Tackling bed bug infestations is a very distressing task. There are plenty of remedies available online that claim to get rid of these pesky creatures, but most of them fail to produce any significant result. Another option is hiring professional exterminators, but it’s only viable for heavy infestations. The best way to get rid of bed bugs in the early stages of an infestation is through the use of sprays, chemicals, and clever techniques.
Bleach is often hailed as a wonderful remedy to exterminate bed bugs, nymphs, and eggs. But is it worth the effort? Does bleach actually kill bed bugs?
Simply put, yes, but with certain limitations. You see, bed bugs and their eggs are destroyed by bleach only when it comes in direct contact with them. This can be effective for clothes, bedsheets and even carpets, but it’s inefficient for sofas, chairs, and mattresses as there is no practical way of isolating bed bugs living in cushions and foams. Soaking the entire foam in bleach is also a terrible idea, and it will ruin your furniture or mattress.
But this doesn’t mean that you cannot use bleach. There are certain tricks you can try with bleach to successfully and permanently get rid of bed bugs from your home. Let’s look at how bleach works against bed bugs and how you can use it to your advantage.
How Does Bleach Work?
Let’s quickly take a look at all the active ingredients present in your common bleach to figure out why it’s recommended for self-treating bugs.
- Sodium Chloride
- Sodium Hypochlorite
- Sodium Chlorate
- Sodium Carbonate
- Sodium Hydroxide
- Sodium Polyacrylate
Sodium Chloride or table salt is used in laundry detergents, soaps, dishwashing liquids, and bleaches as a stabilizer and is helpful in dehydration. Sodium Hypochlorite is the most important ingredient that takes action against bacteria and dirt.
Other ingredients like Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Chlorite, and Sodium Polyacrylate remove dirt and stains and prevent them from reabsorbing into the cloth as it’s being washed.
Now that you understand how bleach functions and what it’s composed of, let’s dive in and see how it can kill bed bugs.
Bleach combines water and sodium hypochlorite to produce hypochlorous acid. This acid is known for breaking down proteins and inhibiting their functioning. This can immediately destroy the bacteria in our homes, and it works similarly for bed bugs.
A study conducted in Ann Arbor Michigan in 2008 shows that the protein Hsp33 reacts with bleach and stops working. This protein is present in the insect’s cells. As soon as the bleach is absorbed through the chitinous exoskeleton of bed bugs, the reaction initiates and bugs instantly die.
However, as we’ve mentioned before, the bleach has to come in contact with bed bugs for this to work. If the bleach falls off their exoskeleton before being absorbed, the solution would be inefficacious. If the spray has a strong smell or is too forceful, it’ll drive the bed bugs out of your furniture and scatter them to other areas, making the job more hectic. If you use bleach in conjunction with bug sprays, the chances of total elimination increase, but so do the chances of dispersal.
Secondly, bed bug infestations are not to be taken lightly. Treating just one area of your house doesn’t mean that you are safe from bed bugs. These little insects dwell in crevices and cracks of shelves, furniture, and cabinets. They can live in pockets of your old jeans or under your favorite carpet. They can lay eggs in mattresses, baseboards, cushions, and pillows. Since there’s so much area to cover, you’ll end up using way too much bleach, something that can have a serious negative impact on your health.
Potential Hazards of Bleach
Using bleach to eliminate even a small population of bed bugs comes with its downsides and potential hazards. You’re more likely to face an unhealthy and dangerous result than successful extermination.
Since bleach is comprised of industrially produced chemicals and acts as a toxin, it can cause rash and irritation on your skin. The corrosive chemicals, if soaked in your mattress, can cause redness of eyes, irritation in the throat, skin damage and respiratory problems. Constant application of bleach can lead to serious diseases like bronchospasm (tightened air passage and lungs) and blurred vision. If you have a pet, bleach products can have a severe impact on their respiratory and digestive tracts.
Do Bed Bugs Run From Bleach?
Bed bugs can detect the presence of bleach chemicals as soon as it comes in contact with the mattress, crevice or furniture they’re living in. Since they’re not attracted to it, they’ll easily disperse to unaffected areas. Bed bugs can also burrow deep into your mattress where it’s hard for diluted bleach to work. Undiluted bleach may do the job, but it’ll ruin the foam and your mattress no longer be fit for use.
You can definitely seal the room in case of a minor infestation, but in severe cases, repeat treatment using bleach is recommended.
