Bed bugs are persistent pests that can make your life a misery if not eradicated quickly. These minuscule, bloodsucking insects lurk inside bed linen during the day and emerge at night to feast on your sleeping body, leaving rashes of itchy bites in their wake.
Getting rid of a bed bug infestation can be difficult, due to their tendency to hide away in cracks and gaps where the bugs and their eggs can be hard to reach. However, they can (and must!) be killed if you’re ever to sleep peacefully again, so how can you get rid of them?
One popular home remedy for exterminating bed bugs is ammonia, a common household cleaning product. Ammonia can kill bed bugs and their eggs on contact. But is it the right choice for tackling a bed bug infestation?
What is ammonia and will ammonia kill bed bugs?
Ammonia is a chemical compound comprised of hydrogen and nitrogen. Its main industrial use is as a fertilizer for plants, where it is used to enrich the soil with nitrogen. Around the home, however, ammonia is more commonly used as a household cleaner due to its effectiveness in killing bacteria.
Ammonia is also highly toxic to bugs and insects, including bed bugs.
When it comes into contact with water, it breaks down the water molecules to form ammonium hydroxide. This is a highly corrosive substance that eats away at tissues and destroys cell membranes, effectively killing both bed bugs and their eggs on contact.
Does ammonia kill bed bug eggs?
Ammonia can be used to kill bed bug eggs, as it breaks down their surface when it comes into contact with them. This effectively prevents them from hatching, however, as with live bed bugs, ammonia must be sprayed directly onto the eggs for it to have any effect.
How to use ammonia to kill bed bugs and their eggs
If you’re considering using ammonia to kill your bed bugs, you will need the following things:
- Pure ammonia (often sold as a cleaning product).
- A new spray bottle (never use a bottle that has held other cleaning fluids, as ammonia can react with the chemicals and release toxic gases).
- Rubber gloves.
Once you have everything you need, dilute the ammonia with water in the spray bottle. It’s important to do this exactly as stated in the directions on the packaging to achieve the proper concentration. Too high, and the spray may damage your surfaces and furniture, and the fumes can be dangerous if inhaled. Too low, and your bed bugs will probably survive the treatment.
Before you begin spraying, there are some steps you need to take to make the treatment more effective.
- First, remove and launder all bed linen. Bed bugs can be killed with heat, so laundering your linen is a good way to kill a significant chunk of your bed bug population right away.
- Open the windows. Ammonia fumes can be hazardous if inhaled, so you need to make sure the infested room is well-ventilated.
- Identify bed bug hiding places. Bed bugs move quickly, so you should seek out their hiding spots before you begin treatment – this way, you’ll have the element of surprise when you begin spraying. Take a flashlight and check under the mattress, bed frame and box spring. Bed bugs may also live in your wardrobe, clothing or beneath furniture near the bed. If you’re having trouble finding them, monitoring traps can be used to track them down.
- Seal off their escape routes. Bed bugs will bolt as soon as they are disturbed. You can reduce their chances of escaping by sealing the gaps between the bed and the wall and the carpet and the wall while blocking off the gap beneath the door of the room to be treated.
When you’ve finished your prep, you’re ready to begin spraying!
Keep in mind!
Bed bugs move very quickly when disturbed and will only die if hit directly with the spray, so it’s important to spray quickly and accurately.
Once you’ve blasted every bed bug in sight, get to work wiping down the treated surfaces with the same spray. This will remove the droppings and smell left behind by your infestation while clearing away dead bugs. This step is also essential for getting rid of bed bug eggs, which are often laid in the cracks and gaps around the seam of your mattress and under buttons.
Ammonia fumes can be hazardous if inhaled and can cause irritation if it gets in the eyes or on the skin. Make sure you dilute the ammonia according to instructions, wear rubber gloves throughout the treatment and ventilate the room thoroughly so minimize the risk.
Ammonia should never be mixed with other chemicals. When combined with bleach, toxic chlorine gas is released. This reacts with the moist tissues in the eyes and lungs, if inhaled, resulting in damage to the airways. Inhalation of this gas can even be deadly in extreme cases, so make sure to never mix ammonia with anything but water.
Though ammonia can kill bed bugs, the safety concerns (and pungent odor) associated with this product mean it’s rarely the most suitable choice. Dish soap and water, vinegar and rubbing alcohol, for example, are much safer (and easily effective) ways to kill bed bugs.
Bed bugs are one of the most disturbing pests you can encounter, thanks to their habit of hiding in your bed and attacking you as you sleep. They can also be a nightmare to get rid of, thanks to their habit of hiding in cracks and gaps throughout the day. A home-made ammonia spray can be effective for killing bed bugs once you’ve identified their hiding places.
However, extreme caution should be taken when using ammonia for bed bug control to avoid respiratory, eye and skin irritation. Ammonia should never be mixed with bleach, as this produces dangerous fumes which, in extreme cases, can be fatal.