We use it to clean our kitchens and bathrooms, but does bleach kill bed bugs, too? While it’s a common household item, it is not an effective method for eliminating bed bug infestations in your home. Harsh chemicals like bleach pose many health hazards when misused. In cases like this, it may not be worth the risk. To answer the question “Can bleach kill bed bugs?,” let’s first understand how the chemical works.

bleach kill bed bugs

If you're looking for a solution to your bed bug problem, you may consider turning to household chemicals. One such chemical is bleach - it's readily available in homes and is known for its sanitizing properties, but will bleach kill bed bugs and their eggs?

What is chlorine bleach?

Bleach is a common solution for destroying bacteria in our homes. By combining water and a chemical called sodium hypochlorite, bleach creates hypochlorous acid. This acid can break down proteins to make them defective. But, will bleach kill bed bugs, too? To achieve any amount of success, bleach must make direct contact with the bed bugs.

Even then, though, the bleach may fall off their bodies before it can be absorbed. In that case, the solution is likely to be ineffective at killing them. And if the spray itself is too forceful, it may cause the bed bugs to scatter to other areas of your home without even killing them. Similarly, bed bugs may disperse if bleach is used in conjunction with other treatments. If the infestation migrates or divides, treatment will become even more difficult.

Bed bug infestations should not be minimized, either. Spraying one location in your living space doesn't mean that the infestation is resolved. Bed bugs can live in the cracks and crevices of furniture, in mattresses, on baseboards, and under carpets, just to name a few places. The application of bleach in these areas may put you at an increased risk of chemical exposure, as well as damage certain fabrics or materials. Even a small amount of misapplied bleach can increase the risk of causing bodily harm.

What chemicals does bleach contain?

Household bleach (i.e the kind you can buy for your laundry) is actually a combination of a few different chemicals. It's mainly made from a solution of between 5.25 and 6 percent sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) in water, mixed with small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, sodium hydroxide and calcium hypochlorite.

How bed bugs react if contacted by bleach

If bleach comes directly into contact with bed bugs or their eggs, it will oxidize their shell's outer layer. It will also oxidize the body of the nymph and the adult due to the power of sodium hypochlorite. Keep in mind, though, that the bleach must make direct contact to be effective. Bed bugs are not attracted to bleach and will avoid it at all costs, which makes direct contact difficult.

Considerations if using bleach to kill bed bugs

While bleach may kill a few bugs, the risks of using it will outweigh the benefits. Since bleach is a toxin, it can be corrosive to your skin if mishandled. Common symptoms of bleach exposure include irritation of the eyes, mouth, throat, skin and respiratory system. More serious risks include blurred vision and bronchospasm – a condition that includes having tightened lungs and airways. Bleach products can cause an even more severe impact on your pets' lungs, stomach and intestines.

Why people use bleach

There are a few reasons why people turn to bleach to try to take care of bed bug infestations. Here are some of the perceived benefits:

  1. Easily available: You can find bleach at most grocery stores and drug stores.
  2. Cheap: A large bottle of bleach typically only costs a few dollars.
  3. Works on direct contact: If you're able to get bleach directly on the bed bugs, it can kill on contact. This can be tricky because bed bugs tend to hide in difficult-to-reach cracks and crevices.

Bleach may help to curb your infestation, but it won't take care of it completely.

Why people shouldn't use bleach

While bleach may be easy to get your hands on, there are also a number of reasons why you may not want to use it to take care of your bed bug problem. Here are a few of the most common drawbacks to consider:

  1. Toxic: Bleach is harmful if swallowed or if it comes into contact with your skin. This means it isn't a great option if you plan to use it around busy family areas or when you have kids or pets.
  2. Harsh odor: Bleach has a harsh, unmistakable odor that lingers for a while after use.
  3. Ineffective without direct contact: If you aren't able to put the bleach directly onto the bugs, it's unlikely to do anything.
  4. Alters dyed fabric: If you're using bleach on bed sheets, mattresses or other fabrics it can easily discolor them.
  5. Harmful to cloth surfaces: When not properly diluted, bleach will break down certain surfaces, especially many fabrics and cloth surfaces.
  6. Ineffective on eggs laid within mattresses: Bed bugs lay eggs deep within the crevices of your mattress. If they don't get touched by the bleach, you're out of luck.
  7. Won't eliminate infestation: While bleach may kill a few bugs, it won't wipe out an entire infestation.

Overall, using bleach is a complicated process that results in little reward.

Is bleach effective at eliminating bed bug infestations?

So, does bleach kill bed bugs? Is handling a bed bug infestation yourself with a bottle of bleach your best option?

No. Unfortunately, there's simply no guarantee or scientific evidence that this method will work, especially for serious infestations. Though bleach may kill one or more bed bugs, it will not eliminate the bed bugs that are hiding, therefore it won't get rid of an infestation. In this case, the possibilities of danger outweigh the likelihood of success. With some DIY pest control solutions, there is no harm in trying them. But bleach is not one of these low-risk solutions.

Take action with Terminix®

For a more effective and thorough solution, schedule an appointment with Terminix. We can help to identify how big your infestation is, and find all the places they're hiding in your home. When it comes to treatment, our trained technicians will handle the solutions, so you don't have to turn to harsh chemicals to find relief from your pest problems. Reach out to Terminix today for a quote!