Does Baking Soda Kill Bed Bugs? Answered

Baking soda has traditionally been considered one of the best of many home remedies for getting rid of bed bugs. In the past, it might even have been effective when these bugs were more sensitive to common sprays.

These days, anyone with a bed bug problem is up against pests that have developed resistance to some pretty powerful pesticides.

Is It a Good Idea to Use Baking Powder?

Probably not!

Baking soda has many uses, even in modern times, but perhaps it’s not up to dealing with our 21st century bed-sharing vampires. Others, however, hold a different point of view and argue that baking soda has the potential to kill bed bugs, even now.

Why Is Baking Soda Used to Kill Bed Bugs?

Also called sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is a naturally occurring salt found as crystals or a white powder. From cleaning and making cakes rise to an indigestion cure and toothpaste, baking soda has many uses and is therefore found in most kitchens.

One of its most widely purported uses is as a remedy for bed bugs even though baking soda has no insecticidal properties. There are, however, studies suggesting it has antifungal properties. That’s useful for dealing with mold and fungus but, does this mean this versatile ‘go to’ home remedy is an effective treatment against bed bugs too?

Sadly, there is no evidence for baking powder having any bug-killing properties. Despite people saying they have personally used it, there is nothing concrete available to support the lay evidence. Those who swear by it, hold to the theory that baking soda works in different way. 

It Dehydrates Bed Bugs

There is a proposition offered in favor of baking soda. This one says bed bugs die when they come into contact with the powder by absorbing the salt through their waxy exoskeleton.

According to this theory, the bed bugs dehydrate from the inside out. That’s too easy for these pernicious fellows. If this cheap and cheerful remedy really worked effectively bed bugs would have died out a long time ago.

Instead, they continue to flourish and thrive. Baking soda breaks down when added to water, but even thrown around dry it is not going to dehydrate anything, let alone resilient modern day bugs.

Not only is there is no evidence to support this, any list of descants or drying agents online won’t have baking powder on them.

It Kills When Ingested

Even so, theories persist and people argue that baking powder kills bed bugs because they ingest it. This idea is borrowed from the way baking soda works on cockroaches. Cockroaches, unlike bed bugs, eat just about anything.

When the roach ingests the baking powder, it triggers a chemical reaction with the gut fluids that result in a rapid buildup of gas. This splits open the abdomen resulting in a very dead cockroach pretty fast.

Unfortunately, baking soda’s CO2 producing properties won’t work on bed bugs. They only ever ingest blood and even then its straight from the source. Bed bug mouthparts have adapted and evolved specifically to pierce skin and draw fresh blood.

It is impossible for them to feed on anything else and, to be honest, they don’t want to. You can’t tempt bed bugs out with something tasty like you can a mouse.

It Cuts Them Open

Another theory extolling the benefits of baking soda as a weapon against bed bug infestation is also believed to result in a gruesome ending. Because baking soda is a natural abrasive, crawling over it is thought to cause fatal damage to the soft bed bug underbelly. You can probably guess how that ends.

How to Use Baking Soda to Exterminate Bed Bugs

The most popular method seems to be to sprinkle it around the areas where bed bugs could be, such as under the mattress or around the bed.

Once done, wait a few days for the salt to stick to the bed bug and draw out the inner fluids. Then vacuum the area well to remove the powder and the dead and dying. Even its advocates say you need to repeat this process several times. It’s not an instant fix. It could take weeks. They advise patience and lots of vacuuming.

If you want to try, it’s good exercise and it’s not going to hurt. You could even get lucky and by some fluke kill a bed bug or two.

Why Were People Supporting Baking Powder?

People have always turned to home remedies like baking powder because there was nothing much else. Any relief for a few nights of undisturbed sleep was worth the work and effort. Back then, people didn’t have money readily available to replace expensive items such as mattresses and bedding and even today, people think calling in a specialist exterminator will be expensive.

Although, that’s not always the case by any means – not if you act quickly after finding signs of infestation and keep the bugs contained in one room. It can be an easy and cost effective way to be free of the pests completely and in one go at whatever stage they are at in their life cycle and without throwing out any furniture and bedding or redecorating.

Things are different with a heavy infestation. Treating the entire house can work out much more. At the very least, it’s a surprise extra bill.

However, home remedies such as using baking soda, bleach or even freezing, are not 100% effective. Nothing is as effective as calling a professional in. But then, so many people swear by baking soda, perhaps there is something in it, somewhere.

Maybe, giving the area a good wash down with or without baking powder is enough to slow down the march of an infestation. It could buy you some time to discuss your situation with an expert in bed bug extermination and come up with an effective bed bug fighting strategy that is kinder on your budget.

Conclusion

In the bug world, they are drifters and chancers. They are more than capable of getting just about anywhere for a tasty blood meal or somewhere to hide for a while, and something as simple as baking soda is not going to help you put up a good fight against them.

You may certainly want to try it, but be ready to revert to other more effective remedies to get better results.

Andrew Cunningham
Andrew Cunningham
Hello, Andrew is the co-founder and lead editor for DailyPest.

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