Does Rubbing Alcohol Help in Killing Bed Bugs?

Although a popular remedy, rubbing alcohol scores poorly when it comes to eliminating bed bug infestation. The following Buzzle article elaborates on the efficacy of this home remedy.
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Use of rubbing alcohol is ineffective on bed bugs
Did You Know?
Spraying rubbing alcohol on wood furniture can damage its finish.

Rubbing alcohol for killing bed bugs is one of the many home remedies that has spread by word of mouth. Spraying directly on the bed bug and in the infested areas is said to control the proliferation of rubbing alcohol. However, is this home remedy really effective in killing these bugs? Are the results satisfactory from the user's perspective? Well, the answer is unequivocally 'no', as found out through various studies.

What Scientific Studies Say

✦ Although rubbing alcohol is found to be highly effective, studies reveal contradictory results. One recent study published in Science News, a biweekly print publication, found out reduced efficacy of this product. This study carried out under the supervision of Dr. Changlu Wang―Head of the Urban Entomology Department at Rutgers University―found out that when a group of bed bugs were treated with rubbing alcohol, initially they did appear to be dead, but after 4 days, 50% of the bed bugs from the group were seen moving, indicating increased resistance of bed bugs to rubbing alcohol. The result of the study reported at the Entomology 2013 conference held in December at Austin pointed out the ordeal of controlling bed bugs at homes and offices with rubbing alcohol.

✦ In another study, bed bug control products such as mothballs were also tested for their efficacy. A plastic bag containing clothes inhabited by bed bugs was treated with moth balls. A week after treatment, it was found that 56 to 60% of the bugs were still alive. Moreover, the use of mothballs did not have any negative impact on eggs and immature bed bugs. This does suggest that a bed bug's defense mechanism has evolved, and it has become more capable of resisting any insecticide attack. Also, the outer skin of bed bugs is more effective in blocking insecticides and preventing their exposure to internal organs.

✦ Also, bed bugs die only after they are directly exposed to the spray and not otherwise. Simply put, you need to establish a direct contact when spraying an insecticide. So, if the bugs do not get soaked in the spray, they are unlikely to die. Hence, it is often applied as a spot treatment to destroy individual bugs, rather than spraying it over a large area. Rubbing alcohol containing 90% isopropyl alcohol is found to be relatively effective in killing bugs.

✦ Although the investigation does reveal the poor effectiveness of rubbing alcohol in controlling the bug menace, the research team certainly does not recommend using over-the-counter pesticides or seek professional help. Rather, it supports do-it-yourself (DIY) techniques to control the increasing resistance to pesticides.

It is very well-known that bed bugs cannot withstand high heat. So, these DIY methods can work wonders to get rid of bug infestation: (i) washing and drying clothes and bedding at high temperatures; and (ii) vacuuming the room as well as steaming the room for a couple of hours using an external heater.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a professional on this subject.
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Published: March 12, 2014
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