Bed bugs are some of the most disturbing pests to have in your home. They disrupt your sleep, spread quickly, and leave behind nasty red welts after sucking your blood. Professional treatments cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars and often require you to move out for a short period of time. Many insecticides on the market contain harsh chemicals that are potentially harmful to you and your family. You may have read posts online instructing you to use tea tree oil for bed bugs, but does tea tree oil actually kill bed bugs? In this article, we’ll consider the efficacy of tea tree oil for killing bed bugs and explore other bed bug removal options.
What is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is an essential oil derived from steaming the leaves of the Australian tea tree Melaleuca alternifolia (shown below). Tea tree oil possesses antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal properties. People commonly use this popular oil to combat acne, treat athlete’s feet, and repel insects. Suppliers sell tea tree oil in an undiluted (neat) form as well as in varying diluted concentrations.
The Effectiveness of Tea Tree Oil for Killing Bed Bugs
When considering how to mix tea tree oil for bed bugs, most people recommend either diluting 20 drops of tea tree oil into a spray bottle of water or mixing tea tree oil with water to concentrations higher than fifty percent. However, other sources claim that only undiluted tea tree oil works for killing bed bugs. Generally, a higher concentration of the oil more likely ensures killing the bed bugs. Unfortunately, some people experience adverse side effects when coming into contact with undiluted tea tree oil. The neat oil can cause skin irritation, and some people even have severe allergic skin reactions (contact dermatitis).
Tea tree oil, especially in high concentrations, does kill bed bugs with contact. Some research suggests that tea tree oil blocks bed bugs’ airways, eventually suffocating them. Bed bugs breathe by taking in air through holes on the underside of their bodies called spiracles. The oxygen is then carried throughout their bodies through a network of tubes called tracheae. When sprayed with tea tree oil, the tiny pests are suffocated because these spiracles and tracheae get blocked. However, contact is imperative with this method. Essentially, you must find and spray each bed bug in your home to get rid of all the creatures. Because bed bugs are capable of hiding in tiny cracks and crevices, finding and spraying each bug is essentially impossible.
Will Tea Tree Oil Get Rid Of Your Bed Bugs?
While tea tree oil can be effective for limiting the number of pests in your home, this product alone will not rid your home of these nasty critters. Using tea tree oil for bed bugs requires direct contact, and presents some downsides for everyone living in the home. You may have an adverse or allergic skin reaction to the oil, and tea tree oil also smells pungent (although some people enjoy the scent). Even if these downsides are not a concern for you, we still recommend combining tea tree oil with other DIY methods or hiring a professional to completely eradicate bed bugs from your home.
Although tea tree oil may not be the best solution for removing all the bed bugs in your home, it does possess another useful and relevant purpose: treating bed bugs bites. In fact, tea tree oil is known for reducing the pain, swelling, and inflammation caused by many types of insect bites. Of course, before using tea tree oil to reduce the itchiness of a bed bug bite, ensure you are not allergic. For the use, tea tree oil is commonly used at a 5% concentration to avoid causing irritation.
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Other Natural Ways to Kill Bed Bugs
In addition to tea tree oil, some other natural, DIY methods exist which have been proven effective against bed bugs. In fact, you probably already have all the equipment necessary to complete these methods.
Using heat to kill bed bugs has been proven effective, and you can use steam cleaner or washing. For clothes and sheets, wash and dry your laundry on high heat settings. For other parts of your home, including upholstered furniture, carpets, and rugs, try steam cleaning. The extreme heat from these methods will kill bed bugs currently present on these materials, but will not be able to reach bed bugs hiding in other nooks and crannies.
Freezing also kills bed bugs but requires keeping the infested garments or sheets under zero degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of three days. This method presents a more time-consuming but hands-off option.
Vacuuming, unlike using freezing, heat, or tea tree oil, does not actually kill the critters. Instead, vacuuming infested areas will collect the bugs, allowing you to dispose of them outside of your home. Similar to all of these DIY methods, vacuuming alone will not cure an infestation. Using tea tree oil, heat, cold temperatures, or vacuuming will only lower the number of pests in your home instead of completely eliminating them.
Although these methods all kill bed bugs, if you are dealing with an infestation, we recommend calling a professional. Make sure you hire someone who provides a guarantee of complete pest elimination so you won’t end up where you started.
How to Prevent Another Bed Bug Infestation
Once you have experienced a bed bug infestation, you will no doubt want to avoid another. Aside from general tips to deter bugs, a few methods exist to help with long-term bed bug prevention. Reducing spots for bed bugs to live represents one of the best ways to prevent another infestation. You can use protective mattress covers and reduce clutter to eliminate bed bugs’ hiding spots. Also, be wary of bringing objects into your home that could potentially be carrying bed bugs. Carefully inspect any used furniture or clothing before allowing it into your home. Although bed bugs are a massive nuisance, you can eliminate these pests from your home. Because bed bugs reproduce extremely quickly, a few bed bugs can rapidly turn into a few hundred or thousand. Don’t wait to treat the bed bugs in your home because that can allow an infestation to form.