Melody is a volunteer for the Center for Disease and Control Prevention. She enjoys sharing her personal experience with others.
Does Vinegar Kill Bed Bugs?
Yes, spraying vinegar directly on bed bugs can kill them because vinegar is a strong acetic acid that can disrupt an insect's nervous system. While this home remedy is safe and effective, it is not a standalone treatment, meaning you won't be able to eradicate a bed bug infestation with vinegar alone. Use vinegar as a natural ingredient to get rid of and even ward against bed bugs until you can come up with a long-lasting solution.
How to Make and Use a Homemade Vinegar Bed Bug Spray
Homemade vinegar remedies for bed bugs are not pesticides, but they are much safer and will work during an early infestation. Here's how to make a vinegar bed bug spray:
- Purchase white vinegar such as the Heinz Distilled, Walmart, or Kroger Brand.
- Fill an empty spray bottle with vinegar. You can use ULINE bottles, UPC bottles, or something from your local Dollar Tree. Tighten the lid securely.
- Soak the perimeter around the infested area with vinegar, including cracks and crevices in the walls and tight spaces underneath and between furniture. This way, when you spray the bed bugs, they will scatter into areas soaked with vinegar and die there.
- Spray the vinegar directly onto bed bugs to kill them on contact or send them running into nearby areas you just treated with vinegar.
- To prevent further infestation, soak all infested surfaces, including window sills, walls, furnishings, mattresses, and carpets. Spray the surface as well as the corners and undersides. You would need to do this every week for several weeks to see a reduction in bed bugs.
NEVER mix vinegar with bleach. This will cause toxic chlorine gas that can harm your health.
Pros and Cons of Using Vinegar on Bed Bugs
Can be used for short-term relief. The acidic content of vinegar is strong enough to disrupt their nervous systems.
The smell is terrible and long-lasting.
It is cheap and available almost everywhere.
You might not kill bed bugs completely but only push them into hiding.
This method is very safe. You can spray as much as you need and no one will get harmed like they would with toxic chemical sprays.
Some furniture could be damaged due to the low pH of vinegar.
It is safe to use in homes with children, dogs, and cats.
It will have little effect when there is a major infestation.
May have a toxic effect on some reptilian pets.
Read the comments section below to see results other readers have seen. The majority of readers agree that vinegar isn't as powerful as Hot Shot (which I've reviewed), Bed Bug Bully, or JT Eaton, but it's an effective, albeit slow way, of killing bed bugs over time. If you are waiting for a pest control professional to come treat your home or for bug spray to arrive in the mail, vinegar will buy you some time.
The Results of My Experiment Using Vinegar on Bed Bugs
I obtained a couch from someone with a bed bug problem, and a man with a barn was kind enough to let me do my vinegar experiment there. Here is what I did, and these are the results of that experiment:
- We used a 100% solution of pure white vinegar. We filled spray bottles and soaked every inch of the couch. Then we used paper towels to wipe up the excess vinegar and dead bed bugs. This won't work if you can't get every crack, crevice, and surface. (Remember to wear gloves and avoid touching bed bugs because they are stinky, and they may seep blood when they're dead.)
- This took three people four hours, but the results were promising. We observed only one small bed bug a week later. We missed the eggs, however. Vinegar has nearly no residual effect and does not work on eggs.
- We learned that in order for this to work as the sole treatment, you will need to use gallons of vinegar and reapply every five days, which is not practical because it wreaks.
- We also observed bed bugs running away from the couch. One way to kill these bugs after they scatter is to soak the perimeter of the object you are about to spray with vinegar before. Spray around baseboards and windows. Takedown curtains and wash them. Spray your TV stand and bookcases. Finally, spray the infested item last. This way, when they try to run, they are going to run into more vinegar.
Conclusion: Using vinegar is not a good long-term solution for bed bugs. I understand that some people have no other choice but to use this method, but I recommend you do whatever it takes to come up with the funds for professional help. Remember, you are not alone. Do not be ashamed and try to hide an infestation. Face it, and do whatever it takes to eliminate the bed bugs.
Other Natural Ways to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
There are several other natural DIY ways to get rid of bed bugs without an exterminator, and below are just some of the methods that have worked for other people.
- Use caulk to seal cracks: Bed bugs live deep inside walls, so sealing with caulk denies them an easy place to hide, and it will prevent them from coming into your home via spaces in the walls.
