Home remedies for bed bugs - [Discover the truth]

Bed bugs have become an increasingly common pest problem across the United States.

The thought of these tiny blood suckers crawling over your body and biting your skin is a nightmare. These little insects create small red welts often in clusters which often get worse due to itching.

It’s fairly common to look for a DIY method using home remedies rather than contacting a professional. In this article, we look at common methods in an effort to debunk these myths and instead replace with the facts.

There’s been some studies suggesting that bed bug bites have further health problems due to the infection caused from scratching.

Home remedies for bed bugs

Have you found an infestation? Are you running out of ideas on how to get rid of them?

Might you of considered questions such as “Does baby powder kill bed bugs?” If so you’re in the right place.

Have you considered cost-effective home remedies for getting rid of bed bugs?

We explore the various home remedies to counter this dreadful pest. But is there any truth behind these remedies or are they simply a myth?

Read on to find out!

Bleach

Before heading underneath your kitchen sink and grabbing a bottle of shop bought bleach and dozing your mattress in bleach. Take a step back and think about what chemicals you’re about to put onto a place where you rest your head at night.

You don’t want to be smelling bleach throughout the night for a few days unless absolutely necessary right?

Clorox Bleach is made up of:
Sodium Hypochlorite: This is the main ingredient which helps to eliminate germs and whiten clothes. It’s also used to add chlorine to swimming pools.

Sodium hydroxide – Major ingredient in oven cleaners.

Safety tips

  • Wear safety glasses
  • Use protective gloves made from rubber or nitrile
  • Wear a face mask to avoid inhaling dust or vapor
  • Avoid contact with eyes, skin and clothing.
  • Wash your hands immediately after direct contact
  • Use only in well ventilated spaces (open your windows)
  • Avoid wearing bleach-contaminated clothing for prolonged periods (wash straight away)

Attention: If swallowed call your local emergency number or National Poison Control Center straight away

Does bleach kill them?

These red bugs are one of the worst pests to invade your home. As they come between people and the place they sleep.

Interesting, so will bleach get rid of bed bugs?

In theory bleach could be harmful to these blood suckers due to the Sodium Hypochlorite. However it is a terrible idea for handling your bed bug problem. We strongly advise against using bleach to control your bed bug problem.

Does Bleach get rid of their Eggs?

Did you know the toughest stage to eliminate bedbugs is when they are eggs?

That said, bleach is not recommended to kill them at any stage of their life cycle.

Should I use bleach?

We do not recommend bleach for a bed bug control method. Bleach is harmful to humans if not used properly, and it isn’t an effective method to get rid of these red blood suckers.

Freezing

This is one of the more logical home remedies on the list for getting rid of bedbugs. The theory is based around using a cold temperature lower enough to freeze them. But is there any logic behind it?

Bed bugs like many insects have adapted to survive in cold temperatures which can increase their lifespan.

They can survive in cold weather temperatures such as 5 °F (-15°C) only for a short time.

Can cold kill them?

One popular homemade method for bed bug infestation control is to freeze bed bugs. It’s appealing as most homeowners have everything they need to perform this bed bug treatment.

Did you know? Bed bugs are more resistant to lower temperatures than higher ones.

We look at whether the cold can kill these pests and what temperatures it takes to freeze them.

So what temperature do these bugs freeze at?

To eliminate bedbugs by freezing them, the temperature must remain at or below 0°F.

Freezing bedbugs is quite simple, it requires:

  • A freezer that is at or below 0°F (-18oC)
  • Plastic bags to seal the items
  • 4 days minimum

Will cold weather get rid of bedbugs?

It’s possible but unlikely that it will remain cold long enough to eliminate the these blood suckers. A mixture of factors including; sunlight, temperature and humidity change during the day increasing the risk of these resilient insects surviving.

We do not recommend opening all windows and doors to lower your home’s temperature in an effort to kill any pests.

How long can they live in the cold?

They are likely to die within 4 – 5 days if they are kept at below 0 °F (-19°C).

While killing these red insects with cold, could be considered a cost-effective method. It takes time, patience and a big freezer! We would recommend using a heat treatment instead.

Can bed bugs survive outside in winter?

Yes, although it depends on the conditions. If they have a food source nearby, how much sunlight each day and the humidity.

Tea tree oil for bed bugs

The next home remedy is considered a natural method of bed bug control as it requires the use of essential oils.

Method:

Mix 20 drops of tea tree oil with around 50-75ml of water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and shake.

