Bed bugs: they’re the stuff of nightmares. They hide not only in your bed but throughout your home, coming out at night to bite you in your sleep. Finding just a single bed bug can be enough to send you into a panic, looking for any and all remedies to get rid of this disgusting, creepy pest.
You can find all manner of “home remedies” online that promise to get rid of bed bugs quickly and inexpensively. But can you really DIY your way out of a bed bug infestation?
Let’s look at some of the most common DIY bed bug treatments. We’ll let you know which are effective, which are useless, and which are actually dangerous.
Common Bed Bug Home Remedies
Will cold weather kill bed bugs?
Extreme cold—in specific circumstances—will kill bed bugs. Bed bugs will not survive if exposed to temperatures of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (or below) for at least four days.
The problem with this tip is that it’s almost totally ineffective. Even if you find a bed bug infestation during the winter, there’s no guarantee that the weather will reach 0 degrees Fahrenheit for four days straight. That means that turning off your heat and opening your windows won’t cause your home to get cold enough to kill the bugs, and placing items infested with bed bugs outside during the winter won’t kill all the bugs.
You might try using your freezer for some small items. Still, given the amount of time it takes to freeze out bed bugs and the limited freezer space homeowners have (certainly not enough to fit a mattress!), this tip isn’t a very good one.
What household cleaners kill bed bugs?
The idea of using household cleaners to kill bed bugs is an attractive one: after all, it seems simple enough, and it only requires items you already have in your home. You’ll find many articles online recommending bleach, Lysol, vinegar, and other household cleaners to kill bed bugs.
Unfortunately, there are a number of problems with using cleaners. The first problem is that many cleaners—like vinegar and dish soap—don’t actually work (unless you were to somehow find and drown all the bed bugs hiding throughout your home). The next problem is that the cleaners that do work—like bleach and Lysol can ruin your upholstered furniture and carpeting.
This is one DIY beg bug remedy that you should skip in favor of one that will actually work without destroying your possessions.
Can you kill bed bugs in the dryer?
This is one of the few bed bug treatments found online that can be effectively used by homeowners. Bed bugs cannot survive high temperatures: this means washing and drying bedding, clothing, stuffed animals, and other items that can be laundered on your machine’s highest setting will kill bed bugs hidden inside. (It’s important to note that this treatment won’t work for items that are not able to be laundered, like furniture, books, electronics, and other common bed bug hiding places.)
We recommend that homeowners do this treatment in conjunction with a comprehensive bed bug elimination plan.
Does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs?
We’ve mentioned rubbing alcohol in a number of other blog posts, but it’s worth repeating: rubbing alcohol should never be used as a treatment for pests. Rubbing alcohol is poisonous when swallowed, harmful if inhaled, and extremely flammable. (Several residents in Cincinnati alone have actually burned down their homes by using rubbing alcohol to get rid of bed bugs!) On top of all this, rubbing alcohol is not even very effective at killing bed bugs.
Bottom line: for your health and safety, avoid this “remedy” at all costs.
Does steam kill bed bugs?
Like the dryer tip mentioned above, this is an effective bed bug treatment that most homeowners can do. Steam is hot enough to kill bed bugs when applied correctly.
A steamer can be used to kill bed bugs hiding in carpets, baseboards, and the cracks of furniture; however, it can’t kill bed bugs out of reach of the steam: this means bed bugs hiding in walls and inside items that can’t be steamed (like electronics) will survive.
Steaming can’t eliminate a bed bug infestation by itself, but it can be an effective part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Does cedar keep bed bugs away?
This tip is an ineffective one: the scent of cedar won’t prevent your home from getting an infestation. There is simply no scientific evidence that cedar deters bed bugs from entering your home and setting up camp. In fact, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently cracked down on several companies selling cedar oil-based products; the FTC found that the companies had misled consumers by making “scientifically unsupported product claims.”
Don’t be deceived: buying cedar furniture or cedar-based products is a waste of your time and money.
Does baking soda kill bed bugs?
The claim that baking soda will kill bed bugs (whether by dehydrating them, cutting them, or poisoning them) is widespread. It’s also false.
We’re not sure why this home remedy has taken off despite being totally ineffective: it might be that baking soda has been confused with diatomaceous earth (DE), another white powder. Unlike baking soda, DE does have limited success at killing bed bugs. (It’s made of tiny fossilized organisms that do cut and eventually kill bed bugs who cross its path.)
Better to use baking soda in your fridge.
Can peroxide kill bed bugs?
Hydrogen peroxide, like bleach, can kill bed bugs. But this tip has the same problems as using bleach: hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent, which means that spraying it will discolor (and ruin) your bedding, carpet, and other items in your home. There are definitely better ways to get rid of bed bugs! (See the dryer and steaming tips above.)
We also want to mention that we have seen “tips” online recommending that you spray peroxide on your skin to get rid of bed bugs. This is both ineffective and hazardous: bed bugs do not live on your skin, so spraying hydrogen peroxide on your skin will not kill or deter them. Hydrogen peroxide is also harmful if accidentally ingested. We do not recommend this!
Will boric acid kill bed bugs?
One of the most important things to remember in pest control is that what works to kill one pest might not work on another. This is the case with boric acid.
Boric acid has limited effectiveness as a cockroach remedy: this is because cockroaches groom themselves (surprising as that may be from such a gross pest!). After walking through boric acid, cockroaches clean it from their legs and abdomen, ingesting it in the process, and the boric acid poisons them.
Because boric acid can be used for cockroaches, many articles recommend using it for bed bugs. But bed bugs don’t groom themselves and don’t eat anything but blood. This means boric acid is useless as a bed bug treatment.
What You Can Do
When it comes to pest control, the health and safety of you and your family is paramount. No matter the circumstances, always avoid bed bug “remedies” that are proven to be unsafe, like rubbing alcohol and peroxide.
Instead of using unreliable or dangerous home remedies, it’s a good idea to get the help of a professional exterminator—someone who has the knowledge, experience, and tools to safely, quickly, and effectively deal with the problem. A pest control expert will assess your situation and help you develop a treatment plan that includes treatments that you can do—like drying and steaming—along with professionally applied treatments.
Call Us Today
Concerned you might have a bed bug infestation on your hands? Contact Scherzinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We've been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our website, Facebook, or Twitter.
Authored By: Eric Scherzinger