Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

If you are reading this guide, you probably suspect you may have a bed bug infestation that you need to get under control. We are here to help you do just that.

Nobody likes the idea of bugs in the bed drinking your blood!

Rubbing alcohol, or its real name Isopropyl alcohol, is made from chemicals and has many uses. It can be used as a solvent and disinfectant, yet how it disinfects no one seems to know.

Please do not confuse it with a bottle of best whiskey. Firstly, it is much stronger than drinkable alcohol, between 70 % and 90%, while most drinkable alcohol is no higher than 50%. And secondly, it is highly toxic to humans and pets.

Whiskey will drown a bed bug (what a waste!) but you won’t kill bed bugs by spraying them with whiskey.

Evidence of bed bugs

If you think you have bedbugs but are not quite sure, here are some things to look for to help you identify the pests.

Feces

This will be from the bed bugs and resembles dried blood. It is reddish-brown in color, and you are most likely to find it on your bedsheets.

Bites

Red itchy welts, generally on the top half of the body.

Smears of blood

Bed bugs can be greedy when feeding and some blood can be dropped onto the sheets on the bed.

Bed bug skin shells

When a bed bug feeds, they grow and shed their skin. Find them in your bed, and chances are you could have a room infested with a bed bug pest.

Bed bug odor

Bed bugs can give off a musty smell with their scent glands. Smell this awful scent, and usually there is one heck of a bed bug infestation. You need to contact a pest control exterminator to get rid of the bed bugs!

So if you have read this so far and you are convinced the insects in your home are bed bugs, you may need our help.

Please read on to discover the answer to the question: Does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs?

Does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs?

In short, the answer is yes rubbing alcohol will kill bedbugs if applied directly to them.

Rubbing alcohol can also be used for the killing of lice and ticks. Although for a large infestation it may not be enough on its own.

How does it kill bed bugs?

Rubbing alcohol has a drying effect. It soaks through the exoskeleton of the bed bugs, which it dries out and then reaches internally, drying out the bed bug completely, leading to death.

Does rubbing alcohol kill bed bug larvae and bed bug eggs?

Using rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl alcohol) to kill bed bug larvae and bed bug eggs kills them more easily than the adults, as they are less developed than adult bed bugs.

Bed bug eggs are hard to spot, so you will need to look especially carefully to find them.

Isopropyl alcohol green

The difference between Isopropyl alcohol green and clear Isopropyl alcohol is a green dye that makes the Isopropyl smell minty, making it more pleasant to spray around the house.

If you are not keen on a strong minty smell in the house, stick with the clear one for pest control.

The downside with the green one is it contains less alcohol than the clear Isopropyl alcohol, at around 50% alcohol, and is therefore not as effective.

How to use Rubbing alcohol

Before you start, you need to search your house or apartment for bed bugs and eggs.

If you want to kill bed bugs you will want to know where it is best to apply the rubbing alcohol.

If you miss just 1 bed bug, you will be back to square one, as they could start reproducing again.

Have a good look around the property and bedroom. Check in cracks and crevices, seams and folds of your mattress, box spring, carpets and rugs, sofas, towels, and sheets. Just about everywhere to be sure.

Now you have found them and their hiding places, it’s time to spray.

Perform a test in a hidden spot first, as rubbing alcohol can stain and mark some fabrics and wood.

When using rubbing alcohol you will need ventilation. Open windows for good ventilation.

Be aware of the strong smell and only spray where necessary when using alcohol to kill bed bugs.

Put the rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and spray the areas well. For the maximum effect they should be soaked.

When you spray your mattress, pay special attention to the seams and folds.

Does rubbing alcohol repel bed bugs?

A lot of people claim that rubbing alcohol will get rid of bed bugs, so long as you spray everywhere in the house.

Claims are made that the strong smell will repel bed bugs and that they will never come back. Not so!

Not true, bed bugs in your home will not just leave

Bed bugs are not at all worried about the smell, they will just move away from it and lay eggs elsewhere.

Bed bugs strike when they sense the carbon dioxide and heat that we humans give off as we breathe and live. So long as that is around and a blood meal, they will stay pretty close by.

Is Rubbing alcohol safe to use to get rid of bed bugs?

Rubbing alcohol used carefully is safe. However, we must stress it is highly flammable.

It would only take a spark or heat source to ignite the rubbing alcohol. Use in well-ventilated rooms. It is essential to never smoke near it or have any naked flames.

An awful lot of fires are caused in the house by rubbing alcohol being ignited.

It is also worth knowing that rubbing alcohol is not visible when alight at first.

Rubbing alcohol will evaporate eventually, but whilst wet is it is highly flammable.

Rubbing alcohol is highly toxic, so it is essential to always wear gloves when you are using it. Rubbing alcohol will dry the skin which can lead to the skin being irritated.

How effective is Rubbing alcohol?

Rutgers university studied many ways to kill bed bugs, and one of their findings was that rubbing alcohol kills bed bugs, around 50% of them in fact.

They also found that no matter how high the percentage of alcohol it was the same: 50% died. Another study found 40% – 60% of bed bugs died using 99% alcohol.

