does alcohol kill bed bugs

Does Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs? – Need To Know Guide

If you have ever experienced bed bugs, then you will have a lot of questions about how to get rid of them. One of the main things that we have seen asked in the past is: Does alcohol kill bed bugs? Well, that is what we are going to take a look at in today’s article. Keep reading to find out the answer.

Bed bugs are pretty small insects that, most of the time, live on furniture and bedding. They have bites that become itchy pretty quickly, but the upside is that they rarely cause any other health issues. However, if you have had them, the bites and itching are enough to make you very frustrated at trying to remove them from their homes. That is not to mention the “squirm factor” that sleeping with bugs has.

Although they have the name bed bugs, that is not the only place that they hide. They use anywhere that they can to keep themselves safe, such as bed frames, mattresses, and bedding, clothing, other furniture, and even behind pictures and loose wallpaper. Therefore, you can see why people get frustrated and want a quick way to kill off an infestation. We all know that alcohol is an excellent disinfectant. No, I’m afraid I don’t mean beer. Yes, we are talking about rubbing alcohol or otherwise known as Isopropyl.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

isopropyl alcohol

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Does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs? Yes. But is it your best choice? No. Keep reading to find out why. There are two ways in which rubbing alcohol can kill bed bugs. They are:

  • Rubbing alcohol is a solvent. – The use of the word solvent is for a group of chemicals that are known and used to dissolve or dilute other substances. Bed bugs, along with a lot of other insects, have an exoskeleton. Their primary bodily support is on the outside of their bodies, unlike mammals, who have interior or endoskeleton. Solvents are known to dissolve that exoskeleton of the bed bug. Thus rendering them pretty useless, if not killing them altogether.
  • It is also a desiccant. – A desiccant is a substance that absorbs water from its surroundings. You find them in packages inside items that need to be kept dry. As with all creatures on the planet, bed bugs contain a high amount of water. Therefore, using a desiccant to remove water will help to kill them. However, studies have shown that “The survival and water loss profiles showed that starved C. hemipterus started to die after losing 35–45% of their body weights”.

As you can see from the abstract, only starved bed bugs started to die, even after losing a significant percentage of their water. Therefore, it stands to reason that if they get to feed either before or soon after the use of rubbing alcohol, they are a lot less likely to die from dehydration.

Also, exoskeletons do not grow with the body of the bed bug; they have to shed their skeleton to reveal a new one underneath. So, if the alcohol only removes the outer later of exoskeleton, you are not likely to harm the bed bug too much, let alone kill it.

Benefits of Rubbing Alcohol to Kill Bed Bugs

Even though we have gone through some of the main points of using alcohol to kill bed bugs, we still need to look at the main benefits:

  • Cost. – Isopropyl is relatively cheap in comparison to other pesticides.
  • Availability. – It is also readily available in almost every drug store in the country.
  • It can be effective. – Will kill bed bugs.

While you are reading this, you may think, if it kills them and it is easy and cheap to get, why isn’t everyone using it to remove their infestation? Well, the answer to that lies in the disadvantages that using it holds.

Disadvantages of Isopropyl to Kill Bed Bugs

As with everything, I am afraid that there are certainly some disadvantages to using rubbing alcohol to kill bed bugs:

Direct contact is required

Bed bugs are amazingly good at their job. They are nocturnal creatures, and they hide exceptionally well in the day and only appear at night. Therefore, getting direct contact with them using alcohol is pretty tricky. As you have seen earlier in the article, they hide in many different places:

  • Cracks in furniture.
  • Behind wallpaper rips.
  • Electrical outlets.
  • Behind doorframes.
  • Anywhere else, you can think. 

As you can see from where they hide, it is going to be almost impossible to get alcohol into some of those places. Even if you do, you may ruin your furniture or wallpaper. It could also be downright dangerous to put it into places like electrical outlets. Also, as direct contact is required, you will only ever be able to kill the ones that you can see or get to easily. Therefore, any of the “hiding” bugs will survive.

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As you have seen from the link at the beginning of the article, you need to have some pretty specific conditions for alcohol to kill bed bugs. Not to mention those, though, the effectiveness of even direct contact is questionable. Rutgers University has done tests on using rubbing alcohol to kill bed bugs. Their research showed that the two most common concentrations of rubbing alcohol (70% and 90%) didn’t kill more than 50% of the bedbugs.

Does alcohol kill bedbugs?

Although bed bugs are slow to reproduce in comparison to other insects, female bedbugs still lay about one egg every day. Let’s make a quick, makeshift scenario:

If the average mattress contains 60 bedbugs, and half of those are female, you will have 30 eggs produced a day. If you use rubbing alcohol to try and kill them, but it only eradicates 50%, you will still be left with 30 bugs in total, with 15 females. The next day, you will have 15 more eggs. So, from 60 bugs yesterday, you have 45 today. So, killing all of the bedbugs in one mattress will mean treating it every day for about a week. And that is just your mattress.

Isopropyl is Highly Flammable

In December of 2017, a woman tried to get rid of her infestation of bed bugs using alcohol in an apartment block in Cincinnati. Needless to say, it did not end well. The rubbing alcohol got ignited by a nearby heat source and set the apartment block on fire, leaving many people without homes. You may think that you will be more careful when trying it yourself. However, looking at the other disadvantages, is it worth the risk?

It is not just the liquid of the alcohol that is flammable; it is the vapors, too. Therefore, there are many ways in which those vapors could get ignited in the home. Even some of the mist getting into the back of a tv could be extremely dangerous. So please, don’t use it.

Does Alcohol Kill Bed Bug Eggs

In the first sections of this article, we told you how rubbing alcohol kills bed bugs. The solvency and desiccant action of alcohol will also destroy the produced eggs. However, after reading through the rest of the article, do you think that it is the right thing to use? Hopefully not.

bedbug eggs

What Should You Do About Bed Bugs?

So, now that you have found that you should not use rubbing alcohol to kill bed bugs, then you are probably asking yourself, what should I do?

Lucky for you, we have an in-depth review of Premo Guard Bed Bug and Lice Killer. We list all of its pros, cons, and also make a brief comparison with another similar product – found here, and another product review of Pest Peeve – here.


Although rubbing alcohol, or Isopropyl may seem like an easy way to remove bed bugs, it’s not. There are far too many disadvantages to using it even to bother trying. While the cost of some of the products designed to remove them may be higher than alcohol, they are certainly not better.

If you have a bed bug infestation, there are many products available on the market such as Bed Bug Killer Sprays that do great jobs at getting rid of infestations without the risks.

Check out our product reviews that are in the section above. Also, remember to keep an eye out for other articles on our homepage for the removal of other bugs.

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