I Asked a Pest Expert If TikTok’s “Vase Trick” Really Keeps Cockroaches Away

published Oct 15, 2023
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Angled view of a purple vase covering a sink drain.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

The best household maintenance hacks sometimes involve the grossest things. Have you seen the one making the rounds on TikTok explaining how an inverted flower vase over drains in sinks, tubs, and showers can keep cockroaches from emerging from your plumbing while you’re on vacation? 

Taking things a step further, TikTok user @cicelylikeitaly made a video recently about pouring a quarter-cup of sea salt down her drain and then covering it with a vase, following advice from a maintenance worker in her apartment building.

But don’t speed walk to your nearest florist and buy up all the vases just yet. I contacted a pest control expert and several real estate agents here in my native New York City — arguably the cocka-roach capital of the world — to find out if this is a good idea or simply a waste of good home decor. Here’s what they had to say.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Does the “vase trick” really work to keep cockroaches out?

The vase hack “is a myth to a certain point,” according to Damian Marcelo, certified entomologist at Fox Pest Control. In other words, it’s not a foolproof plan for keeping bugs away. But he does note that, “Obstructing any drain or opening will deter pests from entering a structure.” 

The reason roaches are attempting to come up through the sink in the first place is because the drain is dry, Marcelo explains. When drains are unused, any water left in the pipes will evaporate, “leaving a straight shot to the sewer system and an easy access point inside for not only roaches but flies and, in extreme cases, rodents,” Marcelo explains.

Broker Svetlana Choi of Coldwell Banker Warburg said she and her husband tried the vase hack to stop water bugs — another lovely visitor that might emerge uninvited out of drains. “It seemed to help for a while, but they also came up through radiator pipes.” (Yikes.) Choi mentions that they live in a co-op building that’s more than 90 years old, so an aging structure could be part of the issue. “But we will keep trying whatever other hacks are out there,” she says.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

What actually helps keep bugs and other pests away?

So what does prevent roaches and other unwanted pests from moving in while you’re away? The answer is keeping those drains clean and running at least a gallon of water through them each week, says Marcelo. 

That’s easy enough to do when you’re home, but what about when you’re away? There’s another hack that actually helps in the absence of a house sitter who can run the water regularly. “The next best thing is to add water to the drains prior to leaving and cover each drain with a tight-fitting plug,” Marcelo says. Upon returning, “Pour water in the sink/tub before you remove the plug to minimize potential pest entry,” he says.

While broker Gerard Splendore of Coldwell Banker Warburg says it’s never a bad thing to cover drains while you’re away, “The vase over the drain idea, unfortunately, hearkens back to the urban legend of alligators coming up through the toilets.” (Perhaps you’ve also seen the video of the woman who stacked books on her toilet to prevent rats from coming through it.)

Splendore’s suggestion is to rely more on the stronger stuff exterminators use to keep roaches out rather than a fragile vase — and also keep on top of your housekeeping. “Keeping food and crumbs unavailable to roaches is one of the best ways to prevent them,” he says.

Agent Karen Kostiw of Coldwell Banker Warburg says to remember why cockroaches love hanging out in the bathroom and kitchen to begin with: Those spots are excellent sources of food and water. She agrees with Marcelo’s recommendation of using a stopper, although she also touts flushing drains with Clorox periodically. She also advises not to keep your garbage pail under your sink and ensure that all cracks and crevices — basically any entryway for little critters — are sealed up.

“Call a professional pest control service company if there is a severe infestation issue to eradicate the issue effectively,” says Kostiw. “Many online remedy sources providing guidance to eradicate cockroaches are not a fact but indeed fiction.” 

And just like in horror fiction, when you spot one or two roaches, there are usually more lurking about, so call that pest control company sooner rather than later.