Home Bed Bugs Does Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs? Rubbing, Isopropyl & Percentage

Does Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs? Rubbing, Isopropyl & Percentage

Bed bugs are small insects that cause a lot of discomfort. In an attempt to find the best remedies, reputable sources indicate use of alcohol as method to kill bed bugs. This piece discusses how both rubbing and isopropyl alcohol can be used varying percentages and more.

How & Why does alcohol kill bed bugs?

United States Environmental Protection Agency lists alcohol as one of the registered active ingredients for controlling bed bugs.  Following is how it works.

How does Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?
Rubbing and Isopropyl alcohol

How do bed bugs die with alcohol?

Alcohol kills bed bugs by drying them. In fact, alcohol repels bed bugs making it uncomfortable for them to hide inside your house and lay eggs. Alcohol is found to take advantage of the vulnerability of these insects.

Although bed bugs appear to be very tough insects, they have a very sensitive skin. This explains why they die in no time once they are exposed to alcohol.

For the immediate death of the bed bugs, you will need to spray the alcohol directly on the skin of the bed bugs. The alcohol must as well be in a high concentration.

As much as alcohol is very helpful in getting rid of bed bugs, you must remember to be very cautious.

Alcohol is highly flammable; you are required to inform your neighbors that you are using alcohol to kill bed bugs.  Alcohol is also abrasive on certain fabrics and furniture surfaces.

Why-what properties of alcohol kill the bugs?

Below are the reasons alcohol is able to kill bed bugs;

It has a burning effect

Alcohol has the ability to burn the organs of a bed bug. It is very dangerous to the organs of a bed bug. As soon as alcohol comes into contact with the organs of a bed bug, it gets them scorched and as such messes up the physiology of the insect’s body.

Destabilization of the PH

Alcohol acts both as a base and as an acid. This explains why it causes destabilization of the Ph of the fluids in the bed bug’s body. Generally, the fluid flow in the bed bug’s system is disrupted and the insect eventually dies.

Drying effect

When sprayed on the bed bugs, alcohol causes the insects to be dehydrated. When the system of the bed bug dries up, the bed bug can no longer survive and hence it dies. This property is especially portrayed by the rubbing alcohol.


Rubbing alcohol acts like a repellant. It keeps the bed bugs away once they sense its smell or come into contact with surfaces that have the alcohol. This is however a disadvantage in some cases where the repellant sends the bed bugs to hiding places.

Alcohol is a toxic compound

Bed bugs cannot survive under toxic conditions.  Alcohol when sprayed on the bed bug eggs destroys them making it impossible for them to hatch.

If you kill the bed bugs but leave behind their eggs, you will be doing a non-productive job. According to pest control experts, this is because; the power to completely finish bed bugs in your home lies in destroying the future possibility of multiplication of bed bugs.

Killed bed bugs
Dead bed bugs

What kind of alcohol kills bed bugs-Isopropyl or Rubbing?

Isopropyl alcohol has a molecular formula similar to that of propanol. This alcohol is an isomer of propanol and as such is considered a secondary alcohol.

This type of alcohol is miscible with water; it is colorless, has a strong odor and is flammable. Isopropyl alcohol is used as a solvent.

Rubbing alcohol on the other hand is a type of denatured alcohol. Unlike isopropyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol is a mixture of compounds.  It contains 70-95% ethanol as well as other additives. This type of alcohol is highly poisonous. This is the type of alcohol is used as a beverage. Rubbing alcohol is found to sometimes contain isopropyl alcohol.

Rubbing alcohol is a solvent and that is why it kills the bed bugs by dissolving their cells.

Apart from that, rubbing alcohol is a desiccant and hence can also kill bed bugs by drying them.

Rubbing alcohol repels the bed bugs as well and that way it keeps them away and reduces any chance that they may lay eggs in your house.

You can use 91% alcohol-based sprays, rubbing alcohol and 70% isopropyl alcohol to kill bed bugs. The effectiveness of these remedies varies.

Entomologists advise that isopropyl alcohol should be used in large amounts if you are to succeed in killing the bed bugs using it.

91% rubbing alcohol sprays get rid of bed bugs more effectively as compared to 70% isopropyl sprays. Rubbing alcohol is as such more preferred to the isopropyl sprays even though it may be hard to find.

Percentage- 91% compared to 99-100%

As already mentioned, the strength of the alcohol is very crucial in killing the bed bugs. You cannot just use any type of whisky and think it will kill bed bugs. You require a type of alcohol with a very high percentage ranging between 90% and 100%.

Alcohol with strength of 99-100% is preferred to that with strength of 91%. This is however not to mean that the alcohol at 91% will not work.

It means that, if you choose a type of alcohol with a lower percentage, you must be prepared to use large amounts of that alcohol before you can successfully eliminate all the bed bugs.

