Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs: Effective Solution or Myth?

Last Updated on February 5, 2024 by Kimberly Crawford

When faced with a bed bug infestation, some people reach for rubbing alcohol as an immediate solution. The logic behind this choice is that rubbing alcohol is a desiccant, which means it can dry out and potentially kill these pesky invaders on contact.

It’s a widely available household item, and it’s no surprise that its potential use as a bed bug remedy sparks interest. However, while rubbing alcohol may indeed be lethal to these insects upon direct contact, its effectiveness as a measure to entirely rid your home of bed bugs is subject to debate.

Rubbing alcohol’s volatility means it evaporates quickly, reducing its likelihood of reaching the crevices where bed bugs hide and breed. In addition, while it can kill bugs on contact, it has no residual effect, which is critical in dealing with infestations.

Considering that bed bugs lay eggs that are often tucked away in hard-to-reach places, a solution that evaporates rapidly may not be the most effective in preventing the bed bug population from rebounding. Moreover, safety concerns arise when using alcohol, as it is a flammable substance and improper use can pose fire hazards.

rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs

Key Takeaways

  • Rubbing alcohol can kill bed bugs on contact but is less effective on hidden bugs and eggs.
  • It evaporates quickly, offering no lasting protection against future infestations.
  • Safety concerns due to its flammable nature should be seriously considered.

Understanding Bed Bugs

bed bug knowing

Before diving into the methods of eradicating bed bugs, it’s crucial to grasp the basics of these pests—knowing their anatomy, where they live, and how to spot them can empower you to tackle infestations effectively.

Anatomy and Behavior

Bed bugs are small, oval insects that feed exclusively on blood. Their reddish-brown bodies are about the size of an apple seed, and they possess flat exoskeletons, which swell and turn redder after they’ve fed.

Despite lacking wings, bed bugs are adept at moving quickly across floors, walls, and ceilings. They are nightly feeders, often biting sleeping individuals on exposed skin.

Common Habitats

These pests are experts at hiding, favoring places that are close to their food source. Mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards are ideal spots for bed bugs, but they can also inhabit other furniture and crevices within a room.

They tend to reside within a few feet of their feeding area, which can make them challenging to detect and remove.

Signs of Infestation

The first indication of bed bugs often comes from the bites they leave, which manifest as itchy welts on your skin. However, physical signs include small blood spots on sheets, bed bug feces, which appear as dark or rusty spots on bed linens, and the sighting of molted exoskeletons or the bugs themselves. If you notice an unexplained musty odor, that could also signal a bed bug presence in your living space.

Chemical Properties of Rubbing Alcohol

rubbing alcohol bed bugs

Rubbing alcohol, which you might use for cleaning or disinfecting, is more than just a potent germ killer. Its chemical properties define its efficacy and usage.

Types of Alcohols

Rubbing alcohol typically consists of either isopropyl alcohol or ethanol, both of which belong to a class of organic compounds known as alcohols. Here are the common types:

  • Isopropyl Alcohol: It’s synonymous with rubbing alcohol and is used in medical settings as well as households.
  • Ethanol: Also known as ethyl alcohol, it’s the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages and can also be found in denatured alcohol formulations.
  • Denatured Alcohol: This is ethanol with additives that make it toxic and undrinkable, often used as a solvent or fuel.

These alcohols are known for being solvents, which means they can dissolve oils and other substances that water can’t. It’s also crucial to note that these alcohols are highly flammable.

Isopropyl Alcohol vs. Ethanol

When comparing isopropyl alcohol to ethanol:

  • Isopropyl Alcohol: This alcohol has a concentration typically between 70% and 99%, and due to its strong antiseptic properties, it is effective at killing bacteria and viruses. It’s a secondary alcohol where the alcohol carbon atom is attached to two other carbon atoms. Its flammability and the fumes it emits should be handled with caution.
  • Ethanol: Often used in hand sanitizers and medical wipes, this type of alcohol can be effective at similar concentrations. However, it’s also the type of alcohol we consume in drinks, and in its pure form can be toxic if ingested. In commercial products, it is often denatured to prevent consumption.

