Why Do Roaches Go on Clothes?

You may find cockroaches in closets or laundry rooms. Roaches will infest clothing, hiding in the pockets, lining, and hoods to avoid detection. Here, they can leave behind poop, bacteria, and even mold spores. While clothing may seem an unlikely target, they hold plenty of attractants for roaches.

Roaches often go on clothes because the fabric has remnants of food or sugary drinks on it. Body odors can also draw in cockroaches, even when we ourselves cannot smell them. Freshly washed clothes may also have soap residue that cockroaches will eat. Certain fabrics are edible to roaches when they have run out of other food. Clothing provides cockroaches with a haven that’s dark, secluded, and warm.

Roaches prefer dirty laundry that’s allowed to sit long-term in hampers or your laundry room. That’s why it’s important to wash clothing often or place it elsewhere in the home. If necessary, you can wash clothes in a washer and dryer at their highest, longest settings. This should kill off eggs and live roaches.

Do Roaches Like Clothes?

Cockroaches won’t target clothing as their first option, but they may still infest clothes. This happens when they can’t find better sources of food and shelter. In that event, they will get on:

  • Clothing that’s hung up
  • Clothing stored in drawers or dressers
  • Boxed-up clothing
  • Dirty clothes in a hamper

That’s because clothing still has many benefits to roaches. It serves as:

A Source Of Food

Roaches have a great sense of smell, able to suss out even the faintest whiff of food. Sometimes, this includes food stains left behind on shirts and pants. Likewise, roaches can be attracted to body odor and other bodily fluids. Roaches will target dirty clothes and clean clothing that wasn’t scrubbed thoroughly enough.

If your washing machine didn’t properly rinse out the clothing, there might be leftover soap on the fabric. Even this trace residue can entice a starving roach. It will consume the remnants or chew on fabric to gain small amounts of fat. Roaches can locate nutrients in almost anything. Even the material itself can tide over a hungry roach. It may:

  • Eat at stray threads
  • Chew at the ends of fabric
  • Find calories in leather jackets, which are animal products

A Source Of Warmth

Cockroaches like balmy temperatures. Even in a cold house, they can find warmth in the folds of clothing, especially thick jackets. Closets are often the warmest part of a bedroom, aside from the bed itself. The insulation of so much fabric will create a perfect breeding ground for cockroaches.

A Hiding Spot

Roaches will use clothing as a hiding spot. They can tuck themselves away in the back of closets or infest the drawers of your wardrobe. Even laundry baskets will serve as cover, allowing them to burrow through the layers and hide.

For clothing stored in boxes, this provides a dark, secluded area for them to nest. That makes it common for roaches to transfer from one house to another through secondhand clothing.

The clothing itself is light and pliable. This creates multiple areas that a roach can exploit. They may hide in the folds of t-shirts, but also jacket pockets and sweater hoods.

how to keep roaches away from clothes

A Source Of Moisture

Roaches prefer to hide near places that have food and moisture. While clothing doesn’t provide water, it may be stored near water sources. This includes your:

  • Laundry room
  • Bathroom
  • Closets with a leaky water heater

If you happen to leave damp clothes or towels in your hamper for days before washing them, this will be ideal.

Do Roaches Eat Clothes?

Roaches don’t often bite or eat clothing, but they are capable of it. If you’ve limited all other food sources and have starved the roaches out, they will become desperate. They can eat and process trace nutrients from fabric and threads.

Although their mandibles aren’t powerful enough to truly eat through clothing like mice, cockroaches will take bites. Mostly, you’ll see gnaw marks on:

  • Soft leather
  • Clothing that’s worn thin
  • The fringes of jeans that already have holes

With that said, roaches will always pick better sources of food first. They will prefer to eat crumbs or any waste left on dirty clothes. They may eat wet cardboard that’s holding your clothes as storage or soap residue in your laundry room.

Do Cockroaches Lay Eggs In Clothes?

Roaches will secure their eggs on clothing because they prefer nesting in locations that absorb odor.

