Bed bugs are more challenging, more resilient, and more elusive than before. The tried and tested ways of getting rid of them no longer work. This calls for unconventional thinking to meet them at their own game.

Bed bugs are more resistant to the prescribed pesticides now than ever. However, do not despair just yet. Rubbing alcohol may be the solution to your bed bug problem at home. This article will guide you on using rubbing alcohol to fight bed bug infestations.

What is rubbing alcohol?

Rubbing alcohol content ranges from isopropyl alcohol or ethanol based liquid. Isopropyl content is the most widely used rubbing alcohol and the one suitable for our purpose. It usually contains an average of 70% to 95% alcohol content. It is used in detergents and antiseptics and kills many pests, including aphids, lice, and bed bugs.

Isopropyl alcohol got the name rubbing alcohol in the early 1920s because of its widespread use in massages. More uses on the skin range from cleaning broken skin, moisturizing the skin, easing muscle aches, and even taking care of that annoying stinking armpits. However, you must be cautious when applying rubbing alcohol to your skin as you also have risk-averse reactions, including burns.

As mentioned earlier, rubbing alcohol can also be used to kill or repel bed bugs. It is no doubt that rubbing alcohol with high alcohol content would work even better on bed bugs. However, there are a lot of arguments on whether even higher alcohol content would work. Scientific research suggests that 70% alcohol content works better than rubbing alcohol with 95% alcohol content. On this, the verdict is pending.

Does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs?

Isopropyl alcohol can kill bed bugs and their eggs. This happens in two ways; it erodes the outer cuticle of bed bugs, leaving them to dehydrate.

Rubbing alcohol can help in your fight against bed bugs if you use it appropriately

Rubbing alcohol also acts as a desiccant, meaning it drys the bed bug. It also has the capability of destroying and drying up bed bug eggs. This means that rubbing alcohol will only work in direct contact with the bed bugs and the eggs.

How to use rubbing alcohol to kill bed bugs

Isopropyl alcohol works in direct contact with bed bugs and their eggs. So you would have to spray it directly onto grooves, crevices bed joints to kill them. To kill bedbugs, follow the procedure:

  1. Mix water and 50-70% alcohol in a spray bottle and shake.
  2. Spray onto cracks, crevices, or any other infested place in your home. Make sure to sprit it until well soaked.
  3. Repeat as often as possible.

Alternatively, you could soak cotton or a swab in alcohol and place it strategically, ensuring that bed bugs get in contact when crossing.

Can ‘rubbing alcohol’ repel bed bugs?

Bed bugs tend to avoid places sprayed or soaked with alcohol. Though the effects do not last for long because of their volatility, they can still help keep bedbugs away from your bed, provided you apply them as often as possible. Take care to keep away from fireplaces, as alcohol is highly flammable.

Can you use rubbing to treat alcohol treat bed bug bites?

If you check out the labels of your average hand sanitizer, they usually contain alcohol. It is because alcohol is known for its antibacterial and anti-virus properties that kill any germs or bacteria on your hands. Bed bug bites typically mean broken skin, even if at a microscopic level. Alcohol helps to keep it clean and prevent it from being septic. You should, however, apply it at a shallow concentration.

Is it safe to use alcohol to kill bed bugs?

Like any other homemade bed bug killer, alcohol has advantages, weaknesses, and dangers. The obvious one is its highly flammable properties, which make it dangerous to apply around open flames. It also may not be as effective as you may have anticipated.

Under no circumstance should isopropyl alcohol be ingested as it harms you and your pets. Rubbing alcohol contains alcohol and additives like biterants. The government enacted a law requiring the addition of additives to rubbing alcohol to discourage people from drinking. It behooves you to be safe.

Do’s and don’ts of using alcohol.

As potent as alcohol is on bed bugs and other pests, it only works on direct contact. Remember that alcohol erodes the outer cuticle of bed bugs to dehydrate it. This means you have to spray the fleeing bed bug directly. As hard as it sounds, even if you get to spray all of them, a study shows that it only has 50% efficacy on bed bugs.

You also have to spray the infestation as often as possible to increase the chances of killing them. The effects of alcohol are not formidable enough to last for days or even hours. Take time every day to spray hot zones like the seams of your mattress, furniture cracks, and crevices. You will have to soak the place enough to achieve the desired effect.

Do not spray near or directly onto flames and combustible materials. Alcohol is highly flammable and quickly evaporates, meaning that fumes could reach a nearby flame or a spark from electronic devices. There are many other DIY alternatives if the infestation is near combustible materials. Silica gel and other powdered options can still safely deliver results.

Do not spray directly onto humans or animal pets. Isopropyl contains a high amount of alcohol with other dangerous additives like bitterants. If inhaled by children, they could have adverse reactions requiring medical treatments. Remember that alcohol evaporates quickly and could go into the eyes, causing irritations.

As tempting as it sounds, do not drink or inhale rubbing alcohol. The alcohol is usually denatured, containing ethyl alcohol and other deadly additives that can kill. Moreover, at 70-90% alcohol, the levels are way too dangerous to be sustained by the human body.

Please do not use it on open wounds, cuts, and burns. If absorbed into the body, it could cause complicated problems. Moreover, while isopropyl kills bacteria, it could also kill the ones responsible for healing, slowing the recovery process. It could even worsen the condition and make the wound septic. It is not worth using it on your bed bug bite. If left alone, the itching will subside within hours, and the swelling will go down. Even better, use it in moderation.

Be careful about using it on delicate or white fabrics on your furniture. Some rubbing alcohols contain color additives that could stain your nice furniture. The alcohol could also have a bleaching effect on specific fabric colors. It would be wise to use it on something other than delicate fabric like wool, rayon, silk, or acetate. The alcohol can also erode soft finishes on your furniture, floor, and tiles.

Final Thoughts

Alcohol can indeed deal a hand in the fight against infestation. Its desiccating properties weaken the bed bug’s outer cuticle leaving it to die under the harsh atmosphere. Rubbing alcohol should, however, be used as a last resort to eliminate bed bugs. It is less effective than other methods and may have adverse effects. We have provided this information for you to make an informed decision.


Is alcohol effective against bed bugs?

Yes. At 50-90% alcohol, rubbing alcohol destroys the outer cuticle of bed bugs on contact and hence leaving them to dehydrate. It also creates desiccating properties, drying the bed bugs and their eggs.

Is alcohol safe to be used at home?

Yes, but only when used in moderation. Aerate the room adequately to ward off the deadly fumes. Please keep it away from flames, pets, electrical appliances, and children.

Are there adverse effects to using alcohol?

The ethyl alcohol in rubbing alcohol can combine with bleach and produce chloroform that shuts down the nervous system, liver, and kidneys. This is not a common occurrence. Using it at safe levels on your furniture and bedding is safe for you.

Can you pour alcohol on bed bugs?

Yes. However, the crevices and cracks that bed bugs inhabit may be challenging to access. It would be best if you used a spray bottle to cover a large area and get these critters good.

Is rubbing alcohol the same as isopropyl alcohol

The components of rubbing alcohol differ in countries like USA and UK. Rubbing alcohol contains a mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water. Isopropyl is only pure alcohol.

Are there other alternatives to rubbing alcohol

Yes. You could opt for essential oils, silica gel, heat treatment, laundering, vacuuming, and generally de-cluttering your environment.