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If, like many Singaporeans, you believe placing a bunch of the sweet smelling pandan leaves in your car and cupboards will keep the cockroaches at bay, think again.

First of all, it’s essential to understand why and how the practice first came about. Now like other insects, cockroaches breathe through a system of tubes called tracheae which are attached to openings called spiracles on all body segments. That means they breathe through their ‘skin’ and so they cannot tolerate fragrance particles that can clog their skin. By filling the air with something aromatic, such as pandan for example, it suffocates them.

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Coming back to the original question, the answer would be yes but with a disclaimer. In order for pandan to be effective, one would need to use only fresh leaves and ensure that there is a constant supply. So if the bunch of pandan has been laying around in your cupboard for over a month, it’s probably no longer doing what it was put there to do.

A simpler solution to using pandan would be to use fabric softeners instead. Not only are fabric softeners fragrant, they are also soapy. The soapiness prevents cockroaches from breathing properly as well. Mix a cap of fabric softener with half a cup of water in a spray bottle and you have your own homemade insecticide.