Does Vinegar Kill Bed Bugs?

The mere thought of a bed bug infestation makes most homeowners cringe. These tiny pests can quickly multiply and spread throughout your home, leaving itchy welts from their bites. Many are searching for natural household solutions like vinegar to eliminate bed bugs and avoid using harsh chemical pesticides. But does vinegar kill bed bugs effectively?

Does Vinegar Kill Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are oval-shaped, wingless, reddish-brown insects that feed exclusively on blood. They are often active at night when people sleep, emerging from tiny crevices and cracks to bite exposed skin, most commonly on the face, neck, arms and hands. Bed bug bites can cause irritation, welts and discomfort in people.

Vinegar has gained attention as a potential natural bed bug killer due to its acidic properties. White vinegar is often recommended as a chemical-free way to control bed bugs at home. But how well does it work? Let’s analyze the scientific evidence surrounding vinegar and its effectiveness against bed bugs.

Can Vinegar Effectively Kill Bed Bugs?

Vinegar demonstrates some pesticide properties, but its ability to fully eradicate bed bug infestations remains questionable. Here is an overview of vinegar’s effectiveness against bed bugs:

  • Acidity – Vinegar has a 5-20% acetic acid content. This acidity can irritate and even damage bed bugs upon direct contact. However, bed bugs have a protective exoskeleton that shields them.
  • Limited Evidence – Scientific studies analyzing vinegar specifically for bed bugs are limited. Some lab tests found vinegar’s acetic acid content can kill bed bugs with repeated direct contact. However, tests have not confirmed vinegar’s effectiveness in real-world conditions.
  • Insufficient Potency – The acidity levels in vinegar may not be potent enough to penetrate bed bugs’ protective outer coating and kill them. Harsher chemical pesticides are likely more effective.
  • Short-term Effect – Contact with vinegar may kill some bed bugs initially, but it likely will not fully exterminate all bugs and eggs to eliminate an infestation long-term.

So while vinegar displays some pesticide traits, current evidence suggests it may not reliably kill all bed bugs or completely eradicate infestations. Stronger chemical treatments posed by professional exterminators are still the most effective option for bed bug elimination.

Immediate Effects of Vinegar on Bed Bugs

When vinegar directly touches bed bugs, it can irritate and potentially kill some of them quickly. Here’s an overview of vinegar’s immediate effects:

  • Direct contact with undiluted vinegar may kill some bed bugs within minutes. The acetic acid can penetrate their exoskeleton given sufficient exposure time.
  • However, vinegar applied in a diluted form like a spray may take much longer to kill bed bugs. The acidity levels are much lower in diluted vinegar.
  • Vinegar’s acidity immediately irritates and burns bed bugs upon contact. But unless the exposure is prolonged, bed bugs can recover and survive.
  • Egg shells can protect developing bed bugs from vinegar’s acidity. So vinegar applied directly to eggs is unlikely to stop them from hatching.
  • Vinegar’s effects are limited only to the bed bugs it directly contacts. It has no residual killing effects and will not spread to kill bed bugs hiding in crevices and cracks.

So while vinegar can immediately burn and potentially kill some bed bugs with direct contact, it does not work quickly enough or broad enough to eradicate entire infestations reliably. Pesticide sprays with residual effects work better for that level of pest control.

Vinegar for Bed Bugs on Mattresses

Since mattresses are a prime hiding spot for bed bugs, some people use vinegar as a natural treatment. Here’s an overview of using vinegar on mattresses:

  • Undiluted vinegar can be lightly misted onto mattress seams, edges and crevices where bed bugs hide. This targets the bugs directly and utilizes vinegar’s acidity.
  • However, vinegar should never be poured directly onto a mattress, as it can damage and discolor the material. Light misting is sufficient.
  • Allow the vinegar to sit for several hours to maximize exposure time before wiping away any excess liquid.
  • Unfortunately, vinegar applied directly will only kill some bed bugs on contact and cannot kill any eggs. So repeat applications would be required.
  • Lightly misting diluted vinegar can help remove bed bug scent markers from a mattress. But it is far less effective at killing active bed bugs than undiluted vinegar.

