Home Remedies for Bed Bugs That Work (And the Ones That Don’t)

Home remedies for bed bugs are a popular topic amongst bed bug sufferers. And why wouldn’t it be? After all, there’s something inherently appealing about a good old-fashioned home remedy.

We live in an age of ever-increasing dependence on technology, so maybe it’s nice to think that there’s some folk wisdom that can solve our problems.

And the stranger the remedy sounds, the more appealing it can be. Rubbing old pennies on an amputated limb can make your hand grow back? Dunking your head in a bucket of sheep’s eyes cures male pattern baldness? Where do I sign up?

The truth is, humans have been dealing with bed bugs since we lived in caves. And while there was a brief period following the second world war when bedbug populations went into a massive decline, they are very much back now.

Over the centuries, we’ve come up with a few different methods to help deal with bed bugs that don’t involve a full-blown chemical treatment.

Some of them work. Some of them don’t. Let’s take a look at the wild and wacky world of home remedies for bed bugs and separate the effective from the ridiculous.

Does alcohol kill bed bugs?

Is there anything it can’t cure? Besides cirrhosis of the liver, of course.

Rubbing alcohol kills bed bugs on contact. It does this by drying them out. Additionally, as a solvent, rubbing alcohol can break down the cells of the bed bug’s body.

Even better, a surface that has been sprayed with rubbing alcohol is a very inhospitable place for bed bugs to lay their eggs, so it can help to repel them.

If you intend to use rubbing alcohol to solve your bed bug problems, try to get 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol. If you can’t get this, get the highest percentage of rubbing alcohol you can find.

Because alcohol evaporates quickly, especially at high percentages, you will need to apply regularly to make sure that your surfaces stay treated.

Also be warned that rubbing alcohol can stain certain surfaces such as lacquered word, so if in doubt, test a small inconspicuous area first.

More worryingly, rubbing alcohol is extremely flammable. Don’t spray it anywhere near a naked flame. While burning down your house could help to solve your bed bug problem, is going to lead to other, probably bigger problems of its own.

Verdict on alcohol for bed bugs: High percentages of alcohol will kill bed bugs on contact, but it’s unlikely that you’re going to solve a bed bug problem with alcohol alone.

Unless your treatment method is to sit down with a bottle of scotch and drink until you don’t care that you have bed bugs anymore. But again, this is a short-term solution at best.

Does Lysol kill bed bugs?

Like rubbing alcohol, Lysol and other disinfectant sprays will usually kill bed bugs on contact. These sprays contain a variety of chemicals that are harmful to bed bugs, including hydrogen peroxide.

Some of them also use bleach. If sprayed directly on a bed bug, these chemicals will undoubtedly kill it.

The problem with this is the same as the problem with rubbing alcohol: you need to find bed bugs first.

Once you see a bed bug running across a surface, there is no end of ways to kill it. You could crush it in your fingers if you’re not too squeamish, for instance. You could smash it with a shoe. You could decapitate it carefully with a razor blade if you’re a psychopath.

Killing bed bugs when they’re right in front of you isn’t where the challenge is when it comes to getting rid of a bed bug infestation. The hard part is finding all of the bed bugs.

Because if you miss one, and it starts laying eggs, the whole cycle begins again.

Verdict on Lysol for bed bugs: Still, Lysol and other disinfectants are useful. And they help to keep your house clean, too.

But be aware that the active ingredients in these disinfectants aren’t good for humans either. Continually spraying Lysol in your home is going to have adverse effects on your long-term health, so use it sparingly.

Does baby powder kill bed bugs?

Baby powder couldn’t be harmful, right? After all, we use it on babies. How could it possibly help to get rid of bed bugs?

You may find claims online that baby powder, talcum powder and other powdery substances like baking soda can kill bed bugs. It’s claimed that they will dry the bed bugs out by absorbing the moisture on their exoskeleton.

Sounds good, right? However, several studies have found that this is not true.

That doesn’t mean that baby powder is useless against bed bugs though. Bed bugs are not big fans of crawling through dust or powder. And baby powder, in particular, can be used to make some DIY bed bug traps.

