Before diving into home remedies for bed bugs, it's important for homeowners to understand that bed bugs are extremely difficult to get rid of. Despite best intentions and efforts, bed bug control is very complex, and not taking the proper steps for control will likely result in an unresolved or worsening problem.
If you have any DIY experience and you think you know what kills bed bugs, it may sound enticing to try home remedies to get rid of bed bugs. But bed bug control is just not something that should be DIY-ed.
The truth is, while some home remedies to kill bed bugs may sound effective, it's very unlikely they'll eliminate the problem. And most home remedies only treat the bed bugs you see - not the bed bugs you don't see, which is the real problem. To eliminate bed bugs, you have to be able to get to where the bed bugs are hiding, which is why you need professional help.
Before turning to home remedies to get rid of bed bugs, it's important to have all the facts. Let's start by gaining a firmer understanding of the signs of a bed bug infestation.
Signs you have a bed bug infestation
One of the most obvious and disconcerting signs of a bed bug infestation is waking up miserable and itching. You may notice small bumps that remind you of mosquito bites on areas of your skin that have been exposed. Some other signs of a bed bug infestation include:
- Small blood-stain spots on your bed linens.
- Dark or rusty spots on your sheets, mattress, blankets and walls around the bed.
- Seeing actual bed bugs (small, brown, flat oval bugs the size of an apple seed).
- Finding bed bug feces, bed bug eggshells and skin sheds.
- Noticing a musty, foul odor coming from the bedding or furniture.
What to do if you suspect bed bugs
First, don't panic. Bed bugs are (unfortunately) quite common. They quite often hitch a ride home with us on luggage, clothing, used furniture and other fabric items. The good news is that a bed bug infestation can be treated and future infestations can be avoided.
What home remedies kill bed bugs?
Despite the ineffectiveness of the home remedies listed above, there are a few tips to help get rid of bed bugs, or at least reduce the population.
1. Crush and flush
If you see bed bugs, simply grabbing them with a tissue, crushing them and flushing them down the toilet can be a relatively effective short-term remedy. Admittedly, this approach will work better with a small infestation and is not suitable for a larger bed bug problem.
2. Hot water laundry
Frequent laundering with hot water and drying on a high heat setting in your dryer (as directed by manufacturers' guidelines) has been shown to effectively kill bed bug eggs and eliminate bed bugs hiding in linens and clothing.
3. Frequent vacuuming
Vacuuming your baseboards, carpet, mattress, bed frame and furniture such as sofas and chairs can also help remove live bed bugs that you see. However, it's very important to exercise caution when vacuuming bed bugs to help keep your vacuum from becoming infested. When finished, be sure to double-bag the vacuum bag and dispose of it in an outdoor trash bin.
4. Clean and declutter
Like other pests, bed bugs need dark spaces to hide. Get rid of any items that may hide bed bugs and keep the area around the bed, dresser and other bedroom furniture clear and clean.
Home remedies for bed bugs that do NOT work
There are many commonly-used home remedies out there for killing bed bugs. But some of these are simply unproven, and others can be dangerous. Let's break down these remedies and their issues.
1. Dryer sheets
Many homeowners believe wiping down furniture and other infested items with dryer sheets will act as a repellent. However, there's simply no research data to support this as a proven method. Run your dryer sheets through your dryer cycle and enjoy the scent and softness, but don't expect it to help with bed bugs.
While efficient for killing or repelling insects interested in fabrics, mothballs are ineffective for combating bed bugs. In fact, after one week of evaluating two popular mothball products, the moth balls killed less than 50% of the bed bugs, according to Rutgers University's New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Not to mention, the mothballs had no significant effect on bed bug eggs.
Mothballs can also be dangerous. They are toxic and come with label instructions that must be followed, and using them for the purpose of bed bug control is not an intended use.
3. Rubbing alcohol
It may sound viable that rubbing alcohol could be a deterrent for bed bugs, but there's little proof that it works. According to the Rutgers University study mentioned above, available rubbing alcohol products usually contain 70% or 91% isopropyl alcohol. That same Rutgers University study showed that direct spray of either of these two products killed a maximum 50% of the bed bugs. However, rubbing alcohol only kills the bed bugs directly treated - not the many more hiding, which is the real problem.
Not only does it have low efficacy, but rubbing alcohol is also flammable. When improperly used, rubbing alcohol can be a fire hazard and should never be utilized to try killing bed bugs.
4. Ultrasonic pest repellers
Despite being readily available and in abundant supply from many distributors, these so-called "pest repellers" are completely unproven. They simply do not work on bed bugs. In fact, the Entomological Society of America says that bed bugs aren't repelled at all by these devices. The study reports that four pest repellers on the market were examined and not a single one affected bed bug behavior.
5. Essential oils
Essential oils have flooded the market recently, with people singing their praises for everything from stress relief to weight management. However, claiming that oils can kill bed bugs is incorrect and misleading. There are some essential oils for bed bug treatment available for purchase, but they require no efficacy testing and are not registered by the EPA. Another point of reference from the aforementioned Rutgers University study evaluated the efficacy of nine essential oils, revealing that they had no bed bug mortality. Similar to rubbing alcohol, essential oils have to be applied directly to the bed bugs, addressing only a small part of the problem.
6. Foggers or bug bombs
Although widely used as a home remedy to kill bed bugs, research conducted by Ohio State University indicates that foggers are completely ineffective. So while some consumers consider foggers a low-cost alternative to professional bed bug control services, they're actually a waste of money. Also, it's important to follow the label instructions, because foggers can be misused and become dangerous.
Hire the bed bug professionals
It's important to emphasize that even with the best tips for DIY bed bug control, they can only help with the bed bugs you can see. These remedies simply aren't enough to completely eliminate a bed bug infestation. Before attempting to kill bed bugs yourself, remember how difficult they are to control. Even if just a few survive your DIY efforts, the infestation can quickly rebound, making all those efforts seem pointless.
The only way to effectively kill bed bugs is to look to a professional exterminator service like Terminix®. We know where bed bugs hide, how to spot them and, most importantly, how to get rid of them. Contact us to schedule an appointment. To save yourself time, money and stress, let us help eliminate bed bugs where they live and breed. Get started today with a FREE inspection.