Best Bleaches for Bed Bugs
Clorox Bleach Splash-Less
This is an affordable, easy to use bleach. It’s safe to use for a variety of materials, meaning it’ll get rid of the bed bugs without damaging your furniture and clothes. It’s also free from splashing and gentle on your skin
Clorox 2 Color Safe
This bleach is great for color protection. You can use it while washing your vibrant clothes and party dresses. It also maintains the texture and color of sheets and covers while performing the usual action against bed bugs
Oxiclean Max Force
This is a reasonably priced stick bleach. It has a scrub top, and you can apply it directly in cracks and crevices before sealing them with tape. It’s not good for mattresses, carpets or washing, however.
Preparing Bleach Solution
Before preparing the bleach solution, it’s best to either go outdoors or go to a well-ventilated room with open doors and windows. The solution you’re preparing involves full-strength activated bleach that releases toxic gases that aren’t safe for enclosed spaces or sealed rooms.
It’s also recommended that you wear old shoes and clothes that you don’t mind being damaged. Tie your hair and grab a pair of rubber gloves.
Moving on to the measuring and mixing, a common 1:10 solution requires 1 part bleach per 9 parts water. Adding ½ cup bleach in 4½ cups of water is a good start. These are the proportions for washing everyday clothes.
You should pour the bleach first into a safe jar or spray bottle and then add water. Close the jar and mix this solution by gently flipping it back and forth. If you get bleach on you, rinse the area or wipe with a damp cloth.
Bleach starts evaporating when exposed to sunlight and heat and starts losing its disinfectant power. To make sure the action against bed bugs isn’t lost, you have to make a fresh batch everyday and discard the leftover bleach. Store it in a safe place out of children and pets’ reach. If you don’t want to go through the hassle, buy a mild, diluted bleach solution.
To make a stronger disinfectant solution for bed bugs, you can mix nearly equal amounts of bleach and water. Whatever you do, just don’t mix bleach with other chemicals.
3 Chemicals Bleach Should Never Mix With
Ammonia reacts with bleach and forms chloramine gas, whose fumes can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and pneumonia. It’s a very toxic compound and ammonia on its own is also hazardous.
Acids like vinegar create chlorine gas on reaction with bleach. This kills the strength of bleach, which will fail to do any action against bed bugs. Not just that, chlorine gas is known to cause nausea, vomiting, chest pain and fainting.
Alcohol and bleach react to create chloroform, a compound known for causing fatigue, fainting, and dizziness. Alcohol separately is slightly more useful, which we’ll learn about later in the blog.
How To Use Bleach To Kill Bed Bugs
Before you start bleach treatment for bed bugs, there are some steps you need to take for a safe, more effective and long-lasting extermination.
Install Box Spring and Mattress Covers
Mattresses are the objects most prone to bed bug infestations. These crawlers dwell in your bed and lay thousands of eggs that can hatch within a week. Sounds pretty scary, right? It’s all the more reason to install mattress covers. They’ll lock the bugs along with their nymph and eggs and kill them over time. For mattresses you’ve treated already, they’ll prevent migration from other areas of the house.
Install Bed Bug Traps
You can install these traps under your furniture and bedposts. The traps not only keep you from being bitten at night, but they help in finding the bed bugs’ hideout. This is important knowledge when using bleach, so you know exactly where bed bugs are likely to come in contact with the toxins. Installing the traps and mattress covers together will stop the bugs from reaching you while you’re sound asleep.
You need to use diluted and activated bleach for this to work. Before buying any product, look for the ingredients we’ve talked about earlier in this post. You have to make sure these chemicals come in direct contact with the bed bugs for the method to work.
Here’s a detailed guide on using bleach to get rid of bed bugs:
- Before you start using bleach, clear the infested area from all clutter. Remove everything including boxes, paintings, books, carpet, decoration items, plants, etc. Inspect these items and make sure there aren’t any bugs or eggs present. If the items are inessential, pack and throw them away.
- Clear your wardrobe, drawers, nightstands, and cupboards. Throw away all unnecessary items. Separate the washable items from the pile. Vacuum the non-washable objects and pack them in plastic bags. Tightly seal the bags so bugs cannot crawl out. They’ll suffocate and die.
- Make a solution of detergent, color-safe bleach, and hot water to properly wash your clothes, bags, sheets, and covers. When you’re done, use the highest temperature setting of your dryer to kill any remaining signs of bed bugs. The combination of heat and bleach is a potent killer of bed bugs and their eggs.