Because bed bugs can’t fly or jump, they have to walk anywhere they want to go. This includes up on your bed if they want to bite you during the night.

By placing the legs of your bed inside plastic bowls dusted with baby powder, you create a trap that the bed bugs will not be able to escape. The baby powder makes the sides of the bowl too slippery for the bed bugs to climb out of.

Verdict on baby powder for bed bugs: Is baby powder going to get rid of your bed bugs? Probably not. Bear in mind that bed bugs are quite capable of living inside the bed, with no real reason to leave.

A trap using baby powder on the legs of your bed could be effective in preventing bed bugs from spreading from your bed to other areas of the house. But it’s not going to solve the problem by itself.

Does washing clothes kill bed bugs?

There is no mystery as to how bed bugs got their name. There’s no amusing fable involving a wise old owl and an arrogant rabbit. They are called bed bugs because they like to live in beds.

That doesn’t mean that the bed is the only place that bugs can be found. They can live in any fabric. This includes clothes.

While it’s not common to find bed bugs in clothes that are regularly worn, clothes that are left on the floor can most definitely become hiding places for bed bugs.

So can something as simple as washing clothes kill bed bugs? Yes, it’s actually the hot water and heat aspect that are the most effective.

Verdict on washing clothes for bed bugs: Washing clothes kills bedbugs. Hot water, detergent, the spinning action of the washing machine – none of this is good for bed bugs.

And what is even more effective than the washer is the dryer. Heat is a bed bug’s arch nemesis. Temperatures above 120°F kill bedbugs and their eggs instantly. So running clothes through a hot dryer is one of the most effective ways to kill any bed bugs that may be hiding in them.

Just make sure, once your clothes been washed and dried, to store them in a sealed plastic bag or container so that you know that bed bugs can’t reinfest them.

Does Borax kill bed bugs?

Borax is primarily used as a household cleaner, but it also has uses as an insecticide. It’s particularly effective when used as bait for ants, and in fact, many commercially available ant baits use boric acid as their active ingredient.

It can also be used with some success against cockroaches, because cockroaches fastidiously groom themselves and will ingest Borax if it’s been used against them.

Bed bugs don’t groom themselves – the dirty little buggers. Their mouths are capable of only one thing: biting through human skin and sucking the blood from underneath.

Bed bugs don’t eat anything other than blood. Boric acid is a stomach poison that insects need to eat in order for it to be effective. So borax is not an effective home remedy for bed bugs.

As a detergent, it might kill them on contact. But as discussed, there are plenty of ways to do that.

Verdict on Borax for bed bugs: Skip it. There are better home remedies to kill bed bugs.

Does Raid kill bed bugs?

A quick trip to the local hardware store or a quick search on Amazon will show you how many products are available to get rid of bed bugs these days.

There are all kinds of sprays that will promise to kill bedbugs, and possibly even the eggs, too. Raid is one of the more well-known brands, but it’s far from the only one.

And the truth is, most of these sprays will kill bed bugs on contact. Some of the better ones may even offer a level of residual protection that will kill bed bugs that cross the area that has been sprayed after the chemical itself has dried.

There are also some sprays that can kill bedbug eggs, which is usually very difficult to do with chemical methods.

However, while chemical sprays can be effective, it does matter what kind of chemical you use. For years now, synthetic pyrethroids have been the go-to chemical for bed bug control.

As a result, and thanks to their insane reproductive rate, certain bed bug populations are developing resistance to this class of pesticides. This means that most of the commercially available bug sprays may be of limited use.

To make it more tricky, there is no way of knowing whether or not you have a resistant population of bed bugs until you start spraying. So what works in one location may not work in another.

Verdict on Raid for bed bugs: Pesticide sprays most definitely have their uses, and there’s a reason why bed bug professionals continue to use them.

But if you’re going down this road, make sure you follow all the directions on the pesticide label. It’s no good getting rid of bed bugs if you end up poisoning yourself in the process.

Does ammonia kill bed bugs?

Ammonia is pretty nasty stuff. This toxic chemical is sure to kill bedbugs, right?

