Essential oils are a natural home remedy and contact killer for bed bugs. This means that it must be sprayed directly on these parasitic pests to be effective. Peppermint oil is good for killing bed bugs when sprayed on them directly, not least because of its potent smell.
Peppermint oil kills bed bugs the same way that it causes allergic reactions in humans. It’s used in various commercially available bed bug sprays. However, it only works if you spray bed bugs directly. It’s not as effective as other control methods, even other essential oils.
We’ll look at how effective peppermint oil is at removing bed bugs, and how it works. Then we’ll explain how to make a spray out of peppermint oil, and advise if it’s likely to work.
Does Peppermint Oil Kill Bed Bugs?
Peppermint oil has long been used to control bugs. Along with thyme, natural peppermint is used to control greenhouse whiteflies. But the fact that gardeners think it might work isn’t proof enough.
According to the Journal of Economic Entomology, studies have been done on peppermint oil and bed bugs. Results are mixed.
One study looked at peppermint’s repellent effects against mosquitoes. Along with white cedar oil, it had remarkable repellent effects. This goes along with other research into essential oils.
However, other studies looked at specific products containing peppermint. Bed Bug Patrol (BBP), for example, contains 1% peppermint oil. But the paper above claimed that neither BBP, nor a similar cedar oil product, had ‘significant repellency.’
Another paper in the Journal of Economic Entomology ranked several essential oils and other substances against one another. Peppermint is toxic to bed bugs. However, it wasn’t as toxic as other oils including:
- Tea tree
- Eucalyptus lemon
- Cedarwood (Himalayan)
- Cedarwood (Chinese)
- Cedarwood (Virginian)
- Blood orange
The study also found that it wasn’t as poisonous as paraffin oil or silicone oil. So, while peppermint can kill bed bugs, it’s not as toxic as other readily available choices.
How Do Essential Oils Get Rid of Bed Bugs?
Peppermint oil is toxic on contact. If you applied a large amount of peppermint oil neat to your skin, it would react. You would feel a tingling, tightening, and burning sensation.
Other animals experience this sensation too. In large enough quantities, essential oils can be poisonous to pets. That’s why the ASPCA advises against using essential oils on pets.
It’s this same effect that works on bed bugs. If you spray bed bugs directly with peppermint oil, it can kill them.
The main caveat is that you have to spray peppermint oil on bed bugs. If they walk through the area at a later time, it won’t kill them. This is unlike common pesticides, which kill for weeks after use.
Does Peppermint Extract Repel Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs have learned over thousands of years to avoid toxic things, including plants. This is how they developed their resistance to pesticides. They would hide, and come out when traces are left.
Contact with traces of pesticides is survivable for a percentage of the population. This percentage may then develop an immunity. This immunity is passed down to children. It’s this same concept that leads to bacteria becoming immune to antibiotics.
If you were to spray peppermint oil around your bed, then it may repel bed bugs. Bed bugs display some level of avoidance behavior to most essential oils. However, this is a bad idea, even if it works.
If you repel bed bugs, they’ll head to another part of your house. If they’re under your bed, for example, repelling them will get them away from you. But instead, they’ll hide in nearby furniture, the floor, and walls, or clothing.
Unless you sprayed every single surface around your bed, they’d find another route up. And if they can’t, then they’ll wait until the spray wears away.
Some people prefer to use lavender as a bed bug repellent.
How to Make Peppermint Oil Bug Spray
Start with a clean spray bottle, preferably one that hasn’t been used for anything previously. Make sure you pick a spray bottle with a wide spray, not a narrow one. The wider and more diffuse the spray is, the more effective it is.
Fill the bottle close to the top with water. Water straight from the faucet is fine. To help the water and oil mix, add one drop of dish soap before you add the oil.
Don’t use rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol does kill bed bugs on contact. However, you’re going to have to spray this spray around your home for weeks. If you do that with rubbing alcohol, you’ll:
- Make your house smell terrible for weeks one end.
- Create a deadly fire hazard.
Just use water, and let the oil do the work.
Peppermint Oil Dilution for Bug Spray
The dilution level of your peppermint oil is crucial, since the stronger the spray is, the more likely it is to kill. At the same time, you want to be able to spread it around as widely as possible. Plus, if you sprayed neat oil, it would cost you lots of money.
