Can I use bleach to kill bed bugs?

Mercedez e-mailed in this question:

"Does it help to spray your mattress with bleach to kill bed bugs?"


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I've seen a number of websites online promoting this as a home remedy. Many people give alternate recommendations: either to basically just pour bleach around on the inside of the mattress, or to mix it with some water and spray it in there with an old spray bottle. When I was researching this online, I couldn't find a definitive answer as to whether this was good or bad. Mainly I found people claiming all kinds of things - that bleach can kill adults, that it can only get eggs, that it's a cure-all - but it was all conflicting.

So I e-mailed Dr. Changlu Wang of Rutgers University. He's a researcher who is trying to find different ways to kill bed bugs without using DDT. He was kind enough to respond as follows:

"I never tried myself and never heard success stories. I strongly suspect the bleaching method is both ineffective and damaging to the treated surfaces. The bleach left on mattresses can also be irritating to the skin. If people find bed bugs on the mattress or box spring, they should install encasements to enclose the bugs or apply hot steam using a steam machine."

So it is probably not a good idea to try this as a home remedy. Some people have also suggested this could cause severe damage to your mattress. While it's possible that you could directly kill any bed bugs that get covered in bleach, you won't get them all, and as Dr. Wang points out, you may make your skin problems even worse.

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Thanks to Dr. Wang for assisting in answering this reader question.

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