- Vacuum: Vacuum everything. Bed bugs tend to hide under furniture and lay their eggs on hard surfaces with crevices in them. Vacuuming up the eggs and the bed bugs themselves will significantly reduce their numbers.
- Clean your entire house!: Bed bugs are attracted to clutter, warmth, and carbon dioxide, so de-clutter the room by removing unnecessary items and putting things away neatly.
- High Heat: Bed bugs love to cozy up and hide in fabrics but will die when exposed to high heat, so throw all fabric items (i.e. sheets, pillows, rugs, curtains, stuffed animals, etc.) into the washer and wash on the highest heat setting. This will kill them immediately. Some people swear by using steamers to effectively get rid of bed bugs.
- Use diatomaceous earth: For items, you can't toss into the washing machine, use D.E. Diatomaceous earth kills bed bugs by tearing through their bodies. Sprinkle your mattress, soft furniture, and carpet with diatomaceous earth, leave it for a few hours or even a day, and then vacuum it all up.
- Spray with alcohol: Like vinegar, rubbing alcohol can kill bed bugs on contact. It is a stronger chemical though and is not healthy for humans when inhaled.
How to Treat Bed Bug Bites
Use Apple Cider Vinegar
While white vinegar works better as a bed bug repellant, apple cider vinegar is what you should use to treat the bites. Most people report intense itching after being bitten, but the low pH in white vinegar is too abrasive to treat the itching. ACV is milder and has antiseptic, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties.
- Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
- Walmart Great Value Apple Cider Vinegar
- VitaCoast Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
- Trader Joe's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is all-natural and healthy. An apple a day will keep the doctor away, and applying this type of vinegar will keep the itching away. The best way to use this anti-itching treatment is to apply the ACV to a cotton ball and apply it directly to the bite.
Other Natural Remedies to Stop Itching:
- Witch hazel
- Juniper berries
- Oatmeal paste
- Green tea bags
- Aloe vera
- Tea tree oil
For Severe Bed Bug Infestations
Give vinegar a try, but just remember that heavy infestations will need a professional. This solution works best for infestations that are caught early. If you have a severe infestation this is likely not the solution for you. With the aftermath of self-isolation, bed bugs may be quicker to become a problem. Don't be afraid to call your local exterminator right away.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Will Witch hazel help repel bed bugs?
Answer: Yes, Witch Hazel would have a repellent effect on bed bugs. The one issue with using it is that most of the witch hazel sold in drug stores is diluted and contains far less of its active ingredients. If you want to use it for bed bugs, you would have to find a more concentrated version than most stores sell.
Question: Where does the adult bed bug hide?
Answer: Adult bed bugs can hide anywhere. The most common place to find them is around the head of your bed, under the mattress and in the frame. Even though adult bed bugs are larger than nymphs, they have the ability to become quite flat and squeeze into the smallest of places.
Question: Do bed bugs just sit on your bed in the daylight and not move?
Answer: Yes. Bed bugs can sit on your bed in the day-light and sit perfectly still. Bed bugs are nocturnal by nature, but they are not limited to staying in the dark. They may be very much like vampires, but direct sunlight does not harm them.
There might be a reason the bugs are coming out in the day. Sometimes it is because of your sleeping habit. Bed bugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide we breath out. If you spend a lot of daylight hours in bed, it could influence the bed bugs feeding hours.
Question: When it comes to bed bugs, is it worse to sleep in a warm room?
Answer: Theoretically, yes it is worse to sleep in a warm room with regards to bed bugs. However, the nominal temperature degrees would make it impractical to sleep in a room cold enough to slow bed bug reproduction 3 nil. You would see very little difference and your bed bug symptoms by trying to control it through monitoring your bedrooms temperature.
Instead of focusing on the temperature of your room, try to think and terms of complete bed bug eradication. Just know that you need to beat the Heat if you want to prevent bed bugs from being in a temperature which speeds bed bug reproduction.
Question: Does heat get rid of bed bugs?
Answer: Heat needs to be 118 F for 20 min to kill bed bugs. While home heating might not make them dry up or run, the hotter the home, the slower they will breed. Home heat is not a solution for bed bugs. Some companies specialize in heat treatments for bed bugs. Drying items on high heat in a dryer on its highest heat for an hour is usually sufficient to kill bed bugs.