Vinegar can be used directly on mattresses as part of a bed bug treatment strategy, but it should not be relied on as the sole solution. In combination with other professional treatments, vinegar may help eliminate bed bugs on mattresses and their eggs.

Permanent Elimination of Bed Bugs with Vinegar

When it comes to permanently eliminating bed bug infestations, vinegar has some significant limitations:

  • Vinegar does not have any residual killing effects after application. So it cannot prevent bed bugs from returning.
  • Vinegar cannot penetrate all the cracks and crevices where bed bugs lay low and deposit eggs. So it cannot eliminate all harborage spots.
  • Any eggs that vinegar does not contact directly will survive and hatch into new bed bug nymphs. This allows the infestation to return.
  • To permanently eliminate them, vinegar would have to make direct contact with every single bed bug and egg in an infestation. This is nearly impossible to accomplish in practice.
  • Professional-grade chemical pesticide sprays that have residual effects for several weeks are far better at long-term bed bug elimination.

So while vinegar may kill some bed bugs on initial contact, it unfortunately cannot provide a permanent solution for complete bed bug eradication. For that, calling an experienced exterminator is recommended.

Types of Vinegar for Killing Bed Bugs

White and apple cider vinegar tend to get used most commonly against bed bugs:

Type of VinegarPros for Bed Bug ControlCons for Bed Bug Control
White Vinegar– Acidity of 5-20%– Lower acidity than other vinegars
– Widely available– Limited killing ability
– Inexpensive– Need repeat applications
Apple Cider Vinegar– Higher acidity at 5-6%– More expensive than white vinegar
– Some what stronger– Strong smell
– Natural and non-toxic– Stains surfaces

Overall, white vinegar appears to be the better choice against bed bugs. It is affordable, accessible and gentle enough not to damage surfaces. However, neither vinegar provides the level of potency needed to eradicate infestations on its own fully.

Vinegar and Baking Soda Mixture

A home remedy gaining popularity is combining vinegar and baking soda into a DIY bed bug-killer solution. Here’s an overview:

  • Baking soda is alkaline and reacts with vinegar’s acidity to create carbon dioxide fizzing. This agitation can further irritate and kill bed bugs.
  • Mix a 50/50 solution of vinegar and baking soda in a spray bottle. Shake aggressively before spraying to activate the combination.
  • Spray onto mattress seams, furniture crevices, baseboards and anywhere bed bugs are found. Keep kids and pets away until dry.
  • This solution has more killing power than vinegar alone. The CO2 bubbles penetrate bed bug shells. But it still may not kill eggs.
  • Baking soda leaves a residue that can help repel bed bugs. But the vinegar smell dissipates quickly, so repeated applications are key.

The vinegar and baking soda approach is low-cost, non-toxic and safe. However, it is still limited in its effectiveness compared to commercial pesticide options. But it can provide some immediate bed bug-killing power when applied directly.

Comparing Vinegar to Other Solutions

How does vinegar stack up against common household bed bug solutions like bleach and salt? Here is a helpful comparison:

SolutionKilling PowerResidual Effect?Safe for Use?Damage Possible?
VinegarLimited, kills graduallyNoYes, if used properlyPotential odor and stains
BleachModerate, kills in minutesNoFumes dangerous if inhaledCan discolor surfaces
Table/Sea SaltVery limitedNoYesMinimal

Key Takeaways:

  • Bleach is more potent than vinegar but cannot provide residual killing power after drying.
  • Salt grains can damage the waxy coating on bed bugs but has negligible effects on eggs.
  • Vinegar is the safest DIY option but still rather limited compared to pesticides.
  • No household solution truly compares to professional pest control regarding eliminating infestations.

So while vinegar and other home remedies have some perks, they do not measure up to commercial-grade pesticides regarding bed bug killing power and thoroughly eliminating infestations. But vinegar remains a fairly safe option in combination with other methods.

