Essential Oils for Bed Bugs: a Comprehensive Guide

small bottle of essential oil on gray cloth
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Hi, I`m Nicholas Martin, the author of this blog. I’ve already told you everything you should know about bed bugs, so now it’s time to introduce you to perhaps the best natural bed bug repellent – essential oils.

From this article, you will learn what essential oils are, how they work, and what are the best essential oils for bed bugs. Oils extracted from plants are an effective natural remedy against these nasty insects. However, you cannot apply them until you study all the usage rules and cautions. My article will help you to find answers to all questions.

What Danger Do Bed Bugs Pose

First of all, bed bugs are incredibly nasty, and it’s really hard to sleep knowing that your place is infested. Although it’s impossible to catch a disease via bed bug bites, they can hurt and itch a lot. The bites can also cause such health issues as rashes all over the body, allergic hives, blistering, and, rarely, an anaphylactic reaction.

adult bed bug on finger close distance photo

What Are Essential Oils

You probably know about high toxicity of chemical insecticides and potential health effects, and it’s not a good idea to use them where you sleep. Fortunately, essential oils offer an alternative way to deal with infestations, using a natural method.

Essential oils are extracted from plants. Manufacturers use flowers, stems, leaves, and bark of plants and trees. They put these materials through a distillation machine for pure oil extraction.

❗If you’re already facing an infestation, I highly recommend trying other powerful treatment methods like bed bug powders and sprays.

Although essential oils are totally natural, you should use them carefully not to suffer from their possible side effects. All essential oils are highly concentrated, so you have to dilute most of them before using. You can use some of the oils as a bed bug repellent for skin, but only in small concentrations to avoid burns and other side effects.

If you are not sure whether you have an allergy or not, apply a small portion of diluted oil onto your wrist. If you don’t notice irritations during the day, you don’t have an allergy. Always study possible side effects and cautions of each oil and never ingest them, even if they smell very tasty.

The Use of Essential Oils for Bed Bug Prevention

Essential oils are an effective natural bed bug repellent that can not only keep bed bugs away from you during the night, but also kill them when used directly. I recommend you spray them onto your luggage and clothes when you stay in a hotel, and you’re not sure whether your room is infested or not.

Treat your stuff before putting it into the suitcase to ward off pests and avoid carrying them to your home. You can also treat your clothes and luggage before entering your home after each trip to make sure that you don’t bring insects inside.

Best Essential Oils for Killing Bed Bugs

Choosing the right essential oil, you should look not only for the best scent but also to give your preference to trusted brands that sell purely-blended oils. I always follow a simple rule and buy only those items that have scientific names of the main component on the bottle. For example, if the lavender oil that you look at includes Lavandula Angustifolia as the main component, the product is pure. To know what scent keeps bed bugs away the best, take a look at my favorite essential oils and choose one or several scents that you like the most.

Lavender

violet lavender field

Lavender essential oil is made of lavender flowers that have many positive health effects. The most popular effect of using lavender oil for bed bugs is the feeling of peacefulness it brings. That’s why I recommend using this product if you have mild sleeping issues. You need around 30-40 drops of the oil per 30 ml of water to make an effective repellent that will be working the whole night long. You may also like a 30/10-drop proportion of lavender and tea tree oils per 30 ml of water. Both mixes cannot kill bed bugs but can let you sleep well for sure.

Tea Tree

Melaleuca oil, or tea tree oil, is an effective natural repellent that can be used both on your bedding and directly on the skin due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory abilities. Tea tree oil for bed bugs suffocates insects, keeping them away from you during the night. Mix 20 drops of the oil with distilled water and spray it all over your bed before going to sleep.

The effect of this oil is very quick, so you don’t have to wait long before it works. You can also add the liquid to the washing machine to use it as a natural conditioner for your sheets. Does tea tree oil kill bed bugs? It can, but the required suffocating concentration can be bad for your skin.

Related Post: Best Bed Bug Vacuums & Steamers

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is an effective bed bug killer that doesn’t leave bugs a chance to survive if they touch it. The recommended concentration for spraying over your sheets is 10-20 drops per 30 ml of water. It’s also important to apply it at least 30 minutes before going to bed due to the high acidity of the oil.

