Does Bleach Kill Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are a notorious pest that can infest homes and cause significant nuisance. These small, flat, oval-shaped insects feed on blood and hide in cracks and crevices near sleeping areas. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and anticoagulant that causes small, itchy welts on the skin.

does bleach kill bed bugs

People often turn to household solutions like bleach to control bed bug infestations. But does bleach effectively kill bed bugs? This article takes a comprehensive look at using bleach against bed bugs. We’ll explore if, when, and how bleach can exterminate these pests.

Bleach contains sodium hypochlorite, which can kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi. But insects can be more resistant. Throughout this piece, we’ll analyze bleach’s chemical properties and how they affect bed bugs in various scenarios. We’ll also discuss alternative solutions, proper usage guidelines, safety precautions, real-life experiences, and frequently asked questions. The goal is to provide a complete reference on using bleach against bed bugs.

Let’s examine the central question: does bleach kill bed bugs effectively?

Does Bleach Effectively Kill Bed Bugs?

In short – yes, bleach can kill bed bugs if used correctly. The sodium hypochlorite in bleach dissolves the waxy outer layer of the bed bug’s exoskeleton. This causes dehydration and eventually death.

However, there are some important caveats. Bleach is most effective when bed bugs come into direct contact with it. Their small size and hiding behavior makes this difficult. Bleach also begins to lose disinfecting power quickly as the active ingredients evaporate.

For bleach to work, the solution must directly contact bed bugs or their eggs for an extended period. Lightly spraying surfaces doesn’t provide enough sustained contact. The best results come from thoroughly soaking infested items like bedding in a bleach bath. Used properly, bleach can be 90-100% effective against bed bugs. But incorrect or incomplete application allows bed bugs to survive.

How Long Does It Take for Bleach to Exterminate Bed Bugs?

To fully exterminate bed bugs, bleach must contact the insects for at least 10 minutes. Some experiments have found that lower concentrations of bleach only take 1-2 minutes to kill bed bugs upon contact. But higher concentrations of bleach, above 50%, require the full 10 minutes to penetrate the exoskeleton and internal tissues.

This contact time only kills the bed bugs bleach directly touches. Bed bugs in hiding could take hours or days longer to come into contact with lethal concentrations of bleach left behind in treated areas. Any bed bugs outside the areas where bleach is directly applied may avoid exposure indefinitely.

With thorough application, most bed bugs should die within 24 hours of bleach treatment. But eggs hatch every few days, so repeated applications are needed to catch newly emerged generations. Wait at least 3 days between treatments to ensure baby bed bugs have hatched and will contact the bleach.

Can Bleach Eliminate Bed Bug Eggs?

Bleach can destroy bed bug eggs, but less reliably than killing adult bed bugs. The tough outer shell makes eggs more resistant to chemicals. Sodium hypochlorite can still penetrate eggs over time, but a shorter exposure to live bed bugs often allows some eggs to survive.

Research finds that submerging bed bug eggs in 50-100% concentration bleach for at least 20 minutes consistently kills most eggs. Lower concentrations may only kill 75% or less even after 30 minutes. The penetration time makes it challenging to eliminate eggs on surfaces using spray applications of bleach.

Eggs also survive in hidden cracks and crevices that bleach solutions may not reach. Vacuuming areas thoroughly before bleaching increases effectiveness by removing some eggs. Like adult bed bugs, repeat applications are needed to catch newly hatched eggs and prevent ongoing infestation.

Does Bleach Kill Bed Bugs During Laundry?

Adding bleach to laundry effectively kills bed bugs on infested clothing, bedding, and other washable fabrics. The agitation and prolonged soaking in the bleach solution dissolves the outer wax layer and penetrates eggs. Washing clothes in hot water further helps kill bed bugs through heat exposure.

Use a high-efficiency washer and add 1/2 to 1 cup of bleach for a medium to large load for best results. Wash items for at least 30 minutes on the hottest water setting safe for the fabrics. Then dry on high heat for at least 30 minutes to kill any remaining pests.

Bed bugs can still survive if they don’t directly contact the bleach. Carefully inspect and pretreat clothing by soaking in concentrated bleach before washing. Wash and dry on the hottest settings appropriate for the fabric. Repeated treatments may be needed to eliminate bed bugs hidden in creases and seams.

What Impact Does Bleach Have on Insects, Including Bed Bugs?

As an oxidizing agent, the sodium hypochlorite in bleach disrupts proteins and fats on insect exoskeletons. This allows water loss and penetration to internal tissues. Direct contact with sufficient bleach concentrations will kill most insects, though small sized insects like bed bugs require longer exposure than larger bugs.

