Does Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs? (Including Rubbing Alcohol)

The quest for the bed bug (Hemiptera: Cimicidae) remedy appears to be almost never ending.

Due to bed bugs being one of the most expensive household pests to treat professionally, one DIY treatmnetthat’s caught on is rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl Alcohol).

In this article, I’ll explore how to use this DIY home remedy, study the effectiveness, and conclude if it’s what you should be using or if another remedy would be better suited.

Short Answer: How Effective Is Rubbing Alcohol For Killing Bed Bugs

Studies suggest rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl Alcohol), even at 91%, is not an effective method of killing bed bugs.

Due to the risks and poor test results, following the integrated pest management non-chemical protocol would be a much safer and effective form of treatment and prevention.

However, seeking a professional exterminator is still the best option.

Does Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

Yes, alcohol will kill bed bugs.

I’m not talking about the booze here. We’re talking about rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl alcohol).

Rubbing alcohol isn’t for human consumption and often used in lotions, aftershaves, cosmetics, shellacs etc.

Due to it being a solvent and desiccant (drying agent), in theory it can kill bed bugs by destroying their outer shell and drying out their eggs.

So how can you do this at home?

How To Use Rubbing Alcohol On Bed Bugs

Rubbing alcohol has gained a reputation of being a fast tactic to control a bed bug infestation.

Here’s what you’ll need to implement it:

  • Spray bottle
  • Rubbing alcohol (91% solution)
  • Hand and eye protection

Step 1. Mix The Alcohol Solution

Add your rubbing alcohol (91% solution) into your spray bottle.

Using a spray bottle will allow you to target specific problem areas, as well as protect your furniture. Rubbing alcohol will likely leave marks and stains on any furniture that’s been painted, lacquered or varnished.

Step 2. Spraying Down The Infested Areas

Start by targeting your mattress’s braiding (this is where bed bugs hide during the day). Then work on spraying your box springs headboard, bedding, and other infested areas.

You’re going to want to be as direct as possible.

Step 3. Follow Up

Rubbing alcohol will evaporate quickly, so you’ll need to follow up with more spays.

Bed bug eggs often take up to 14 days to hatch, therefore following up and spraying down the infected areas will help kill or slow down nymphs.

Spraying down again before going to be could act as an extra deterrent to help control bites at night.

Risk Of Using Rubbing Alcohol On Bed Bugs

Rubbing alcohol is effective, but extremely flammable, there have been numbers of cases over the years of big fires being started by people using alcohol to kill bed bugs.

How Effective Is Rubbing Alcohol For Killing Bed Bugs?

Using rubbing alcohol for killing bed bugs works, but using it as a way to stop an infestation is not recommended.

Why?

Well, firstly the risk is real. As I mentioned above, people have burned down their homes doing this.

Second, the studies show it just doesn’t work that well.

Laboratory studies by Rutgers University show using 70% and 91% isopropyl alcohol killed a maximum of 50% of the bed bugs.

In fact, some were still alive after 4 days.

Again, Ohio State University tested the effectiveness of DIY rubbing alcohol on bed bugs and also found 63% or more eggs hatched within 3 weeks after being sprayed.

These studies were done in a controlled environment where they were able to spray bed bugs, nymphs and eggs directly. Considering their low level of success and factoring in the risks, it’s not an effective home DIY remedy for eliminating a bed bug infestation in my opinion.

And it doesn’t end there. ScienceNews also found alcohol tested poorly at controlling a bed bug infestation.

Why I Don’t Like To Use Rubbing Alcohol To Kill Bed Bugs

  • Extremely flammable
  • Has to be applied directly to the bed bug, nymph or egg
  • Isn’t 100% effective even in controlled environments

What Other Tactics Can You Try?

The search for the ultimate bed bug home DIY remedy is constantly evolving with new tactics people try.

Here are some we’ve covered:

  • Using lysol to kill bed bugs
  • Using Tea Tree oil to kill bed bugs
  • Using cold to kill bed bugs
  • Using baking soda to kill bed bugs
  • Using bleach to kill bed bugs

But, if I’m telling you rubbing alcohol isn’t an effective tactic to exterminate your bed bugs, what should you do?

Like always, approaching a professional will likely produce the best results.

And there are other, environmentally friendly things you can also do to prevent and slow down a bed bug infestation.

Here’s the integrated pest management approach the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests you follow these non-chemical DIY methods:

Non-Chemical Methods

  • Add bedding and clothing to a dryer at high temperatures for 30mintues (generally washing will not kill bed bugs).
  • Heat items (furniture, luggage, anything that can’t go in your dryer) or rooms to at least 120 ºF (approx. 49 ºC) for 90 minutes to ensure that eggs are killed (higher the temperature the more effective and faster results).
  • Cold treatments (below 0 ºF (-19 ºC) for at least 4 days) can exterminate infestations.
  • Use mattress, box spring, and pillow protection/encasements to trap and detect bed bugs.
  • Use bed bug monitors to ensure extermination is complete.

Final Thoughts

Although rubbing alcohol has been shown to have the ability to kill bed bugs, it’s not an effective home DIY tactic to control or exterminate a bed bug infestation.

It’ll be much better and safer for you to follow the EPA recommendations to control your infestation.

If you’re suffering from a bad infestation of bed bugs, you need to consult a professional exterminator.

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

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