Calling in the exterminator is very expensive, time-consuming, and involves the use of toxic chemicals. The bed bug removal process can literally turn your life upside down. It’s hardly surprising that so many people are using tea tree oil to get rid of bed bugs naturally and safely.
By tea tree oil applying it in a diluted spray, you can kill any bed bug on contact. The only problem is trying to get the bed bugs that hide in crevices and folds in your box-spring, mattress, and furniture, and this is very difficult to achieve with a severe infestation.
Bed bugs are good at avoiding detection, and their tiny eggs are virtually impossible to see. Tea tree oil for bed bugs is useful for controlling the severity of an infestation because you can target certain areas of the home, such as sofas, mattresses, and bedding.
- 1 Do Essential Oils Kill Bed Bugs?
- 2 Mixing Tea Tree Oil for Bed Bugs
- 3 How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs with Tea Tree Oil
- 3.1 Clear Out Your Room
- 3.2 Launder Everything You Can
- 3.3 Inspect Your Furniture
- 3.4 Dismantle Your Bed and Spray the Frame
- 3.5 Spray Your Mattress
- 3.6 Clean and Spray Your Room
- 3.7 What Gets Rid of Heavy Bed Bug Infestations?
- 3.8 How Long do Bed Bugs Survive Without Food?
- 3.9 Other Related Articles:
Do Essential Oils Kill Bed Bugs?
There are many studies on essential oils and their effects on insects.
This one, in the Journal of Medical and Veterinary Entomology, tested tea tree oil against andiroba (also known as crabwood).
The scientists bred two different species of fly in a laboratory for testing. They then separated the groups: a control group, one sprayed with 1% concentrations, and one sprayed with 5% concentrations. Both oils showed that they were insecticidal.
Tea tree oil was especially effective. It killed 100% of each species at concentrations of 5% and 1% over the course of 12 hours. Furthermore, the scientists then replicated their results in the real world. They used tea tree oil as a spray on Holstein cows, which are typically swarmed with flies. The oils were effective for 24 hours and repelled around 60% of insects. They concluded that the oils had demonstrable insecticidal and repellent effects.
Not only that, but according to another study, it’s almost as effective as industrial insecticides. A study in Portuguese journal RSP tested tea tree oil and other compounds on mosquito larvae. The methodology of the study was similar to the one above.
The scientists divided the mosquitos into a number of groups: one control group sprayed with water, two more groups sprayed with industrial larvicide (BTI) in two different concentrations, and three further groups sprayed with an essential oil compound containing tea tree oil in three different concentrations.
Naturally, the study found a 0% mortality rate in the group sprayed with water. Both the insecticide groups experienced 100% mortality. In the group sprayed with a 12.5% concentration essential oil mix, 78% of the larvae died. That’s exceptional, considering that scientists have been working on insecticides for decades, and essential oils are almost as good.
Bear in mind that the larvae were only exposed for 24 hours. If they had continued spraying the larvae with oils for an extended period, a 100% mortality rate would be a certainty.
Why Use Tea Tree Oil for Bed Bugs?
There are a number of reasons you should consider using tea tree oil for bed bugs. Some of them are obvious from the studies above:
- It’s almost as effective as a chemical insecticide.
- The alternatives are harmful to respiratory health—that’s why exterminators can’t wander around without a mask and hazmat suit when they kill all the insects in a home.
- You may like the smell—it’s a little like pine disinfectant, but it is quite strong.
Of course, there are a few reasons why tea tree oil might not be your best choice. It can be toxic to humans, too, especially if applied neat or ingested.
Is Tea Tree Oil Harmful to Humans?
Tea tree oil is very harmful to humans if used incorrectly.
A review of tea tree oil in Clinical Microbiology Reviews examined just how toxic it can be. In terms of oral toxicity, a lethal dose in rats has been established: around 2ml/kg. At this point, exactly half the rats would die, and half would recover (also known as a 50% lethal dose, or LD50). Tea tree oil at these doses causes the person to become lethargic and ataxic (meaning they move involuntarily, slur their speech, and generally lose control of their body movement and functions).
