Does Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs? Yes, But it’s Not Simple

Bed bugs are one of the worst insect-sized pests that a person can be inconvenienced by. And there are a lot of myths surrounding home remedies for removing these little nasties.

One of which is rubbing alcohol.

In this guide, we’ll explore this myth and answer the question, does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs?

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

So, does alcohol kill bed bugs? 

Believe it or not, the rumors are true. Rubbing alcohol does kill bed bugs, and quite quickly and efficiently. It even kills their eggs as well, helping to prevent further batches of the little bloodsuckers from ever being born.

That said, just keep in mind that these alcohol and water remedies are meant for small-size bed bug infestations only. In other words, you can use rubbing alcohol to kill a few bed bugs that you’ve picked up somewhere. You can not use it to reverse (or even control) a full-on infestation of bed bugs in your home.

Speaking scientifically, rubbing alcohol works against bed bugs in two manners:

  1. As a solvent that eats away the outer shell of the bugs, leaving them defenseless
  2. As a desiccant that causes the bugs to dry out to the point of death

The Risks Of Using Rubbing Alcohol

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 To Use Rubbing Alcohol Against Bed Bugs

Again, before attempting to relieve yourself of bed bugs with rubbing alcohol, remember that this alternative solution is for smaller issues only. More or less, at the very first signs of a bed bug problem, rubbing alcohol is most effective. 

After the problem has progressed and the bugs have breed into larger numbers, your rubbing alcohol remedy will be much less potent.

That said, if you’ve made the decision to give it a try, here are a few easy to follow steps for using rubbing alcohol to kill bed bugs:

Step 1 – Collect Everything You Need

Before you can put a hurting on those pesky bugs like you want to, you need head out to the store and pick up a few basics. These include rubbing alcohol and a spray bottle. Additional equipment may include a funnel and measuring cup if you really want to get all Bill Nye on this project.

Step 2 – Mix Alcohol Solution & Fill Spray Bottle

Once you’ve procured everything you need, it’s time to mix things up (literally). But, first, you’ll need to do a little research and decide which percentage of alcohol to water that you want to use against the bed bugs disturbing your home. 

Most people go with a mixture of something like half water and half alcohol, while others use mixtures as pure as 90 percent alcohol and 10 percent water. You can do so using the “eyeball method” or with a mixing cup and funnel if you don’t trust your accuracy.

Step 3 – Spray Down Infested Areas

Spraying down the areas of your home, including clothing and furniture, which are infected by bed bugs is the third and most important step to treating bed bugs with alcohol. Make sure that you use plenty of spray in the hard to reach areas like corners, cracks, and behind headboards and under beds.

Your primary targets with the bed bug killing spray should be your bedding, the most highly trafficked areas of your home, articles of clothing (as well as shoes), carpets, furniture, floorboards and more. 

Step 4 – Follow Up

Following up with perhaps as important as taking action in the first place. At any rate, without decent follow up, your issues will return triple-fold. A female bed bug can easily lay a couple of hundred eggs. So, make sure that you’re following up properly. 

A proper follow up on killing bed bugs with alcohol consists of cleaning the home, including bedding, carpets, and clothing and then repeating step 2 and 3. Once the signs of bed bugs are lessening, or have disappeared totally, you know that your treatment was successful. If things continue as before, your treatment has failed.

Keep in mind also that running alcohol is not an end-all bed bug killing solution and so you should attempt to use as many alternative solutions together as possible during the follow up. For example, after spraying, try vacuuming and then steam cleaning. 

Using Alternative Solutions For Eliminating Bed Bugs

When it comes to the elimination of bed bugs, desperate times call for desperate measures. Using alternative solutions (rather than dangerous pesticides) for eliminating bed bugs can be an excellent solution. 

That said, many alternative solutions for killing bed bugs only work on small scale issues. Larger infestations should be dealt with by professional as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Alternative solutions for battling bed bugs include (but are not limited to):

  • Steam cleaning equipment
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Silica gel and other similar substances
  • Hair dryers
  • Scented dryer sheets
  • Strong essence oils (such as tea tree oil)
  • And, of course, rubbing alcohol just to name a few

Indications That You May Have Bed Bugs In Your Home

Before moving forward with learning how to use rubbing alcohol to kill bed bugs, make sure what you’re dealing with is indeed actually bed bugs and not some look-a-like bug. 

Here are a few of the most common indicators of a real bed bug issue:

  • Reddish and brownish stains on sheets, pillows, and mattresses (blood and feces)
  • White and pale-yellow shells and shed-skin
  • Bites that appear overnight on areas of your skin which have been exposed while sleeping
  • Clusters of small, flat, red, brown, or see-through bugs in hard to see places (such as folds on the trim of mattresses)

If you have noticed one or more of these signs, it is time to act now. Failure to do so will land you in a world of misery (not to mention with a several hundred dollar extermination bill).

Final Thoughts

Rubbing alcohol, technically called Isopropyl alcohol, can and does kill bed bugs (as well as their eggs). However, in the end, it is not a realistic solution for serious infestations. Rather, it is an excellent remedy for killing isolated bed bugs.

Solutions mixed with rubbing alcohol need to be applied directly onto the bed bugs and eggs in order to kill them. This can be pretty hard to achieve as they are masters at staying hidden in cracks, crevices, furniture, and more.

So, again, yes rubbing alcohol works in a pinch, but it isn’t the most reliable method for killing bed bugs to be honest. Pesticides, if used safely and correctly, work much more effectively and with less effort.

Jordan Quinn Farkas
Jordan Quinn Farkas
Jordan is a full-time writer from his home in Southeast Europe. An avid outdoors-man and backpacker, he has gathered a plethora of tips and tricks for dealing with all sorts of pests.

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