Written by

David Floyd

David Floyd

Reviewed by

Brett Ehlert

Brett Ehlert

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

In recent years, bed bugs have emerged as a major threat to numerous households. They have a knack for infiltrating furniture, clothing, mattresses, and cushions, making them one of the most dreaded household pests. Their bites can cause severe irritation to the skin. In this guide, we will thoroughly examine whether rubbing alcohol is effective in killing bed bugs.

does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs

Several control methods have been invented and used. While some fail to completely eliminate them, others work perfectly for the same cause. What can be said about rubbing alcohol?

Rubbing alcohol is another name for isopropyl alcohol that has been diluted with water. From acting as a disinfectant to being a stain solvent, its household importance cannot be overemphasized. 

But can rubbing alcohol really kill bed bugs though? The answer is yes, it can, but should you be using it? Let’s see.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

Yes, rubbing alcohol kills bed bugs. Rubbing alcohol will dehydrate any bed bugs it comes into contact with and can dry out their shells and kills them from the outside out.

How Does Rubbing Alcohol Work Against Bed Bugs?

Rubbing alcohol works as a desiccant, by making CONTACT with the body of the bed bugs. Notice the emphasis on the word “contact”. Many fail to understand that isopropyl alcohol works by first dissolving the outer body of the pest before the fatal effect can take place. 

The alcohol then works its way into their inner tissues and rids them of moisture, thereby killing them. Here are some things to take into consideration before you decide to go with rubbing alcohol to take care of any infestation issue.

  • The level of infestation

How bad or widespread an infestation is should determine whether or not you want to use alcohol, or opt for professional help. This is because bed bugs at the late stages of infestation have larger territories with more population, which makes them less easy to eliminate with just alcohol.

  • The area of infestation

If you notice the infestation on your curtains, you have less trouble to worry about than if they were hiding in a wall crevice or furniture. When considering rubbing alcohol, the surface area of the affected place comes to mind; the curtains could easily (but carefully) be sprayed generously with alcohol, unlike the furniture joints which would be difficult to reach. For hard-to-reach areas, you will need another method to deal with them or simply call a professional.

Is Rubbing Alcohol Actually Effective Against Bed Bugs?

The use of rubbing alcohol for bed bugs became popular around the last decade but, for some reason, it isn’t the most sought-after option anymore, despite how affordable and readily available it is. As earlier stated, with isopropyl alcohol, you stand a good chance of finding fighting bed bugs off, but how effective is it?

Rubbing alcohol has a few cons that you might want to consider before using it for your infestation problem:

  1. It requires direct contact

Similar to vinegar for bed bugs, it is only slightly effective when you cannot directly spray or pour the alcohol on the bugs. If the infestation is on a flat surface, say underneath a carpet or rug, it will be easier to clear them out. But of course, bed bugs are reclusive. They hide in extremely difficult places to reach or even find.

Even if you manage to kill a few using alcohol, there is a tendency that they will come back, as their females have a very high reproductive rate. Producing up to 500 eggs in her lifetime, an entire colony could bounce back in a matter of weeks if proper eradication is not carried out.

  1. It is flammable

Isopropyl alcohol, a major component of rubbing alcohol, is a highly flammable compound. And because it can create a fire hazard, its use is often being cautioned.

  1. Not the most ineffective

Although rubbing alcohol has disinfecting properties and can kill small insects, it seems to have better alternatives. Research by Rutgers University showed that direct spray of rubbing alcohol killed only 50% of bed bugs. Even though two different concentrations of the solution were used (one contained 70% isopropyl alcohol while the other 90%), they both yielded the same results.

Alternative home remedies to deal with bed bugs

  • Heat: Bed bugs respond to heat quite drastically and this is an efficient way of getting rid of them. This could be by ironing your laundry or using polythene bags over your car during the daytime. 
  • Cold: Under cold temperatures of 0°C and less, bed bugs become inactive. You can seal items infested with bed bugs in tight containers or ziplock bags and place them in the freezer for up to four days. 
  • Baking soda: By sprinkling baking soda all over your house, bed bugs get dehydrated and eventually die. Ensure to use it generously as this is an effective and simple household remedy against bed bugs. 
  • Mint: For this process, sprinkle crushed mint leaves on corners around the house and in crevices. They are good repellents against bed bugs.
  • Turmeric: This contains strong antimicrobial agents that are effective in dehydrating bed bugs. Particles of turmeric powder can also block the breathing spaces (spiracles) of bed bugs, thereby suffocating them.
  • Natural Oils: Natural oils such as neem oil and tea tree oil are both effective at repelling bed bugs.

Final Thoughts On Using Rubbing Alcohol For Bed Bugs

Overall, yes rubbing alcohol can kill bed bugs. That being said, it definitely isn’t the most effective treatment option available. Rubbing alcohol has to physically come in contact with bed bugs to do anything, and it needs to be a significant amount.

This means it isn’t likely to kill the entire colony, and it leaves a powerful scent that can be too much for many people to deal with. Overall, it can be helpful in a pinch, but if you have a severe bed bug infestation, you should focus on more effective treatment options.

David Floyd:

David Floyd has 20 years of experience working as a pest control technician as well as running his own pest control company. David is Quality Pro certified and is a certified Structural Pest Control Operator in the state of North Carolina, and the owner of NCPestControlExperts pest control company.

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