Will Vinegar Kill Bed Bugs? (Does It Work Effectively?)

Research has revealed that bed bugs possess genes from other organisms like the intracellular bacteria Wolbachia, which makes it incredibly hard to kill them! 

In addition, there are approximately 400 or more bacterium species living both inside and on the exterior of bed bug bodies. These bacteria help keep bed bugs alive by warding off the commonly used pesticides, viruses, and other harmful substances.

Vinegar is a versatile home and garden remedy used against insects. It effectively kills and repels many types of bugs, including mosquitoes, ants, and spiders. But can vinegar kill bed bugs?

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Will Vinegar Kill Bed Bugs? 

The most important thing to note is that there are numerous types of vinegar. Sure, all vinegar types are an aqueous solution of acetic acid, 90% water, and trace amounts of flavorings. But you want to use one that's strong enough to destroy and dehydrate the bed bugs. 

Because the biggest percentage of vinegar is water, you don't need to dilute it. And to get highly effective results, you must ensure that the bugs are completely soaked. 

So, will vinegar kill bed bugs? Yes. Vinegar can effectively kill bed bugs upon contact. However, the vinegar must have a high percentage of acetic acid. This means that you shouldn't mix vinegar with water when killing bed bugs! 

Any vinegar containing less than 5% acetic acid will not kill bed bugs. But any that has more than 6% acetic acid will effectively kill the bugs. 

Although the mode of action of acetic acid is not fully understood yet, pest control experts believe that it works by disrupting a bed bug's nervous system and eventually killing it. For these reasons, you should consider using white vinegar as it typically contains 7-8% acetic acid. 
To kill bed bugs using vinegar, simply fill a spray bottle with undiluted white vinegar and spray the bugs directly. Soaking the bed bugs in vinegar will kill them almost instantly. Bed bugs that don't get in contact with the solution will keep off the treated area as vinegar also works as an effective bug repellent. 

How To Use Vinegar To Kill Bed Bugs

Killing bed bugs with vinegar is relatively straightforward. But there are a few tips that you must follow to achieve highly effective results. Once you have filled your spray bottle with white vinegar, treat as follows:
  • Begin by inspecting and identifying all the infested areas in your home. Spray the bed bugs and ensure they are completely soaked with vinegar. 
  • Generously spray all cracks and crevices on walls and furniture as they are common bed bug hiding spots. 
  • You must also consider the places near your bed like mattress seams, bed frame, headboard, couches, and more. 
  • Ensure all infested places and visible bed bugs are sprayed to eliminate the invasive pests completely. 
  • It's a good idea if you treat your home for the next few weeks by soaking places like window sills, walls, carpets, and furniture. This kills any hiding bed bugs while preventing chances of re-infestations. 

Will Vinegar Kill Bed Bug Eggs? 

Bed bug eggs have an outer shell that is pretty easy to squish. And though soft enough to be popped by hand, this shell is hard enough to resist vinegar. In other words, vinegar is not strong enough to penetrate or burn through the bed bug eggshell. 

However, bed bug eggs completely soaked in white vinegar are highly unlikely to hatch. The high concentrations of acetic acid will mess with the egg's DNA, terminating normal egg development. 

According to some pest experts, bed bug eggs will eventually die if submerged in white vinegar for a prolonged period (6-12 hours). The potency of your vinegar determines this time span. 

For instance, rice vinegar which, unless noted otherwise, typically contains 4-5% acetic acid, cannot kill bed bug eggs. Comparably, apple cider vinegar, a relatively 'weak acid' containing 5-6%  acetic acid, can kill bed bug eggs when soaked for a minimum of 12 hours. 

What Type Of Vinegar Kills Bed Bugs? 

The best type of vinegar to kill bed bugs contains high amounts of acetic acid. Strongly acidic vinegar will effectively kill bed bugs, destroy their eggs, and repel them. 

Bed bugs often leave small blood smears on your beddings during an active infestation. They also tend to leave grime on their hideouts, for instance, from their droppings. White vinegar can be used in laundry to remove bed bugs stains on surfaces, beddings, and clothes. 

During an experiment, vinegar with 30% acetic acid was sprayed on bugs at a close range. The biggest percentage of the bugs died almost instantly upon contact. Others died about 5-10 minutes after contact. Bed bugs that did not come in contact with the spray were repelled immediately. 

In another study, white vinegar was sprayed on bed bugs, and it immediately repelled them. Those that soaked in the solution died almost immediately, while those that managed to crawl away died a few minutes later. 

This basically shows that the amount of acetic acid contained in vinegar determines how effectively and fast it can kill bed bugs. Therefore, you want to buy vinegar with the highest concentration of acetic acid for the best bed bug extermination results. 

Does Vinegar Repel Bed Bugs? 

Strongly acidic vinegar will kill bed bugs upon contact. Vinegar is a truly versatile pantry item that can also repel bed bugs. However, even though vinegar is effective against bed bugs, homeowners are advised not to use it as a single treatment for a full-blown infestation. 

You can use vinegar to kill bed bugs, but it cannot possibly repel an entire infestation out of your property. 

On top of that, vinegar might not repel the bugs out of your home. Instead, it might end up pushing them even further into hiding. Using vinegar to repel bed bugs means soaking infested surfaces with the terrible and long-lasting vinegar smell. 

Can Apple Cider Vinegar Kill Bed Bugs?

As noted earlier, the amount of acetic acid in vinegar determines whether or not the vinegar can kill bed bugs. Apple cider vinegar contains 5-6% acetic acid, which can kill bed bugs. But you will only get effective results if the bugs are soaked/drowned in the solution. 

Because it is a relatively weak acid, you would need to use a huge amount of apple cider vinegar to get rid of a full-blown bed bug infestation. Ideally, this option is quite expensive and tedious compared to other highly effective options like calling a bed bug control expert. 

Apple cider vinegar exudes a pungent and sour smell that's unbearably irritating for bed bugs and other insects. And although this smell effectively repels bed bugs, you cannot entirely depend on it. There's a good chance that the bugs will be deterred from one hiding spot to another area of your house, essentially worsening the infestation. 

There are other cons of using apple cider vinegar to kill bed bugs. Bed bugs are nocturnal pests, meaning they are more active at night. Since these opportunistic pests come out of hiding at night to hunt for blood, you'd need to spray large amounts of apple cider vinegar in your bedroom.
 
The smell of this solution on your bedding can irritate your breathing system, causing discomfort and lots of sneezing throughout the night. 

What Can I Mix With Vinegar To Kill Bed Bugs? 

Though pure vinegar kills bed bugs effectively, mixing it with chemical products like tea tree oil, dish soap, or alcohol can improve bed bug control results. But you must approach this method with great care. That's because vinegar can react with some chemicals. 

You can test with a minimal amount of vinegar in a clean glass before mixing large vinegar quantities with any chemicals. 

A good example is mixing vinegar with baking soda. This mixture will provide effective bed bug control results. However, you should proceed with caution as it can pose a potential threat. 

Caution: Do not mix chemicals with bare hands. Any chemical that comes in contact with the skin should be washed off immediately with lots of running water. 

Conclusion 

Can vinegar kill bed bugs? Yes. However, how fast vinegar kills bed bugs depends on the amount of acetic acid it contains. Vinegar with a high amount of acetic acid, for instance, white vinegar, can effectively kill bed bugs, destroy their eggs and repel them. Additionally, the bugs must be soaked entirely in vinegar in order to die. 
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