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Does Baking Soda Kill Bed Bugs?

Uh oh… you just found a bed bug. You probably trapped it and started looking around your pantry for something to kill it… baking soda? Can you use this simple household chemical to kill the bug? Will baking soda work to protect from a bed bug infestation?

While there isn’t any research into the topic I can find, I would not recommend using baking soda to try to kill a bed bug. There are more effective methods I will share with greater detail, but freezing the bug or killing it with heat will be much faster and more effective than trying to use baking soda to kill a bed bug.

Another thing to keep in mind, while one bed bug may not seem like much, a female bed bug can lay 2-3 eggs per day. That’s up to 90 new bed bugs per month that could infest your home.

You better be sure that little critter is dead before you dispose of it. This article covers how to baking soda to kill bed bugs (because it may be possible), as well as some alternatives that are more effective!

Does Baking Soda Kill Bed Bugs?

If you are trying to kill a single bed bug, baking soda may work but it’s not recommended. Baking soda is a gentle desiccant – meaning it slowly absorbs water.

So, if you put the bed bug in a sealed container filled with several tablespoons of baking soda, the bed bug is sure to dry up in a couple of days. This also works with salt, baking powder, sugar, flour, and other “baking ingredients” simply based on their ability to absorb water.

However, baking soda is not going to be an effective method of clearing bed bugs out of your bedroom. Bed bugs can easily avoid an area dusted with a small amount of baking soda. In order to create the powerful desiccant conditions created in a small, sealed container, you would need to literally coat your entire home in an inch of baking soda.

In other words, there are much easier and cheaper ways to rid your home of bed bugs

Does Baking Soda Repel Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs do use scent to find their hosts – specifically the carbon dioxide given off by your body and exhaled as you breathe. Baking soda, when mixed with an acid like vinegar, gives off carbon dioxide. So, this could theoretically attract some bed bugs into falling into some sort of trap. But, bed bugs also use heat and a variety of other signals to find a human to bite. 

Baking soda is definitely not going to repel bed bugs in any meaningful way. At best, the baking soda could attract some bugs into a trap. At worst, the extra carbon dioxide could actually help attract bed bugs to the areas that you treated. That is why it is not advised to use baking soda as a repellent or large-scale treatment. 

Reasons to Not Use Baking Soda for Bed Bugs

Though baking soda is relatively innocuous, there are plenty of reasons to not use baking soda to kill bed bugs:

  • It would take massive amounts of baking soda to treat an entire home
  • There is no scientific evidence that baking soda kills or repels entire infestations of bed bugs
  • Baking soda will not kill bed bugs fast enough to provide population control
  • Using baking soda as insect dust could lead to skin irritation or even respiratory issues if large amounts were used.

Alternatives to Baking Soda for Killing Bed Bugs

The good news is that there are many alternatives to killing bed bugs – either single bugs or entire infestations. 

Stuff You Already Have

First, let’s check out some low tech options for irradicating bed bugs. You likely have these tools in your house already, and they will definitely work.

  • Plastic Bags – you can place bed bugs in a plastic bag, seal the bag, and throw it away. If you really want to make sure the bugs are dead, place them in a freezer (<1°F) for at least 2 hours before you toss the bag in the garbage.
  • Boil them – much like you can kill a lobster by boiling it, bed bugs also have a very low tolerance for high heat. Place the bed bugs directly into boiling water, or place the bugs in a plastic bag and place the bag in boiling water for a few minutes. Water boils at 212° F, much higher than a bed bug’s heat tolerance of around 118° F. A handheld steamer can also kill bed bugs.
  • Vacuum – Most households in the US have a vacuum with an agitator brush. Bed bugs are relatively light and will be easily sucked up. The real trick comes with the disposal. Make sure that you place the vacuum bag inside a larger plastic bag when you are finished. This will seal the bed bugs inside, ensuring they do not escape and reinfest your home.
  • Wash Your Fabrics – bed bugs love to hide and lay eggs on loose fabric, including your clothes, bedsheets, and other linens. Wash everything you can, even if it was just in the closet in storage. Wash these things at a high temperature (if appropriate for the fabric), with plenty of soap. The combination of soap and hot water boils and drowns bed bugs quite effectively.

Insecticide Options

There are a plethora of options on the market for killing bed bugs, if you don’t mind making a trip to the store or buying online:

  • Insecticide Dust Options – An insecticide dust can work in one of a few different ways. All-natural insecticide dusts – like Diatomaceous Earth (DE) – work by destroying the insect exoskeleton, causing all insects to perish from dehydration a few days after being exposed. Other insect dust products combine the effects of DE with powdered synthetic insecticides to attack the nervous system of insects.
  • Pesticide Sprays – An absolute sure-fire method of eliminating bed bugs is to spray your entire home with a synthetic insecticide. To see it work, you can put a bed bug in a small container and spray a tiny amount of insecticide into the container. The bug should perish within an hour. While this is definitely not the most natural solution, most insect sprays are incredibly powerful, and bed bugs are no match. The one exception seems to be pyrethroid-based insecticides. Pyrethroids have been used to treat bed bugs for so long that many populations have become resistant to this specific type of chemical. So, look for a spray that contains a non-pyrethroid insecticide to avoid this problem. If one type of chemical does not seem to do the job, simply try another. Bed bug populations are rarely resistant to multiple types of insecticide. 

Do Not Use These Methods to Kill Bed Bugs

While all of the above methods will certainly kill your bed bug infestation if implemented properly, there are many myths out there about how to kill bed bugs that will NOT solve your problem. Here are a few of the most common myths, and why they will not work!

  • Flushing Bed Bugs – whether you choose the sink or the toilet does not really matter. Bed bugs float – and quite well. If you try to flush bugs without killing them first, you risk the insect crawling out of the drain or toilet and reinfecting your home.
  • Placing Bugs Outdoors – while many insects can be happily returned to the outdoors, bed bugs are not one of them. Bed bugs have evolved specifically to feed on humans within our homes. So, if you put them outside they will just look for a way back in. Chances are they will find a crack to slip through and will be biting you again in no time.
  • Vacuum Bag Only – if you use your vacuum to battle bed bugs, you have to go the extra mile and seal the vacuumed contents into a plastic, sealable bag. Otherwise, the bed bugs will simply crawl out of the bag, out of your trashcan, and find their way back to your bed, couch, or other areas where they can bite you.
  • Burn Your House Down – while this method technically works to eliminate bed bug infestations, it will leave you without a home. If you are struggling to eliminate your bed bug problem and are considering this nuclear option – take a step back. Remember that eliminating the bugs is about being methodical and having a good strategy. Reassess your situation, and try again!

Written by Gabe Buckley

Gabe Buckley is a professional science writer with a Bachelor's of Science in Zoology and a Master's of Professional Natural Sciences from Colorado State University.

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