What kills bed bugs?


One of the single most common questions people ask about bed bugs is how to kill bed bugs or what kills bed bugs?   

There are a number of different effective options, and various people and companies are coming out with new ineffective “gimics” and “magic potions” almost on a daily basis.

But don’t worry, we’re going to help you separate the “wheat from the chaff” if you will, and help you understand what really kills bed bugs in the most effective way.  There is far too much misinformation out there, don’t be mislead or scammed.  

>> Check out our guide on What works, and what doesn’t <<

Most importantly, don’t underestimate bed bugs, they are incredibly resilient like roaches, multiply quickly, are very effective at hiding, and difficult to kill and get rid of.

What Kills Bed Bugs

Hire a Professional

The single most effective way to kill bed bugs in your is to hire a professional and experienced bed bug exterminator.   Professionals are your top choice for killing bed bugs for the following reasons:

  • They can quickly confirm whether or not you actually have a bed bug problem in your home, and give you some indication of how severe the infestation is
  • They have the time to dedicate to treating your bed bug infestation
  • They have the training and experience to properly treat bed bugs, regardless of whether they are using chemicals, heat, fumigation or steam
  • They know how to not only kill bed bugs in the obvious areas, but find and kill them in more difficult to reach and hidden areas of your home (such as in walls).
  • Once your bed bug problem is resolved, they can help you put preventative measure in place to avoid getting bed bugs in the future

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While highly effective, the downside of engaging a professional is cost.  Hiring a professional bed bug exterminator can be expensive, but if you can afford it, in the long term the cost is worth it.  

Treating bed bugs yourself can be less money, but only if you resolve your issue fairly quickly.  If you have to fight with bed bugs over a longer period of time, self treatment can easily become more expensive that hiring a professional.

The choice of hiring a professional vs. treating bed bugs yourself, really boils down to:

  • Your budget
  • How much time and energy you have
  • Whether you feel confident or not that you have an experience, honest, and trained professional in your local area.  See our exterminator guide for tips on finding a top-notch professional.

Self Treatment – Use multiple treatment strategies

Bed Bug Steamer

The single most important strategy for killing bed bugs is to use multiple treatment strategies.  

Generally 2-3, depending on your preferences, budget, and home.   A multiple strategy approach is effective, as one strategy generally picks up where the other leaves off.  

Before you begin treatment though, there are two key steps you should take to not only immediately get rid of a large portion of bed bugs in your home, but also to help you sleep better at night:

  1. Install Bed Bug Mattress and Box Spring Covers – These covers will lock in any bed bugs or bed bugs eggs into your mattress and box spring, and over time kill them.   Given a large percentage of bed bugs live in your Box Springs and Mattress, this step immediately eliminates many of your bed bugs.
  2. Install Bed Bug Traps under primarily your bedposts, but also your furniture.   Bed Bug Traps will not only help you determine where bed bugs are hiding in your home, but will also help you keep from being bitten at night, once your have Mattress and Box Spring Covers installed.  Traps keep any bed bugs not in your bed from reaching you at night.

One these two critical measures are in place, you can begin to treat the remaining bed bugs in your home, using the traps as a guide to where to focus your time.  Here are a few examples of using multiple treatment strategies to kill bed bugs:

  • Bed Bug Steamer combined with bed bug sprays – A highly effective strategy, that penetrates into walls and crevices, and kills bed bugs.  Caution – spray AFTER you steam, otherwise, you’ll vaporize the spray, which can be very dangerous.
  • Bed Bug Steamer combined with diatomaceous earth – This is a natural, non-toxic and effective way to treat bed bugs

These are just two examples of treatment strategies, and there are many others.  Choosing the right one for you really depends on your personal situation.  Our treatment page can guide you down the right path, and the sections below will highlight a few of the more common strategies for how to kill bed bugs.

Heat Kills Bed Bugs

Bed bugs die when exposed to heat exceeding 120 degrees.  As a result, heat treatment and bed bug steamers are highly effective.

Heat treatment for entire rooms or homes is best left to the professionals, as the process is complicated and the gear expensive.   The process is also dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing, as there is a risk of damaging your home or catching it on fire.

Steam treatment is highly effective for the “do it yourselfer”.  Using a bed bug streamer (many normal steamers won’t work) both kills bed bugs and penetrates into hard to reach areas such as mattresses, outlets (makes sure the power is off), and behind trim and cabinets.  Steamers are even effective at killing bed bug eggs as well.

Effective Bed Bug Sprays

A proven and effective method of killing bed bugs is to use an approved and proven pesticide sprays.

Unfortunately, over the years, bed bugs have started to become immune to some of these chemicals, but they can and do still work.  Sprays are best accompanied by heat treatment as the sprays cannot always reach into cracks and crevices in your home, where bed bugs live.

