Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs and Their Eggs?

Rubbing alcohol does kill bed bugs and their eggs, but is it an effective way to get rid of an infestation? Bed bugs have been on the rise in the United States since the early 2000s, with up to 12% of households reporting infestations in the worst-affected areas.

Practical solutions for killing bed bugs are, therefore, in high demand. Alcohol does kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs, but it may not be enough to get rid of all the bed bugs in your house. So, is alcohol effective enough, or is there a better way to get rid of bed bugs?

Does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs instantly?

Rubbing alcohol kills bed bugs by dissolving their exoskeleton (outer shell) while simultaneously drying them out. It also attacks the shell of bed bug eggs, drying them out and preventing them from hatching.

However, rubbing alcohol does not kill bed bugs instantly. One study, in which a sample of bed bugs was sprayed directly with alcohol, reported that half of the bugs were still alive four days later. Therefore, rubbing alcohol is unlikely to rid you of your bed bug problem.

Pros of using rubbing alcohol as a bed bug repellent

Rubbing alcohol is inexpensive

Rubbing alcohol is cheap and easy to purchase. If you have a lot of bugs to spray, this can make it an appealing alternative to other, more costly methods (such as hiring a pest control service).

Rubbing alcohol is easy to use

Once you have your hands on some isopropyl alcohol, making a DIY bed bug spray is simple. All you need to do is mix up an alcohol and water concoction in a spray bottle (a ratio of 7 parts alcohol to 3 parts water should do), and you have your homemade spray ready to use.

Rubbing alcohol kills bugs and their eggs

To clear a bed bug infestation, you must kill all live bugs and their eggs. One advantage of using isopropyl alcohol spray against bed bugs is that it kills bugs at all stages of their life cycle. Alcohol kills bed bug eggs in the same way it kills the adults; by dissolving their outer, protective layer and causing them to dry out and die.

Cons of using rubbing alcohol as a bed bug repellent

Rubbing alcohol only kills on contact

Rubbing alcohol only kills on contactOne limitation of using alcohol as a pesticide is that it only kills on contact, which must be sprayed directly onto the bugs and their eggs. 

Unfortunately, it would be almost impossible to spray every single bug. Bed bugs are nocturnal and photophobic and hide deep inside cracks and crevices around your bed during the daytime. Even if you wait until nighttime to launch your attack, bed bugs can move very fast, and you’re unlikely to douse anyone before they reach their hiding places.

Rubbing alcohol does not kill bed bugs instantly

It can take days for a bed bug to die after being sprayed with alcohol, so this method isn’t an instant solution. When it takes for a bed bug to die, it may continue mating and laying eggs. So if you have a massive bed bug infestation, they may be breeding faster than you can kill them!

Rubbing alcohol is not 100% effective against bed bugs

Alcohol can kill bed bugs, but it doesn’t work 100% of the time. Laboratory studies from Rutgers University have shown that even direct contact with high concentrations of alcohol spray only killed up to 50% of bed bugs in the sample. If you were to use this method at home, half of all the bugs you spray will escape death and continue breeding and laying eggs as usual, and the infestation will continue to grow.

Rubbing alcohol is flammable

Rubbing alcohol is an ineffective control method against bed bugs, and it can be dangerous to use at home. This is because isopropyl alcohol is highly flammable, and spraying it around your home can cause a fire hazard. Alcohol evaporates quickly, but even alcohol vapors can be easily ignited in the air. 

Alcohol effects on bed bugs – what does the science say?

If you look for solutions to your bed bug problem online, many resources recommend using rubbing alcohol to kill or repel bed bugs. However, scientific studies into alcohol as a treatment for bed bug infestations have produced less-than-promising results, suggesting that this is not an effective remedy against bed bugs.

Rubbing alcohol only kills 50% of bed bugs

Bed bug infestations can be challenging to eliminate, especially if you use treatments with a low kill rate. For example, although alcohol indeed kills bed bugs, one Rutgers University study found that even a strong alcohol solution (91%) only killed up to 50% of bed bugs.

Rubbing alcohol is a hazardous method of bed bug control

Isopropyl alcohol is a highly flammable substance, making it unsafe to use at home. One study described several incidences of injuries and damage caused by alcohol treatments, with houses and apartments set on fire and at least one individual receiving severe burns.

Rubbing alcohol is more effective against bed bug nymphs

Further studies into the efficacy of alcohol as a bed bug treatment found that, although adult bed bugs were largely unaffected by the spray, it had a much higher success rate against nymphs.

The bed bug life cycle consists of three main stages; adults, eggs, and nymphs. Bed bug nymphs are much smaller than adults and are typically translucent, making them much harder to spot. However, they are far more susceptible to alcohol treatment, and direct contact with alcohol spray was found to kill up to 100% of bed bug nymphs over a 7-day treatment period.

If rubbing alcohol isn’t that effective, what kills bed bugs and their eggs?

Rubbing alcohol is widely suggested as an effective home remedy against bed bugs, but science doesn’t support this claim. Laboratory studies have concluded that rubbing alcohol is an ineffective and potentially hazardous control method, but are there any bed bug treatments that do work?