Remember, the ease with which alcohol kills the bed bugs increases with increase in its strength.

How to kill bed bugs with alcohol solution/mixture

Preparing an Alcohol mixture to kill Bed Bugs

Since alcohol may sometimes not score hundred percent in killing bed bugs, you may incorporate other ingredients that have been tested for use in laying bed bugs to rest.

The effectiveness of alcohol for bed bugs was put in question in 2013 after a research was carried out in Rutgers University.

The team, led by Changlu Wang, found out that, half of the bedbugs sprayed with rubbing alcohol were still alive after four days.

This put doubt in the effectiveness of alcohol for bed bugs. For this reason, adding other stronger ingredients to alcohol before spraying it will be very helpful. Such ingredients include vinegar as discussed below.

Alcohol and water solution

You can make a mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water to spray on the bed bugs. This may be a way of reducing the effect alcohol will have on fabric and also your furniture finishes.


  • Isopropyl alcohol (99%)
  • Water
  • Spray bottle


  1. Add water to half the spray bottle. Water used on its own is not effective since it may have some bed bugs float in it and survive.
  2. Add isopropyl alcohol in equal amounts so that it fills the spray bottle.
  3. After doing thorough cleaning using a vacuum cleaner, you can now spray the bed bugs. Ensure the solution comes into direct contact with the bed bugs as well as their egg laying surfaces.
  4. You are required to spray regularly or until you can no longer see the signs of the bed bugs.

Mixture with other ingredients other than water

Water is not the only ingredient you can add to alcohol. There are many other home remedies that improve the chances of killing bed bugs using alcohol.

The best combination of home remedies with alcohol is shown in the recipe below.


  • 1 tablespoon alcohol
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
  • ½ cup ordinary witch hazel
  • 10 droplets rosemary oil
  • 20 droplets lavender oil or lemon eucalyptus oil
  • 30 droplets geranium oil
  • 30 droplets citronella oil


  1. Into a spray bottle, add the essential oils.
  2. Add alcohol and shake well to mix.
  3. Add witch hazel and integrate it by jiggling.
  4. When necessary, add ½ tablespoon vegetable glycerin. Although it is optional, you want to add it since it retains the integration of the mixture.
  5. Add vinegar and shake gently to ensure it mixes. Shake the mixture again and again to ensure no ingredient detaches from the solution.
  6. Having used a vacuum cleaner to clean your house and expose available beg bugs, spray them with your mixture. Ensure you target hiding places so that you do not leave behind any eggs or bed bugs alive.

How to use the solution to keep away the bugs

The manner in which you use the solutions prepared using alcohol will determine how well you eliminate the bed bugs. Below are guidelines on things you must do to ensure spraying bed bugs with the solution is successful;

  • The first step to is vacuum your house. You are advised to use a vacuum cleaner. Ensure all areas such as under the beds, and behind all the furniture is covered. Do not leave anything in your drawer or closet. You should not give the bed bugs a chance to hide. Remove the vacuum bag from the cleaner and seal it very well. Dispose it far away from your home.
  • Purchase bottles of rubbing alcohol. You will find the alcohol being sold in gallons in most stores. You need spray bottles since they make it easy to aim the bed bugs from a reasonable distance.
  • Put all the clothes as well as curtains and bedding in one bag and spray them with rubbing alcohol. This ensures that any bed bugs hiding in the clothes die. The alcohol also kills eggs and larvae. You are also advised to soak the clothing in alcohol.
  • Use wipes pre-treated with alcohol to clean the furniture. You must also remember to clean the headboards and box springs if any. To ensure death of all the bedbugs, spray 91% rubbing alcohol all over the furniture and walls in your house. Do not forget to spray the cracks and crevices in your house. They serve as hiding places for the bed bugs, their eggs and larvae. You must also spray your mattress.
  • Sometimes, when the infestation was severe and you are afraid the bed bugs might bite you at night, you may spray yourself with some of the rubbing alcohol so as to keep the bed bugs away. Remember rubbing alcohol is a repellant. Remember not to use fires or smoke cigarettes in areas that are sprayed with alcohol. Remember some types of alcohol are highly flammable.
  • Apart from the discussed ingredients that boost the ability of alcohol to kill bed bugs, experts advise that you should use alcohol together with the steam method of getting rid of bed bugs. This ensures almost 100% deaths of bed bugs.

Alcohol sprays for bed bugs

You can purchase sprays containing alcohol from your nearest sores. By reading the ingredients making up the sprays, it will be possible for you to find the sprays containing either rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. Homemade alcohol sprays are however the best.

Even though you can access sprays containing alcohol, they are highly discouraged when used under no supervision. This is because of their flammable nature.

It is always important to read the instructions and precaution measures outlined on the spray bottle. Before you can think of buying an artificial spray, think of making one at home as home remedies are not only safer but also cheap.

Further Reading