In the study linked above, Dr. Changlu Wang and associates discussed previous tests done on peppermint oil. A 1% concentration is ineffective against bed bugs. You should aim for higher amounts.
5% would be a good compromise between cost and effectiveness. Weigh the spray on electronic scales so that you can accurately create a 5% concentration, rather than relying on ‘drops.’
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs with Peppermint Oil Spray
Spraying the bed bugs directly is of the utmost importance. That’s the case for any essential oil spray, not just peppermint. To ensure maximum efficacy, stick to the following procedure.
Before you start spraying, you have to prepare your room. Start by bagging up anything on the floor, in sealed plastic bags. Launder anything that you can launder by dumping the bags directly into the machine.
Seal up any gaps in the room. Bed bugs hide in holes in the floorboard, wall, and baseboard. They can also get in and out of a room under doors. Seal up these areas, temporarily or permanently, before you begin spraying. Doing so will stop your infestation from spreading.
How to Find Bed Bugs
Next, find where your bed bugs are hiding. There are many likely places which include:
- Under the mattress, especially under the piping around the edge
- In the bed frame itself, or the box spring
- On the underside of nearby furniture
Bed bugs congregate in clusters called harborages. But when disturbed, they scatter to try and find safety. As such, only start searching when you’re ready to spray.
How to Spray Bed Bugs
Spraying is the easy part. Point the spray bottle directly at each bed bug you see. Give each one a good soaking. The more peppermint you spray each bug with, the better.
The bugs scatter quickly, so be on the lookout for any that get away. If you manage to spray them before they can hide, they’ll likely die. Continue spraying until you’ve got each one that you can.
How Often to Spray for Bed Bugs
Spray regularly to ensure that you get as many as possible. If you have a large infestation, then new bed bugs will be hatching all the time. Spraying regularly means that you kill nymph bed bugs, too.
Spraying each week and following the same procedure will suffice. But don’t be surprised if you continue getting bites over this time. Even commercial pesticides take weeks to kill every bed bug.
Should You Use Peppermint Oil on Bugs?
On the one hand, peppermint oil does kill on contact. It also smells nicer than most other forms of bed bug control. It’s easy to source, and it’s easy to use.
It’s still not a great idea to use a peppermint oil spray, though, even if you follow the tips above. There are many reasons why.
1) It Isn’t 100% Effective
Peppermint oil isn’t as effective as many alternatives. Other oils are more effective, tea tree oil in particular. It has a higher kill rate on contact and a slight residual repellent effect.
There are also many easy to find pesticide bed bug sprays. Those that contain permethrin are most common. Permethrin is an extract from the chrysanthemum flower, so it is natural in a way. But like many oils, it’s toxic to some pets.
The issue is that you need to kill every bed bug. If you kill most of them, then the few that survive will keep breeding and biting. Peppermint oil only kills some bed bugs, not all of them. You should pick something more effective.
2) Direct Contact Killer Only
Another problem with peppermint oil is that you have to spray each bug directly. Bed bugs are expert hiders. They squeeze into tiny gaps to get away from you.
This means that most bugs will avoid your spray. When you’re spraying something that kills on contact, that’s a problem.
3) Doesn’t Linger
Synthetic sprays are designed to linger for weeks on end. With permethrin sprays, just one spray will continually kill any bed bug that walks there for weeks afterward.
With peppermint, you have to spray week after week. This is problematic for the following reasons:
- You have to put much more effort in
- You encourage the bed bugs to move around the house
With a synthetic spray, you can spray the entire underside of your mattress. Bed bugs will then stay away from there for weeks, even months afterward. Peppermint oil has no such effect.
This combines with the fact that bed bugs hide from you. Lingering chemicals kill bed bugs any time they come out to feed. You, therefore, even eliminate the ones that avoided your direct spray. That doesn’t apply to peppermint.
Alternative Bed Bug Killer Sprays
Overall then, our verdict is to avoid using it. Do bed bugs hate peppermint oil spray? Yes, but it’s still not an effective killer. Instead, consider using:
- Sprays made from better oils, like tea tree oil for bed bugs
- Sprays with commercial pesticides in them
- Diatomaceous earth, a powder which lingers, and is natural
Each of these options kills more bed bugs, and in less time. You can also buy them as cheap as peppermint oil, so it’s a no-brainer to use these instead.