Does Vinegar and Baking Soda Kill Bed Bugs?

Most people nowadays want a greener and more natural products instead of relying on harsh, man-made chemicals such as synthetic pesticides. Even when their homes are infested with bed bugs, people want an Earth-friendly way to kill them. Reports that apple cider vinegar or baking soda kill bed bugs naturally seem too good to be true – and they are.

Do vinegar and baking soda kill bed bugs? Unfortunately, no studies have been done to prove they do, or they don't. Baking soda does make a good low-cost paste to soothe bed bug bites. Apple cider vinegar can drown bed bugs. There are natural ways to kill bed bugs such as with cold or heat, but vinegar and baking soda are not reliable.

Why Did People Start Thinking Vinegar and Baking Soda Would Kill Bed Bugs?

Baking soda presumably kills roaches, according to a ‘This Old House' article that was reproduced on CNN's website in 2008. By mixing equal parts sugar with baking soda, causes a bait for the roaches. The pests eat it and die. Presumably, the bodies are then poisonous to other roaches since they will eat their own dead.

Somehow, this got into people's heads that if baking soda kills roaches, then baking soda kills bed bugs, too. However, this or any other poisoned food bait will not kill a single bed bug. Bed bugs only eat blood and nothing else. They will ignore baking soda and sugar.

White vinegar in a glass bottle. White background. Organic cleaner.
Image credit: pathastings, Deposit Photos

Does Vinegar Kill Bed Bugs?

There are plenty of testimonies that vinegar spray can kill adult bed bugs – although these are only anecdotal and not scientifically proven. The catch is that the vinegar needs to get in contact with the bed bug in order to kill it. Finding where bed bugs hide is very difficult. If you eliminate all the bed bugs in one hiding spot and miss another, those survivors will keep the infestation going.

Since bed bugs hide just about anywhere in your home, car, or anywhere else where you hang out for long periods of time, you may find you have to use up a lot of vinegar. The smell alone can be nauseating. Vinegar can also damage fabrics, paper, some electronics, and other sensitive materials.

Using Apple Cider Vinegar to Soothe Bed Bug Bites

It's easy to use vinegar to help with the pain of bed bug bites. You just apply it directly to the bitten skin. Use either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Before you liberally splash it on, do a test patch on a very small part of the skin. Leave the vinegar on for a day to see if there is any bad reaction – or if you can tolerate the smell.

WARNING: People prone to migraines may be sensitive to the smell of vinegar. Smelling the vinegar for a long time may trigger a migraine attack. If you have migraines and know that some strong smells trigger attacks, then STOP using vinegar for bed bug bites. Try calamine lotion, aloe vera, or baking soda instead.

Using Baking Soda to Soothe Bed Bug Bites

Baking soda can soothe bed bugs bites if not actually killing the bed bugs themselves. The University of Texas at Austin offers this recipe to soothe the itch:

  • Get baking soda, a bowl, a spoon, and some water
  • Put three teaspoons of baking soda in the bowl
  • Add one teaspoon of water
  • Use the spoon to mix the ingredients until a paste is formed. Place this paste on the bites.

Another way to help soothe bites is to place a cool, wet washcloth or an ice bag on the bite for fifteen to twenty minutes up to four times a day. Remember to always place a barrier between ice and your skin or the ice may give it a nasty burn.

Bed Bug up close

Related Question: Is It Possible to Be Allergic to Baking Soda?

Believe it or not, it is possible for people to be allergic to baking soda, although this is rare. Allergic reactions include:

  • Reddening of the skin
  • Itching
  • Burning sensations
  • Hives or raised areas of the skin where the baking soda touched it.

Try a test patch of the baking soda paste on a very small part of your skin and wait a day to see if your skin has a bad reaction. If there is no reaction, then use the paste on the bed bug bites.

Using Vinegar to Kill Bed Bugs in Delicate Objects

Bed bugs get into nearly everything. They spend most of their time finding hiding places and hanging out there. If the edge of a playing card can fit in a crack, so can a bed bug. Bed bugs can get into delicate objects like smartphones, electronics with LCD screens, designer handbags, and even antique stuffed animals. For these objects, bed bugs need to be killed by hand. The University of Minnesota recommends this procedure:

  • Get a playing card, magnifying glass, flashlight, sticky tape, and a small dish of vinegar or rubbing alcohol.
  • Use the flashlight to look into all the cracks, crevices, or seams of the object to see the bed bugs.
  • Adult bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye, but they still are very small. Use a magnifying lens to be sure there are bed bugs in there. If you do not think you see any then do not risk damaging the object by cleaning it anyway.
  • If you do see bed bugs, get a patch of sticky tape and place it sticky side up.
  • Use the edge of a credit card or playing card (Ace of Spades would be appropriate here) to scrape the bed bugs onto the tape.
  • Once the object has been cleaned, submerge the tape in the vinegar or rubbing alcohol. This drowns the bed bugs.
  • Place the cleaned object in an air-tight container or sealable plastic bag so more bed bugs from the outside cannot get in.
cleaning agent baking soda with vinegar
Image credit: eskaylim, Deposit Photos

Natural Ways to Kill Bed Bugs

There are many natural ways to fight these creepy critters. These include:

  • Vacuuming
  • Doing lots of laundries
  • Heat
  • Cold
  • Natural pesticides like silica gel or diatomaceous earth or DE.

There is no tried and true way to get rid of bed bugs. You still may have to call an exterminator for thorough whole home treatments. Vacuuming, getting rid of the trash, doing the laundry, and just tidying up will go a long way to make the professional treatments work because they eliminate many areas where bed bugs hide.

Things to do before calling the exterminator

You can kill a lot of bed bugs and cut down on bed bug bites by doing these things:

  • Place your mattress or where you sleep in a mattress encasement. This helps keep bed bugs in your mattress already from getting in contact with your skin.
  • Vacuum, vacuum, and vacuum some more. The process of vacuuming kills adult and baby bed bugs. It does not kill the eggs, however. Babies have been known to hatch inside vacuum cleaners and crawl out into the great wide world of your home. To avoid this, empty the canister or change the bag right away.
  • Do plenty of laundries. Bed bugs are attracted to dirty laundry but also like to hide in clothes, bedding, pillows, clothes, drapes, stuffed animals, and soft-sided luggage. If it can survive a trip in your washer and dryer, wash and dry them. The heat kills the bed bugs, so set the temperatures as high as you can. Place all cleaned materials in sealable plastic bags so the bed bugs you missed will not hide there.
  • Place things that cannot go in the laundry in very thick black plastic or contractor trash bags, seal them uptight, and place them in the sun for about a week. The heat kills the bed bugs.
  • Be sure to clean your car, too, since bed bugs can ride on your clothes or objects like cell phones and briefcases.
  • Get rid of the trash in the home. Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs are not attracted to dirt or filth. However, clutter and mess leave create plenty of hiding places for bed bugs. They also create great places for females to lay their eggs. Tidying up helps get rid of these hiding places. It also helps the exterminator, since he or she has to place treatments where bed bugs hide so the chemicals can touch the bed bugs and kill them.

Bottom Line

Do vinegar and baking soda kill bed bugs? No, not to any significant degree. Do vinegar and baking soda help bed bug bites? Yes, for some people. You have to try a small part of your body to see if you can tolerate baking soda paste or a drop of vinegar.

If you are looking for natural ways to kill bed bugs, good news. There are plenty of ways to kill bed bugs without pesticides. However, depending on how bad your infestation is, you may still need to call a professional exterminator. Cleaning and tidying your home will go a long way to helping the exterminator do his job.

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