your pets and kids.

Fortunately, there are all-natural spray solutions that use non-toxic chemicals that work without putting your passengers in danger. Some sprays kill roaches entirely, while others both kill the ones that are present and repel any that attempt to climb on board.

Use the spray according to the directions on the packaging. Make sure you use the product in areas where the cockroaches might have made their nest, including dark, damp areas under the deck. If you’re using a chemical-based spray, try to avoid areas where you eat and store food to prevent contaminating your stock.

To kill the cockroaches entirely, we like using the Organic Home Pest Control Spray by MDC Concepts. However, to kill and repel the roaches, try the Orange Guard Pest Control Spray - Kills & Repels.

5. Get Tough in Hard-to-Reach Areas

insect killer for cracks and crevices

Cracks and crevices that children and pets can’t reach might be fit for a tougher spray. Some formulations kill roaches on the spot and repel them for up to 18 months after you use it. These are great for more advanced infestations where eggs have yet to hatch.

If you’re spraying hard-to-reach areas, see to it that you avoid electrical wiring and other mechanical parts of your boat. It might be best to perform an initial assessment before you have at it to make sure you’re not going to accidentally spray delicate areas with potentially damaging chemicals.

Check out the Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer for Cracks & Crevices to spray hard to reach areas on the boat.

6. Inspect Your Groceries

Sometimes, boat owners themselves might be responsible for bringing cockroaches on board. Picture this -- you go to your local grocery store to shop for supplies for your next big family trip. Carrying a load of heavy bags to your car, you place your groceries on the parking lot floor while you dig in your pocket to grab your keys.

A cunning little critter climbs into your bag while you’re off guard, and you unsuspectingly take it with you. As you unload your groceries on board your boat, you deploy the little sucker and introduce it to its new home. Yikes.

That said, you might want to check any new item you bring on board -- whether it’s in a bag or in a box. In fact, it might be better to unload each item on board and place it in its designated storage space before you head underway to make sure you don’t bring any pests on your boat.

7. Plant a Repellent

ultrasonic cockroach repellent for boats

You can always just keep on killing cockroaches on board, but prevention is always better than a cure. These days, you can buy cockroach and pest repellents that you can plant on board to keep the nasty critters from coming back all together.

Environmentally friendly and inaudible to humans and pets, ultrasonic pest repellents allegedly disorient all sorts of insects, driving them away. Popularly used in houses, commercial establishments, and warehouses, these devices can clear up your space of your cockroach pests in two to three weeks. However since ultrasonic waves can’t penetrate walls, it’s recommended that you install several to cover all the areas of your boat.

We recommend these Ultrasonic Pest Repellents by Pamkelle.

Say Goodbye to That Roach Problem

No one wants to have filthy, disease riddled pests on board their boat. Luckily, there are a number of ways to reclaim your vessel. If you weren’t sure how to get rid of cockroaches on a boat, then these actionable tips should help point you in the right direction. Make sure to find the right combination of repellents and roach killers for your boat, and you should be able to enjoy a clean space in just a few weeks time.

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