The chemical properties of rubbing alcohol, such as its volatility, make it evaporate quickly, leaving behind a cooling sensation that’s perfect for soothing massages or reducing fever when applied on the skin. Remember, while it’s a powerful solvent, its fumes can be noxious, and it should be used in a well-ventilated area. Your safety comes first, so handle with care!

Rubbing Alcohol as a Bed Bug Treatment

Dealing with a bed bug infestation can be grueling. In your quest for effective treatments, you might have come across the option of using rubbing alcohol. Let’s explore how it performs against these pesky pests, the methods to apply it, and the crucial safety measures you need to consider.

Effectiveness on Bed Bugs

Rubbing alcohol, scientifically known as isopropyl alcohol, has been noted for its potential to kill bed bugs on direct contact. It acts as a desiccant, dehydrating the insects and leading to their demise.

However, it’s crucial to understand that while rubbing alcohol can kill bed bugs and their eggs, it may not be efficient in eradicating an entire infestation. Bed bugs hide in various places such as furniture, carpet, and rugs, which makes it challenging to reach them all with this method.

Application Methods

For localized treatment, you can apply rubbing alcohol directly to bed bugs if you spot them. A spray bottle can be used for a more comprehensive approach, targeting suspected hiding spots and potentially infested areas like mattresses or the entire bed bug infestation zone.

Remember, it’s the high heat from driers and steamers that often pairs well with chemical treatments to ensure a thorough clean-up.

Safety Precautions

While rubbing alcohol is accessible and may seem like an easy fix, its application is not without risks. Due to its flammable nature, it’s imperative to use it with caution, avoiding any potential ignition sources like open flames or smoking materials. Adequate ventilation is necessary to handle the strong fumes, and protective gloves should be worn to prevent skin irritation.

In your fight against bed bugs, always put your safety first and consider consulting pest control professionals for severe infestations, as they can offer comprehensive solutions that go beyond the brief relief rubbing alcohol may provide.

Alternative Bed Bug Removal Strategies

When facing a bed bug infestation, it’s critical to explore all avenues. While rubbing alcohol isn’t a silver bullet, there are alternative strategies that can be more effective and sustainable in managing these pests.

Heat Treatment

Heat treatment involves raising the temperature of the affected area to a level that is lethal to bed bugs. It’s an effective method because it can penetrate into small crevices and complex furniture structures.

Professional exterminators often use specialized equipment to heat a room to approximately 120°F (49°C) for several hours to ensure all bed bugs and their eggs are eradicated.


Freezing can be an eco-friendly approach to bed bug elimination. Similar to heat treatment, it targets all life stages of bed bugs but instead uses extremely cold temperatures to kill them. Items infested with bed bugs can be placed in a freezer, maintaining a temperature of 0°F (-18°C) for at least four days to ensure the pests are completely eliminated.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a naturally occurring powder that can be used as a pesticide against bed bugs. When applied to affected areas, it can cause dehydration and death in bed bugs by absorbing the oils and fats from the cuticle of the insect’s exoskeleton. However, it’s a more passive treatment and may take longer to fully work.

Essential Oils

Some essential oils have been found to have insecticidal properties and may repel bed bugs. Oils like lavender, tea tree, and eucalyptus, can be mixed with water and sprayed onto affected areas. Although less effective than chemical pesticides, they can serve as a part of an integrated pest management approach.

Remember, with most of these methods, persistence is key, and sometimes combining several strategies, like steam cleaning alongside DE or essential oils, can augment your chances of success.

Engaging a professional with experience in integrated pest management can be invaluable in assessing the situation and implementing the most effective treatment plan.

Professional Extermination Techniques

chemical pesticides to bed bugs

When facing a bed bug infestation, professional extermination techniques are the most reliable methods to ensure complete eradication.

These strategies range from the use of powerful chemical pesticides to mechanical methods, each with its benefits and applications. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect.

Chemical Pesticides

Professional pest control companies often resort to chemical pesticides as a primary tool against bed bugs. These chemicals include pyrethrins and pyrethroids, which are common synthetic chemical counterparts of the naturally occurring pyrethrins found in chrysanthemum flowers.

