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Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs

Just when you thought you could sleep soundly at night, you find a bump on your body. It’s an insect bite: red, itchy, and unattractive to look at. And what’s worse is that it comes from not just any insect, but a bed bug. These creatures live in your home and feed on the blood of humans and animals, hiding in the daytime in cracks and crevices of your furniture and carpet, coming out to find you when you sleep. When it comes to getting rid of them, it’s tricky, as they can be resistant to some pesticides and hard to get in contact with. However, there are many tried and true ways of killing bed bugs, including using alcohol.

How Alcohol Works

Alcohol kills living things in more than one way. Its harsh compounds burn the sensitive skin and exoskeleton of bugs, causing death from trauma. Alcohol is also a dessicant, meaning that it will suck out moisture, and dehydrate the insect to the point of death.

Will bugs die on contact with alcohol?

The short answer is: yes. When you saturate a bug with alcohol, it overwhelms their body and respiratory system quickly – so quickly, in fact, that death results right away. It also works on insects eggs, which is a key step to getting rid of an infestation.

Certain alcohols are toxic to both humans and insects.

If you can see the bed bugs, spray alcohol directly onto them. But be careful with wood alcohol will dissolve varnish and so in high concentrations will ruin the finish on furniture such as a wood table or headboard.

Ammonia is a product used in many cleaning solutions. Something you might not know, is that it can kill insects. If you’re wondering, “Does ammonia kill bed bugs?” then click here.

Using isopropyl alcohol

Is isopropyl alcohol different than other types of alcohol? On a molecular level, isopropyl alcohol is an isomer of propanol with a formula of C3H8O. It’s similar to rubbing alcohol in that it has an -OH group and is toxic and highly flammable.

Isopropyl Rubbing AlcoholYou can buy isopropyl alcohol in any drugstore. Put it into a spray bottle and apply to all surfaces bed bugs may be lurking, including bedding, mattresses, box springs, couches, armchairs, and carpet. If you have wood surfaces, be careful when spraying alcohol, as it is easy to cause damage to it. If you see a bed bug, make sure to spray it directly, as the isopropyl alcohol will kill it on contact.

Different Ways to Mix Alcohol into a Bed Bug Killing Spray

Just like a drink, you can mix different types of alcohol to make an effective bug-killing spray. Except that with these mixtures, you won’t want to taste them, as they’re toxic!

  • Rubbing alcohol and isopropyl: 91% isopropyl alcohol by Hydrox91% rubbing alcohol mixed with isopropyl is a good combination for a bug-killing spray. Even though they are very similar in nature, there’s enough differences that combing the two will give you a little bit of an extra punch.
  • Rubbing alcohol and ethanol: Ethyl Rubbing Alcohol by Well at WalgreensAlthough ethanol is an alcohol safe to drink, you can’t taste it in this spray, as the rubbing alcohol makes it poisonous. Spray directly onto bugs for an instant killing effect, or onto all surfaces to kill eggs and prevent bed bugs from coming around.
Alcohol has a very low water content, and will evaporate quickly and easily. When it evaporates, this causes fumes to be let off in the air, sometimes which can be so strong that it will cause damage to your eyes or respiratory tract. If you’re using a spray with a high-level alcohol content, always make sure there’s adequate circulation.

Some other tips when it comes to using rubbing alcohol sprays for bed bugs:

  • You can spray it all over your body before bed to prevent new bites from bed bugs.
  • Make sure your home is ventilated while you spray, as rubbing alcohol has fumes that can be quite toxic.
  • If you use alcohol in conjunction with something like steam cleaning, it will increase the efficacy and raise your chances of beating your insect invasion.

Are you looking for any kind of household spray for your bed bugs? Just because a product kills germs, it doesn’t mean it will kill bugs. To answer the question, “Does Lysol kill bed bugs?”, go here.

What kinds of alcohol can I use?

There are several different kinds of alcohols out there to use in sprays:

Bottle of alcohol

  • Ethyl: Also known as grain spirits, ethyl alcohol is ingestible and can be bought in a very high 95% proof, although it may be illegal in some states, due to the very high alcohol percentage.
  • Methyl: This substance, known as Methanol, can be bought in hardware stores as paint thinner and antifreeze. It is highly toxic and caustic and should be used very sparingly.
  • Denatured alcohol: This is basically just ethyl alcohol with methyl or other types added to it to make it unsafe to drink, and unable to be taxed as an alcoholic beverage.
Many store-bought insect products use rubbing alcohol.


Rubbing alcohol is created as 70% alcohol and is frequently used in medical settings due to its ability to kill living organisms such as bacteria and fungus. Its properties work to denature cell proteins, killing living cells on a microscopic level. Not only will it kill the germs that might invade a cut or scratch, it will also kill tiny insects like bed bugs.

70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol

Just like Diatomaceous Earth, baking soda is a white powder that can help kill insects. For more information on baking soda for bed bugs, click here.

Homemade Spray

Go out and buy some rubbing alcohol, then pour into a spray bottle. You can dilute with water, or add another alcohol like vodka or denatured. If there’s too many fumes involved, go ahead and dilute some more.

Some examples of rubbing alcohol you can buy include:

  1. Cumberland SWAN,
    70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol by SWAN
  2. MEDIQUE Rubbing Alcohol, Liquid Solution by Cumberland SWAN,
    MEDIQUE 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol by SWAN
  3. Up&Up.
    91% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol by Up&Up
Alcohol can be considered an all-natural solution to pest control, along with things like essential oils and baking soda. In fact, you could even combine these products into another DIY spray: drip essential oils straight into a spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol and spray liberally on all surfaces you might find bed bugs.

How effective is alcohol spray?

The efficacy of an alcohol spray on bed bugs will vary. It depends on the level of your infestation, first of all. If you’ve got a pretty bad one, an alcohol spray might not get rid of them as fast as you’d like.

According to studies, rubbing alcohol sprays have shown to be highly effective in mild to moderate bed bug infestations; in fact, professional extermination services often use these sprays as part of their regimen.

If you’ve got bed bugs, reach for an alcohol spray right away. Not only is it a cheap solution, it’s an effective one that has been proven to work time and time again.