Well, yes. Ammonia is definitely capable of killing any bed bugs that come into contact with it. Note, though, that household ammonia comes diluted for safety reasons, usually at a concentration of 10% or lower.

This isn’t enough to kill bed bugs. For that, you would need to get some laboratory grade ammonia and dilute it yourself to around 35% concentration.

Ammonia is tricky to work with. It can irritate skin and eyes. Also, like rubbing alcohol, ammonia evaporates quickly and will need to be reapplied regularly.

Most importantly, never ever mix ammonia with bleach. This produces a gas that is very harmful to the lungs.

Verdict on ammonia for bed bugs: In short, ammonia is not a great solution to the bed bug problem. It is no more effective than other contact killers such as Raid, but it’s far more difficult to work with.

Ammonia is not useless, though. When mixed with water at a ratio of eight parts of water to one part of ammonia, the solution can provide some relief from the itchiness of bed bug bites when applied to the skin.

As far as treating the bed bugs themselves, though, there are better home remedies for getting rid of bed bugs.

Does cold kill bed bugs?

Nobody likes the cold, except maybe polar bears. But polar bears have a very difficult time hiding in the crevices of your furniture the way bedbugs do, so you probably don’t need to worry about a polar bear infestation in your home.

Extremely cold temperatures do kill bed bugs, so you may be tempted to utilize this knowledge to treat your home.

But not any coldness will do.

To kill bed bugs instantly, you need serious cold. Right around 0°F will kill bed bugs and their eggs. But bed bugs can go dormant in cold temperatures and survive being frozen, coming back to life once thawed. So you’ll need to maintain these freezing temperatures for days if you want to kill bed bugs.

One of the best use cases for freezing bed bugs is to treat your clothes. A lot of home freezers don’t get cold enough to kill bed bugs, but a good quality chest freezer should.

You could bag up your clothes and freeze them in a chest freezer for around a week. This should kill any bed bugs living in your clothes. However, you could also run those same clothes through a dryer in a fraction of the time and clear them of bugs that way.

Now, maybe you live in a very cold climate. Maybe you’re dealing with a bed bug infestation in the winter, and you’re wondering if you can let nature do the work for you.

Probably not. Even if you live in a place where temperatures regulate dip below 0°F, it’s going to be warmer than that inside your home.

Even if you opened up all the doors and windows to get the house as cold as possible, there will always be certain areas that stay warmer. Underneath the fridge. Inside couch cushions.

Bed bugs will seek out those areas of warmth and hide there while they wait for the end of the cold spell.

Besides, weather is notoriously unpredictable. Even in the depths of winter, a sudden warm period could come along and raise the temperatures above the point where it kills bed bugs.

Verdict on cold for bed bugs: While extreme cold most definitely does kill bedbugs, it’s difficult to ensure consistency or to utilize it in a way that can get rid of an infestation by itself.

Generally, it’s easier to use heat rather than cold kill bed bugs.

Does dry cleaning kill bed bugs?

Does dry cleaning kill bed bugs? It can. More than the dry cleaning chemicals themselves, what often seals a bed bug’s doom is the heat from the presses a dry cleaner uses on clothes.

Temperatures above 120°F kill bed bugs and their eggs instantly, and dry cleaning equipment can easily get above these temperatures.

Verdict on dry cleaning for bed bugs: If you have items of clothing that you’re worried may contain bed bugs that you can’t wash yourself, taking them to the dry cleaners is a good idea.

Bear in mind, though, that some dry cleaners are terrified of getting bed bugs in their premises, for obvious reasons. As a result, many dry cleaners won’t handle clothes they suspect may have bed bugs in them.

Does hot water kill bed bugs?

There’s no doubt that heat kills bedbugs. Also, bed bugs are very poor swimmers. Combine the two, and you’d think that hot water would be a great weapon against bed bugs.

And it is. Washing clothes and bedding in hot water is an extremely effective way to kill bed bugs.

Interestingly, it is also possible to drown bed bugs, if you’re so inclined. Totally immersing an item of clothing or bedding in cold water for 24 hours will kill all the bed bugs on it.