They work by disrupting the nervous systems of the bed bugs. In addition, neonicotinoids, which are synthetic forms of nicotine, are used due to their effectiveness in combatting pests that have developed resistance to other pesticides.

Mechanical Methods

Apart from chemicals, pest control may also involve mechanical methods. This includes:

  • Vacuuming: A thorough vacuuming of all crevices and potential bed bug hideouts.
  • Steaming: Applying high-heat steam to kill bed bugs at all life stages.
  • Freezing: Exposing bugs to extremely low temperatures to kill them.

Hiring a Professional Exterminator

When the situation is beyond DIY methods, hiring a professional exterminator is your best bet. An experienced exterminator will perform an extensive inspection to determine the extent of the infestation and create a personalized treatment plan.

Pest control companies are equipped with the latest advancements in pest management technology, ensuring a thorough approach that goes beyond surface treatments to tackle the root of the problem.

Integrated Pest Management for Bed Bugs

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for bed bugs is a comprehensive strategy that includes a mix of preventative measures, rigorous inspections, and various treatment methods to tackle infestation without relying solely on chemicals. This approach minimizes risks to human health and the environment.


You should conduct a thorough inspection to identify bed bug infestations. Look for physical signs like reddish stains on bedding, tiny eggshells, or shed skins.

Pay special attention to seams of mattresses and couches, bed frames, and baseboards. Bed bugs can hide in very small crevices, so the inspection must be meticulous.

  • Check common areas, especially if you’ve recently stayed in a hotel room.
  • Use tools like flashlights and magnifying glasses to find bed bugs in dark and hidden places.


Prevention is key to IPM and involves strategies to avoid bed bug infestations:

  • Implement mattress encasements to protect against bed bugs.
  • Place bedbug interceptors under bed legs; these devices trap bed bugs attempting to climb up from the floor.
  • Reduce clutter to limit hiding spots and conduct regular vacuuming.

Remember, irresponsibly using rubbing alcohol or other flammable substances could lead to house fires, so always opt for safer preventive measures.

Non-Chemical Treatments

Lastly, explore non-chemical treatments to manage an infestation:

  • Heat treatments are effective, as bed bugs cannot survive temperatures above 113°F (45°C).
  • Steam cleaners can apply high heat directly to infested areas.
  • Use physical methods like vacuuming to remove bed bugs from surfaces.

Remember, non-chemical methods are an essential part of an IPM approach, offering effective solutions without the risks associated with pesticides.

DIY Solutions and Home Remedies

When facing a bed bug infestation, you might be tempted to try do-it-yourself solutions before calling in the professionals. It’s important to understand what works, what could be potentially dangerous, and the most common errors to avoid.

Home-Made Treatments

Bed bugs can be resilient, but certain home remedies have been found to be somewhat effective in combating these pests. One such DIY solution involves rubbing alcohol; it acts as a desiccant, drying out the bugs. To pursue this route, put the alcohol in a spray bottle and directly apply it to infested areas, including bedding, furniture, and drapes.

  • Oregano Essential Oil: It’s been suggested that oregano oil can act as a natural repellent, deterring bed bugs with its strong scent.
  • Heat Treatments: Exposing bed bugs to high temperatures—above 120°F (49°C)—can be an effective method. Seal infested items in garbage bags and place them in a hot environment; sometimes even inside a closed car on a sunny day can suffice.
  • Diatomaceous Earth: Sprinkle this natural powder around areas where bed bugs are found. This material works as a mechanical desiccant, dehydrating the bugs till they die.

However, not all DIY methods are safe or effective for all items. Be cautious when treating books, electronics, or other sensitive possessions; it’s critical to avoid damage while attempting eradication.

Common Mistakes

When tackling bed bugs with DIY methods, common mistakes can lead to frustration and failure:

  1. Overuse of Chemicals: Applying too much rubbing alcohol or other chemicals can present fire hazards and harm your health. Always use in well-ventilated areas and follow safety precautions.
  2. Ignoring Heating Guidelines: Incorrectly applied heat treatments can cause damage to items and might not reach the temperatures required to kill all stages of bed bugs.
  3. Thinking Short Term: Bed bugs are notorious for hiding and surviving for long periods without food. Repeat treatments are often necessary, and merely applying a home remedy once is rarely enough to solve the problem.

