Does Bleach Kill Bed Bugs?

Does bleach kill bed bugs? If you were to drop a bed bug into bleach or spray bleach directly on a bug, it would indeed meet its untimely end. But bleach is not a feasible or effective way to deal with a bed bug infestation.

By Pest Advisor Editors (Updated on Apr 07, 2022)

Fact Checked by Jason Chapman

Does Bleach Kill Bed Bugs? photo

If you’re in the midst of an infestation of bugs in your bed, you might wonder, does bleach kill bed bugs? While it’s understandable that you’d want to try just about anything you have in your house to combat this problem, the unfortunate answer is that bleach isn’t going to be of much help. Here are some things you should know:

  • Bleach is caustic and can kill one or more bed bugs on contact.
  • It’s too harsh to use in amounts large enough to do any damage to a bed bug infestation, however.
  • You also wouldn’t be able to get bleach into the tiny areas where the bed bugs are living.
  • Most DIY measures simply aren’t up to par when it comes to eliminating bed bugs.
  • There are some ways you can reduce the number of bugs, however, and we’ll talk about them in this article.

Why Won’t Bleach Kill Bed Bugs?

Bleach will kill bed bugs if they’re submerged in it. So you could pick up bed bugs and place them in a jar of bleach to kill those individual bugs. The insects would also die if you were to spray them with bleach, as would their eggs. Additionally, if you add bleach to your washing machine while laundering bed-bug-infested linens, it will help kill off the bugs and eggs. So in these ways, bleach will kill some bed bugs.

However, bed bugs live deep within various recesses and crevices. Eggs are often deep inside mattresses, far from the outside surfaces. There’s no way for you to get the bleach into these areas even if you wanted to. So while you might conceivably be able to kill a few bugs with bleach, it’s not a strategy that will get you very far in terms of eliminating the problem. Keep in mind that bed bugs reproduce at an alarming rate; a female can lay many eggs each day, so killing the bugs you can see isn’t going to take care of an infestation.

Is It Safe to Try Using Bleach to Kill Bed Bugs?

The short answer to this is no. Bleach is toxic to bed bugs, yes, but it’s also toxic to humans, so if you were to go around spraying your upholstered surfaces with bleach, not only would you kill a few bugs but you’d also be exposing yourself and your family to toxic fumes and harsh chemicals. Furthermore, you’d likely ruin your furniture and, potentially, your clothing.

Can I Use Other Household Chemicals to Treat Bed Bugs?

In the throes of a bed bug infestation, it’s natural that you’d want to try something (anything!) to combat the problem as soon as possible. Rummaging around under your sink is likely to present you with a bunch of options, but none of them will really be suitable for handling an infestation. Here are a few examples of things that won’t work to treat a bed bug problem:

  • Hydrogen peroxide: Like bleach, hydrogen peroxide will kill bed bugs with direct contact. Also like bleach, it will lighten anything you apply it to, so be careful not to spray or pour it on upholstery or clothing. It won’t treat an infestation, but it can be used to kill individual bugs.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Again, it can kill on contact but will do nothing for an infestation. Keep in mind that rubbing alcohol is highly flammable and has a strong smell that shouldn’t be inhaled for any prolonged period of time.
  • Hairspray: Some people claim that hairspray will kill bed bugs. It can, if you successfully get it on an individual bug. Unfortunately, like the other DIY methods, it won’t do anything for a colony of bed bugs camping out in your bedroom.
  • Household pesticides: Typical household pesticides contain pyrethroid or pyrethrin, which is often touted to kill bed bugs. Today’s bed bugs are often resistant to these chemicals, however. In addition, they’re not always safe to use around humans or pets. 

What Can I Do to Kill Bed Bugs?

There are some things you can do that will help control a bed bug infestation even if it won’t completely eliminate it. This is useful if you wake up at night and find bed bugs or if you realize you have a problem on a weekend, when it might be more difficult or more expensive to get a professional exterminator. 

First, remove the sheets and blankets from the beds that are affected. Wash these in hot water (you can actually use some bleach in the water if it’s safe for the fabric) and detergent. You’ll want to dry these on high in the dryer, too.

Vacuum your mattress and all around the bed, including along the baseboards, around the bed frame, and between the mattress and headboard. Think about the tiny areas where bed bugs might be hiding, such as in the mattress seams and on and under the box spring. Do this in every room that might be affected.

Don’t forget that bed bugs can live in other areas of the home, too, including the living room couch, the recliner, and even in and around upholstered kitchen chairs. Vacuum around all of these areas and launder throw pillows and blankets.

If you have a cover that encases the entire mattress, put that on, as it can prevent the bugs that hatch from eggs inside of the mattress from biting you.

Keep in mind that these are temporary measures; to completely eliminate a bed bug problem, you’ll really need to hire a professional.

How Do Professional Exterminators Deal With Bed Bugs?

Is an exterminator really necessary when dealing with bed bugs? Yes, usually. While you can reduce the number of bed bugs on your own, you aren’t likely to be able to eliminate the problem. Professionals know how to deal with these critters in a way that’s safe for you and deadly for them. 

They have a variety of tricks up their sleeves, including:

  • Heat applications
  • Injection of pesticides into crevices
  • Spot treatments
  • Pesticide dust

Some exterminators even have specially trained dogs who can sniff out infestations!

In addition to these measures, they’ll do some of the same things you’re advised to do on your own, like encase your mattress in a cover, vacuum, and clean the bedding. 

Even with professional treatment, it will take a couple of weeks to largely solve the problem, and it will likely take more than one application. In addition, your mattress might need to stay encased for a much longer period of time, as bed bugs trapped inside can live for months without a food source. 

If you follow the self-help methods and also hire an exterminator, it’s likely you’ll be sleeping comfortably within a matter of days and bed bug-free after about two weeks. Finding bed bugs in your home is never fun, but it’s not a lingering problem as long as you act as quickly as possible and remain watchful for any signs of a re-infestation.

Citations and Credits

Featured image by Mike Mozart / Flickr

Article image by Charles Williams / Flickr

Article image by Allen Michael / Flickr

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