But with bed bugs, you simply can’t DIY your way out of a house-wide infestation. The ‘bed bug treatments’ you might find online are, at best, largely ineffective, and at worst, extremely dangerous. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common tips, why they don’t work, and what you should do instead.
#1 FREEZE BED BUGS TO DEATH.
Does extreme cold kill bed bugs? Yes: bed bugs cannot survive if they experience temperatures of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below for four days in a row. However, that doesn’t mean that this works when you DIY.
For homeowners, freezing bed bugs to death is neither practical nor particularly effective.
You can’t fit your mattress or furniture in your freezer. This means that the areas where bed bugs typically congregate—your bed, couch, and other places where you lounge—can’t be treated this way.
Worse still, this method may not work even for items that you can fit in a freezer, like your clothes and books. Bed bugs can survive at just a few degrees above zero by entering into a hibernation-like state. If your home freezer doesn’t get cold enough—and many don’t—the bed bugs simply re-animate once you take the items out of the freezer. (There’s also the ick factor of placing live pests near your frozen food.)
#2 USE BAKING SODA TO KILL BED BUGS.
Does baking soda kill bed bugs? We get this question a lot, and the answer is a definite no.
Online articles will tell you that baking soda will dehydrate a bed bug by absorbing the fluid on its shell, cut into the bed bug (much like diatomaceous earth), or kill a bed bug after it is ingested. None of these claims are true.
Baking soda doesn’t actually absorb water very well: its absorption properties are mostly limited to smells. It is also not abrasive enough to pierce the body of the bed bug. Finally, bed bugs don’t eat dry items they find in their environment: they only feed on blood.
This tip probably spread because of confusion around diatomaceous earth (DE). DE is also a white powder, but that’s where the similarities end. While baking soda is made of sodium bicarbonate, DE is made up of silica from fossilized plankton.
DE does kill bed bugs by piercing their bodies and slowly drying them out. But like freezing bed bugs, DE is not a very practical or effective way of getting rid of a bed bug infestation on its own. Sprinkling DE on the floor will kill the few bed bugs that happen to come across the powder; however, it won’t kill bed bug eggs or any adult bed bugs in your mattress, furniture, walls, or clothing.
#3 USE ALCOHOL TO KILL BED BUGS.
There is some evidence to suggest that certain alcohols, depending on the ethanol content, can kill some bed bugs on contact. (A recent lab test found that rubbing alcohol killed about half of the bed bugs that were sprayed directly.)
However, we do not recommend using rubbing alcohol to combat your home’s bed bug infestation. It is a health hazard: it causes respiratory problems if inhaled, and it is poisonous if swallowed.
In addition to the health risks, rubbing alcohol is extremely flammable.
In December of last year, a Cincinnati woman burned down a multi-unit home after dousing her apartment in rubbing alcohol to get rid of bed bugs. A nearby flame ignited, and the resulting blaze did $250,000 worth of damage, hospitalized three people for smoke inhalation, and left 10 people homeless.
Just one month prior, another Cincinnati resident—this time a teenage boy—set fire to his apartment building trying to kill bed bugs.
Fortunately, neither of these fires caused serious injuries or deaths.
You might be surprised, but bed bug-related fires aren’t all that uncommon. These incidents have happened across the country, likely because of a lack of bed bug education.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
So if freezing, baking soda, and rubbing alcohol don’t work, what does?
Heat is one of the most reliable bed bug killers. Bed bugs at all stages of life will die at 122 degrees Fahrenheit. There are several ways to employ heat:
- Use your washer and/or dryer. Items like bedding and clothing should be washed and dried on the hottest setting. The wash cycle alone will kill bed bugs; however, if items can’t be washed (like dry clean only items), they should be dried for at least 90 minutes in order to ensure that bed bugs are killed.
- Use a steam treatment. Steam is hot enough to kill bed bugs. While steam won’t work to kill bed bugs hidden inside walls, it can be used on materials like couch cushions.
- Use the oven or bed bug hot box. Some items—like books—that can’t be washed or put into the dryer can be safely heated in the oven to kill bed bugs. Make sure to monitor them closely.
- Do a home heat treatment. A home heat treatment, done by pest control professionals, is your best option to safely and permanently eliminate a bed bug infestation. During a home heat treatment, the exterminator uses professional equipment to raise the home’s temperature. This is the only heat treatment method that works throughout the entire home, killing bed bugs in your walls, carpet, and any other place they might be hiding. It is also advantageous in that it requires minimal prep on your part and you can re-enter your home almost immediately.
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.