As of yet, they reported that no human deaths due to tea tree oil had been reported. However, poisoning in both adults and children is relatively common. They do also point out that the toxicity of tea tree oil is self-limiting. This means that it won’t cause any negative issues so long as you know what you’re doing with it—don’t drink it, and don’t apply it neatly.
The only problem with using tea tree oil to kill bed bugs is if you apply too much and if you have asthma. Breathing in tea tree oil over the course of the night may make your asthma worse. Aside from that, though, it’s perfectly safe to use as a diluted spray on your mattress and bedding.
How to Mix Tea Tree Oil for Bed Bugs
Mixing tea tree oil for bed bugs is easy. But before you do, you have to make sure it’s safe for you to use. How? By doing a quick patch test. It’s the easiest way to tell whether you’re allergic to essential oil, and it only takes a day or two to find out.
Patch testing is easy. It’s where you pick a patch of skin—somewhere that isn’t too noticeable—and test the oil on it to see how your skin reacts. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide:
- Place just one or two drops of your diluted tea tree oil on your inner forearm. This is one of the best places for patch testing: the skin is relatively sensitive, it’s not noticeable, and the oil won’t rub away easily. By the way, the dilution ratio is up to you: you can use anywhere between 1% and 50%. Any more than 50% is too much for your skin to handle, and you’re likely to have an allergic reaction. For reference, the first study above used concentrations of 1% and 5%; that’s plenty to kill an insect.
- Apply a bandage over the area that you placed the drops of oil.
- Allow it to dry.
- If you feel any irritation at any point, remove the bandage and wash the area thoroughly.
If after 24-48 hours, you don’t feel any irritation, that means you aren’t allergic. However, you may still be sensitive to higher concentrations—bear that in mind. Once you’ve done your patch test, you know that you can safely use tea tree oil to kill bed bugs.
Mixing Tea Tree Oil for Bed Bugs
Now, you can mix your oil to the desired concentration. Like we said above, the concentrations in that first study were 1 and 5%, which were adequate to kill flies. You might want to try a higher concentration since bed bugs are sturdier creatures. It’s up to you—just don’t apply it neat, or you might have a reaction too.
Another thing you have to think of is that normally, you dilute essential oils in a carrier oil. This is something inert like almond oil, which has no effect; but the point is that mixing oil and oil works perfectly. Mixing oil and water? Not so much. However, it can be done.
The trick is to make sure that the oil isn’t settled on the top of the water when you’re using it. It’s as simple as giving it a quick shake. This effectively separates the oil into tiny beads that spread through the water. The two don’t really ‘mix’; and if you left it for long enough, the oil would gradually pool on top of the water again. But for the purposes of spraying it, this is more than good enough.
Tea Tree Oil Bed Bug Spray Recipe
If you’re looking for an even more effective spray, you could consider combining tea tree oil with other essential oils. There are also other natural ways to kill bed bugs that may interest you.
You could combine it with other known insecticidal oils, including:
- Neem oil
Each of these oils was mentioned as an effective insecticidal solution in the RSP paper above. Mix to your desired concentration, and choose whichever oil you think smells the nicest.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs with Tea Tree Oil
You likely noticed that we mentioned spraying the oil and water mix you’ve made—and that’s exactly what you do. But it’s not as simple as spraying your mattress and being done with the whole process. Unfortunately, bed bugs are exceptionally good at hiding.
They’ll gladly hide in the folds of your mattress, in your bed frame, in your bedding, even behind and inside your bedroom furniture. They naturally like dark crevices and cracks, so you can imagine there are plenty of places to hide behind the clutter in your bedroom.
Because they’re so tricky to find and kill, we’ve created the step-by-step guide below. Starting with…
Clear Out Your Room
Our first tip is to get rid of all the clutter and mess in your room. Bed bugs are happy to live anywhere dark, where they feel like they’re safe. That means they’re happy to hide in or under:
- Stuffed toys and clothes
- Pictures and picture frames
- Behind baseboards, and in cracks in the walls
- Curtains and other soft furnishings
- Under rugs and carpets
Long story short, they’re happy to hide anywhere that’s dark and where they’ll get some peace and quiet. That’s why clutter and mess is the bed bug’s best friend. It gives them plenty of places to hide so that even if you manage to get their brothers and sisters, they’ll still be fine—hidden somewhere that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.
