Does Borax Kill Bed Bugs?

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Bed bugs are small, parasitic pests that can infest even the cleanest of homes, causing discomfort and stress for their human hosts – they’re quite the unwanted house guest. The bites they leave are unsightly, and they’re exceptionally difficult to get rid of once they spread beyond the confines of a mattress.  

Homeowners are continually searching for effective natural methods to eliminate these bloodsuckers. Bed bugs are skilled at hiding in clothes, bedding, rugs, and furniture. They can live months without a blood meal from a human host. What natural products can offer relief from an infestation? Does borax kill bed bugs? 

We’ll uncover the truth about using borax as a remedy for bed bug infestations while exploring alternative solutions and preventative measures that can help to achieve a pest-free home.

Key Takeaways

Borax and boric acid can kill bed bugs, but they aren’t very effective.
Other DIY solutions for bed bugs like diatomaceous earth, tea tree oil, and steamers are either very slow acting or very difficult for a non-professional to implement effectively.
When it comes to bed bugs, just call a professional.

Signs You Have Bed Bugs

If you wake up with red, itchy bites every morning or notice small blood stains on your bedsheets, these are clear signs of a bed bug infestation. 

Spotting an Infestation

Spotting a bed bug infestation early on can save you from the stress and discomfort associated with an established infestation which may require professional treatment. These tiny, parasitic insects are experts at hiding in small crevices. 

Bed Bugs in Mattress Crease

Unfortunately, low-level infestations are much more difficult to detect for this reason. We recommend paying attention to the following:

  • Reddish-brown spots (bed bug excrement) or blood stains on your sheets and pillowcases. Bites themselves are unreliable indicators of a bed bug infestation, as the EPA points out. They can easily resemble bites from other insects that feed on blood, like mosquitoes. 
  • Hiding spots. Bed bugs like to hide near the seams and folds of the mattress and box spring. They can spread to chair and couch corners, between cushions, in curtain folds, and clothing drawers. 
  • If you haven’t been outdoors for other insects to bite you, but notice recurring bite marks, you might have an infestation in your home or bedroom. While bites aren’t the most reliable way to determine the infestation, bed bug bite marks tend to appear in clusters or zigzag patterns, typically along your arms, legs, or shoulders which are more exposed during sleep. 
  • A sickly sweet musty odor emanating from your bedroom – similar to damp towels. Any ‘off’ scent in your bedroom or home you’re not familiar with could indicate that bed bugs have been releasing pheromones as they feed or shed skin.

Borax vs. Bed Bugs

Statistics dictate that almost every pest control professional has dealt with bed bugs (97%). Conversely, 1 in 5 Americans reports a bed bug infestation annually, with ~20% of U.S. homes, hotels, and apartments reporting annual bed bug problems.

While bed bugs should always be handled by professionals, many DIY solutions are becoming increasingly popular for those who want to avoid insecticide spray. While extreme heat is known to kill bed bugs and their eggs – is the common household cleaning product borax as effective? 

How Long Does It Take For Borax To Kill Bed Bugs?

Boric acid and borax are both abrasive and will destroy the bed bug over several days, typically 4-5. 

Borax is often confused with boric acid. Both borax and boric acid are boron compounds. Borax is the mined crystalline solid, while boric acid is refined and processed before use. 

Boric acid or borax for bed bugs?

Boric acid is often the more effective form of insecticide, but both require bed bugs to ingest them. Blood feeders, like bed bugs and ticks, often won’t be affected by borax or boric acid in the same way ants or cockroaches are. While it is still possible for it to kill bed bugs, insects that have distinct food sources and feed on human hosts won’t as easily fall prey to the caustic effects of either. 

However, should a bed bug walk through borax or boric acid powder and become covered in the substance, a concentration of 2-5.4% boric acid can be effective. 

The effectiveness of borax or boric acid relies on direct contact with the bed bugs as they crawl through the treated areas. It’s also important to note that borax and boric acid are poisonous to humans and pets! This might make it a less feasible option for those with dogs or cats that like to roam the house or bedroom. 

Close Up of Bed Bug on Mattress

Does Borax Kill the Eggs?

Although borax can be effective in killing bed bugs or slowing infestation, its efficacy against bed bug eggs is unproven. This is because bed bug eggs have a protective outer barrier that prevents them from accidentally ingesting or sticking to the borax when directly applied.

For borax to get rid of pests like bed bugs, it needs to come into contact with their bodies. This tactic won’t be successful in eliminating their hard-to-reach eggs – often hidden deep within mattress seams and crevices.

Alternative DIY Solutions

A female bed bug can produce 1-7 eggs per day for 10 consecutive days after a single blood meal from a human host – that’s a lot of bedbugs running around your home that you don’t want to wait on getting rid of. 