How Long Does It Take for Vinegar to Kill Bed Bugs?

Vinegar can take anywhere from minutes to hours to kill bed bugs if applied directly:

  • Undiluted vinegar can kill some bed bugs in as little as 3-5 minutes if thoroughly exposed. The concentrated acid quickly penetrates their protective coating.
  • However, diluted vinegar solutions take much longer, sometimes hours, to kill bed bugs it makes contact with. Lower acidity equals less killing power.
  • Eggs are not impacted by vinegar until they hatch. So, vinegar killing time is irrelevant for eggs.
  • For vinegar to work fastest, apply it directly to exposed bed bugs in a concentrated form. Trapped bed bugs die quickest.
  • Factors like vinegar concentration, amount applied, and exposure time impact how fast bed bugs die. More diluted applications take longer.
  • Killing off a whole infestation with vinegar takes repeated, thorough applications targeting all bugs and eggs. Complete eradication can take weeks or more.

So, while vinegar can start killing some bed bugs in minutes with direct contact, eliminating an entire infestation throughout a home with vinegar alone would likely take an impractical amount of time and effort.

How to Mix Vinegar Properly to Create a Bed Bug-Killing Solution

If using vinegar in a spray application against bed bugs, keep these tips in mind:

  • Start with distilled white vinegar for maximum acidity (typically 5-20%). Apple cider vinegar can also work.
  • Dilute vinegar with an equal amount of water for safety if spraying mattresses. Use undiluted vinegar for wood furniture application.
  • Add a few drops of essential oil like tea tree oil for killing power and scent masking. But avoid oils that stain.
  • Use a spray bottle and lightly mist onto seams, edges and crevices for mattress treatment. Do not saturate.
  • Allow the vinegar solution to dry completely before remaking the bed with sheets to avoid damage and odors.
  • Shake the bottle to distribute the mixture and reapply to surfaces every few days to kill newly emerged bed bugs.
  • Never mix vinegar with bleach or ammonia, as this creates toxic fumes.

A vinegar-based spray can provide supplementary killing power when properly diluted and applied repeatedly when tackling a bed bug issue. But for best results, combine it with professional pest control methods.

Is Vinegar a Good Option for Killing Bed Bugs on Contact?

Vinegar has pros and cons when it comes to killing bed bugs immediately on contact:


  • The acetic acid in vinegar can immediately penetrate and kill bed bugs it directly touches.
  • Vinegar can be sprayed into cracks and crevices where bed bugs harbor to force contact.
  • When confined in an enclosed space, bed bugs suffer extended vinegar exposure.


  • Vinegar does not have any residual killing effects after the liquid dries.
  • Any bed bugs vinegar does not directly touch will survive. There is no transferring effect.
  • Eggs are immune to vinegar’s effects until hatching.

Key Considerations

  • Undiluted vinegar works best for immediate killing power. But only mist, never soak surfaces.
  • Relying solely on vinegar will not eliminate entire infestations. Integrate it with comprehensive monitoring and control.
  • Target vinegar applications at known bed bug hideouts to force direct contact.

With diligent, repeated use directly on bed bug harborages, vinegar can provide some immediate killing power as part of an integrated pest management plan.

How to Make Homemade Bed Bug Spray with Vinegar

Here is a simple homemade bed bug spray recipe using vinegar:


  • 2 cups of distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups of water
  • 20-30 drops of clove, lavender, peppermint or tea tree oil
  • Spray bottle


  1. Fill spray bottle with 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup water.
  2. Add in 10-15 drops of chosen essential oil.
  3. Shake bottle to mix ingredients thoroughly.
  4. Lightly mist onto areas where bed bugs frequent, like mattresses, furniture, floors and walls. Do not saturate.
  5. Allow to dry completely before using furniture or bedding again.
  6. Repeat application every few days for 2-3 weeks to kill newly hatched bed bugs.