Question: I noticed you mentioned Hot Shot to get rid of bed bugs. I tried spraying everything then setting off three bombs then spraying again. In my opinion, it does not work. Did it work for you or does it not do as advertised?
Answer: It does work for many people. However, if the main ingredient in Hot Shot has been used a lot where you live, it is likely that the bed bugs have grown immune to it. Hot Shot would need to change their formula or offer other bed bug products with other active ingredients to solve this problem. If Hot Shot doesn't work for you then you need a pesticide that uses a different active ingredient to kill your bed bugs. Bed bugs can grow immunities to pesticides quickly, this causes a lot of problems for consumers. It isn't easy knowing what pesticides your bed bugs might be immune to.
Question: You mentioned alcohol to get rid of bed bugs. Are you speaking of white rubbing alcohol? I was told bed bugs hate the green, but it makes them run and doesn't kill them.
Answer: Yes. I recommend using the strongest clear rubbing alcohol. While some people report success with the 70% variety, I think the best results come when using the 90% + type.
The green rubbing alcohol has menthol or wintergreen additives. This might make them run but usually indicates less alcohol. This makes it less effective than the clear.
Question: Do you leave your central air unit on when using a bed bug fogger?
Answer: In my opinion, I would turn off your central air unit while using the fogger. You don't want to risk spreading the chemical to other areas of the house that may not need it. It isn't as common for bed bugs or fleas to inhabit these systems, but if your infestation is that deep then forgo the fogger and get a professional pest control company. If your just asking for safety issues, then go ahead and turn it off.
© 2014 Melody Collins
Bolaji on August 26, 2020:
Pls what can I use to kill bed bug and I had that baking and kerosene kill it pls tell me how to mix it and the ingredients for it
erika loberatein on August 15, 2020:
It's WAR! do all the above the alcohol as well citric acid disolved in water to create a spray seems to help on furniture and carpet keep vacumimg and try a really hot steam cleaner on furniture too. bed bug spray for beds and matress covers or alike after spraying them down. Say Bye Bugs is said to really work natural and online. Cedar and Lavender 100 percent oils mixed with water helps
Ed on May 19, 2020:
Do you get scared of them?
Mo on May 11, 2020:
I have bed bugs on my couch beds and bedding i started using tea tree oil mixed with lavender essence oil and sta soft lavender and little dettol Liquid mixed with water.i put it in a spray bottle applied it on all the places but as for the beddings the are still the i washes them so many times its still in the blankets in the other places its made a very big difference as from what it was to what it is. So im gona take the beddings to the laundry maybe that should be a better option
Elijah on March 19, 2020:
I just tested out if vinegar kills them and it doesnt it slowed them down and like it said in the article it disables them for a bit but the get right back up
tim bolton on January 13, 2020:
i spray alot for bed bugs using vinegar.i do not have an infestation at home,but alot of people come to my work looking for b.b stuff and after they leave and i get home i spray all my clothes that i wore,i spray inside my house everywhere this might make me paranoid.but i sleep at night. p,s,i even spray my whole body too before showering the little buggers hate the stuff i use 4 monks vinegar
Cheryl on September 03, 2019:
I was wondering if you mix alcohol and vinegar together, it should work right? I mean the smell is not that toxic and the alcohol kills the bugs on contact as does the vinegar but the alcohol kills the eggs and the larvae so wouldnt that be a win win situation?
tony faro on August 23, 2019:
I've read that boric acid kills bed bugs and that baking soda also kills them. does anyone have any experiece using either?
K Bergin on August 10, 2019:
Another remedy for bedbugs. I live in a 50 unit apt building so far I've been one of the fortunate ones who have not gotten the creepy little bugs. I use industrial strength Clorox with peroxide. I works on house and garden infestations by killing the eggs and larvae. I thought maybe it would burn the feet of the adult bugs. I spray it around my doorway and coat the threshold as well. Both of my neighbors were infected but so far so good.
