Does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs?

Written by sherry gray
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Does rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs?
(Chrispitality: flickr creative commons)

Bed bugs have been enjoying a robust comeback over the last few years. No longer constrained to the filthy fleabag hotels where you'd expect to find them, the persistent pests have taken up residence in some of the finest establishments, much to the vexation of hotel management across the country. And since bed bugs love to hitch rides, visiting even an upscale hotel could result in some very unwanted stowaways. In fact, they may be found in any kind location with shared beds: hospitals, inns, cruise ships, jail...anywhere there are people. Fortunately, if you bring them home, you may be able to control them with a simple, timeless solution.

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How to Spot Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are brown, oval shaped insects that can grow up to 3 to 4 millimetres in length. If you wake up with bites all over you, inspect your bed closely at night; you may be able to spot the bed bugs using strong lighting.

Other signs of infestation:

  • Bed bugs shed dead skin during the nymphal stage. The discarded skin will look like a hollow bug.
  • Bed bugs lay eggs frequently, which resemble miniature grains of rice.
  • You may detect an odd odour. Bed bugs excrete an oily substance with a smell similar to that of coriander. If you do catch a whiff, you can be sure you have a heavy infestation.
  • Look for tiny reddish brown excrement specks on the mattress, bedding, or walls adjacent to the bed

The Dangers of Bed Bug Infestation

As with any insect bite, people experience various allergic reactions. These reactions can go from none at all to extreme anaphylactic shock, which could end in death if not treated immediately. Most people will experience a rash-like area of itchy bites, sometimes all over their bodies. Scratching the bites often leads to skin infection and sometimes scarring.

Killing Bed Bugs with Alcohol

It may prove difficult to get rid of bed bugs without professional help, but most people don't know that diligent use of rubbing alcohol may do the trick for a comparatively low cost. The first step to banishing these pests from your home is to vacuum all carpets and wash all your sheets, pillow cases, and dirty clothes in hot water. Then fill a chemical sprayer with a 91% solution of rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol/water mixture and spray the entire infested area thoroughly, including bed, carpet, and hard surfaces. There are two important things to note. The bed bugs die only on contact with alcohol and alcohol does not kill eggs. It's important to repeat the whole process several times over the course of two weeks in order to kill bugs you may have missed and hatching eggs.

It's Good to be Home

If you experience any unexplained bites while on a trip, unpack directly into the washing machine. Put all clothing plus any other washable fabric items directly into a hot wash. Spray anything that can't be washed, like your shoes, suitcase and souvenirs, with alcohol solution. You can also use an isolation/dry heat method by putting your suitcase in a sealed plastic bag for two weeks, which is long enough to starve any bed bugs that may hatch.

Common Sense

Bringing bed bugs home from a vacation is only one of the ways to get an infestation. They are perfectly capable of travelling through walls from the apartment next door or hiding in clothing or furniture purchased at a thrift shop or garage sale. No matter how careful or clean you are, you may wind up with bed bugs. Some sensible, everyday precautions are to wash bedding frequently in hot water, vacuum often, and keep an extra set of pillows to rotate - two weeks in a plastic bag, two weeks on the bed. Remember that bed bugs are most frequently found in beds, but they are also happy in chairs, couches and possibly even car upholstery. Anywhere they can burrow and find a human host to feed off can become home, sweet home.

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