However, it won’t kill the eggs the way that hot water does.

Verdict on hot water for bed bugs: So washing clothes and bedding in hot water is definitely a useful part of a bed bug treatment.

But unless you live in a hollowed out volcano or something similar, you’re probably not going to be able to use hot water to rid your furniture of bed bugs in any practical way.

Hot water is excellent for clearing clothes and bedding of bed bugs, but that’s about as far as its usefulness goes.

Do essential oils kill bed bugs?

You’re going to see a lot of claims online about the power of essential oils to either kill or repel bed bugs. After all, it makes sense. We all know that certain oils such as cedar oil and citronella have the power to repel other insects. Why not bed bugs?

The trouble is, a bed bug’s sense of smell is not particularly sensitive. Since they only have one food source – human blood – they are attuned solely to seeking out humans and don’t pay much attention to other smells in their environment.

It would be nice if you could simply diffuse some delicious smelling oil in your house and have it drive the bed bugs away. But the reality is a little more complicated than that.

A study conducted at Rutgers University tested 18 essential oils along with three silicone oils and paraffin oil. All of the oils had some toxicity to bed bugs.

However, the study involved applying the oils directly to the bed bugs, rather than simply diffusing them into the air. And even then, results were very mixed.

Of the essential oils, blood orange oil proved the most effective at killing bed bugs. Spearmint oil was the least effective of those tested, killing only 5% of bed bugs it was applied to.

And far more effective than any of the essential oils was the silicone oil, which killed 100% of the bed bugs it was applied to.

Verdict on essential oils for bed bugs: In short, essential oils can kill bed bugs, but only if they are applied directly to the bugs. And even then, they are even less effective at killing them than over-the-counter bed bug sprays.

Sure, they smell nicer than a can of Raid. But would you rather live in a house that smells great and has bed bugs, or house that smells okay and doesn’t have bugs? I know my choice.

Do spiders eat bed bugs?

Nature tends to strike a balance. In the wild, animal populations are kept in check by the actions of predators, as well as disease and the shifting availability of food sources.

Which leads some creative thinkers to wonder if stocking up on bed bug predators could be an easy home remedy for bed bugs. So what preys on bed bugs?

Well, quite a lot. Bed bugs are relatively defenseless against the attacks of other insects. About the only thing they can do is try to hide. Many bugs will happily eat bed bugs.

Spiders, for instance, will eat any bed bug unlucky enough to stray into their web. Ants will also feed on any bed bugs they find. Cockroaches, too, will eat bed bugs both dead and alive.

And then there are more exotic insects such as the masked hunter, a bug that lives in tropical climates and specializes in bed bug hunting. However, masked hunters will also deliver a very painful bite to humans if they are disturbed, so it is not recommended that you deliberately introduce a population of these bugs into your home.

Verdict on bed bug predators to get rid of bed bugs: It’s tempting to believe that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. When it comes to insects, this is often not the case.

Bed bugs have plenty of predators, but most of them are other bugs that you wouldn’t want in your house any more than you want bed bugs. Besides, it’s not in any predator’s interest to eradicate a population of its prey.

Cockroaches, ants, spiders and other bugs will eat some bed bugs, but it’s highly unlikely that they will kill all of them. And the thing that makes bed bug control so difficult is that you need to kill every single bug to make sure you got rid of the problem.

Which bed bug home remedies work best?

Okay, so a lot of home remedies for bed bugs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. But don’t despair. Some things do work.

The general rule is that no one method used by itself is likely to get rid of bed bugs completely. Effective bed bug treatment requires a range of different approaches.

Because bed bugs can hide in so many places in a home, it’s often necessary to use different treatments in different areas to achieve total control.

Many of the methods below are best used in combination with one another, so do them all for the best protection against bed bugs.

Wash clothes to kill bed bugs

As mentioned above, this is one of the most effective home remedy for bed bugs you can use. And the best part is you don’t have to buy or rent anything to do it – most of us have access to a washer and dryer.

Just remember to wash, dry, and store your clothes in such a way that bed bugs can’t re-infest them.

This won’t be enough to get rid of the infestation by itself, but it will undoubtedly help keep the population down.

