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What Scent Keeps Bed Bugs Away? The 5 Most Effective

What Scent Keeps Bed Bugs Away? The 5 Most Effective

What scent keeps bed bugs away? Are there any smells these parasitic pests can’t stand? As it turns out, five scents are quite effective at naturally repelling bed bugs. Read on to learn what they are.

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What Scent Keeps Bed Bugs Away?

Like humans, bed bugs detect different smells and have preferences for scents they like and those they hate. You’re either attracted to or repelled by an odor.

Just like you’d go out of your way to avoid a skunk, bed bugs and other insects are thought to avoid certain odors actively.

The nice thing about driving bed bugs away with scents is that bed bugs and humans don’t usually agree on what smells good and what smells bad.

Bed Bugs Hate Scents We Love

Bottle of essential oil with herbs holy basil flower, basil flower,rosemary,oregano, sage,parsley ,thyme and mint set up on old wooden background as an image for a piece on what scent keeps bed bugs away

Kerdkanno/Shutterstock

Bed bugs hate certain smells that we consider pleasant, like lavender and peppermint. Using their sensitive “noses” against them is a lot easier when you can use smells that won’t repel you too. 

Using scents to repel bed bugs has been discussed a lot, but very few studies have been done that prove its effectiveness. We’ve researched to find five scents that have the most clout when it comes to keeping bed bugs away.

Some of these scents can even be used to kill bed bugs on contact. You may even have a few of these scents on hand. After all, most are common household essential oils.

Before we share those, it’s important to have the right expectations when it comes to DIY pest control methods. Here’s what you should know about any all-natural or home remedy for bed bugs. 

A Word About DIY Pest Control

CAUTION word written on wood block

Fabrik Bilder/Shutterstock

Health officials in the United States always advise against using any DIY bed bug control techniques. They’re just not proven to work well enough to get rid of a bed bug infestation on their own.

It’s fine to temporarily use DIY remedies or wait for your pest control company to arrive, but don’t rely solely on them. The infestation will get worse.

If you’re actively dealing with an infestation, the best thing to do is contact a pest control company right away. 

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use these scents to your advantage, too. You can use these bed bug-repelling scents as a way to keep the bugs away from you at night in the meantime.

Natural Bed Bug Repellants

Maybe you’ve called a pest control company to take care of your bed bug infestation and want a temporary fix. Perhaps you’ve finally gotten rid of a bed bug infestation and want to prevent them from coming back.

Or maybe you’re just curious to know what scents bed bugs hate. Keep reading to learn all about the five scents that are known bed bug repellants and why they work.

You probably have a few of these in your home right now! Here are the smells with the power to expel. 

Peppermint

Peppermint essential oil and fresh twig on wooden background.Tag with text peppermint as an image for piece on what scent keeps away bed bugs

Rawf8/Shutterstock

Peppermint (especially the potent peppermint oil) is known to be one scent that keeps bed bugs away. It works because it has a very high menthol content. That’s the substance that gives peppermint its cooling effect.

It’s found in over-the-counter products like Icy Hot and Vicks VapoRub. While peppermint oil feels and smells cooling and brisk to humans, it’s a powerful weapon against bed bugs.

Undiluted peppermint oil is too strong to apply directly to human skin, so imagine what it does to the scent receptors and bed bugs’ bodies!

Bed bugs can smell the menthol in peppermint oil, and it’s incredibly overpowering to them. In fact, the menthol in peppermint oil is strong enough to kill bed bugs on contact. 

That’s not effective enough to deal with an entire infestation, but you’ll be glad to know the peppermint oil trick if you happen to find a few bugs.

You can also put several drops of peppermint oil into a spray bottle with water to increase the amount of area you can cover, but know that it won’t be as effective this way. 

Tea Tree Oil

fresh tea tree twig and essential oil on the wooden board

AmyLv/Shutterstock

Tea tree oil, or melaleuca oil is one of the most commonly used essential oils for all kinds of things. It’s used in natural deodorant, as an antiseptic, antifungal, and even as a treatment for head lice.

Add “beg bug repellant” to that list. Tea tree oil works the same way peppermint oil does on bed bugs. They hate the smell and want to get as far away from it as possible.