Regular monitoring after treatment and maintaining cleanliness are key steps in ensuring that these unwanted guests don’t make a return visit. Remember, if home remedies don’t lead to success, professional extermination may be your best option.

Aftercare and Prevention

bed bug aftercare

Following the treatment of a bed bug infestation, proper aftercare and prevention are crucial to ensure these pests don’t return. You’ll need to clean infested items thoroughly, continually monitor for signs of bed bugs, and take preventive measures to safeguard your home.

Cleaning Infested Items

After eradicating bed bugs, cleaning infested items is a critical step. Start by vacuuming all areas where bed bugs were found, including mattresses, furniture, and carpets. Immediately dispose of the vacuum contents in a sealed bag.

Washing bedding, curtains, and clothes in hot water and drying on high heat can eradicate bed bug eggs. For items that can’t be washed, consider using a steamer on high heat to penetrate and eliminate hidden bed bugs.

Ongoing Monitoring

Stay vigilant with ongoing monitoring to catch any new bed bug activity early. Regularly inspect bed frames, headboards, mattresses, and box springs for signs of bed bugs. Don’t forget about areas where pets sleep, as bed bugs can hitch a ride on your furry friends. Utilize bed bug traps or monitors as an ongoing surveillance method. These tools can alert you to a new infestation before it becomes widespread.

Preventive Measures

Implementing preventive measures is your best defense against future bed bug problems. Invest in bug-proof covers for mattresses and box springs to create a barrier against bed bugs. Adhere to guidelines established by the EPA for safe and effective pest control practices.

Avoid DIY solutions that have not been proven effective and could potentially spread the infestation. Professional pest control services can offer advice on long-term prevention strategies tailored to your specific situation.

Take care when traveling or bringing second-hand furniture into your home, as these are common ways bed bugs are introduced.

Remember, bed bugs are tenacious, but with a systematic approach, you can maintain a bed bug-free environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Rubbing alcohol is a well-known remedy for bed bugs, but it’s important to understand how it works and what other methods can complement or enhance its effectiveness. Let’s explore some common questions to clarify its role in bed bug control.

What can be mixed with rubbing alcohol to enhance its effectiveness against bed bugs?

While rubbing alcohol alone can have an impact on bed bugs, enhancing its effectiveness typically involves physical removal methods like thorough vacuuming rather than mixing it with other substances. Combining chemicals can often lead to dangerous reactions and is not recommended without expert guidance.

How effective is diatomaceous earth in eradicating bed bug infestations?

The effectiveness of diatomaceous earth is attributed to its ability to dehydrate bed bugs over time by absorbing the lipids from their exoskeletons. Considered a longer-term control method, it works best when applied to areas where bed bugs are likely to crawl.

Is it possible for hand sanitizer to exterminate bed bugs due to its alcohol content?

Yes, hand sanitizer, which typically contains a high concentration of alcohol, can be toxic to bed bugs upon direct contact. However, like rubbing alcohol, it is not a comprehensive solution for an infestation due to the difficulty of ensuring contact with all bugs and eggs.

What is the immediate impact of rubbing alcohol on bed bugs?

When bed bugs come into direct contact with rubbing alcohol, it acts as a desiccant and solvent, compromising their outer shell and causing dehydration, often resulting in the insect’s death. However, this effect is only guaranteed upon direct contact.

Can rubbing alcohol eliminate both bed bugs and their eggs?

While rubbing alcohol can kill bed bugs and potentially their eggs, it doesn’t guarantee total eradication of an infestation. Eggs are often hidden, and it’s challenging to ensure the alcohol contacts all of them.

Does hydrogen peroxide serve as an effective agent for killing bed bugs?

Hydrogen peroxide is not a chemical typically recommended for killing bed bugs. While its strong oxidizing properties can kill bed bugs on contact, like rubbing alcohol, it’s unlikely to reach all bed bugs and their eggs during infestation.