Home remedies for getting rid of water bugs – simple solutions to deter pests

Discover the ways you can deal with water bugs yourself with advice from the professionals

water bug
(Image credit: Getty images / ViniSouza128)

Water bugs are not something you want to see making their home in your home and you’ll want a speedy way to get rid of them even if it’s just a solo specimen you’ve spotted scurrying away – and that’s where home remedies come in. They’ll allow you to take action in a hurry.

Knowing how to get rid of water bugs is important not only because they’re deeply unpleasant, but because they bring health risks. Attracted to water, as the name suggests, they favor the warmer, damper areas of a home like bathrooms and kitchens, compromising home hygiene.

Here, we look at the home remedies you can bring into action if you’ve identified a water bug with expertise from pest professionals.

5 home remedies for getting rid of water bugs

The name water bug is used to refer to a variety of bugs. Both what are called ‘true bugs’ and cockroaches are referred to as water bugs. ‘There is an insect commonly called a water bug with a different biology and it is in a separate order of insects that people commonly call a water bug,’ explains David Price ACE, director of technical services and associate certified entomologist, of Mosquito Joe, a Neighborly company. ‘

They are aquatic, brown to gray in color, 2 inches long, and have no antennae, in the order Hemiptera (cicadas, stink bugs, or shield bugs).’ The home remedies for a water bug infestation you likely want are actually those to get rid of cockroaches

‘Most people call either an oriental cockroach or a smoky brown cockroach a water bug,’ says David. ‘These species are in the order Blattodea and typically active outside. They are approximately 1 inch to 1¼ inches long, dark brown to black, and have long antennae. Both species feed on a variety of organic materials, from plants to trash. They will be crawling around the foundation, and one species will go up the siding and potentially enter the attic or through pipe chases. The species will enter into the basement, and both will enter into a crawlspace. They can multiply rapidly after 60 days, as each egg capsule will contain 16 eggs for oriental cockroaches and 24 eggs for smoky brown cockroaches.

‘It is important to get rid of them as they pick up bacteria from the organic matter they are feeding upon,’ he says.

Thus, while getting rid of gnats or getting rid of fruit flies from your home is important, deterring water bugs is absolutely crucial, and these are the home remedies that can be your speedy go-to.

1. Bring out the baking soda

Baking soda

(Image credit: Alamy)

Grab the baking soda for a quick home remedy for water bug activity. ‘Mix equal parts of baking soda with sugar or sugar substance and place it in a small dish where cockroaches hang out,’ says David Price. ‘This will typically be in a damp, dark space, such as under the sink or a dark area in a basement. According to several scientific studies, baking soda will kill an adult cockroach in about 15 hours.’

2. Opt for boric acid

Boric acid, at Amazon, is another alternative for dealing with water bugs. ‘Boric acid is also very popular and, again, needs to be mixed with sugar or sugar substances to draw the cockroach to consume the boric acid,’ says David Price. ‘It is best placed in a small dish and at locations similar to baking soda mix. 

‘Sanitation is also just as important,’ he continues. ‘So be sure to clean out these damp, dark areas routinely. I would also recommend routine applications around the foundation of an insecticide consisting of a blend of essential oils (see more below) and ensure screens and openings are sealed to keep them from entering.’

3. Use essential oils

Eucalyptus plant

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Have essential oils to hand? A homemade bug spray using them could help. Nicole Carpenter, the CEO of Black Pest Prevention says it can be a measure that enhances protection and reduces the presence of water bugs. 

Nicole recommends essential oils such as peppermint, eucalyptus, or tea tree, mixed with water. ‘Regularly applying this spray to areas where water bugs have been observed is recommended,’ she says.

Nicole Carpenter Adams
Nicole Carpenter Adams

Nicole has been working at Black Pest Prevention – a family business based in the Greater Charlotte Area – since she was a junior in high school. After graduating from NCSU in 2011, she began to work full-time at Black Pest.

4. Get out the vinegar

vinegar in bottle

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fans of cleaning with vinegar might like to note it has a role in home remedies for water bugs. ‘You can potentially use vinegar to repel water bugs: mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and repeatedly spray the vinegar solution in the identified problem areas,’ says Nicole Carpenter. 

Note her caveat with this home remedy, though. ‘While vinegar is often touted as a natural repellent for various insects, its effectiveness in repelling water bugs may vary as well,’ she says.

5. Scatter coffee grounds

If you’ve identified water bugs and want to deter them right away, coffee grounds can come to your aid. ‘Homeowners can spread the dried coffee grounds in areas where water bugs are frequently seen,’ says Nicole Carpenter.

Again, however, be aware that this shouldn’t be your only strategy. ’Coffee grounds are often suggested as a natural repellent for certain pests, such as ants or slugs, but their effectiveness in repelling water bugs is limited,’ says Nicole. ‘Water bugs are hardy insects that are not easily deterred by coffee grounds alone.’ 


What smell keeps water bugs away?

Smells that can help keep water bugs away include peppermint, eucalyptus, or tea tree. You might also try bergamot, lavender and citrus oils. Note that this shouldn’t be your only defence, but is best used as an additional measure. 

If water bugs are in your home? ‘Seeking professional pest control services is advisable,’ says Nicole Carpenter, CEO of Black Pest Prevention. ‘Furthermore, individuals plagued by water bugs should maintain a clean home and seal potential entry points, such as cracks and gaps, to minimize infestations,’ she recommends.

What is the difference between a water bug and a cockroach?

While some people call cockroaches water bugs, they are distinct from what are known as ‘true bugs’, as well as from the giant water bug. Water bugs generally live in water, while cockroaches are attracted to live in damp areas – which can include those in your home like kitchens and bathrooms.

Their diets are different, too, with cockroaches scavenging for their food. That’s another reason why a home can also be attractive to them as crumbs and perhaps pet food could provide what they need. For that reason, being aware of house cleaning tips is crucial and a regular and thorough routine for cleaning your bathroom and cleaning your kitchen with a particular focus on cleaning your bathroom sinks and cleaning kitchen sink drains

Home hygiene comes first so your home is not attractive to water bugs, aka cockroaches, but if you do find them inside, home remedies can be great ways to tackle the issue straightaway as you’ll have what you need to hand.

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.