Taking a vacation? Here’s how to keep bugs out of your apartment while you’re away

  • Last month a TikTok on keeping pests from crawling out of the drain went viral, but does it really work?
  • Cover your drains with mesh, not overturned jars, to block roaches and prevent flooding from a leaky sink
  • Make sure to take out your trash, close your windows, and put produce in the fridge before taking a trip
Celia Young Headshot
By Celia Young  |
August 28, 2023 - 3:30PM
A cockroach on the edge of a sink crawling away from the tap.

Cockroaches can crawl up your drains if the pipes dry out. 


You’re probably familiar with the phone, wallet, keys-method of checking your pockets before leaving the house. But if you live in New York City, you might want to add roach prevention measures to your list. 

The roach rivals the rat in fame and fortune in NYC; just under a quarter of homes reported cockroach sightings as of 2017, according to the most recent city health data. Plenty of ink has been spilled on how to eliminate roaches, and plenty of videos shot. 

Just last month, a TikTok of a woman who covered her drains with glass jars to keep cockroaches from crawling up her pipes and into her apartment went viral, garnering nearly 16 million views. But while those jars might keep the creepy crawlies out of your apartment, they could also cause water damage to your apartment, says Gil Bloom, a certified entomologist and president of Standard Pest Management.

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“You have to be careful when you start sealing drains, and make sure that the water doesn't drip at all,” Bloom says. “I had one case where somebody taped up their drain, but they had a slow leak. And that drip, drip, drip over a three-week period ended up coming out of the sink.”

If you’re ditching the city for an extended vacation, you’d be better served by placing wire mesh over your drains, sealing up your windows, and taking out your trash, Bloom says. Read on for three ways to pest proof your home while you bug off on your vacation. (You can also check out Brick’s best advice on the subject here.)

Make sure bugs haven’t already infiltrated 

The first rule in pest management is prevention, Bloom says. So before you ditch the city for some grand trip, make sure bugs haven’t already snuck into your apartment.

Bloom recommends sealing up any holes in your walls or under your sink and shutting your windows. If you have window screens, use them. And make sure to check for evidence of pests before you take off.

“Keep the outside from getting in,” Bloom says. “If they happen to get in while you’re away, instead of it being an issue which is promptly recognized and addressed, it enables them to set up housekeeping in your absence. In general, you want to be on your toes.”

Cover your drains with mesh

Bugs can crawl up your sink and shower drains if the water that usually collects in the bend of your pipe, known as the trap, dries out. And American roaches, also known as periplaneta americana or water bugs, are the most common infiltrators. 

These little critters are about one and a half inches long and can live between one and two years, according to Standard Pest Management. They became a particular issue during the height of the pandemic, when residents fled the city and their pipes dried up and the bugs crawled in.

You should cover your sink and bathtub drain and overflow hole before you ditch the city, but Bloom recommends using wire mesh and a little bit of duct tape, not bowls and cups. If your faucet is leaking, mesh will allow the water to drain out, whereas a full cover could lead to your sink overflowing. 

“In these cases, it’s better to stick some type of mesh or a piece of screen and put it on top and on the overflow,” Bloom says. “That way you don't run the risk of overflowing anything.”

Wire mesh also will likely provide a snugger fit if your sink or bathtub isn’t perfectly flat at the bottom, as you can use duct tape to adjust the mesh to the curvature of the drain.

Take out your trash

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another bug’s feast. (Well, not quite, but you get the picture.) Make sure to take out your trash before you lock up your apartment for the long weekend. 

Bloom recommends emptying your trash can and making sure it’s dry and clean. Rotting food can attract bugs, so put food that will keep in the refrigerator. Fruit fly eggs can also hitch a ride on produce, so ditch anything that’s going to rot anyway. 

“A lot of times you will see fruit flies flying around the kitchen and ask, ‘How did they get here?’” Bloom says. “They got there because the eggs were on the bananas, or in the stems of the stalks, or underneath the leaves on the tomatoes. And it stayed out too long and within five to seven days they hatched. If you put it in a refrigerator, that won't happen. If you're going away for a longer time, you should probably just discard it because it's going to last.”


Celia Young Headshot

Celia Young

Senior Writer

Celia Young is a senior writer at Brick Underground where she covers New York City residential real estate. She graduated from Brandeis University and previously covered local business at the Milwaukee Business Journal, entertainment at Madison Magazine, and commercial real estate at Commercial Observer. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

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