If you’ve ever smelled tea tree oil, you know that it has a strong, camphor-like scent. Also, like peppermint oil, tea tree oil can be used to kill bed bugs on contact.

It sinks into their exoskeleton and blocks their spiracles, which are the tubes insects use to “breathe.” This leads to suffocation. Tea tree – 1, bed bugs – 0. Sprinkle a few drops of tea tree oil on any bed bugs you find to kill them.

Or put a few drops into a spray bottle filled with water and spritz it around the areas you believe bed bugs are hiding out. This way, you can spray your bedding and surrounding areas.

Lavender

As one of the scents that keeps away bed bugs, Glass bottle of Lavender essential oil with fresh lavender flowers and dried lavender seeds on white wooden rustic table, aromatherapy spa massage concept. Lavendula oleum

Halil Ibrahim Mescioglu/Shutterstock

Lavender is also noted as one of the scents that keeps bed bugs away. In one study, lavender oil was the only essential oil that produced “significantly repellent effects” on insects.

It contains a compound called linalool, which is a key ingredient in many insecticides. While lavender oil won’t actively kill bed bugs, it’s very effective at keeping them away.

The scent is known to be very pleasant for humans, as well as calming. It’s a popular scent in body lotions and perfumes, too.

If you want to be sure bed bugs don’t come near you in your bed, you might consider using lavender lotion before bed, putting a drop of lavender oil on your pillow.

You can also use a little in your laundry, or add it to a spray bottle to keep bed bugs at bay.

For an even stronger repellant that can kill bed bugs and still smells good, mix drops of lavender oil with tea tree oil and add to a spray bottle with water. 

Clove Oil

essential oil of cloves on a wooden rustic background.

Narsil/Shutterstock

Some people like the smell of cloves, but others find it off-putting. But all bed bugs seem to agree that the smell is terrible. Clove oil has a stronger scent than actual cloves, so it’s more effective.

Cloves come from the flower buds of a tropical evergreen tree native to Indonesia. Cloves contain a compound called eugenol that is toxic to bed bugs and other insects.

For humans, eugenol acts as a natural anesthetic. This is why some people recommend placing a clove or clove oil in the mouth for a toothache. Clove oil is also effective because of its highly acidic pH levels, disrupting the bed bug’s system.

The downside to using clove oil to repel bed bugs is that the scent is so strong, it can even be overpowering to humans. You probably won’t want to douse your bed in clove oil, even when diluted.

But it can be used in small amounts around the zone where you think bed bugs are hiding. You could also blend it with another effective repellent essential oil. 

Rubbing Alcohol

Female hand holding peroxide cotton wool in a glass jar of cotton wool on a white background isolation to answer which scent keeps away bed bugs

Kabardins Photo/Shutterstock

Bed bugs can’t stand the smell of rubbing alcohol. It has a strong scent and is also an effective way to kill bed bugs. It works on adults, nymphs, and eggs.

Rubbing alcohol used to repel or kill bed bugs should be at least 91% isopropyl alcohol, not 70%. The higher concentration is the most effective. 

Like the other scents bed bugs hate, rubbing alcohol is only effective at killing when it directly touches the bodies of bed bugs. It acts on them by drying out their bodies. It keeps working until it dries.

The major problem with rubbing alcohol to repel or kill bed bugs is its flammability.

Rubbing alcohol is extremely flammable while it’s wet. This happens to be the only time rubbing alcohol is effective at repelling or killing bed bugs.

So by the time it’s dried and safe, it’s no longer working against bed bugs. Rubbing alcohol might repel bed bugs, but the risk of burning down the house in the process isn’t worth it.

Learn more: Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

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What Scent Keeps Bed Bugs Away the Best?

Close up photo of amazed wondered interested girl contemplating something away while isolated with blue background

Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

Out of all the scents we’ve researched, lavender has the most research supporting its effectiveness at repelling bed bugs. That’s thanks to the compound linalool it contains.

It doesn’t hurt that it smells nice to humans, either! The downside to using lavender is that it won’t actually kill any bed bugs while some other essential oils will.

To combat this, you can always mix lavender oil with another essential oil like tea tree or clove to double the effectiveness. What scent keeps bed bugs away best, though, is the smell of a potent pesticide.

You should call a pest control company to rid your home of bed bugs and use these repellent scents as a preventative or interim measure.

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