The Good, the Bad, and the Bed Bugly: What to Know About Natural Bed Bug Treatments

Dealing with bed bugs can be daunting. These resilient critters can turn your peaceful abode into a hotbed of sleepless nights and itchy bites. While professional pest control methods are effective, many homeowners opt for natural treatments as a first line of defense. 

This article explores natural bed bug remedies, discussing their efficacy and application. Whether you’re battling an infestation or want to be prepared, continue reading to explore the realm of DIY pest control.

Key Takeaways

  • To control bed bugs temporarily, use rubbing alcohol, tea tree oil, and Vaseline. Note that these methods require direct contact and have limited effectiveness.
  • For a long-term approach, desiccate bed bugs using Borax and baking soda. Remember that direct contact is necessary, and larger infestations may pose challenges.
  • Steam treatment or diatomaceous earth is another effective long-term bed bug control method. These options expose bed bugs to high temperatures or damage their outer shell, leading to dehydration.
  • Combining natural bed bug treatments with professional pest control is the best way to ensure complete eradication.

Do Natural Bed Bug Treatments Work?

Natural control treatments are generally less potent than chemical solutions used by professionals. However, they can reduce or possibly eliminate mild infestations when applied correctly. For example, essential oils like peppermint and neem oil have shown promising results in repelling pests such as ants and mosquitoes. 

Additionally, diatomaceous earth, a natural powder made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, can be used to control crawling insects like bed bugs and cockroaches.

Going further, bed bugs can develop resistance to insecticides, which supports the idea of using natural treatments. Just keep in mind that the effectiveness of natural remedies may vary depending on the chosen treatment method. Some treatments may require multiple applications to achieve the desired results. Nevertheless, knowing a few bed bug facts and incorporating natural solutions into pest control practices can be an effective and environmentally friendly approach.

The Rundown

Let’s look at some of the most popular natural treatments and their application. These remedies have gained attention due to their effectiveness and minimal side effects. So, let’s get started.

1. Vacuuming

What Does It Do?

Vacuuming is a simple and essential step in any bed bug treatment procedure. With its high suction power, the vacuum cleaner can pick up bed bugs, eggs, and exoskeletons from various hiding places, such as mattresses, box springs, bed frames, crevices and crannies, and upholstered furniture. 

This method can also aid in the removal of bed bugs from difficult-to-reach places like baseboards and headboards.

Does It Work?

Yes, vacuuming can be a highly effective method for immediate relief from bed bug problems. However, note that vacuuming alone may not entirely resolve a bed bug infestation, especially in the case of severe infestations. 

The vacuum bag must be carefully sealed and disposed of after each vacuuming session to prevent the bugs from escaping and re-infesting the area.

For optimal results, vacuuming should be combined with other treatment methods such as heat treatment, the use of diatomaceous earth, or professional extermination services.

2. Extreme Heat/Extreme Cold (Freeze, Steam Clean, Wash)

    What Does It Do?

    Extreme heat or extreme cold treatments introduce temperature extremes that bed bugs cannot survive. The freezing method involves placing infested items into a freezer set at a temperature below 0°F for a minimum of four days. 

    Steam cleaning utilizes a steam cleaner to apply high-heat steam directly onto infested areas, killing bed bugs and their eggs. Washing infested linens and clothing in hot water (at least 140°F) and drying them on high heat in a dryer can also exterminate bed bugs.

    Does It Work?

    Yes, extreme heat and extreme cold treatments are effective against bed bugs. Cold treatments can kill many insects, including bed bugs, but it requires maintaining a temperature below 0°F for a prolonged period. 

    While this method can be cost-effective and non-toxic, it may not be suitable for treating large areas or items damaged by freezing.

    Steam cleaning and washing in hot water are both highly effective heat treatments. Steam can penetrate cracks and crevices, killing bed bugs hidden from the naked eye. Washing and drying on high heat can kill bed bugs on clothing and bedding. 

    However, heat treatments should be used with other methods to eliminate an infestation, as heat alone may not reach bugs hidden deep within furniture or walls.

    3. Diatomaceous Earth

      What Does It Do?

      Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a fine powder created from the fossilized remains of minuscule aquatic organisms known as diatoms. When strategically applied to areas infested with bed bugs, DE effectively infiltrates their exoskeleton, leading to their eventual demise as they succumb to dehydration.

      Does It Work?

      Yes, DE is a proven and effective method for eliminating bed bugs. It’s non-toxic to humans and pets, making it a safe home-based option. However, remember that DE works gradually and might not be the best solution for severe infestations. 