Gary from New York City on July 28, 2019:
I'm going to prepare for a professional exterminator, meanwhile I've got everything to keep them at Bay and I found a good with natural ingredients
Louise lannear on April 14, 2019:
We have had bed bugs for a bite and have tried everything and cant get rid of them we never had them before. Can someone help us? Does anyone know a pestticide control thats not expensive to come spray i need the help now before it gets out of control
cathy on April 10, 2019:
we 've had bed bugs for a while an tried different things like floor cleaner mixed a little water, sea salt under the cushions an around the edges of it, bleach with a little water in it, an vinegar with a little water in it, so hopefully one of the things on this site will work an we can get ride of the rest of the buggers
LaceyKole on March 11, 2019:
Great article, very informative! I itould also like to thank you for actually testing the vinegar out and posting results. I never want to chance whether or not whatever I am using works or not. With these kind of bugs I would hate to be wrong during an attempt to eradicate.
Now, for my main reason in leaving a comment. I just wanted to throw some cautionary stuff on the table real quick. With the rubbing alcohol I would like to remind everyone that the VAPERS are highly FLAMMABLE. I use alcohol with my infestation too, works very well AND is cheap enough. However, I am selective about where and how much to use in order to prevent fires from happening. I also ventilate the rooms and I wear a TB (N95) mask to help lessen any inhalation.
My second safety point is similar. On the DE, use this sparingly, it does not take a real large amount. In fact, these smarty pant bed bugs will go AROUND the amount piled on. I have also employed this tactic to rid my room of them. It works very well and lasts for many years if undisturbed. I placed it around the perimeter of my bedroom and it didnt take but 2-3 days before I noticed bugs that appeared near death. Then i simply snatched them up using duct tape (Ive had them get off clear tape but not duct tape) because even their movements were slowed down. You will absolutely want a TB mask (NOT a dust mask) on during this powder application, though nontoxic, you still do not want to breathe a lot of this in, if any at all. This stuff is so fine that it lingers in the air for quite some time. For this reason, I would NOT recommend treating your mattress or any soft furniture with it. Every time you move the slightest bit....the powder will be airborne again.Just not worth a trip to an ER. Cover as much skin as possible because this stuff is EXTREMLY drying to our skin and eyes. I can not emphasize this enough.
My best of wishes to all!
Liz on January 29, 2019:
I put one in a sealed container and it lived for 2 1/2 weeks
Richard Johnson on January 24, 2019:
Wash clothes with 20 Mule Team Borax
Becka on December 05, 2018:
Hey i have bed bugs and i cant use the bug spray as i have a 3 week old nephew and im just wondering if theres any other good methods i can use to get rido rid of them for good please thanks.
Sandra C on November 02, 2018:
My sibling and cousin has bed bugs. We have started seeing them at my moms. They love AB+ blood but I use just straight rubbing alcohol to spray everything and they have dropped tremendously. Went from several a night to a couple if any.
Tina cramer on October 31, 2018:
Does vinegar water kill bed bug an flee
RussellFry on October 13, 2018:
Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge on how to kill stuff while not killing mother earth...
Brad on October 11, 2018:
Well I put 10 bed bugs in an empty water bottle over night, they we all dead in less then 12 hours.
Jack on August 12, 2018:
We were using essential oils mixed with cheap carrier oils but it got too expensive, i.e. lavender or lemon grass oil mixed with olive or coconut oil. It was working. However we have found a much cheaper (although not as nice smelling) option. Mix white vinegar with the carrier oil. This way it stays on task for at least a week. We're working our way through a very infested old 5 bedroom home.
HelperMan on January 13, 2018:
Katie, that's because they are small and require very little air, they will die eventually but that's because of the lack of blood and not air. If it was, say a rat, then it would die in almost a day as it uses up way more air than the bedbugs.
katie on December 24, 2017:
I caught some bedbugs put them in a sealed
jar they have been there 6 days with no air and they are not
NoraHudson on December 09, 2017:
Thank you for sharing this informative blog with us. People who opt of getting rid of bed bugs on their own, this would be more helpful for them. Bed Bugs hitch rides with unsuspecting individuals by hiding in clothing, books, luggage even used furniture. They then disembark at their next breeding location and the whole process can begin again. There are some people who take help of some professionals to get rid of them. One should not let the infestation start. One should consult a Professional pest controller like Pest Control Ridgefield CT from Yale Termite & Pest Elimination Corp or similar which could be found Online for Help. They offer very less amount. One can also check Online and Compare prices and go with what prefers them the Best.