This easy vinegar spray offers a chemical-free DIY option to help control bed bugs. For best results, incorporate with other pest management techniques. The oils deter bed bugs while the vinegar kills on contact.

What Can Be Sprayed on a Mattress to Kill Bed Bugs, Including Vinegar?

When treating a mattress for bed bugs, vinegar spray is one option. Here are some others:

  • Vinegar – Misting diluted vinegar directly onto seams and crevices is safe if fully dry.
  • Essential Oils – Oils like tea tree, lavender and eucalyptus make mattresses inhospitable for bed bugs.
  • Rubbing Alcohol – Spritzes of 70% isopropyl alcohol can kill bed bugs on contact. But it may stain fabric.
  • Diatomaceous Earth – The powder’s microscopic edges kill bed bugs but may be abrasive to fabric. Use sparingly.
  • Heat Treatment – Professionally heating infested mattresses to over 115°F kills all bed bugs and eggs.

Key Considerations

  • Test sprays on small hidden sections first to check for damage or stains.
  • Allow all liquid applications to fully dry before remaking bed to avoid odors.
  • Isolate treated mattress with bed bug interceptor traps to prevent reinfestation.
  • Dispose of heavily infested mattresses that pose an ongoing risk.

While vinegar and other home remedies can provide some control, severe mattress infestations often warrant replacement and professional pest control.

What Is the Best Homemade Bed Bug Killer, Including Vinegar-Based Solutions?

When it comes to the best DIY bed bug solutions, a few options stand out:

1. Dry Vapor Steamers

  • Super-heated steam kills bed bugs and eggs on contact.
  • Penetrates fabrics, cracks and crevices.
  • No chemical residues.

2. Vinegar and Essential Oil Sprays

  • Affordable and natural ingredients.
  • Oils deter bed bugs; vinegar kills on contact.
  • Must make repeated contact with bugs.

3. Diatomaceous Earth Dust

  • Powder dries out bed bugs’ exoskeleton.
  • Must remain dry to be effective.
  • Repeated applications required.

4. Encasements

  • Zippered covers isolate infested mattresses and box springs.
  • Bed bugs cannot escape or bite through material.
  • Can be used alongside other treatments.

5. Interceptor Traps

  • Traps under furniture legs catch bed bugs trying to climb on beds.
  • Allows detection and monitoring of infestations.
  • Should be used continuously.

While homemade remedies like vinegar can relieve bed bugs, getting rid of an established infestation requires integrating professional pest control services. Products used by exterminators are much more potent and thorough than DIY solutions. An integrated pest management plan is ideal.

What Kills Bed Bugs Instantly, and How Does Vinegar Fit into That Category?

When it comes to speed, vinegar unfortunately falls short of instantly killing bed bugs:

Solutions That Kill Bed Bugs in Seconds

  • Extreme Heat – Exposure to temperatures over 115°F kills all stages of bed bugs immediately.
  • Freezing Sprays – CO2-powered freezing sprays immobilize and kill bed bugs on contact.
  • Professional Chemical Sprays – Potent exterminator-grade pesticides designed to kill rapidly.

How Vinegar Compares

  • Takes minutes to hours to kill bed bugs through acid burning.
  • Killing times depend on concentration and exposure.
  • Has no residual effects after application.
  • Cannot penetrate eggs or deep harborages.

Key Considerations

  • Vinegar should be combined with faster mechanical killing methods like vacuuming.
  • Rely on professional chemical treatments for rapid, thorough elimination of infestations.
  • Vinegar is a supplemental spray to reach bed bugs in cracks and crevices.

Vinegar can help control bed bugs but falls short of delivering the instant and permanent relief that high-heat or chemical treatments provide. Use vinegar as just one piece of a comprehensive bed bug management program for optimal results.


Dealing with bed bugs is never straightforward. Home remedies utilizing everyday household items like vinegar definitely have their place as safer alternatives to harsh pesticide chemicals. Specifically, vinegar can provide some immediate contact killing power when applied directly to bed bugs in