Usage to get rid of bedbugs:

Spray small amounts of the mixture in areas where you think bed bugs may be hiding. Repeat each day until the bed bug infestation has gone.

Does tea tree oil repel bed bugs?

There is little information on whether bed bugs can be repelled by this essential oil.

Does tea tree oil kill bed bugs?

There are no studies nor findings to suggest that the use of this essential oil can eliminate bed bugs.

What about other Essential Oils?

Similar to the theory behind Tea tree oil, some people have looked to other essential oils such as lavender oil and peppermint oil to get rid of these pests. However there are no studies to back this theory up.

Verdict: Myth.

Baking Soda and Bed Bugs

When considering a diy bed bug treatment, baking soda is often a popular choice. But can baking soda get rid of bed bugs?

Also known as Sodium Bicarbonate, it is widely considered a miracle product by homeowners. It’s an astoundingly versatile, cost-effective and a multi-purpose essential item. It has many different uses due to it’s natural ability to react with other chemicals.

Uses of Sodium Bicarbonate include: All-purpose cleaner, Deodorize drians and garbage disposals, Extinquishing fires, Odor remover as well as many other uses.

Because of these reasons, some people have wondered if Baking soda has the power to repel or get rid of bed bugs forever. While there is some logic behind this theory, there are no studies to support this claim.

Method

This popular bed bug remedy involves adding baking soda to areas that bed bugs typically hide. The idea is to sprinkle baking soda on your mattress, in crevices and seams and around your bed. Then vacuum the baking soda up in 3-4 days time.

Does baking soda eliminate bed bugs?

There are several theories scattered online around the idea of baking soda killing bed bugs. The most common being it’s natural absorbent ability to combat nasty smells.

Since bed bugs rely on a waxy layer of fluid on their shell to stay hydrated. The theory is that baking soda can absorb this fluid and thus kill the bed bugs.

Baking soda has not been proven to eliminate these nocturnal pests.

Verdict: Myth.

Talcum powder

Talcum powder (talc, baby powder) has made it onto our list of home remedies due to it’s popularity across the internet. But how useful is it?

Baby powder for bed bugs

Method 1:
Check your bed and furniture for signs of bed bugs. Then sprinkle baby powder on bed bug areas such as on furniture, mattresses, seams and fabric.

Method 2:
Create a bed bug interceptor trap using common household objects such as baby powder, and place beneath your bed or underneath furniture.

The theory behind the interceptor trap is bed bugs can get inside the bowl but the talc powder will prevent them from escaping.

Does baby powder kill bed bugs?

Much like baking soda, the theory behind this method is that the baby powder is able to dehydrate the bed bugs causing them to die.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that baby powder works against bed bugs.

One study led by Changlu Wang, looks at improving ways in bed bug monitoring. It includes an experimental bed bug interceptor using 50% talcum powder and 50% diatomaceous earth.

The conclusion is that bed bug interceptors are more effective than a visual inspection. However they are mainly used as an indicator to identify how serious the bed bug infestation is. The leap could be made that it is the diatomaceous earth harming the bed bugs not the baby powder.

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a non-toxic dust that has multiple uses such as helping to get rid of multiple pests.

So does baby powder kill bed bugs? No!

Verdict: Myth.

Another myth bites the dust, while it’s true baby powder is useless for getting rid of bed bugs. The same can’t be said for Diatomaceous earth, we recommend reading this in-depth guide on the subject.

Rubbing Alcohol

People like to explore home remedies for fighting insects such as bed bugs as they can be seen as a cost effective solution.

But, how effective is rubbing alcohol for killing adult bed bugs and eggs?

Method:

Buy some rubbing alcohol from your local store then pour the contents into a spray bottle. Use the spray on common bed bug areas such as on your mattress and bed frame.

Does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs?

According to this study by Olimpia Ferguson who conducted three experiments on how effective rubbing alcohol was for killing bed bugs.

The results found fewer than 15% of bed bugs were affected and none were dead after 24 hours.

Another finding from this study was that bed bug nymphs were killed by alcohol based sprays.

The experiments concluded that Isopropyl based sprays were more effective than an Ethanol solution.

So in theory yes bed bugs can be killed by alcohol, but mainly during the nymph stage. Also the amount of potency of the alcohol spray (50%, 70%, and 91%) can be harmful to humans and cause fires. So we recommend avoiding the use of rubbing alcohol for bed bug treatment.

Can rubbing alcohol kill bed bug eggs?