Cockroaches emit pheromones or chemicals that affect the behavior of other members of the species. By laying down scent trails, breeding pheromones, and other smells in locations that will retain the odors, they can help the colony work more efficiently. This makes it easy for the nymphs to hatch and immediately know where to go for food, water, and future mates. Aside from that, clothing offers other advantages to roach eggs:

  • Warmth
  • Secluded locations, especially in the back of drawers or in storage boxes
  • The material is easy to stick egg casings onto
  • The fabric may be damp, such as at the bottom of laundry hampers or in damaged cardboard

As a plus, roach eggs that are placed on clothing are more likely to survive extermination. The cockroaches don’t know that, but it still helps infestations to thrive. You are likely to avoid your clothing when spraying chemicals or setting off bug bombs. This ensures the offspring are shielded, allowing them to survive and hatch.

Even if you choose to fumigate your closet, eggs are likely to survive. According to the Journal of Economic Entomology, egg sacs can withstand being sprayed with insecticides. Some brands are more effective than others, but even the best options result in 25% of the eggs hatching. Female cockroaches may lay up to 50 eggs at once.

Will Washing Clothes Kill Roaches?

Depending on the setting of your washer and dryer, roaches may die if you wash infested clothing. Since roaches are covered in bacteria and disease, it’s wise to clean any fabric they’ve touched. Likewise, you will need to remove the pheromones and scent trails to avoid other cockroaches nesting in the clothes later on.

Your washing machine is designed to clean out filth and bacteria from clothing while sanitizing itself in the process. Roaches should not infect your washing machine and taint future clothing, despite your fears. Likewise, the heat levels of a dryer should kill off most bacteria. However, throwing clothes into the rinse cycle – roaches and all – has risks.

If you must throw clothing with live roaches inside, or even dead ones, consider washing the clothes several times. You should also check the washer and dryer for any roach bodies and remove them. Otherwise, you might find pieces on your fabric for the next several cycles. This makes it difficult to maintain hygiene.

Can A Washer Kill Roaches?

It is possible to drown roaches but must be prevented from closing their spiracles. These body parts allow them to breathe, and the openings shut when they are submerged.

With the use of soap, you can prevent roaches from properly shutting their spiracles. By doing so, their respiratory systems will fill with water, and they will drown. They may also suffocate on the soap itself.

Roaches can hold their breath for upward of 40 minutes. If they manage to close their spiracles, they can wait out your rinse cycle. A washing machine can be set to a rinse cycle that lasts longer, effectively drowning the roaches.

Just be sure the machine doesn’t spin the moisture out beforehand. Likewise, if a roach can find a way to climb free, it will. Don’t leave the water to sit, and make sure it’s moving. You can occasionally check to make sure the roaches haven’t found a lip to rest on. Roaches can infest washing machines.

Roach eggs are more resilient but still require oxygen. The combination of soap and submerging them long-term will help to kill them off. To be sure, place any clothes with roach eggs in the dryer afterward.

Can A Drying Machine Kill Roaches?

Roaches are resilient to high and low temperatures alike. They have been known to survive scalding environments of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or more. However, dryers and some washing machines are capable of reaching much higher ranges. On your high setting, a drying machine can reach up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit.

This high range is necessary as low settings may only reach 125 degrees. If the roaches are not exposed to this consistently for several days, it may not be effective. Beyond that, roach eggs are resilient to temperature fluctuations and may delay hatching to survive. You will need to overheat the offspring to avoid them hatching inside and outside of your dryer later on.

The best approach is to pair hot water from your washing machine with intense heat from your dryer. Washing machines usually cap out at 130 degrees, which is just outside of a roach’s livable range. It may survive if it’s taken out soon enough, so quickly follow this up with a spin cycle from the dryer.

Use both machines for the maximum allowable duration. You can send the clothes through multiple times to be thorough. Unfortunately, exposure to such high temperatures may damage the clothing, shrinking some and harming the fibers of others. It might be wise to seek out other methods of cleaning the fabric if you’re concerned.


While soap will suffocate a roach, certain brands of detergent are outright toxic. Even in powder form, without the boiling water, detergent can:

  • Absorb moisture from a roach
  • Break down their protective oily coating
  • Kill them from dehydration

The main ingredient you should look for is boric acid. According to the Journal of Economic Entomology, this is one of the most effective pesticides against cockroaches. It’s commonly found in the cleaning agent borax. It’s an element mined from the earth and derived from boron.

You can sprinkle borax into the washing machine before its high-heat cycle. It will cleanse your fabric while also poisoning the bugs.