- To achieve the best results, dry the washed items at maximum heat for 40-45 minutes and seal them in fresh plastic bags. Store these away in a different location.
- Take a cup of hot water and mix an equal quantity of household bleach. Soak a fresh towel or washcloth in this solution and use it to wipe counters, shelves, and other surfaces. Wear rubber gloves while doing so.
- You can also make this solution in larger quantities to spray on mattresses and box springs. Vacuum properly & let the mattress absorb sunlight for a couple of days. Don’t use the mattress right away.
- Bed bugs also love to hide in crevices, cracks, door frames and headboards. Spray this bleach solution in such hiding places.
- If bleach isn’t suitable for a particular area, you can always use diatomaceous earth. Fill it in the cracks and holes in furniture, doors, windows, etc. Use masking tape to seal these hiding spots.
- Vacuum the living space twice daily for the first couple of days. Then start vacuuming every day without fail.
- Remember to vacuum furniture, carpets, closet and even the drawers in your room. Let the sunlight in through the window. If you have space on your roof or backyard, lay your carpets, cushions, and pillows under direct sunlight. Vacuum the bed frames and headboard too.
- Once your mattress has soaked sunlight for 4-5 days, vacuum it again and seal inside a plastic cover or bed bug enclosure. Don’t remove this cover for 14-15 months. This ensures the death of bed bugs, either by suffocation or starvation.
The Deadly Combo of Heat & Bleach
Have you already bleached, washed and vacuumed everything but still aren’t confident you’ve gotten rid of these annoying little insects, use heat as a tool to complement the bleach remedy. Even professional exterminators agree that heat is a foolproof way of killing adult bed bugs, nymphs, and eggs.
Bed bugs, like all other insects, are cold-blooded i.e their body temperature drops if the surroundings get cold and vice versa. Once they’re exposed to temperatures exceeding 120°F, the catalyzed reactions taking place in their body become unbearable and they die instantly.
Thanks to this, you can zap these bugs easily by placing pillows, blankets, clothing, shoes and stuffed animals in the dryer for half an hour. Heat is the ideal way of killing bed bugs that infest your clothing.
Professional pest control teams use heat as a weapon against bed bugs as well. Their equipment is very powerful and creates enough heat to exterminate bugs from an entire home.
If you have a couple of hundred dollars, you can manage to buy one of these, such as the ZappBug Heater at a decent price of $200. Professional equipment like this combined with bleach spray is an efficacious treatment, but safety needs to be considered. If you’ve never handled machines like this, don’t use them or you may risk your house catching on fire.
If you’re on a low budget, the closest option you have is a hairdryer. Typical hair dryers can reach 130°F, enough to execute bed bugs.
This method is very time-consuming and might require more than one hairdryer depending upon the size of the affected area, but if you team up with your family or friends, tackling this problem will become easier than ever. You can treat sofas, carpets and other surfaces using a hairdryer.
You should only use hair dryers after correctly going through the bleach treatment process. Once you’re done with bleach, let it dry for at least 20-24 hours before you begin with the heating treatment. Their combination will eliminate a manageable bed bug infestation in the first round of treatment. You’ll also end up using fewer chemicals in your home, which is an added bonus.
How To Use Hair Dryer
You should use the hairdryer in a slow, side to side or up-down motion. Make it certain that heat is not confined to just one spot, otherwise, you’ll burn the material. Do not use portable heaters, as you need even heat, not constant heat. Its constant application can scorch the sofa seat or carpet.
Heat is a great option for surfaces that bleach itself isn’t suitable for, like leather couches.
Using Bed Bug Sprays
Bleach treatment works well in case of minor infestations. To dwindle the number of bed bugs before using bleach, bed bug sprays are a smart choice.
One of the best bed bug sprays is Bedlam Plus. It is widely used by pest control companies and provides a non-stain option of bed bug removal.
Bedlam Plus’s formula targets pyrethroid-resistant insects like bed bugs, who are normally unfazed by repellents. You can order this spray online, as it’s not available in stores.
The trick is to use the spray on mattresses, carpets, curtains, door frames, cracks and holes to kill as many bed bugs as possible before continuing with the bleach remedy. Just make sure to read the seller’s guide about materials of different furniture so you don’t end up damaging it.
Other Common Treatments for Bed Bugs
If you want to pair bleach treatment with other strategies, there are many techniques available online that involve the use of essential oils and natural herbs. Note that these aren’t meant for eradicating a whole colony of bed bugs from their roots and their use is limited to lowering the numbers. Once their work is done, heat & bleach treatment will take care of the rest.