These tests were performed in enclosed containers and applied directly to the bed bugs, so imagine you are going to miss a few as you’ll never spot every single bedbug, and those you missed will carry on laying eggs and feeding.

If you persist you can reduce the infestation. If the bed bugs move on to other hiding places you will need to find them.

It may seem like you are having success, but you may have to spray the rubbing alcohol many times for total success, especially when using alcohol on its own.

Is it a good idea to use Rubbing alcohol as a treatment?

Rubbing alcohol(Isopropyl) should be used alongside other treatments like residual pesticides, as it does not kill all the bed bugs in one go.

DIY methods are cheaper than a professional pest control expert.

If you contact a professional exterminator, be sure to check the pesticides used for infestations like bed bugs. The chemical could be unsafe for children and pets.

Top tips

Launder all the bedding, including duvet and pillows, at a high temperature, as this kills bed bugs.

Place all clothing in sealed bags. If you can buy dissolvable bags then even better.

Launder all clothing at a high temperature and tumble dry on high heat.

Do not put the clothing back into the room after being laundered. Wait until the treatments are successful. You don’t want bed bugs in your clothes again!

De-clutter the whole household, as this will remove places for bed bugs to hide. This includes any newspapers, cardboard, and old unused clothing; all can be recycled.

Seal up cracks and crevices, and any peeling wallpaper and paint where bedbugs can hide.

Wear clothing in bed that covers up as much skin as possible.

Do not be tempted to throw away or move your mattress out of the room or apartment. Doing so could spread the infestation. The insects will settle into another room.

If you feel you really must discard your mattress, mark on it that it is contaminated with bed bugs, in case someone takes it or touches it unawares.

Steam cleaning is a great DIY option to use. You do not need a chemical for this, as the high temperature of the steam is good at killing the bed bugs.

Use the steam cleaner regularly on the mattress to kill bed bugs and eggs. You can also use it on your drapes.

The cleaners vary in price. Click here to find out more.

Dry cleaning

If clothes are not washable, take them to the dry cleaners. The methods used kill bed bugs. You must ask the dry cleaner if they are ok with bed bug-infested clothing before taking it in.

If it is ok to take to them to the dry cleaners, place clothing in a sealed bag and be sure to let the staff know the situation. Keep the clothes out of infested rooms after cleaning.

Bed bugs do not like the cold, so place clothing in a bag and put it in the freezer for at least 10 hours.

Home remedies

You may have some of the items below already in your home, and if not they are easily bought from stores.

Tea tree oil

Some essential oils repel and kill bed bugs, and Tea tree oil kills bed bugs on direct contact.

Tea tree oil is used for other things also, like skin problems, insect bites, treating head lice, treating fungal infections, and others.

Bed bugs do not like the smell of tea tree oil. With that in mind, make up a spray bottle undiluted and use it for spraying the tea tree oil around the home. If some family members in the household are sensitive, then dilute with a little water.

Test before using on furniture, surfaces, and carpets for staining.

We do recommend when buying Tea tree oil that you check it is pure, as some can be diluted. For effectiveness tea tree oil should be undiluted. Click here for more information.

Talcum powder

Sprinkled around areas with an infestation, talcum powder causes dehydration and death to bed bugs. Vacuum up after 2 days and reapply if necessary.

Mothballs

Place a handful of mothballs around bedbug hideouts. Mothballs contain strong chemicals bedbugs do not like. The smell naturally repels them.

In New Jersey, a university tested this method and found that 45%-65% of adult bed bugs died. However, the nymphs and eggs survived.

Diatomaceous Earth

Naturally occurring, this white crystalline powder has drying effects leading to dehydration, and damages the exoskeleton of insects, causing death when they have come into contact with it.

Sprinkle around the home, particularly the seams of the mattress, box springs, bed frames, and other furniture. After two days, vacuum the area well and reapply the Diatomaceous earth.

Professional pest control using heat treatments

When you have tried everything and have not been successful, it is time to call in an exterminator.

Call a registered exterminator, that way you will know they are qualified to use the pest control equipment and pesticides.

The pest control company should go through a detailed plan with you for the treatment of the pest.

The rooms will need to have items removed that cannot tolerate high heat, like photos, artworks, and plants.

A bedbug cannot survive temperatures over 122 f.

Heaters are used to heat the rooms over 122 f. The heaters are very powerful and cannot run off the mains supply, so specialist equipment is needed, which is partly why heat treatment is an expensive pest control method.

Rooms should be monitored for cold spots, as recorded cold spots will not kill the bugs.

In summary,

You may have read and heard from other people that Rubbing (Isopropyl) alcohol kills bed bugs and is good for bed bug infestations. It is, but should be used in conjunction with something else. Try it with other methods and pesticides.

We have given you advice and guidance on DIY pest control, now you can decide for yourself whether to go with it or not with the information you have.

Please check out the rest of our site for useful tips and advice on pest control.

Feel free to drop us an email if you have any questions. We do our best to respond as quickly as possible.

Good luck, Sleep tight!

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each pest control method, product and process. 

Read more here.

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