Does Bleach Kill Bed Bugs? A Comprehensive Guide

Finding bed bugs in your home can be a nightmare. These small, flat, parasitic insects come out at night to feed on human blood.

An infestation can happen anywhere and is not a sign of uncleanliness. Getting rid of them quickly is essential before they spread and multiply.

When faced with a bed bug problem, one of the first questions that comes to mind is: Does bleach kill bed bugs?

Bleach is a strong chemical disinfectant and cleaning agent commonly used in households. Its active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, can kill bacteria and viruses. But will it also work against bed bugs and their eggs?

In this article, we’ll explore whether bleach really kills bed bugs or just repels them temporarily.

You’ll also learn alternative, more effective ways to get rid of bed bugs without exposing your family to harsh chemicals.

By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of how to safely use bleach along with more bed bug-killing solutions.

Does Bleach Kill Bed Bugs?

The short answer is yes, bleach can kill bed bugs. However, there are some important points to consider.

Bleach is most effective at killing bed bugs when it directly contacts them. The sodium hypochlorite in bleach can kill bed bugs it touches.

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Bleach solutions between 1-10% concentration have been shown to kill over 95% of bed bugs in lab tests. But weaker mixes were less effective.

In real life, saturating bed bugs and their hiding spots with enough bleach solution is challenging. It does not kill instantly—bed bugs need 10+ minutes of exposure.

While bleach can kill bed bugs with sufficient contact, it provides no residual killing power after application. Areas treated can be quickly reinfested.

Bleach alone will not completely eliminate a bed bug infestation. It must be used carefully as part of a larger treatment approach.

When applied correctly and safely, bleach can kill bed bugs through direct contact. However, it does not kill instantly and has limitations for practical use.

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Does Bleach and Vinegar Kill Bed Bugs?

Does Bleach and Vinegar Kill Bed Bugs?
NO! you should never mix bleach and vinegar as a DIY bed bug treatment. 

Combining these two common household cleaners creates a toxic chlorine gas that can be very dangerous.

When bleach and vinegar interact, the vinegar acidity neutralizes the alkaline bleach, rendering it ineffective against bed bugs.

More critically, mixing bleach and vinegar causes a chemical reaction that gives off chlorine gas.

Chlorine gas is highly toxic and can be deadly if inhaled in high concentrations. Even small amounts can irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory systems.

Bleach should always be used alone and correctly diluted for safe and effective use per label instructions.

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How Does Bleach Kill Bed Bugs?

Bleach contains the active ingredient sodium hypochlorite, which dissolves the waxy outer layer of a bed bug’s exoskeleton. This causes dehydration and eventual death.

Sodium hypochlorite also damages bed bugs’ cells and interferes with their body tissues once it penetrates their shells. The chemical nature of bleach disrupts their cellular biology.

At optimal diluted concentrations of 1-10%, bleach can penetrate bed bugs’ bodies quickly and prove fatal with 10+ minutes of exposure. It leads to poisoning and failures of bodily functions.

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Does Bleach Kill Bed Bug Eggs?

Bed bug eggs have a thick outer chorion shell that helps protect the embryos inside from chemicals. This makes them harder to kill than adult bed bugs.

The shell limits bleach’s ability to penetrate eggs and damage the developing nymphs within. Multiple bleach applications may be needed to fully penetrate the shell.

Newly laid eggs are most susceptible. However older eggs are more resistant, and some eggs may survive standard bleaching.

Combining it with steam, rubbing alcohol, or insecticidal dust is recommended.

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Does Bleach Kill Bed Bugs in Laundry?

Using bleach in laundry might offer temporary relief from bed bugs on fabrics, but its effectiveness is constrained.

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While it can kill some bed bugs present in the laundry, it might not reach bugs that are deeply embedded in the folds of clothing or fabrics.

Bed bug eggs are also more likely to survive the laundry process, further limiting the impact of bleach.

Therefore, using bleach in laundry is not a reliable method for complete bed bug eradication.

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How to Use Bleach to Kill Bed Bugs

If you’re considering using bleach as part of your bed bug control strategy, it’s essential to approach the process with caution and follow proper guidelines.

Here are some step-by-step tips on how to use bleach to address bed bug infestations.

How to Use Bleach to Kill Bed Bugs

Prepare the Bleach Solution

  • Before you start, ensure your safety by wearing appropriate protective gear. Put on gloves, and a mask to prevent any direct contact with bleach and its fumes.
  • Carefully follow the label instructions for diluting bleach. A 10% solution is optimal for bed bugs.
  • Only use plain unscented bleach with an EPA-registered label.

Treat Infested Surfaces

  • Locate the areas affected by bed bugs. Pay attention to crevices, cracks, and other hiding spots.
  • Using a spray bottle, apply the diluted bleach solution directly onto the bed bugs you can see.
  • Ensure the area dries completely before reoccupying.

Soak Bedding and Clothes

  • For bedding and clothes that have come into contact with bed bugs, consider soaking them in a solution of diluted bleach.
  • This can help kill any bed bugs present on the fabric. After soaking wash and dry the items on the hottest settings allowed.
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Does Bleach Repel Bed Bugs?