      It is best used with other methods for a comprehensive approach to bed bug control. Always use food-grade DE to avoid harmful effects on humans and pets.

      4. Rubbing Alcohol

        What Does It Do?

        Rubbing alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol, works as a solvent and can kill insects by dissolving their cells. When sprayed directly onto bed bugs, such as with a spray bottle, it can dehydrate and eventually kill them. It’s also touted for repelling bugs, potentially preventing further infestations.

        Does It Work?

        While rubbing alcohol can kill bed bugs on contact, its effectiveness depends on directly spraying them, which can be challenging due to their tiny size and ability to hide in crevices. It has no residual effects and won’t continue killing bed bugs after initial contact. 

        Additionally, it’s flammable and can be harmful if misused. Therefore, while it might provide a temporary solution, there are more reliable and safe long-term methods for managing bed bug infestations than rubbing alcohol alone.

        5. Borax

          What Does It Do?

          Borax (i.e., sodium borate) is a naturally occurring mineral commonly used in cleaning products but has potent insecticidal properties. When used in pest control, it is typically spread in areas where bed bugs are likely to travel. 

          The bugs crawl through the powder, which adheres to their exoskeleton and acts as a desiccant, drying them out and leading to dehydration and death.

          Does It Work?

          Yes, Borax can effectively control bed bugs. However, it relies on direct contact and may be less useful for larger infestations. It acts slowly, taking several days to kill bed bugs after contact. 

          Using it alongside other methods for comprehensive bed bug control is best. While generally safe, it is essential to exercise caution when working with Borax, particularly in the presence of children and pets.

          6. Tea Tree Oil

            What Does It Do?

            Tea Tree Oil, pulled from Melaleuca alternifolia leaves, has potent antiseptic and insecticidal qualities. When used in bed bug control, it’s typically diluted with water and sprayed onto areas where bed bugs are suspected to reside. 

            The oil’s strong smell is purported to repel bed bugs. At the same time, its insecticidal properties can kill those with whom it comes into direct contact.

            Does It Work?

            Although Tea Tree Oil (or other oils, like lavender oil) can deter and kill bed bugs, it lacks reliability in fully eradicating infestations. The oil’s strong smell may repel bed bugs, but those hidden in crevices or deep in furniture may remain unaffected. 

            It also lacks residual effect, so bugs not in direct contact won’t be affected. So while it can be part of managing bed bugs, it shouldn’t be relied upon as the sole treatment.

            7. Vaseline

              What Does It Do?

              Vaseline, or petroleum jelly, is a thick, oily substance used in various applications, including skincare and healing minor cuts and burns. In the context of bed bug control, it’s used as a barrier. Bed bugs get trapped in it and cannot move, which prevents them from reaching their food source.

              Does It Work?

              The effectiveness of Vaseline in controlling bed bugs is a subject of debate. While it can trap individual bugs, it’s not a viable solution for a full-blown infestation. Bed bugs can bypass the Vaseline trap by crawling around it or over previously trapped bugs. 

              Also, Vaseline doesn’t kill bed bugs. It merely immobilizes them. Therefore, while it could temporarily reduce bed bug bites, it should not be considered a reliable or long-term solution.

              8. Baking Soda

                What Does It Do?

                Baking soda, a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate, is a versatile household item used for various purposes, including pest control. The theory behind using baking soda for bed bugs is that it can absorb moisture from the bugs’ bodies, dehydrating and eventually killing them. It’s also believed to cut into the bugs’ exoskeleton, further speeding up dehydration.

                Does It Work?

                Limited scientific evidence supports baking soda’s effectiveness in eliminating bed bugs. While it can dehydrate some bugs upon direct contact, its efficacy is questionable, especially in larger infestations. 

                Moreover, baking soda lacks residual effects and should not be solely used to treat bed bug infestations. It may be used as part of a broader pest control strategy.

                When to Seek Out Professional Help

                While DIY methods may offer temporary relief and appear cost-effective, bed bug infestations often necessitate professional intervention for complete eradication. If you have tried multiple home remedies without success or if the infestation continues to grow despite your efforts, it is time to seek professionals at reasonable costs.

                Pest control companies have access to potent pesticides and the expertise to use them safely and effectively. They offer comprehensive solutions that target infestations from different angles, increasing the chances of complete elimination. They can also guide in preventing future infestations, saving time, money, and stress in the long run.