Bleach solutions can also produce fumes that irritate insect respiratory systems. However, these fumes dissipate quickly and require very high concentrations to kill insects potentially. Overall, bleach requires direct contact to exterminate most bugs effectively. Some exceptions include mosquito larvae in standing water treated with small amounts of bleach.

How to Properly Utilize Bleach to Eradicate Bed Bugs

To successfully use bleach against bed bugs:

  • Use EPA-registered bleach products intended for disinfection. Look for a 6-10% sodium hypochlorite concentration.
  • Thoroughly clean and vacuum the infested area first to expose bed bugs. Remove clutter and launder washable fabrics.
  • Apply concentrated bleach solution directly to cracks, crevices, seams, and joints where bed bugs hide. Let sit 10+ minutes before wiping.
  • Soak infested mattresses and furniture in bleach water for at least one hour, longer for severe infestations.
  • Add 1/2-1 cup bleach to wash cycles for infested bedding and clothing. Wash and dry on hottest safe settings.
  • Repeat treatment every 3-7 days for at least 3 weeks to kill newly hatched generations. Combine with other methods like encasements.
  • Ensure proper ventilation during application and avoid combining bleach with other household chemicals.

Alternative Solutions to Bleach

While effective, bleach does have downsides when used extensively for bed bug control. Other treatment options include:

  • Professional heat treatments to raise room temperatures lethal to bed bugs.
  • Specialized bed bug foggers, sprays, and dusts with insecticides like pyrethroids.
  • Mattress encasements to trap and starve bed bugs. Diatomaceous earth can also be used with encasements.
  • Steamers or hair dryers to force hot air into cracks and crevices to kill bed bugs.
  • Rubbing alcohol sprayed directly on bed bugs dries out their exoskeleton. But it must contact the bugs directly.
  • Essential oil sprays like tea tree, eucalyptus, or peppermint oil can repel and possibly kill bed bugs.

Combining methods expands reach and prevents bed bugs from developing chemical resistance to any insecticide. But evaluate safety and effectiveness when using alternative solutions.

Will a Combination of Bleach and Vinegar Exterminate Bed Bugs?

Do not mix bleach and vinegar. While vinegar can help repel bed bugs, combining it with bleach creates a toxic chlorine gas.

The acetic acid in vinegar and sodium hypochlorite in bleach undergo a chemical reaction that releases unstable chlorine gas. Exposure to chlorine gas can cause nausea, difficulty breathing, and other dangerous symptoms requiring emergency treatment.

Even in small amounts, the mixture irritates eyes and lungs. Never combine vinegar and bleach, even in diluted solutions. Rely only on application methods that keep them separate and avoid dangerous chemical interactions. For households with both bleach and vinegar, store them far apart.

Does Bleach Kill Bed Bugs on Contact with Clothes, Mattress, or Instantly?

Bleach does not immediately kill bed bugs on contact. A bleach solution takes at least 1-2 minutes of direct exposure to penetrate the outer shell, longer for high concentrations or more resistant life stages like eggs. Any bed bugs that avoid the bleach solution will not be affected.

Spraying bleach on clothes, bedding, or mattresses does not guarantee contacting all bed bugs. The solution must soak into hiding spots like mattress seams and clothing folds where bed bugs congregate. Lightly misted surfaces need 10+ minutes of contact to kill bugs.

Steam, heat, or instant freeze treatments work faster than bleach. But bleach has benefits as a low-cost, widely available treatment method when used properly over time. Combine bleach with aggressive mechanical removal like vacuuming and steaming for quicker bed bug knockdown.

Is Bleach a Permanent Solution for Bed Bugs?

initial application can then survive and reproduce. Newly hatched bed bugs from eggs can also infest areas if all life stages aren’t eliminated.

To prevent ongoing infestations, bleach must be reapplied every 3-7 days for at least 3 weeks. This extended treatment period catches newly hatched generations before they can mature and reproduce. Bleach also can’t prevent new bed bugs from being introduced via luggage, used furniture, etc.

Bleach should be combined with physical removal methods and preventive measures for permanent control. Installing bed bug interceptors under furniture legs provides ongoing monitoring. Mattress and box spring encasements seal in any remaining bed bugs until they eventually die off.

While bleach is an important short-term treatment option, integrated pest management combining multiple techniques provides the best long-term bed bug elimination. It prevents reintroduction and eliminating hiding spots supplements bleach for lasting results.

