Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs

Besides commercial pest control solutions, exterminators approve do-it-yourself remedies like rubbing alcohol.

Pests have developed resistance to your regular pesticides. In this post, I answe this question “does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?”

Facts | Get Rid of | Trapping | Repel | Bait

Simple answer, YES – Rubbing alcohol (91 % isopropyl alcohol), being a solvent, will dissolve the bed bug’s cells. Also, as a drying agent (desiccant), it’ll kill the bugs by drying out their body fluids. Finally, rubbing alcohol produces a strong odour that’ll repel the bed bugs from laying eggs or crawling on treated surfaces. 

Details: How Does Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

Alcohol has similar properties to some pesticides that enhance its ability to kill pests including bed bugs. These include:-

1. Acts as a drying effect (desiccant)

Bed bugs don’t drink regularly, and are therefore prone to dehydration in the face of alcohol.

When alcohol comes into contact with bed bugs, it destroys their thin waxy exoskeleton, which helps them conserve moisture. Once the exoskeleton is weakened, alcohol sucks moisture out of the bed bugs leaving them to die due to dehydration.

Related: Get Rid of Bed Bug Bite Scars

2. Alcohol has a burning effect

The scorching effect of alcohol is very dangerous to the organs of bed bugs. In the presence of alcohol, the organs of a bed bug get scorched to such extents that the insect’s body physiology is messed up.

3. Alcohol destabilizes PH

Alcohol is amphoteric, meaning it can act as both acid and base depending on the reaction. Once in contact with a bed bug, it causes destabilization of the PH of the fluids in its body. This in turn leads a disruption of fluid flow in the bed bug’s system causing the insect to die.

4. Acts as a Repellent

Rubbing alcohol comes in a strong scent, which serves as a repellent for bed bugs. Thus, pests will avoid crawling or laying eggs on surfaces that are sprayed with the substance. For this reason, rubbing alcohol has gained popularity in eradicating bed bugs from the crevices of beddings and furniture. This can be very helpful if you want to keep bed bugs from certain areas, such as the bedroom.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bug Eggs?

We have seen that rubbing alcohol is effective in eradicating bed bugs when used correctly. It either kills on contact or repels bed bugs that escape death. What about their eggs?

Alcohol causes similar desiccating effects on bed bugs eggs as on the bed bugs themselves. This damages and dries the eggs, limiting their ability to hatch successfully. However that takes care of only eggs that come into contact with the substance.

Bed bugs love to lay their eggs in hidden places where rubbing alcohol may not penetrate. In this case, rubbing alcohol is only effective in stopping the bed bugs from returning to live in that place.

Since the eggs were not affected by the substance, they will eventually hatch and get you back to square one. Your house will be full of these blood thirsty parasites once more!

It is thus recommended that you treat our house regularly with rubbing alcohol to be able to get rid of every bed bug. When you kill the adult population, you deny them a chance to breed and lay eggs.

Treat your house soon again after they hatch to deny them a chance to hatch. Such repeated applications can effectively eradicate an entire bed bug population from your house.​ ​

How to Use Alcohol to Kill Bed Bugs (Step By Step)

We are now certain that rubbing alcohol really works. Treating your house with alcohol isopropyl to eliminate bed bugs is simple. Below is a typical guideline to help you achieve maximum results:

Step 1: Mapping

Begin by mapping your home to identify the areas most frequented by bedbugs. These could be underneath the mattresses, inside the gaps of sofa set cushions and between spaces of any wooden furniture in your house. These will be your main targets for treating with rubbing alcohol.

Step 2: Buy rubbing alcohol in large-sized bottles

For more economy, buy rubbing alcohol in large sized bottles. Rubbing alcohol is usually sold in gallons. Then you can fill up empty spray bottles with rubbing alcohol to use throughout the treatment.

Step 3: Vacuum the house

Collect all bed clothing, pillow cases and sheets and put them in plastic trash bags. Spray them liberally with rubbing alcohol and seal them air tight.

This will kill bed bugs and destroy their eggs, preventing them from hatching. If the infestation is very large bag all other items that may possibly harbor bed bugs and spray them with the rubbing alcohol. Be sure not to disturb the bed bugs.

So, it’s advisable not to clean the area first. If you start by cleaning the place, bed bugs will be on the move before you even get a chance to raid them. Remember, your aim here is to get your substance to directly contact as many bed bugs as possible.

Step 4: Wipe electronics and furniture

For electronics and furniture, wipe with clothing that has been pre-treated with the bed bug rubbing alcohol. This will get rid of eggs and larvae that may be scattered over these surfaces.

Step 5: Spray alcohol on all bed bug hot spots

Spray all areas that may be potential hideouts for bed bugs. Always use a spray, rather than pouring. This will not only ensure even distribution of the insecticide but will also minimise waste. Don’t wipe the spray off. Instead, leave it to dry naturally for at least one day

Step 6: Clean up

Allow yourself at least three days before you do a clean-up. Remove all dead bed bugs, eggs, feces and shells. Use a damp cloth to wipe out all the surfaces that came into contact with the rubbing alcohol.


