does baking soda kill bed bugs

Does Baking Soda Kill Bed Bugs?

If you have ever tried to kill bed bugs in your home, you probably already know that they are notoriously difficult to get rid of. When researching how to kill bed bugs, you’ve probably stumbled on many “miraculous” DIY treatments that claim to immediately and painlessly solve your bed bug issue. However, the results of these treatments can often be disappointingly underwhelming. In this article, we’re going to save you from trying another method without knowing if it will be effective. We’ll cover whether or not baking soda kills bed bugs and some alternative methods you may want to try. 

Bed Bugs: The Facts

To be able to evaluate if baking soda kills bed bugs, we first need to understand what bed bugs are and why they love your bed and home. Bed bugs are small, brown insects that grow to be about a quarter of an inch long as an adult. Bed bugs love to feast on human blood, especially when they are most active at night. Although their bites are painless, the itchy, irritated red bumps they leave on their victims are not. Female bed bugs lay about one to seven eggs each day. Therefore, a few bed bugs rapidly grow in number, transforming into a complete infestation. Although bed bugs do not typically carry any diseases, their presence still causes skin irritation and sleep loss. 

bed bug nymph

Baking Soda

Baking soda, which is more formally called sodium bicarbonate, is a natural leavening agent. Aside from baking, its most common and obvious use, people use baking soda as a teeth whitener, skincare remedy, household cleaning product, and odor eliminator, among other things. Due to its multitude of uses, practically all households always have baking soda on hand. Because baking soda is so readily available and does not pose health risks to humans or pets, the idea of using baking soda to kill bed bugs appeals to many people. 

How Baking Soda (Supposedly) Kills Bed Bugs

Baking soda presents an attractive DIY method for bed bug removal for those plagued by the parasitic insects. Most people already have baking soda in their home and want to try this non-harmful method before resorting to expensive insecticide treatments from professionals. This desire is more than understandable, but we want to save you the trouble of a trial and error method. Three primary theories summarize how baking soda (supposedly) kills bed bugs.

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baking soda in a bowl

Dehydration

Bed bugs rely on a waxy coating on their outer shell to retain the moisture in their body. This coating, which is essential for bed bugs’ survival, prevents evaporation of the moisture in their body. Because baking soda is a type of salt, it has the ability to absorb moisture. So, in theory, if bed bugs come in contact with baking soda, their waxy coating will be absorbed, causing them to dry up and die. 

Abrasive Injuries 

Baking soda is known for being slightly abrasive (which is why some people use baking soda to exfoliate their skin). In theory, the abrasive nature of baking soda will allow it to cut the soft underside of bed bugs. Proponents claim these injuries will cause bed bugs to bleed out or, again, dehydrate their bodies. 

Lethal Ingestion

Cockroaches experience lethal side effects from ingesting baking soda (see our article about how to get rid of cockroaches here). Others then assume baking soda must similarly kill bed bugs. The idea behind this theory is that baking soda creates a gas when combined with liquid inside the bugs’ bodies. The gas results in internal organs, such as the stomach, bursting. If true, this theory would still require the bugs to ingest the baking soda, which is why some sources suggest combining it with sugar or another sweet substance. 

Does Baking Soda Kill Bed Bugs

Now, let’s consider each of these theories to determine whether or not baking soda will actually kill bed bugs. In short, no scientific evidence exists to prove the efficacy of baking soda for killing bed bugs. Although some people on blog posts or forums online claim that baking soda eliminated their bed bug problems, we suggest skipping the baking soda and trying some more proven methods.

First, baking soda does indeed possess some ability to absorb liquid. However, baking soda likely cannot absorb the thick coating on a bed bug’s shell. The dehydration property of baking soda simply is not strong enough to result in the death of a bed bug. 

Unfortunately, baking soda also lacks enough abrasiveness to kill bed bugs. Unlike diatomaceous earth, baking soda cannot cause significant enough injuries to result in death. In fact, the possibility that baking soda will result in any bleeding at all from a bed bug is slim. Just take a look at these images of baking soda and diatomaceous earth under a microscope.

baking soda under a microscope

This image of baking soda under a microscope displays its minimal abrasive qualities. Compared to diatomaceous earth (shown below), baking soda appears quite gentle and soft. 

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Diatomaceous earth, on the other hand, is extremely sharp. This powder is in insecticides because of that exact quality. 

Diatomaceous Earth diatoms under a microscope

Some doubts also exist with the most interesting theory, death from ingestion. Although many people experience success using this method to combat roaches, the ingestion of the baking soda mixture is key. Bed bugs will not ingest baking soda on its own and will likely refuse to ingest it even when combined with other substances. In fact, bed bugs tend to avoid dry substances altogether and instead favor human blood, as previously discussed. This theory also appears to be a myth inspiring false hope in people struggling to get rid of bed bugs. 

bed bug on bed sheet

Alternative DIY Treatments to Kill Bed Bugs

So, if baking soda doesn’t kill bed bugs, what does? Often, many people are reasonably hesitant to resort to professional treatments for several reasons. Professional treatments often require you to move out of your home for a short period of time, which causes a massive hassle. Additionally, hiring professional services can cost thousands of dollars for an entire home with little long-term guarantees. Some alternative DIY treatments exist which have proven effective in killing bed bugs. 

Exposing bed bugs to a temperature of around 120 degrees Fahrenheit (or 48.9 degrees Celsius) for a period of 90 minutes or more has been shown to kill the bugs. Washing and drying your bedding on hot settings proves lethal to nasty bed bugs. Additionally, steam cleaning can quickly kill the critters invading your home. You can check out our top suggestions for steam cleaners for bed bugs here

  • Freezing

Extreme temperatures on both ends of the spectrum are lethal for bed bugs. Placing the sheets bed bugs live on in a freezer kept below zero degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of three days kills the critters. 

  • Vacuuming

Vacuums are able to suck up bed bugs, lowering the number of pests in your house. Ensure you are emptying the vacuum bag in a garbage can outside to reduce the chance that the bugs will find their way back into your bed. This method does not actually kill the bed bugs but remains effective at ridding your home of some of these pests. 

  • Diatomaceous Earth 

Surprisingly diatomaceous earth, a substance similar to baking soda, can kill bed bugs. This substance has stronger drying and abrasive qualities than baking soda. Therefore, diatomaceous earth proves more effective at dehydrating bed bugs or cutting through their exterior shells. In fact, diatomaceous earth can be used to kill several types of pests, including roaches, ants, spiders, etc. 

The inability to get rid of all the bed bugs in your homes presents the primary obstacle to the success of DIY treatments. Bed bugs hide in the seams and crevices of practically any fabric furniture, giving them ample living space in most homes. If some bed bugs are left behind after treatment, they quickly replenish their numbers due to their rapid reproduction rate. So, if you’re going to solve your bed bugs issue, you truly have to get rid of all the bed bugs in your home.

The effectiveness of any of these DIY treatments, especially baking soda for killing bed bugs, is not guaranteed. In fact, you will likely need to use these treatments in combination with many others to rid your home of bed bugs. Often, people resort to calling professionals after spending a lot of time and money on alternative treatments. On the other hand, other people report success stories from DIY treatments. In conclusion, each person’s home and bed bug issue presents a unique situation, so you may have to try many different strategies before achieving success. Practicing some key cleanliness measures in your house helps to generally deter bugs from entering your home in the long term. Don’t hesitate to call a professional if your bed bug problem turns into an uncontrollable infestation.

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