Does Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

Creepy crawlers in your home are never a nice sight. However, it’s quite common to see a spider or centipede crawling around sometimes, and while they are a nuisance, they at least offer some help in getting rid of other pests. There’s a difference between the typical bugs you see wandering around your home sometimes and an all-over infestation. Infestations can be extremely difficult to exterminate without a professional carpet cleaner, but it is a preferred method to take care of the problem quickly and efficiently. But with how popular do-it-yourself methods for just about everything is, most will look for an easier, more natural, or less expensive solution before calling up a professional. This is especially true with an invasive and unwanted pest such as a bed bug. In this post, we will answer one of the most common questions – “does alcohol kill bed bugs?”.

Will Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are small but nasty critters that can wreak havoc on your home, your belongings, and your health. They are about the size of an apple seed, making it very easy for them to hide in the smallest of spaces. Bed bugs tend to prefer furniture such as beds, mattresses, bed frames, and couches, but they can also make do with any small space where they can hide until it’s feeding time. This is one of the many reasons it’s so difficult to spot and treat a bed bug infestation. They are also really fast and can scurry into their hiding spots in no time.

Bed bugs are also a nuisance because they feed on blood, especially at night, where you’re more likely to be in their favorite spots, like a bed or couch. Their bites are itchy, and they can leave red patches on your skin. While they love blood, they don’t need a lot of it to survive. They can go for several months without getting a blood meal. So even if they are hiding away in other areas of your home, they still pose a risk to you as they can stay in there for a while before coming back out to feast.

What Are the Signs You Have Bed Bugs?

Apart from bites, there are a few visual signs that might alert you to a potential bed bug infestation. If you examine your bedding, you might notice small reddish-brown marks in a slightly smeared fashion. This is typically either their waste or blood. You might also notice very small white or yellow shells or eggs. If your infestation is especially bad, you might also notice a sweet aroma in the areas that they are habituating.

Once you notice a bed bug infestation, you want to take action as quickly as possible. This is because once you actually notice bed bugs in your home, chances are, the infestation is already at a higher level. Bed bugs are notorious for being able to reproduce at very quick speeds. Some estimates have it that female bed bugs can lay as many as 250 eggs in their lifetime.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs and What’s The Process?

A common substance that most of us have in our homes that we might go to grab at the sight of a bed bug infestation is alcohol; specifically, rubbing alcohol. It’s also known as isopropyl alcohol, and it contains propane and water or sulphuric acid. It’s a very inexpensive chemical most of us use to clean or kill bacteria and prevent infections. One knows just by smelling rubbing alcohol that it is a very strong, chemically dense substance.

Rubbing alcohol has been shown to do two things to effectively kill bed bugs. First of all, it acts like a solvent, which erodes the bed bug’s shell. It also acts as a desiccant, which dries out the bugs. These two actions together slowly but effectively kill the bed bug, and can also kill their eggs. It essentially tears away at the hard outer layer of the bug, then dries out the softer insides until they die. 

It is also suspected that the strong smell can deter them from a treated area, though there is not much evidence to support this. Technically, rubbing alcohol has been shown to kill bed bugs. However, there are a few caveats that don’t make it the most effective choice at ridding your home of a bed bug infestation. That being said, it can be effective to kill some bed bugs in the right circumstances if used carefully.

Using Alcohol for Bed Bugs – The Process

If you were to try and use rubbing alcohol as a way to treat a bed bug infestation, there are a few things to do to make the treatment as effective as possible.

1. Cleaning

You’ll want to start by doing a thorough vacuum and be sure to clean out the vacuum and treat it with alcohol afterward. The easiest way to apply rubbing alcohol to anything is to pour it into a spray bottle.

2. Store Your Items

Take your bedding and other linens and spray them heavily with rubbing alcohol in the highest concentration possible, and then seal those items in plastic garbage bags. You can also place other items in plastic garbage bags, spray them liberally with alcohol, and then seal them up right away to make sure no bugs get out. For bulkier items that can’t go into garbage bags, such as bed frames and larger pieces of furniture, spray the rubbing alcohol on a wipe and thoroughly rub it all over the item. If you don’t have sensitive skin and no pets or children, you can also consider applying alcohol to your skin to deter them from biting you at night, though this advice may not be ideal or safe.

3. Remember about Protection

Because rubbing alcohol is such a strong chemical, it can be hazardous to inhale the amount of rubbing alcohol you would need to eradicate any bed bugs you see. It would be highly recommended that in any circumstance you were to use rubbing alcohol, you do so in a well-ventilated area with open windows. I also recommend wearing a mask so as to not breathe in too much of the fumes. It can also cause staining to some of your belongings.

You might want to spot test before using it on anything that would be expensive to replace, like a couch. Moreover, rubbing alcohol is an extremely flammable substance. Even the vapors themselves can be flammable. Rubbing alcohol dries quickly, but even when it’s dry, it can still be flammable. There have even been reports of people using rubbing alcohol to treat a bed bug infestation only to later suffer from a house fire.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

With bed bugs being able to hide quickly into the smallest of spaces, as soon as you can’t see the bed bugs, trying to kill them with rubbing alcohol will be next to impossible. As said before, the alcohol has to come in direct contact with the bed bug in order for it to do anything. Even when you do manage to get alcohol directly onto the bed bug, it isn’t 100% guaranteed that you will kill the bug. A study at Rutgers University tested isopropyl alcohol, of two varying concentrations as high as 90%. Despite such a high concentration of alcohol used, only about half of the bed bugs tested were killed.

No matter how you might choose to eradicate bed bugs from your home, there are some tried and true steps to take before your extermination of choice.

The first is to take your clothing, bedding, and any other fabric homewares and wash them, drying them in the heat. If there are any items that bed bugs may be in that you cannot put in a washer or dryer, you can alternatively freeze them at a temperature below zero. Put your bedding and mattress in plastic bags that cannot be intruded upon by bugs. Dispose of anything you can afford to dispose of, and ensure any clutter surrounding areas of potential high traffic for bed bugs is cleared away. Placing treated and/or clean items in plastic totes or garbage bags are also recommended, as bed bugs tend to not like to try and infiltrate plastic.

You may also try using Lysol for killing the bed bugs.


Having a bed bug infestation is nothing to be embarrassed about. They are not attracted to dirty homes like some might think, and they don’t discriminate. All it takes is a hitchhiker attaching itself to your clothing, your luggage, or other belongings and coming home with you to kickstart a problem. While it’s not easy to get rid of them by any means, it is possible. Even though it may take some time, you should absolutely try using alcohol for killing the bed bugs.

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