Safety Precautions When Using Bleach

Bleach can irritate eyes, skin, and lungs, especially at higher concentrations. Take these precautions when using bleach:

  • Wear gloves and eye protection. Long sleeves/pants protect skin from irritation.
  • Work in well-ventilated areas and avoid breathing fumes. Open windows and use fans.
  • Mix bleach with cool water since hot water decomposes the active ingredients.
  • Only use on recommended surfaces like hard plastics, vinyl, and metal. Test on inconspicuous areas first.
  • Rinse surfaces after 10 minute contact time is complete to limit exposure.
  • Contain and isolate treatment areas away from children and pets.
  • Due to chemical reactions, never mix bleach with ammonia, vinegar, or other cleaners.

Storing bleach away from direct sunlight and heat also helps maintain efficacy. Check product labels since bleach concentrations vary. With proper precautions, bleach can be used safely at effective concentrations.

Comparative Analysis of Bleach with Other Substances

Bleach is just one of many substances people use against bed bugs. How does it compare to alternatives like vinegar, alcohol, essential oils, and commercial insecticides?

  • Effectiveness: Bleach reliably kills bed bugs with proper contact, but so do concentrated solutions of vinegar, alcohol, or commercial insecticidal sprays. Essential oils show more variable results.
  • Speed: Steam, heat, and freezing treatments work faster than chemical solutions upon contact. But bleach has a benefit over some slower-acting substances like diatomaceous earth.
  • Scope: Bleach solutions can treat entire rooms and reach many hiding spots. Sprays and dusts may offer better penetration into cracks and crevices.
  • Safety: Commercial insecticides carry more health risks when label directions are followed than diluted bleach solutions. Essential oils are generally low-risk.
  • Cost: A gallon of bleach is just a few dollars, far cheaper than most commercial bed bug products. Vinegar and some essential oils are similarly inexpensive.

Bleach often offers the best affordability, safety, effectiveness, and availability for controlling difficult bed bug infestations. But, integrated approaches provide the best long-term results.

Case Studies and Real-Life Experiences

Bleach has been widely used against bed bugs for decades, with many real-world examples of its applications. Here are some case studies and experiences demonstrating bleach’s capabilities and limitations:

A 1970s study from the University of Minnesota had a 97% bed bug mortality rate using dried bleach residue in simulated hotel room tests. However, bed bugs could still survive if they avoided treated areas.

A pest control company reported that soaking mattresses in bleach solution eliminated bed bug infestations in over 50 customer homes over a 2 year period.

An apartment tenant could eliminate a mild bed bug by soaking luggage, clothes, and other items in diluted bleach, then washing all fabrics in the hottest settings.

A family dealt with a severe bed bug problem for months by spraying bleach solutions alone before hiring professional heat treatments when the infestation persisted.

A mother managed to rid kids’ stuffed animals and toys of bed bugs by soaking in concentrated bleach. She took care to rinse thoroughly afterwards.

One traveller soaked a suitcase for an hour in a bathtub filled with water and bleach after returning from a trip, killing all bed bugs before they reached their home.

While bleach can provide control, complete elimination often needs comprehensive treatment approaches over time. But many attest to bleach’s effectiveness when directly applied to infested items. Always take safety precautions and look for EPA-registered products.

FAQs About Bleach and Bed Bugs

Bleach is a common household product, but effective usage against bed bugs raises many questions. Here are some frequently asked questions with answers:

How much bleach should be mixed to kill bed bugs?

Use a 10:1 water ratio to standard 6% bleach for general spraying. For heavy infestations, a stronger 5:1 ratio may be more effective.

Does bleach kill bed bug eggs?

Yes, but eggs require at least 20 minutes of direct contact due to their tough outer shell. Multiple applications are recommended.

How long after bleaching is it safe to re-enter a room?

Wait at least 15 minutes after application to allow bleach fumes to dissipate. Ventilate the area well.

Can I mix bleach and ammonia to kill bed bugs faster?

No. This creates toxic chlorine and hydrazine gases that can be fatal. Never mix bleach with any other cleaners.

Will bleach staining ruin my mattress or fabrics?

Bleach can damage fabrics, so spot test first. But eliminating bed bugs is typically worth the trade-off of bleached items.


Bleach can effectively control difficult bed bug infestations when used diligently and safely. The low cost and availability of bleach make it a good option compared to costly heat treatments or replacement of infested furniture. Combine bleach with prevention methods like encasements and monitoring devices to provide long-term protection against bed bugs.

While bleach has limitations, its ability to penetrate hiding spots and kill bed bugs on contact makes it a versatile treatment. Learn the techniques to maximize bleach’s effectiveness while minimizing potential risks and damage. With some labor and perseverance, bleach can help gain control of a bed bug problem and provide peace of mind.