Studies show that bed bug eggs were not affected or killed by alcohol-based sprays.

Warning:
Rubbing alcohol vaporizes quickly, it’s highly flammable and has led to several house fires when used to fight bed bugs.

Verdict: Myth

This is one of the more dangerous home remedies on our list due to the possibly danger of a fire.

Ultrasonic devices

If you’ve got this far in your search for a DIY solution for bed bugs then you’ve likely heard of an ultrasonic bed bug repeller.

Sonic pest repellents are devices that emit sound in an attempt to repel or kill animals or insects. 

Verdict: Myth

There are no scientific studies to suggest that ultrasonic devices have been proven to be effective.

Moth balls

This another potentially dangerous method from our list of home remedies for bed bugs. 

Two common ingredients used to make mothballs (naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene) are both toxic to people.

The idea behind mothballs is that at room temperature they are made into round balls that slowly disperse a gas which creates fumes in the air.

Method
Place several moth balls surrounding areas where bed bugs are hiding such as on your second hand furniture, bed and mattress.

Can moth balls kill them?

Another potentially hazardous way to get rid of bed bugs from our home remedies list.

The theory behind this home remedy suggests that the gas let off by the moth balls smells so pungent that bed bugs will be repelled.

However like most of the home remedies listed there is no scientific studies nor findings to backup this claim. There are too many risks and health hazards involved to consider moth balls as a viable option.

If you must buy moth balls make sure they are EPA registered, Walmart has these in stock.

Warning:
Mothballs slowly release a gas which can lead to respiratory problems.

Verdict: Myth

Much like Rubbing Alcohol, using this home remedies method is dangerous and should not be considered a viable option.

Instead of looking for cheap or dangerous home remedies we suggest looking at a steam based treatment.

Wash bedding & Clothes

Mattresses and bed frames are often the main places you’ll see signs of these blood sucking critters. They will often be found close to their primary food source, humans.

Therefore washing your bedding is often considered the first step to get rid of bed bugs.

Method
To avoid spreading bed bugs throughout your home, put all your infected items into a black bin liner. Take directly to the washing machine and wash in hot water (140°F +) for between 60-90 minutes.

Does washing clothes kill them?

Wash clothes and bedding frequently in a hot water wash combined with a 30-40 minute cycle in the dryer on a high heat is a good starting point to get rid of bed bugs.

Heat treatment is considered one of the most effective home remedies to get rid of bed bugs. It is this principle that involves adding your clothing or bedding to a hot water wash followed by a household dryer on a high heat for 30-40 minutes as it will kill them and their eggs.

Verdict: Fact

Vacuuming

A popular choice from our list of home remedies for bed bugs, due to most home owners owning a vacuum.

Method:

Vacuum your home, focusing on areas where bed bugs are likely to hide such as underneath furniture, carpets, curtains and in cracks and crevices. Add attachments to your vacuum in order to get into those hard to reach areas such as the seams, lining and stitching of your mattress, cushions and pillows. Once finished empty the vacuum bag into the trash.

Verdict: Fact

This is one of the most simple yet surprisingly effective home remedies to get rid of these critters.

Scented Dryer Sheets

Linalool is the primary compound found in scented dryer sheets. It is commonly used in fragrances such as perfumes, but is also in lavender and basil plants.

This solution should be considered alongside other methods, as the scent the dryer sheets gives off will not kill them but instead force the bugs to go elsewhere.

Verdict: Myth

Cayenne Pepper

The theory behind this method is that the cayenne pepper acts as an irritant to the bodies of critters such as bed bugs.

There are two ways in which Cayenne Pepper can be used. One option is to crush up the cayenne pepper and sprinkle onto hot spots where bed bugs may be hiding. Or, add the cayenne powder along with ground ginger, and oregano oil into a spray bottle and spray the hot spots.

Let the powder sit for a few days, then vacuum the areas where you applied the solution. Throw the vacuum bag into the trash.

Verdict: Myth

Summary

Before trying any of these home remedies for bed bugs, the first step to any pest control problem should be identification. First look for signs of bed bugs, such as discarded shells or brown-reddish stains around places such as mattress, pillows, seams or bed frame.

There we have it, mostly myths but if you were looking for a suitable home remedy for bed bugs, we would suggest looking at heat or steam treatment.

After those treatments if your problem still persists, you should call a pest control specialist.

Learn more about Bed Bugs 

If you are looking for other bed bug related articles – be sure to check out our other pest guides to help rid you of your pests.