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Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?
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Wondering if rubbing alcohol kills bed bugs? You’re not alone. Bed bugs are the leading pest in the United States, and for good reason. They’re excellent hitchhikers.

And once you’ve got them, they’re incredibly hard to get rid of. This is why so many of us turn to home remedies like rubbing alcohol in an attempt to drive these pests away. 

Rubbing alcohol has successfully been used to kill and repel bed bugs, but there can be some severe consequences to using it at home.

Keep reading to learn how you can use rubbing alcohol to kill bed bugs, why it can be dangerous, and what other useful methods you can use to kill bed bugs in your home. 

What Are Bed Bugs?

As an image for a piece on does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs, Bed bug on pillow and in bed as a bedbug infestation concept shaped as text letters as parasitic insect pests under the sheets as a hygiene health care symbol.

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Before you try using rubbing alcohol or any other method to kill bed bugs, make sure you’re actually dealing with bed bugs! Bed bugs are commonly confused with cockroaches, carpet beetles, and fleas.

The CDC shares the following information about identifying a bed bug infestation:

  • Small brown bugs about the size of an apple seed, usually hiding in mattress seams or box springs
  • Small bite marks on the neck, face, hands, arms, or legs
  • Bed bug’s molted exoskeletons in and around the bed
  • Rust-colored blood spots on sheets, mattresses, or blankets
  • Musty sweet odor produced by the bugs

If you confirm that you are indeed dealing with bed bugs, don’t grab the rubbing alcohol just yet! It’s important to know the best ways to find these tiny bugs so you can apply your solution directly to them.

How to Find Bed Bugs

Woman with magnifying glass detecting bed bugs in bedroom

Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Bed bugs are excellent hiders. You might suspect an infestation, but have trouble finding these parasitic pests. There is a range of places they are known to hide.

Even though they’re small, if you know exactly where to look and what to look for, you’ll have the best chance of catching an infestation early and keeping the bugs from migrating to other areas of your home. 

During the day, or anytime bed bugs are not actively feeding (they survive on human blood), bed bugs can move about 8 feet away from the bed. They don’t move fast like fleas, but they can cover a lot of ground.

For the best chance to find bed bugs when you suspect an infestation, keep the area around your bed clean and free from clutter. Common places to find bed bugs include:

  • Seams and tags on your mattress and box spring
  • Small cracks and nooks in your bed frame and headboard
  • Chairs, cushions, pillows, and couches
  • Curtains
  • Drawers and drawer joints
  • Electrical outlets and appliances
  • Under peeling or loose wallpaper 
  • Around baseboards
  • In the head of a screw

It’s alarming to see the numerous places bed bugs can hide, but important to recognize that they are not always found in your bed. They are tiny bugs, about the size of an apple seed and about as wide as a credit card. 

Easy Ways to Find Bed Bugs

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Because they are so small, looking for them can be a challenge. 

  • Try walking around the room with a flashlight and closely examine the areas above. If you’re thorough in your search, you may be able to see them hiding in the seam of your mattress or a groove on your headboard. 
  • If you use a UV flashlight and magnifying glass, you may have an easier time spotting them. Their bodies fluoresce under black light, so they will appear as a bright white color when you use a UV flashlight. 
  • Another simple technique to find bed bugs is simply leaving the affected bedroom dark for a while, then turning on a light and pulling back the blankets. You might be able to see them on the bed this way. 

These techniques help find the bed bugs, so you know where to target treatment, but they do not help get rid of bed bugs. We’ll cover that next.

Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

Modern clean mattress without bed bugs in room

New Africa/Shutterstock

The best method to get rid of bed bugs is by calling an exterminator or pest control company. If that’s just not possible, or if you’d prefer to try another method with household items, the following techniques effectively get rid of bed bugs. 

Using Rubbing Alcohol to Kill Bed Bugs

Fayetteville, NC USA 12/10/2019 Rubbing Alcohol Displayed At The Local Supermarket

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While some universities say rubbing alcohol doesn’t work, other studies have found that it’s effective at least 50% of the time in killing bed bugs, nymphs, and eggs.

Rubbing alcohol is a solvent and desiccant that dries out the bodies of bed bugs. Here’s how to use rubbing alcohol to kill bed bugs.

  • Put 91% (recommended) isopropyl alcohol into a spray bottle
  • Liberally spray your mattress and box springs, making sure to concentrate on the seams and corners
  • Remove the sheets each morning and replace with fresh sheets
  • Repeat the rubbing alcohol application every 2-3 days for 14 days total

While it may be partially effective, using rubbing alcohol to kill bed bugs can be very dangerous. It’s a highly flammable substance that can have deadly consequences if exposed to an open flame.