Sprays also have the side effect of often just pushing bed bugs into another area of your home as well.   You can read more about how to find proven and effective bed bug sprays, and tips on how to most effectively use them on our Bed Bug Spray page.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth is a natural and pesticide-free treatment strategy for killing bed bugs.  It basically attaches itself to the exoskeleton of the bed bug, and slowly dehydrates it, eventually killing it.   Diatomaceous earth is also very inexpensive, but there are some pros and cons you should consider before using it.

Diatomaceous earth on its own, is often not effective enough to completely rid yourself of bed bugs, and is often used in conjunction with heat, sprays, and other treatment strategies.

Other Common Treatment Strategies

There are also a number of “other” treatment strategies that involve using various chemicals or natural “herbs” and essential oils.  

While these can kill bed bugs, that isn’t adequate or effective enough in the majority of cases to kill your whole infestation and eradicate yourself or your bed bug problem.   

Let’s review some of the more common, but ineffective strategies that often come up:

Do Bean Leaves Kill Bed Bugs?

Yes, they do, but not enough to kill an entire infestation.  Bean Leaves have tiny spines on them that can impale the exoskeleton on bed bugs.   If the bugs move around enough in the leaves, they can impale themselves enough times to die.    Bean leaves are better for trapping and detecting bed bugs though than they are for actually killing them.

Bottom Line: While Bean Leaves kill bed bugs, it’s just not effective enough to be considered as an optimal or effective treatment method.

Does Raid kill bed bugs?

Standard raid can kill them, but generally, it doesn’t. Raid actually has a bed bug spray, and while more effective against bed bugs, than standard Raid, there are FAR more effective bed bug sprays on the market that we recommend you use instead.

Bottom Line: We wouldn’t recommend wasting your money on the Raid bed bug product, or any other standard grocery store level bed bug sprays.

Does bleach kill bed bugs?

Yes, bleach does kill bed bugs (as most harsh chemicals will) and bleach sanitizes too, but you probably don’t want to spray bleach all over your furniture, walls, and carpet. There are much better options, that won’t damage your home.

Bottom Line: Just pass on using bleach to kill bed bugs, but consider using bleach to disinfect any surfaces that won’t be harmed by using it.

Does Lysol kill bed bugs?

Yes Lysol does kill bed bugs, and so does dowsing a bed beg with most any type of chemical.  This holds true of most living things if you dowse it with enough chemical it will kill it.   Lysol will kill bed bugs only when sprayed directly on them, and is Lysol is NOT effective after it dries.

In general, you won’t see the majority of bed bugs in your home, they’re hiding.

Bottom Line: Lysol  is not a good option, and should not even be considered.

Does Alcohol kill bed bugs?

While again, not the most effective treatment, it does work.  Rubbing Alcohol kills bed bugs, but not bed bug eggs.  While many advocate using Rubbing alcohol as a repellent, we don’t recommend repelling bed bugs, as it just spreads them further into other areas of your home.

Bottom Line: We wouldn’t recommend using Rubbing Alcohol to kill bed bugs, but it can be effective in a pinch and if used numerous times and to kill bed bugs that you can see.

>> Read more about Isopropyl Alcohol and Bed Bugs in our guide.

Does Pine-Sol kill bed bugs?

Pine-Sol is making the rounds on various internet forums and discussion boards as an effective treatment for bed bugs.   People using Pine-Sol are saying it kills bed bugs on contact.   Looking at the main ingredients for Pine-Sol, you’ll find that it’s basically made up of 12% Pine Oil, 7% alkyl alcohol, 5% isopropyl alcohol, and various soaps and detergents.  Pine oil, one of the main ingredients is really a terpene alcohol.

See the pattern here?  Alcohol.  As we mentioned earlier, alcohol does kill bed bugs and bed bugs eggs, often on contact.  Alcohol can also serve as a relatively short-term repellent as well.   As a result of Pine-Sol having such a large percentage of alcohol in it, it’s treatment effectiveness against bed bugs is similar to alcohol.

Here’s the problem: Pine-Sol, due to its high percentage of Pine Oil is known to cause skin and mucous membrane irritation, along with breathing problems, and central nervous system depression.  If you’ve ever used it, you know how strong the smell can be.

Given that the bed bug killing properties of Pine-Sol are alcohol, using straight up rubbing alcohol would be a better option.  But remember, alcohol isn’t the most effective or recommended solution either.

Bottom Line: Don’t use Pine-Sol to kill bed bugs.

Wrapping Up

In general, there are many different options for killing bed bugs, but you want to do more than kill just a few individual bugs.  You want to kill them all, and put preventative measures in place to avoid re-infestation.  

Regardless of the size or severity of your infestation, engaging a professional exterminator is going to be the most effective and time efficient option for you.   If hiring a professional is just not an option for you, than you’ll want to use mutliple self treatment options, combined together, and repeated for at least a month until you confirm your bed bug problem is gone.

Once you have your bed bug problem resolved, be sure to put prevention measures in place to protect yourself and your home from further bed bugs.

Also, while many of these “other” treatment strategies may work, they take a long time, or are often not effective and seldom ever get rid of all the bugs.  

Far better to spend your time and money on a professional or on the most effective self treatment strategies.

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