Solutions need to be effective and kill immediately, not after a week. This flaw is what makes most DIY solutions unreliable in permanently eliminating bed bugs and their eggs. 

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a natural and completely safe way to help eliminate or deter bed bugs. It is made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, tiny photosynthesizing algae, that have a hard skeleton-like (siliceous) structure. They’re found in every aquatic environment, including freshwater and ponds.

Unlike many other chemical solutions, diatomaceous earth (DE) is non-toxic for humans and pets, making it an effective yet safe remedy to use in your home. While it is non-toxic, it should still not be inhaled, as it can affect lung function. We recommend wearing a dust mask or respirator when applying DE, and when cleaning it up. Always look for pesticide grade DE, not pool grade. 

Diatomaceous earth is a natural desiccant, meaning it disrupts the shell of bed bugs and makes them prone to dehydration-induced death. Diatomaceous earth does not kill bed bugs directly, so it isn’t fast acting or an immediate solution. It can take up to 2 weeks to see results. 

Extreme Temperatures

Another effective DIY solution for getting rid of bed bugs is by using extreme temperatures. In this case, we mean high heat. 

At 118°F, bed bugs exposed to heat will die within 20 minutes, while eggs need to be exposed for 90 minutes due to their protective coating. 

Bed bugs cannot withstand high heat, so washing your clothes and bedding in hot water can help to kill off any present bed bugs and their eggs. Clothes dryers are also great tools for clothing and other fabric items that cannot be cleaned with insecticides.

A dryer set on high heat can effectively kill all stages of bed bug life cycles and eggs in around 30 minutes. 

Extreme temperature (high heat) is a highly effective approach against bed bugs but often requires professional assistance to heat the entirety of the room (or a staged room-to-room approach if the whole house is infested). A steamer is a good DIY option but might be impractical for treating hard-to-reach crevices. The heat concentration must also be maintained over every inch of the surface consistently, which might not be possible with a smaller device. 

Contact a Professional

If you are dealing with bed bug infestation, it may be best to call in the experts. Professional exterminators have access to more powerful and effective spray treatments than DIY solutions like borax or diatomaceous earth. Pest control is the only real way to ensure you permanently solve the problem. 

It is important to note that professional pest control services can be costly, but they are often worth the investment when dealing with stubborn pests like bed bugs. Many people find large infestations impossible to get rid of on their own. 

Preventing Bed Bugs in the Future

Regularly inspect your home and luggage for bed bugs, vacuum frequently, spray natural deterrents like tea tree oil, encase mattresses and box springs with special covers, and reduce clutter. Double-check clothing after coming home from public transit or hotel rooms. 

It’s essential to keep your living space clean and clutter-free. This will help reduce the potential number of hiding places for bed bugs. Clothes and fabrics should be thrown in the washer and dryer on high heat to kill any bed bugs that hitch a free ride into your home from the community. 

In addition to regular cleaning habits, washing bedding material in hot water and drying it on high heat every week can help reduce risk and prevent a recurrence. 

Why Professional Pest Control Services Are Essential

While DIY remedies like boric acid, tea tree oil, and hot water steaming may work for some pest infestations, bed bugs can be extremely resilient. Borax isn’t a reliable option to treat a bed bug infestation – it doesn’t immediately kill bed bugs and doesn’t address killing bed bugs’ eggs.

Pest control services are essential when dealing with a full-blown infestation. Professional treatment methods may include targeted high-heat treatment or insecticide spray application, both of which require specialized high-cost equipment that homeowners will not have access to. Exterminators can also target areas that are otherwise missed by DIY borax for bed bugs. 

FAQs

Is boric acid the same as borax for bed bug treatment?

No, boric acid isn’t the same as borax even though they’re often confused. Both compounds come from boron, but they’re chemically different. When it comes to killing bed bugs, both compounds are believed to work in the same way by damaging their protective shell and digestive system. However, the same limitations apply; the bugs must ingest the compounds, meaning they aren’t instant contact killers.

Does borax kill bed bug eggs?

No, borax won’t kill bed bug eggs. Bed bug eggs are extremely small and are covered in a protective layer, ensuring their survival against many pesticides. Also, eggs can’t eat the borax, meaning they don’t ingest it and aren’t affected. So while borax may be a remedy for adult bed bugs, it isn’t the best method to completely rid your home of an infestation since it does not get rid of the eggs.

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Sean is the founder of Conquer Critters. With more than 17 years of experience in dealing with various pests, he is passionate about spreading his knowledge to help everyone manage their pest problem in the fastest, most effective manor possible.

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