Warning Flammable Liquids Symbol Sign ,Vector Illustration, Isolate On White Background Label .EPS10

Technicsorn Stocker/Shutterstock

There have been multiple cases of house fires that started from people using rubbing alcohol on furniture in an attempt to get rid of bed bugs.

Also, rubbing alcohol only kills bed bugs if it comes in direct contact with them before it dries. This makes it less effective than other treatment options because it’s challenging to get the spray to contact all bed bugs and their eggs in an infestation.

It’s a good idea to try some of the other methods to get rid of bed bugs that are more effective and less dangerous. That said, it’s always best to call a pro, as they have trained for these situations.

Using Heat to Kill Bed Bugs

Lancaster Ohio/USA- March 2020: Heat treatment or extermination oven for bed bugs by Zappbug.

Rchat/Shutterstock

Bed bugs can’t survive in very hot temperatures at any stage (eggs, nymphs, and adults). So one effective method to get rid of bed bugs is using common household appliances capable of creating very high temperatures: Your washing machine and dryer. 

Launder your clothes and bedding in hot water and then dry them on the medium-high setting for at least 20 minutes. The temperature of your dryer needs to exceed 122°F to kill bed bugs

Even if you’re not washing every item, you can put it in the dryer for the required 20 minutes to get the same effect.

Curtains, rugs, shoes, toys, and backpacks are all candidates for this method. Mattresses and box springs can’t be treated this way, though (see Using Encasements to Kill Bed Bugs below). 

Using Freezing Temperatures to Kill Bed Bugs 

empty freezer of a refrigerator - Ice buildup on the inside of a freezer walls.

aSuruwataRi/Shutterstock

If you have room in your freezer or it’s very cold outside, you can place clothing, curtains, shoes, rugs, bedding, toys, and backpacks for three days to kill bed bugs. This method is effective for all stages of bed bugs.

They just can’t survive the freezing temperature for that long. If you have frigid winters in your area, putting furniture that has been infested with bed bugs outside for a few days can be effective.

Make sure to leave it for at least three days, and that the temperature will be low enough. Whether it’s the temperature outside or your freezer, make sure the temperature reaches 0°F. 

Using Encasements to Kill Bed Bugs

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Mattress encasements are a popular, common way to battle bed bugs. Some apartment complexes require them to prevent bed bugs from spreading through the building.

A mattress encasement is a covering for mattresses and box springs. It zips tight and prevents bed bugs from getting in – or getting out. 

You can effectively use a mattress encasement to trap existing bed bugs inside and keep them separated from their food source (you). After a while, without feeding, they will die and stay contained in the encasement. 

Pest control services offer these special encasements that are proven to keep bed bugs out, so call a local pest control service to find out how to get yours.

Don’t use a mattress protector or other type of encasement to treat or prevent bed bugs. They won’t be effective because bed bugs are small enough to get through.

Using Bed Bug Interceptors to Trap Bed Bugs

Bottle of anti bed bug detergent on table in bedroom

Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Bed bug interceptors are useful for getting rid of bed bugs and keeping them from spreading to other areas of your home. When bed bugs leave your bed, they crawl down the legs to make their way to the floor (they don’t have wings and don’t jump). 

When they come back in the evening to feed, they use the bed’s legs to get back up. Bed bug interceptors stop the bugs from getting past your bed’s legs, whether they’re coming or going, and prevent them from ever getting out of the trap. 

What Is a Bed Bug Interceptor?

They are very simple devices – just plastic trays that sit under your bed’s legs and have an outer and inner ring. When bugs try to crawl up onto your bed, they become trapped in the outer ring.

When bugs try to crawl down, they become trapped in the inner ring. You can buy bed bug interceptors from pest control companies and online.

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We may earn a commission when you click this link, at no extra cost to you.

So, Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

While rubbing alcohol may kill some bed bugs, studies have shown that it is not effective in adequately treating a bed bug infestation. Add to that the flammability and risk of causing a fire.

Combines with rubbing alcohol, this becomes an under-effective method to kill bed bugs and a hazardous one. There are many other effective methods to kill bed bugs that are just as inexpensive and simple to try as rubbing alcohol without the enhanced risk.

Using high heat, freezing temperatures, mattress and box spring enhancements, and bed bug interceptors are all more effective and safe than rubbing alcohol when it comes to getting rid of bed bugs. 

Once you’ve successfully purged your home of bed bugs, the battle isn’t necessarily over. Prevention of another infestation means being meticulous about inspecting your home for signs that bed bugs may have returned.

Quick, effective action as soon as you notice bed bugs are taking up residence in your home can be the difference between fighting a long, expensive battle with them or getting rid of them with simple methods.

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