Unfortunately, bleach does not effectively repel bed bugs for ongoing protection.

While it can kill bed bugs through direct contact, it does not provide any residual repellent effects after application.

Bleach lacks long-term fumigation or vapor activity. Once surfaces are dry, the sodium hypochlorite residues have no lasting impact against bed bugs.

They will not be prevented from re-infesting treated areas.

The chlorine scent from bleach dissipates as soon as it dries. Any bed bugs that were not directly contacted by the liquid bleach itself will not be repelled after application.

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The Risks of Using Bleach to Kill Bed Bugs

While bleach can kill bed bugs, there are some dangers with using it that you should be aware of.

The Risks of Using Bleach to Kill Bed Bugs

Health and Safety Risks

  • The fumes can irritate eyes, skin, and respiratory systems, especially with extensive use in confined, poorly ventilated rooms.
  • For those with asthma or sensitive airways, the fumes may trigger asthma attacks.
  • Bleach can also cause skin and eye burns if the concentrated liquid comes into direct contact with the skin or eyes.

Property Damage Risks

  • There is a risk of property damage if bleach is not used properly.
  • Bleach could discolor or degrade surfaces if not fully rinsed off after application.
  • It’s a good idea to test bleach on a small, discreet area first before treating larger areas.
  • Never mix bleach with flammable chemicals like rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, as toxic chemical reactions releasing hazardous fumes can occur.

Environmental Risks

  • Bleach can be harmful to the environment if allowed to enter waterways due to its high alkalinity.

Unpleasant Smell

  • Bleach has a harsh, offensive odor that many find unpleasant.
  • The smell can linger in treated rooms even after application.
  • Properly ventilating areas after bleaching helps clear the unwanted odor more quickly.
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Other Ways to Kill Bed Bugs Without Using Bleach

Recognizing the limitations and potential risks of using bleach, it’s wise to explore alternative methods for effectively tackling bed bug infestations.

Here are some safer and more reliable approaches to consider.

Heat Treatment

  • Bed bugs are sensitive to high temperatures.
  • Using heat treatment, such as steam cleaners or professional-grade heat chambers, can effectively eliminate bed bugs and their eggs.
  • Exposing infested items to temperatures above 120°F (49°C) for an extended period can ensure thorough eradication.

Steam Cleaning

  • High steam temperatures immediately kill bed bugs on contact.

Mattress Encasements

  • These covers trap any existing bed bugs inside and prevent new infestations from taking root.
  • Leave encasements on for at least 1 year until all bugs inside have died.

Diatomaceous Earth

  • Diatomaceous earth is a natural powder that can be applied in cracks, crevices, and other hiding spots.
  • It damages bed bugs’ exoskeletons, leading to their dehydration and eventual death.

Vacuuming

  • Regular vacuuming of infested areas, including seams, crevices, and carpets, can physically remove bed bugs.
  • Be sure to immediately dispose of the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag to prevent re-infestation.

Professional Pest Control

  • Consulting a professional pest control service with expertise in bed bug eradication can provide a thorough and effective solution.
  • Professionals have access to a range of methods and tools for comprehensive bed bug control.
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Final Thoughts

Bleach can be an effective tool against bed bugs, but only if used properly as part of an integrated pest management approach.

Bleach can kill bed bugs and eggs through direct contact. However, it does not kill them instantly.

There are also risks with using bleach, including health hazards from fumes and potential property damage if surfaces aren’t rinsed well.

But bleach does have benefits when applied carefully and by trained professionals in combination with other solutions.

But expecting bleach alone to solve a widespread infestation is unrealistic. An integrated pest management approach that combines thorough inspection, prevention, and least-toxic control methods gives the best chance of eradicating bed bugs once and for all.

FAQs

Can Bleach kill bed bugs?

Yes, bleach can kill bed bugs on direct contact due to its disinfectant properties. However, its effectiveness is limited, and it might not reach all hiding spots.

Can bed bug eggs survive bleach?

Bed bug eggs are more resilient. While bleach might have some impact, it’s unlikely to consistently destroy all eggs, especially those well-hidden.

How do bed bugs react to bleach?

Bed bugs might avoid bleach-sprayed areas due to its strong odor. However, their survival instincts drive them to find new hiding spots, often leading to reinfestation.

How fast does bleach kill bed bugs?

Bleach’s effects on bed bugs are relatively quick. It can lead to their death on direct contact within minutes to hours.

Does the smell of bleach attract bed bugs?

No, the smell of bleach doesn’t attract bed bugs. In fact, its strong odor might repel them temporarily.

Is It safe to spray bleach on a mattress?

Spraying bleach on a mattress is not recommended. Bleach can damage fabrics and pose health risks due to its fumes.

Resources – (for further reading)

Stanford Environmental Health & Safety – Sodium Hypochlorite (Bleach)

UC IPM – Bed Bug Management Guidelines

I'm Ernest M Noah, the founder of BugsTips.com. I have years of experience as an exterminator in Texas and Idaho, and I'm passionate about educating people on how to deal with pest problems effectively and safely.