Does Bleach Kill Bed Bugs?
Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Control Technician
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Finding you’ve got bed bugs will lead to you thinking of what is the quickest and easiest way to kill them, and one question commonly asked is: does bleach kill bed bugs?
The short answer is yes, bleach can kill bed bugs on direct contact. But there are reasons why bleach should not be used to kill them or exterminate an infestation. Read on to find out why.
Bed Bugs and Bleach
A Brief Overview of Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are parasites that bite our exposed skin and feed on our blood when we’re asleep in bed. They are mostly active at night and hide away during the day. They are small insects that cannot fly and are reddish-brown in color.
Read what are bed bugs for more detailed information on what they look like and how you get them.
What is household bleach?
Bleach is a common solution kept in our kitchens to disinfect our homes. But did you know bleach can be classed as a pesticide? Does that mean it will kill a bed bug infestation though?
Even though bleach can be registered as a pesticide, it is an antimicrobial pesticide, not an insecticide. This means it should be used as a disinfectant to destroy microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi on surfaces like kitchen countertops or bathtubs, not as a bed bug treatment.
Household bleach such as Clorox and other branded/unbranded names is a mixture of water and several harsh chemicals. The main component and active ingredient in bleach is sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl), in combination with hydrogen peroxide, sodium hydroxide, and calcium hypochlorite that together produce a corrosive solution.
Will Bleach Kill Bed Bugs?
It’s the corrosive properties in bleach that can kill bed bugs by breaking down the body’s proteins.
In other words, if you pour undiluted bleach directly on the bed bugs, then yes bleach will kill them either by drowning them or by penetrating their body by oxidizing the shell’s outer layer.
However, simply pouring or spraying bleach either neat or diluted directly onto the bed bugs or in areas where they are infesting is not the answer.
The main uses of bleach are to whiten, remove color, or disinfect clothing and surfaces. So spraying a bleach solution onto your mattress or couch will only ruin it and won’t kill all the bed bugs or eliminate them completely.
In addition, spraying these pests may scatter them to other areas of the room because of the force of the spray, which would lead to more treatments needed.
The hazards of over-spraying should also be considered. Sodium hydroxide can cause skin burns, and sodium hypochlorite can cause irritation and respiratory problems. There is also the possibility that the bleach fumes will cause irritation to the eyes, mouth, and throat.
Bleach also shouldn’t be used in any areas that have already been treated with a pesticide as it may cause a toxic reaction that can be harmful if exposed to it.
Are Bed Bugs Attracted to Bleach?
No, bed bugs are not attracted to bleach. Spraying or pouring undiluted or diluted bleach onto the mattress or other areas of the bed will only cause them to retreat even further into their harborage areas, which you don’t want because they are already hard to reach.
Do Any Household Cleaners Kill Bed Bugs?
You’ve no doubt searched for this answer on the internet and seen dozens of sites telling you that you can kill bed bugs will bleach, vinegar, borax, Lysol, rubbing alcohol, and various other household cleaners.
These sites even give instructions for making up a solution to use as a pesticide spray. But this is plain and simple bad advice!
Because for the product to kill them it has to come into direct contact with each and every bed bug and that is impossible. You might have seen just a few of these insects but there will be more hiding away in tiny cracks and crevices which household cleaners cannot reach.
Another reason is that some of these cleaners are flammable and dangerous if misused. For example, both the fumes and rubbing alcohol solution are flammable. It also evaporates quickly so would be an ineffective remedy for bed bugs.
There are also issues with using household cleaners that would cause damage to your furniture and carpets. Using common household bleach would ruin any piece of furniture it comes into contact with by stripping away its color.
In addition to the fumes that can be hazardous, bleach also has an unpleasant scent that lingers after it has been used.
Trying to use any of the above is not advisable and will not get kill an entire infestation.
So What Will Kill them if you can’t use bleach?
If you’re spotting signs of bed bugs, such as:
- Small, black dots that look like smeared ink on your sheets
- Raised red, itchy marks on parts of your body that are not covered in bed
- Bloodstains on your PJs or bed sheets
- Cast bed bug shells
- Live bed bugs (what do bed bugs look like? these detailed pictures show you)
Read how to tell if you have bed bugs for more detailed info on what signs to look for.
And if the infestation is in the early stages, then you can do your own pest control and eliminate the insects yourself. Read our step-by-step guide on how to get rid of bed bugs which shows you EXACTLY what you need to get, and what you need to do to be infestation-free.
The steps to eradicating these pests include:
- Clearing all clutter from the room
- Vacuuming the room thoroughly
- Heat-steaming the mattress and bed
- Washing and drying all bedding and clothes on high heat (you can use bleach in your washer)
- Installing mattress, box spring, and pillow encasements. I use and recommend this Saferest bed bug mattress cover.
- Installing bed bug traps
On the other hand, you might not want to try and tackle this on your own, and that’s completely understandable. So if it’s not for you then contact a recommended, professional exterminator that deals with bed bugs. They will use effective treatment methods that may be a combination of both heat and residual treatments.
Can You Kill Bed Bugs With Bleach: Summary
When it comes to home remedies for bed bugs, you don’t want to try something that doesn’t work, or even worse, can be dangerous. Treat them yourself or call a professional pest control company instead.
Unfortunately, bleach or any other household cleaner should not be used as a treatment for bed bugs or their eggs because it simply won’t kill them all and will not solve your bed bug problem.
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