Keeping your NYC apartment pest-free

Welcome to my first edition of ‘Haley Helps’! I’m so excited you’re here! I don’t even mind if you alternate between watching Making a Murderer and reading this post!

My name is Haley, and my aim is to give you the skinny on renting an apartment in New York City. Tips, tricks and some poetic musings in between.

Here’s the thing, NYC is a complicated lady. She is magical, but also abrasive. She is mesmerizing, but also overwhelming. My goal is for us to embrace her complexities together. If you’re a new renter, or have questions about living here, you are not alone! The best part: I am here to make your mistakes for you! All you have to do is read this blog, and reap the benefits of my blunders.

In late August I moved to an Upper West Side apartment, my insides ripe with a mixture of terror and excitement. I had grown up an hour outside of Manhattan in a rural area with lots of trees. I had gone to college in Boston, which pretends to be a city but is really a very large town. I had to take baby steps before I was ready for that funky apartment in the West Village or Chelsea.

And suddenly, I was there. Alone in my new apartment, sitting on the floor, repeating “do not forget your keys” like my new mantra. I had always left the door unlocked in Boston, but we were not in Kansas anymore and these days Toto looks a lot more like a Rottweiler.

A couple days into acclimating to my new apartment, something strange happened. I don’t remember why or what had occurred to bring it on, but all of a sudden a full body panic came over me. I took a sharp inhale and immediately picked up the phone and called my Dad. “Hi sweetie,” he said. “Cockroaches,” I whispered.

I had forgotten. This was NEW YORK CITY. There were rats in the subway and not the cute ones like Ratatouille and his Parisian family. I had never seen a cockroach before. And to be clear, I hadn’t yet seen one in my studio apartment at this moment. But I knew it was coming. I knew they were lurking in the dark and that they were going to get me. It was only a matter of time.

My Dad affirmed the cold hard truth: they were there and they would come unless I made sure all food items were packaged and sealed. I bowed my head in shame. This would be my downfall.

Sure enough, a week later, it happened. I was with a close friend, sitting on my bed having an intense life chat – it was either about climate change or pizza, I don’t remember. In a moment, everything changed. My friend screamed and jumped off the bed. The room grew cold. Time slowed down. They had come. I knew even before she told me. “COCKROACH!” She yelped. “IN YOUR BED,” she cried.

I was calm. I was quiet. I took a deep breath and I looked over to see him, fat and smooth, with his creepy little tentacles feeling around my quilted duvet.

So what did I do? Well, like the brave empowered woman that I am, I cheered my friend on as she trapped the cockroach in my tee shirt and shoved the whole bundle into the toilet. And then I cheered a little less vehemently as she stuck her hand in the bowl to retrieve the shirt because it would not flush down the toilet.

If I had to rate the experience from 1 to Traumatizing I would give it a 6. A cockroach in your bed is a very scary thing. I don’t want it to happen to you. So here is my guide to avoiding/dealing with all New York Pests.

Pest #1: Cockroaches


– Keep food sealed and packaged.
My Dad was right about this. Whether you live alone or in a multi-bedroom share, be sure not to leave food out (I know, it’s so tempting to leave the oatmeal in the bowl as a sort of post-adolescent “screw you” to your parents. But it’s also really important to wash that bowl right away, not only because of cockroaches, but because it’s really hard to scrape three-day-old oatmeal out of a bowl.) Use Tupperware (glass containers are my tip, they’re better for the environment and plastic has some nasty chemicals that can seep into your food). Secure cereal with a sturdy clip or rubber band, and put food back in the fridge when you finish your meal.

– Don’t leave water out.
Turns out these little buggers can go for over a week without food, but cannot survive without water. So be careful about leaving flowers in a vase full of water, finish that glass of water that you leave on your night stand, seal your bottles and empty your cans.

– Tip from my Dad:
“To prevent cockroaches in a more organic fashion, buy boric acid powder at the drugstore. This cheap stuff is usually used as an eyewash. Sprinkle the powder along the baseboard moldings and cracks and brush it in with a toothbrush, hopefully not the one currently in use. While the bugs don’t eat it then, it adheres to the fine leg hairs and their buddies groom it off in their nests. As these critters can’t pass gas, the boric acid mixes with their stomach acids and they explode, killing themselves and their nest mates with roach shrapnel. Roach genocide cannot be tried as a war crime.” (My Dad clearly thinks he’s writing a novel on cockroaches).

– Have an exterminator come spray once a month.
In No Fee Rentals buildings extermination is FREE! They visit twice monthly. Once your apartment is nice and sprayed, you will not have a problem anymore, especially if you’re following the above tips.

Pest #2: Bed Bugs

I know. I know. So gross. But they are another part of this mostly magical city. Tips:
– What not to do

Do not buy upholstered furniture, rugs, or other kinds of fabric-covered items off of the street unless you are sure they are not infested. I know that second-hand couch is gorgeous and cheap, but it is a risk unless you can confirm with the previous owner that there are no bugs.

– Deep Clean

If you have bed bugs, you have to do a deep clean of everything you own. All clothes have to be washed, and you have to get rid of your mattress. They will continue to breed inside of it and if you are feeling a little pukey right now please take a break and come back to this blog later.

– Tip from my Dad

“A bed bug exterminator must be engaged by No Fee Rentals management at management’s expense per NYC law. As managers tend not to rent infested apartments, having a bed bug issue and notifying management is the equivalent of saying “I brought in a cute couch I found on the street” or “I picked these critters up in someone else’s home or store or theatre” or “my friends delivered them to me for free”.”

Pest #3: Waterbugs

-Follow cockroach instructions

Waterbugs are like giant cockroaches that love to freak you out by crawling up your shower drain or toilet bowl! It is really best to have an exterminator come if you’re dealing with the wrath of waterbugs. Or you could just not shower or go to the bathroom. Up to you!

Pest #4: Generally annoying people


#1 Wait for an upcoming blog on how to deal with annoying people (especially when it comes to apartment shares and bad roommates).

Love HaleyUntil then, I bid you good luck, and a pest-free existence. But now that you’ve got the insider tips, rest assured that you are prepared. Hope I helped!

Love, Haley