The answer is yes; several home remedies can be used to get rid of bed bugs without toxic chemicals. Heat, cold, and steam are effective treatments that can all be performed safely at home, though their efficacy may depend on the severity of your infestation.

Insecticidal treatments

One of the biggest problems with bed bugs is their increasing resistance to pesticides, which is a leading cause behind the rise in infestations across the United States. For this reason, many pest control professionals recommend attempting non-chemical treatments against bed bugs first. Non-chemical treatments (such as heat, cold, and steam treatment) are often more effective and will not contribute to insecticide resistance. 

If you opt to use insecticides or other chemicals to kill bed bugs, always follow the safety instructions on your chosen product carefully. Always wear gloves when handling chemicals, and make sure you are in a well-ventilated room before you start spraying.

Heat treatment

Heat treatments are one of the most popular DIY treatments for killing bugs, nymphs, and eggs. If your infestation is small and limited to just your bedroom, you may even be able to perform a heat treatment yourself. 

First, you will need to gather up everything that may contain bed bugs. This includes everything that has made contact with your bed sheets or mattress. Fabrics can be placed in the dryer or washed at a high temperature. A temperature of at least 118F for 90 minutes is required to kill all bed bugs and their eggs.

Unfortunately, it’s not just your sheets and clothing that will need treatment. This is because bed bugs can squeeze themselves tightly into cracks around your bed frame and hide in the box springs of mattresses. 

You can attempt to heat-treat furniture and other bulky items by wrapping them in black plastic bags and leaving them in direct sun or a hot car, which can kill the bugs trapped inside. Unfortunately, the success rate of this method varies depending on where you live and won’t work for people in cooler climates.

Cold treatment

Cold treatment for bedbugsBed bugs and their eggs can also be frozen to death. If you want to attempt a cold treatment, place all infected items in a freezer for at least 24 hours to kill the bugs, then run them through a hot wash to clean away bug debris.

Of course, this method will only work if your infestation is minimal and localized (for example, if you find some in a bag of clothes brought home from a charity shop of the laundrette).

Steam treatment

Steam treatment works similarly to heat treatment, but it may be an easier way to kill bed bugs hiding in your bed frame. A wet or dry steam cleaning device can direct heat into cracks around your bed frame and other furniture to kill bugs and eggs lurking inside.

The environmental protection agency recommends a steam temperature of at least 130F, and the airflow should be gentle to avoid scattering the bugs everywhere.

Bed bug traps

Bed bug traps can capture and kill live bed bugs and may help reduce the number of breeding bugs. This can help limit the spread of an infestation, but it won’t eliminate bed bugs entirely. 

Traps are best used as a monitoring method that will help you to track the progress of your pest control efforts, as they can’t be used to kill bed bug eggs.

Pest control companies

In cases of large and well-established infestations, you may need to consider professional treatments. Killing bed bugs are notoriously difficult, as they can hide deep in the cracks of your home and breed quickly. You should call a pest control service if:

  • You have a large bed bug infestation
  • Your infestation has spread to other locations in your house
  • Bed bugs are living inside the furniture of your house
  • You have tried to treat the infestation yourself but have not been successful

Pest control professionals have a whole arsenal of treatment methods against bed bugs at their disposal. These are often far more effective than DIY methods and have a much higher kill rate.

They will also be able to expertly assess the extent of the infestation, entirely eliminate the problem, and give you tips on preventing future infestations. In addition, many companies offer a free consultation, so you can discuss treatments before you commit.

Should I spray alcohol on the bed or mattress at night?

You should not spray alcohol onto your bed or mattress at night.

Rubbing alcohol is toxic to bed bugs, so it may repel them. However, it is not the safest way to repel bed bugs, and you definitely shouldn’t douse your mattress with alcohol at night. The fumes may help prevent bed bug bites, but they can also cause a significant fire hazard. This is even more dangerous if you are planning to sleep.

Although alcohol is generally considered safe to apply to the skin, it can irritate some people, especially after periods of prolonged contact. So, lying in an alcohol-impregnated bed all night may prevent bed bugs from biting, but it is not worth the potential adverse effects.

3 ways to prevent a bed bug infestation

Once you finally remove bed bugs from your house, you will want to make sure they never return!

Here are our top 3 preventative measures against bed bugs:

1. Check all items brought into your home for bed bugs

inspect for bed bugsThe easiest way to keep bugs out of your house is to stop them at the door. Any time you purchase second-hand furniture or clothing, inspect it carefully for traces of bed bugs before taking them indoors. Clothing bought from charity shops should be washed at high heat as a precaution.

You will also need to inspect online purchases carefully. This is because bed bugs frequently make their way into warehouses and can stow away in packaging. Once you have unwrapped your goods, dispose of all packaging in the outside garbage.

2. Set up bed bug traps

Traps are a good way to monitor all kinds of infestations. Set a few up around your sleeping area and check them every few days. The second you spot a bug, call pest control!

3. Avoid sharing clothing or bedding with people from outside your household

Anyone can get bed bugs, and many people don’t even know they have them until they are faced with a full-blown infestation. If you want to stay on the safe side, avoid borrowing clothing or bedding from people outside your household.

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