That’s also the reason not to put it on your skin. The best way to use this oil at home is to mix it with the washing liquid to make your bedding smell fresher and ensure a lasting repelling effect.

Peppermint

Peppermint extract is a very aggressive substance that can easily kill bed bugs if you spray it directly on them. You shouldn’t use more than 10 drops per 30 ml to avoid side effects. The combination of peppermint with lemongrass is also deadly to bed bugs as it causes a strong allergic reaction.

Eucalyptus

This harsh oil is deadly not only for adult insects but also for their shelled eggs. Keep it strictly away from your skin and dilute 10-20 drops in 30 ml of water for spraying onto your beddings. It’s also a good idea to add this liquid to the washing machine.

How to Use Essential Oils for Bed Bugs Properly

person holding spray bottle photo

No matter what essential oil you want to use, you have to check out the effective proportion on the bottle. For example, it’s recommended to mix 20 drops of tea tree oil with 30 ml of distilled water (I have mentioned the recommended proportions above). You can use tap water too, but it may weaken the repelling effect as there are usually many chemicals in it. When the liquid is ready, spray it on your sheets, pillows, clothes, and the insides of your suitcase.

If you want to kill bed bugs, you’d better prepare a more concentrated liquid and spray it at least several hours before going to bed. Otherwise, you may expose yourself to unwanted side effects and stronger smell. Spray the remedy directly onto bugs to kill them.

FAQ

Does Peppermint Work Against Bed Bugs?

wild peppermint in forest

Peppermint essential oil is a multi-purpose product that can repel many household pests, including ants, cockroaches, and bed bugs. Due to the high concentration of menthol, this type of oil can be used not only as an effective natural bed bug repellent, but also as a lethal weapon against them.

Bed bugs hate peppermint scent and avoid going to areas sprayed with the properly diluted oil. The solution is effective until you can smell the scent. Peppermint oil for bed bugs can also kill the insects, but only if you spray it directly on them.

How to Use Essential Oils for Bed Bugs?

To use essential oils against bed bugs effectively, you must dilute them in a special carrier oil or water first. Then, make sure that the oil you chose it safe for pregnant women, or people with illnesses, if such people live in your house. Exercise cautions for each particular case. If everything is ok, spray the properly diluted product (use unique instructions for each oil) onto your sheets. Remember that the concentration for one-night protection, and for killing pests is always different.

Does Vinegar Kill Bed Bugs?

Vinegar is an acidic compound with a high concentration of acetic acid. White vinegar is strong enough to kill the insect’s nervous system. However, you have to spray it directly on bugs to achieve the effect. This remedy isn’t effective against severe infestations and cannot penetrate hard shells of bug eggs.

Does Alcohol Kill Bed Bugs?

Alcohol can dissolve insects from the outside and finish the job by damaging them from the inside. It’s also a cheap remedy available in every drug store. The disadvantages of this remedy are the same as of vinegar. Alcohol is effective only when you spray it directly, which is difficult, and it dries very fast, becoming ineffective against bugs that reach the treated location later. It’s impossible to kill more than 50% of pests with alcohol. Finally, it’s highly flammable in effective concentrations.

Going the Natural Way

infested bed infographics drawing

Now, you have a comprehensive picture of essential oils, know how to purchase them, and how to repel bed bugs using them. You can choose the scent that you like the most and be sure that bed bugs won’t get interested in your body during the next journey. Although bed bugs aren’t known as infection carriers, their bites are rather painful and can sometimes lead to rashes or even an anaphylactic reaction. The best solution is to be ready for an unpleasant meeting in advance.

❗Once again, if you have a severe infestation and still want to handle it yourself, you should use more powerful remedies like professional bed bug sprays.

Have you ever faced bed bug problems? Had you been using something to protect yourself before you got to know about essential oils? And what scent did you choose, by the way? Join the conversation in the comments section below and feel free to ask me any questions related to the article topic, if something isn’t clear enough.

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Nicholas Martin

About Nicholas Martin

I am Nicholas Martin, and I am an entomologist. I combine the insect survey work with the consultation for private pest control agencies. My narrow specializations are both urban pests and agricultural pests. I studied their control over the previous 25 years.

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