Set bed bug traps

The main problem people have with bed bugs is that they bite. But if they can’t reach you, they can’t bite you, can they? You could try isolating your bed so that no bed bugs can get to you.

One way to achieve this is to invest in bed bug traps. You can opt for store-bought traps that have been designed to be effective against bed bugs, like these ClimbUP Insect Interceptors

bed bug traps

Or you can make your own homemade bed bug traps by placing the legs of your bed in a bowl or other dish. You can then fill that bowl with water or oil or some other liquid the bed bugs can’t cross.

Make sure when you do this that your bed is away from the wall, since bed bugs can crawl up the wall as easily as they can walk along the floor.

Invest in bed bug covers

Specially designed bed bug mattress covers are available to keep bed bugs off your mattress. One of the bed bug’s favorite places to hide is the seam on the side of your mattress, and denying them access to this is a good idea.

Make sure that you choose a mattress cover that is certified bed bug proof, meaning bugs can’t get in or out.

These covers work in a couple of different ways, depending on what stage of infestation you’re at. Let’s say you have a very expensive mattress that you don’t want the bed bugs to ruin with their disgusting blood droppings and eggs.

Zipping it up with a sealed mattress cover can keep bed bugs from ever getting on your mattress in the first place.

However, if you already have an active bed bug infestation in your mattress, a sealed mattress cover can keep the bed bugs inside where they can’t bite you.

Eventually, bed bugs trapped inside a mattress cover will starve to death without a food source. However, bear in mind that this can take a year or more.

You’ll need to keep that mattress cover on and make sure it doesn’t develop any holes in that time. To be on the safe side, it would be best to keep the cover in place for 18 months or even two years if possible.

Even then, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get rid of a bed bug infestation.

What if the bedbugs have moved to areas other than the mattress? The bedframe, for instance. Or the baseboards. Or the living room furniture. Miss one bed bug, and the whole infestation can flare up again.

So bed bug mattress covers can be effective, but they work best in conjunction with other methods.

Steam bed bugs and their eggs to death

Heat kills bed bugs, and one of the most effective ways to get the heat to them is to use steam.

A good quality steam cleaner will generate heat far in excess of the 120°F needed to kill bed bugs and their eggs. Our recommendation is the McCulloch Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner. It’s affordable, extremely versatile and it heats water to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than enough to destroy generations of bed bugs.

steamer for bed bugs

It also comes with a wide variety of attachments so you can use it to steam bed bugs out of everything you own – the bed, sofa, furniture and even the carpet.

In order to perform a successful steam treatment, you will need to seek out the bed bugs anywhere they may be hiding. This is not a job you can rush.

Take your time and make sure that the steam penetrates every crack and crevice and every surface that bed bugs could be hiding on or might have laid eggs on.

You’ll probably need to do this multiple times.

Also, steam will only kill the bed bugs and eggs it contacts. There is no residual protection. So it might be a good idea to use steam in conjunction with a chemical pesticide that does offer residual protection.

Use a bed bug heater

The principle here is the same as steam. Again, heat is one of the most effective ways to kill adult bed bugs and eggs, and it doesn’t involve the use of potentially harmful pesticides.

The tricky part is getting to that magic 120°F temperature.

Specially designed chambers for heating furniture and possessions are available for bed bug treatments. ZappBug makes a range of heat chambers that range in size from a travel version that can treat suitcases up to a large tent that can handle entire sofas and other furniture.

Again, this is a treatment that takes time and cannot be rushed. You will need to be systematic in making sure that everything you have gets treated.

Once you know the power of heat to kill bed bugs, it’s tempting to wonder if you can harness this with equipment you already have. But be very careful.

Trying to heat clothes and blankets in a home oven is a sure way to start a fire. The same goes for heat guns that you can buy at the hardware store.

It’s extremely easy to damage furniture and even light it on fire with these tools. So be careful.

Use equipment that is designed for the job you intend it for. And if in doubt, hire a professional to do a full-scale bed bug heat treatment of your house. These can get very expensive, but they are a very effective way to get rid of bed bugs.

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