A point to remember! Rubbing alcohol kills on contact. Hence it will be good if you spray directly on the bed bugs. If you spray aimlessly around the house, your bed bug problem might even become worse.

Why? Many bed bugs will escape death and will obviously relocate to different places in the house as they run away from the repellent scent. Some will end up in places that may not have been infested before the raid!

This is why experienced Pest Management Professionals (PMPs) or exterminators don’t like it when homeowners attempt to remove bed bugs on their own.

When you take wrong steps, you end up scattering the insects thus making work of an exterminator more difficult.

Difference between Alcohol & Rubbing Alcohol?

You will find ethanol alcohol in the beer that people drink. When taken in moderate qualities, it causes drunkenness. Excessive consumption can however make people sick or in extreme cases cause death. But ethanol alcohol is not toxic.

On the other hand, rubbing alcohol contains isopropyl alcohol as its main component. It’s very toxic and therefore cannot be consumed by people. That’s why it is mainly used as a disinfectant.

The two types of alcohol differ in their ability to kill bed bugs. Rubbing alcohol is more effective than ethanol alcohol. Even then, alcohol can be mixed in two different ways to make a bed bug killing spray.

  • Rubbing alcohol and ethanol: When rubbing alcohol is added to ethanol, the resulting solution becomes toxic. You can no longer taste the ethanol in the spray. For this spray you will achieve instant killing effects if you spray directly onto the bed bugs or their eggs. The resulting scent will also repel the bugs from that area.
  • Rubbing alcohol and isopropyl: A mixture of isopropyl and 91% rubbing alcohol makes a good spray for killing bed bugs. Though very similar in nature the two exhibit enough differences that make them very effective when combined.

70% Alcohol vs. 91% rubbing Alcohol: What’s Best?

Both 70 % Isopropyl alcohol and 91% alcohol rubbing alcohol can be used effectively to eradicate large bed bug infestations.

Though concentrations lower than 70 % can be used to eradicate other pests, Pest Management Professionals (PMPs) recommend using highly concentrated isopropyl to eradicate bed bugs. Thus, 91 % rubbing alcohol will typically get rid of bed bugs more effectively than 70 % isopropyl.

Main features of 70% alcohol for bed bugs 

  • Relatively cheaper and readily available.
  • Slightly flammable
  • Evaporates easily if bottle is left open

Main features of 91% rubbing alcohol for bed bugs

  • Dries faster due to it lower water quantity
  • Concentration of the alcohol in the spray is not affected by the rate of evaporation
  • It is gentler on some surfaces and fabrics
  • Highly flammable

Alternatives to Rubbing Alcohol for Bed Bugs

The best alternative to rubbing alcohol is tea tree oil. It has the same desiccating effects on bed bugs as rubbing alcohol but with less unpleasant smell.

Just like rubbing alcohol, tea tree oil is capable of destroying cells and drying bed bugs to death. It has a scent which repels bed bugs but nicer to humans. And unlike rubbing alcohol, this oil isn’t a fire risk. Although other essential oils are toxic to life, they are usually not preferred for treating bed bugs.

Other options you may opt for include several of the commercially available sprays, like suspend SC, Aprehend, or those containing DEET. The formulation of these sprays is capable of both killing and repelling bed bugs. They however don’t smell as bad as rubbing alcohol.

Considerations for Rubbing Alcohol

Always read and follow the safety instructions that come every pesticide bottle. In case you’re treating your bed clothing and other linen, be sure to so in well-ventilated area – probably outside.

This substance contains poison. But you can minimize inhaling by using mouth and nose masks. Inhaling too much of the rubbing alcohol spray can cause vomiting and nausea. It can also cause irritation of the mucous membranes, throat and nose. In case of breathing difficulties after cleaning, consult your medical doctor.

Remember that rubbing alcohol is very flammable. So avoid any instances that may ignite fire. Also inform all immediate residents of the building that such a bed bug treatment is going to take place.

Finally, remember that alcohol is abrasive when used on certain fabrics and surfaces. For such surfaces, use alternative pest control methods to get rid of bed bugs.

Wrapping Up

Generally, rubbing alcohol is an effective bed bug treatment among many other options. But have you tried all available bed bug remedies and got meagre or no progress? Or do aim at killing all bed bugs in your home and put preventive measures to avoid re-infestation?

Regardless of the extent of your progress in fighting bed bugs, engaging a professional exterminator would offer a lasting solution for you. Although professional charge a bit high for their services, their pest control strategies take a short time to be effective compared typical do-it-yourself interventions.

Usually, the cost for professional bug treatment is escalated when the bed bugs in your home become resistant to available pesticides. Thus, exterminators have to apply heat treatment and cold treatment procedures to fight the bed bugs. These processes are laborious and expensive.

Therefore it is advisable to engage a professional exterminator if your bed bug situation is severe enough. While many of the available self-treatment strategies may work, they may either take a long time, or could not be effective. It’s better to invest your time and money on professional services than on most do-it-yourself strategies.


  1. Bed Bugs: Clinical Relevance and Control Options – NCBI
  2. Pest Management Strategies for Bed Bugs (Hemiptera: Cimicidae)
  3. Bed Bug Detection: Current Technologies and Future Directions – NCBI

Recent Posts