Fix-a-leak to Keep Pests Out!

By Marcia Anderson

While on an inspection of a school, I walked into a kitchen, flicked on the light switch, and  several cockroaches went scurrying back to their hiding places. We discovered that the cockroaches were flourishing due to water collecting under the refrigerator, a valve leak under the sink, and grease that had collected under the oven.

Did you know that water leaks can cause pest problems in homes, schools, and businesses? Most people are unaware of the association between plumbing problems and pests, but the fact is that the two are intertwined. If you have a leak, it will attract pests.  To get rid of pests, and keep them from coming back, you have to deprive them their basic survival needs: food, water, shelter. Did you know that German cockroaches can survive a couple of weeks without food, but they will die within a few days if they do not have access to moisture?

Where do pests get their water? Take a close look around your home for plumbing leaks in the laundry room, under the kitchen sink, below the dishwasher, and around all your bathroom fixtures. If you notice rust around your drain, fixtures, or valves, that is a clue that moisture is going where it shouldn’t be.  Cockroaches and other pests find drinking water in leaky pipes, dripping faucets, and gaps around pipes.  Fix leaky faucets by replacing worn washers in the kitchen sink and bathroom areas, and ventilate moist areas.  Remember that pests, such as cockroaches, like it damp. A leaky sink trap can create a moist pest paradise under your kitchen cabinets.

Sometimes plumbing leaks are due to old shut-off valves that are located under and behind the sink. Those need to be replaced because if the problem is ignored, what could have been a simple repair could develop into a bug oasis.

In the bathroom, make sure that there is a good seal around the water pipes where they enter the room from the wall. A good caulk seal assures that even the smallest insects can’t enter. Check grout around bathtubs and toilets. A poor seal around a bathtub can allow water into the surrounding floor and walls, and if the wax ring around the bottom of a toilet isn’t sealing properly, you could create a watering hole for critters every time you flush.

Be PestWise! Regular maintenance such as fixing leaks, are key components of a smart, sensible, and sustainable pest management program. Recognizing the value of pest prevention is an important first step. Drip, drip, drip goes the faucet … stopping those drips saves water, helps the environment, and protects you from pests. For more information on controlling pests in your home, school, or business visit:

About the author: Marcia Anderson is with the Center of Expertise for School Integrated Pest Management in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs and a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Management at Montclair State University. Marcia supports the Center’s efforts to promote a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to pest control in the Nation’s schools.