Borax does not kill roaches immediately. Rather, it works to eat away at them over time, eventually causing them to dehydrate and perish. This will at least confirm that no survivors of the washing and drying machines last for long.

Roaches In Laundry Room

It’s not uncommon to find roaches in the laundry room. Just like bathrooms, these areas are often damp, dimly lit, and see little activity. Even worse, laundry rooms accumulate dirt, clutter, and messes, making them even more attractive.

If you leave dirty laundry piled up in this room, it’ll be heaven for roaches. They can nest in the bottom of hampers or stray fabric left in corners. Here, they will eat at traces of human waste, food stains, and any moisture. They may even feast on the soap, certain types of fabric softener, and cleaning non-toxic agents.

In general, these spots become a refuge if cockroaches have been driven out of more popular areas. If your kitchen scraps are properly contained and the bathroom is well cleaned, the laundry room may have slipped your notice. The infestation will take advantage of this.

Roaches are likely to travel into your laundry room if it borders a kitchen or bathroom. However, roaches can also get in directly, finding access through:

Once infested, you are likely to find roaches:

  • Inside piles of clothing
  • Behind washers or dryers
  • In drawers or cabinets
  • Behind doors or boxes
  • Gathered near any possible leaks from pipes or tubes

How To Keep Roaches Away From Clothes

Roaches are tough creatures to deal with. Getting them out of clothing may damage the fabric at the least. The best approach is to ward off the roaches from your clothing before they ever taint them. Here are the best approaches:

Do Laundry Often

The longer dirty clothes sit, the more likely roaches are to infest them. If you’re dealing with a roach problem, try to do laundry every day or every other day. This removes a haven of food, shelter, and moisture.

Store Dirty Laundry Elsewhere

For any roaches in your laundry room, the hamper will be an easy target. Store it elsewhere in your home for now. This may be in your living room or a non-infested bedroom, at least until you can clean the clothes.

Tidy Up Closets

It’s easy for a cockroach nest to live in the back of your closet, undetected. Be sure to clear out the area and remove all clothing for inspection. Here’s how:

  1. Check the pockets, hoods, and inner linings.
  2. If you find any brown smears, egg sacs, or shed skins, be sure to clean the fabric immediately.
  3. Remove storage boxes and any possible hiding places
  4. Spray any roaches you find with pesticide
  5. Set bait traps throughout this area

Once you know the closet is pest-free, store items in plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. You should also separate items from one another, so there are no hidden places for roaches to stay. If any clothing items haven’t been washed in several months, do so now.

Keep Your Clothing Areas Moisture-Free

Roaches thrive anywhere that is damp and dark. If your laundry room has leaky pipes, tubes, or hoses, repair these immediately. When a closet contains a water heater, check for any leaks or cracks. If you have a coat rack where jackets hang to dry after a rainstorm, be sure to towel up any moisture or place the rack far away from roach hotspots.

do cockroaches lay eggs in clothes?

Use Roach Repellents

While roaches are adaptable, there are certain substances they dislike the smell and taste of. You can use these as deterrents to help safeguard your clothing from roaches. This will only work in combination with other methods and shouldn’t be used as a standalone fix.


Roaches dislike the smell of mothballs. These are quick and easy to place throughout your closet, wardrobe, and laundry room. As a plus, they will drive off a wide variety of insects to protect your fabrics.

To use this deterrent, place 1-2 mothballs coat pockets in drawers or roach hotspots. They will not harm the fabric and are safe to use long-term.

Borax And Sugar

As mentioned, boric acid is an effective way to both deter and kill roaches. It can be sprinkled in powder form:

  • Throughout your closet
  • In the corners of your laundry room
  • Around and in dressers
  • Even on dirty laundry

Roaches will move away from the distasteful smell. If you want to use it as a pesticide, you can mix it with sugar to attract the roaches. Once they consume it, they will die over the next several days.

Cockroaches may not damage your clothing like mice or moths, but they will still spread harmful germs and bacteria. With the above measures, you can keep cockroaches away from your clothes.

Photo of author

Jack Andersen

Hi, I'm Jack. A close friend of mine went through a cockroach infestation about 5 years ago, so I'm here to share what I've learned with everyone. I hope that you find the information useful.

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