That guy on September 05, 2017:
Also using alcohol works very well it kill on contact plus kills eggs and it is non toxic to animals you can go to the dollar tree and get 15 bottles of isopropyl alcohol and a spray bottle for 16 dollars do not mix with water the stronger the better and soak every nook and cranny also kills roaches spiders ants and all their eggs
Melody Collins (author) from United States on July 12, 2017:
Hulk: While some people have claimed to have success with it. More and more people are complaining about the effectiveness of the product. The problem is that bed bugs can grow immune to chemicals. So the overuse of this product could be its own downfall. Honestly, If I were a Hot Shot executive, I would modify the formula to something the bed bugs are not immune of. In the mean time, I am recommending Temprid SC as an alternative bed bug removal product.
Cheri on March 17, 2017:
REVOLUTION I recommend for pet problems FreeBrrd. It works really well on ear mites.
firsttimer on November 06, 2016:
the best way to get rid of bedbugs is high and i mean extremely high heat. i bought a propane heater put it on for 11 hrs and everything in my bedroom got extremely hot. i used a thermometer and the room reached 180 degrees. i left it on for 11 hrs while i was home to monitor it. the bedbugs were only in my bedroom and i was determined to keep and kill them in here before they spread though out my home. this inexpensive method worked and i can use this heater to continue to heat my home in the winter. the heater cost $100 and the propane $12. If you had to call in a pro quadruple this amount. I cant afford a pro and after much reading on the net on how to rid my home of these unwelcome invaders,, i found this inexpensive yet effective method to work.
So Over This on September 04, 2016:
My family and I had a small(compared to what I've read) but very annoying problem with the bed bugs. After taking all of the clothing, and curtains out of the house and washing them and having a professional company to come and do a treatment. By tge time night fall we got bit worse than we ever had. That is when we tried the vinegar and that is the first time I can honestly we were in control. We've found only 1 cluster of about 5 eggs, 1 bed bug when it first hatched, and 1 fully grown bed bug, and not traces of feces any where. However we could feel them if we did not use the vinegar every 4 or 5 days. We've been dealing with this for about 1 month. I don't see them getting worse....but they aren't getting better. Hot shot bug spray has a flea and bed bug spray. I find that it helps to keep the problem under control. The bed bugs hate the vinegar thats how we actually saw the first hatched bed bug. It couldn't take the vinegar so it landed on the table. That is when we came up with the idea, one will spray the beds with vinegar and some one would spray the floor with the Hot Shot. I'm not sure if it actually works or if it's safe or not, we've decided to fight back.
Freda summars on May 18, 2016:
Honestly have to say the smell of vinegar does not bother me at all, I grew up eating turnip greens with vinegar maybe it's just a southern food
FreeBrrd on April 23, 2016:
The smell of vinegar does not last long. It does not smell worse than commercial cleaners. Everyone reacts differently to pretty much everything. Vinegar is one of the safest and most effective things you can use for many things. It is edible. It is even a cure for several things.
I can't use most commercial cleaning or sanitizing products. Most now have some sort of ethanol in them. Ethanol is a neurotoxin. I am disabled by it. Currently looking for a treatment for a kitten's ear mites. The "safe natural" one that I ordered on Amazon is mostly denatured alcohol which is another name for ethanol. Just opening the bottle kicked my butt. With all of the names used, it is difficult to find something that I can tolerate. Reading the reviews, it seems that many of the cats can not tolerate many of these either. So ear mites are not bed bugs, but I'd bet most things that kill one are likely to kill the other. I am going to put the bedding that I can into a vinegar soak. Probably over night. Than I will wash my normal way with baking soda dissolved in boiling water to wash. Rinsing with vinegar and water. This is how I do all of my laundry. My clothes do not smell of vinegar. I have had people sniff them. I also use vinegar to rinse my hair. I can use conditioner, but many people can not tolerate the scents in most so I use vinegar for them.
jkc133 on March 03, 2016:
Hi, I think vinegar is a wonderful household tool. But please be advised to provide adequate ventilation while spraying with vinegar. I believe I accidentally suffered lung burn from using vinegar in a closed bathroom. I then had a nasty episode of Bronchitis that took weeks to heal!
Dianna Mendez on July 21, 2014:
I am glad I do not have this problem but its good to know what works should one run across it. Funny how vinegar works so well for almost anything, except for this.