Bean Leaves have tiny spines on their epidermis that can impale the bed bugs by sticking to their exoskeleton. The bugs, when trying to free themselves, wriggle around enough to receive wounds and die. Bean leaves are impractical to kill entire infestations, but they can detect where the bugs are. Trapping bugs using bean leaves and applying bleach spray is a smart idea.
Raid has a bed bug spray that’s quite effective against bed bugs, but there are better sprays available on the market like Bedlam Plus. The standard Raid is weak against bed bugs, which are incredibly resilient creatures. You can use Raid if you have a spare bottle, but use it before applying a bleach remedy.
Just like bleach, Lysol kills bed bugs when it comes in direct contact with the bug. Dowsing your entire mattress in Lysol is just an unintelligent choice, and there’s no practical way of gathering bed bugs in a particular area. Lysol is inferior to bleach as it fails to work after drying (and it dries quicker), while the toxins present in bleach have a longer effect. Lysol is an option only to be considered if nothing else works.
Alcohol isn’t the most effective, but it works fine. Alcohol is more of a bed bug repellent than a killer and is only useful if you’re trying to drive bed bugs out of one piece of furniture before sealing it. Using bleach after driving out the bugs ensures extermination. Just note that alcohol doesn’t work for bed bug eggs, so consider it a very temporary solution.
Future Bed Bug Prevention
Bed bugs are a massive issue in the US. Statistics show that 97% of pest control companies have received cases of bed bugs last year and 68% of them agree that they’re the hardest insects to control. So it’s safe to say that reinfestation of bed bugs is fairly common.
To prevent this harrowing infestation from happening again, there are a few measures you could take.
Firstly, once you’ve gotten rid of bed bugs, buy a box spring or mattress cover. They will lock any bugs and eggs left in your bed. The crawlers will eventually suffocate and die. It takes about a year, so look for good quality and permanent cover.
Chances of reinfestation are further reduced if you purchase a new mattress. If you can afford to replace your bed, then go for it. If it’s out of your budget, covers are the next best thing and they can save you a couple of hundred dollars.
Installation of bed bug traps under your bedposts and furniture is another option. It’s good for checking if pests are still present. Bed bug traps also kill any pest that manages to escape from your mattress cover.
You can also use a bleach spray or bed bug spray if you feel like the pest problem isn’t going away. Just carefully open your mattress cover from the side, quickly spray bleach or repellent and seal the mattress again.
Furthermore, you can keep your clothing in tightly sealed bags. Clothes like ballroom gowns and tuxedos aren’t worn every day, so you could place them in separate vacuum-sealed bags and prevent infestation. Any clothing items you aren’t going to wear for the season should be locked away in plastic bags, safe from any pests.
Keep vacuuming your house regularly. Bed bugs, contrary to their name, also hide in carpets and couches. By vacuuming every day, you could ensure that all the eggs and adults are eliminated.
Get rid of clutter. Make sure there are no waste items lying around in bedrooms. The more clutter you have, the more space bed bugs have for hiding. Decluttering is crucial in stopping reinfestation.
If you notice a bug bite on your body, understand that the bugs may have returned. The bites are very itchy and appear in rows. Instead of panicking, nip this issue in the bud. Use the bleach treatment again and install traps to find where the bugs are living.
Now that your home is clean, it’s time to stop these pests from entering the house altogether. Apply silicone or plaster to cracks and crevices you find in the walls, door frames or window sills. Look for holes and tears outside the and seal from both ends. If the light is coming from the roof, your shingles may be damaged. Get them repaired as soon as possible. If you observe light entering from walls, plaster and paint that area.
Bed bugs you pick up unknowingly in public places like cafes, buses and movie theatres can wreak havoc in your home. Always check your hat, coat, shoes, and pockets before entering the house. If you have time, toss the clothes in a dryer at high heat. Wash everyday clothes with a dilute bleach solution.
Bed bugs are pesky crawlers that negatively affect your life. Though they’re not known to carry serious diseases, their bites can make you uneasy and greatly lower the quality of life. Getting rid of them is a hard task, but with the right knowledge and tricks, you can not only exterminate them but prevent future infestations. Bleach, like other strong chemicals, is a good way of killing bed bugs. Though it may be ineffective by itself, using it strategically with heat and other sprays can solve your bed bug problem permanently!