Your first step is to clear away the mess. But don’t just move it to another room. If it has bed bugs on it or in it, all you’re doing them is moving them to another room. You have to bag them up and get rid of them. Get rid of anything you can’t launder simply by bagging it up and taking it to the trash. Sorry—but that’s the price you have to pay to get rid of bed bugs.
Launder Everything You Can
You can kill bed bugs by laundering your clothes. Wash any clothes, curtains or soft furnishings that you can fit in the washing machine.
Over the course of a long wash, they’ll drown. Not only that, but the heat can kill any larvae and eggs that might be left behind. You can achieve the same thing by putting them in a dryer.
Don’t leave your infested clothes anywhere, waiting to be washed. The bed bugs will crawl away as fast as they can. Take them straight from your room to the washing machine, and throw them straight in. In the same vein, don’t take anything back to your room until you’re completely finished cleaning it out.
Inspect Your Furniture
Next, you have to make sure there aren’t any bed bugs hiding in cracks or furniture. Pull out every single drawer, and check the baseboards behind and around your bed. These are common hiding places for bed bugs. They’re one of the reasons why simply washing your bedding and spraying your mattress just isn’t good enough.
In particular, once you’ve taken the drawers out of your bedside cabinets, check every corner and every join. If there’s anything loose or there are any gaps, then there’s a good chance a bed bug might be in there. Take any furniture you can move, outside. Give it a spray and leave it for at least a day. Keep spraying it continually for best results.
Dismantle Your Bed and Spray the Frame
Depending on the size and shape of your bed frame, this might be a complicated process. Dismantle the frame, and follow these steps:
- Take the individual parts of the frame outside. You have to do this because tea tree oil is both an insecticide and repellent. Any bed bug that isn’t killed, but is repelled, will want to escape: you want them to escape into your yard or garden rather than into another part of your room.
- Thoroughly soak your bed frame with your mix. Make sure to especially spray any folds or hidden crevices: these are where the bed bugs lay their eggs.
- Leave outside, preferably under some kind of cover, for the tea tree oil to take effect.
The next day, thoroughly inspect your bed frame. Look at every square inch: make sure there are no places that you didn’t spray. Hopefully, you’ll notice plenty of dead bed bugs lying around.
If not, the spray might not have taken effect. Either way, you’ll benefit from another spray. Once you’re certain there are no eggs or bugs left, and once you’ve finished cleaning your room, you can bring the frame back in.
Spray Your Mattress
Repeat the same process with your mattress. Make sure you spray every single fold and every single crevice in your mattress, to make sure you get both the eggs and the bed bugs themselves.
This should be enough to combat a relatively light, even moderate infestation. If the bed bugs are inside the mattress itself—which can happen in severe infestations—then this method won’t be very effective. More on that later.
Clean and Spray Your Room
Finally, get started on the room itself. Spray the carpets, baseboards, and rugs: anywhere that the bugs themselves might live. Be sure to repeat this process a number of times to make sure there are none left.
- If the bugs have got underneath the carpet, then this method may not be effective.
Will Tea Tree Get Rid of Bed Bugs?
Needless to say, getting rid of bed bugs is difficult no matter how you do it. Using tea tree oil to kill bed bugs doesn’t always work. That’s because, in severe infestations, bed bugs are exceptionally well-suited to hiding, burrowing and avoiding you.
In the very worst infestations, bed bugs:
- Hide inside the mattress itself, gaining access through holes in fabric or splits in seams
- Hide underneath the carpet itself, pushing their way between the wall and the carpet. This applies to tiles and wood floors, too
- Hide inside wall voids, inside pipes, inside electrical outlets—any gap or crack you can find
As such, in a heavy infestation, you simply won’t be able to get them all. That’s why you should only use tea tree for minimal, small-scale infestations. You should use it when:
- You hardly see bed bugs, either crawling around or under the mattress
- You hardly see any stains that they leave behind (bed bug fecal staining)
- You hardly see any old skins (called exuviae—bed bugs shed their skins like other insects)
- You hardly see any eggs
Take a good look at all of your bedding, underneath your mattress, and in your furniture. If there are only a few signs of bed bugs, then tea tree oil may work. At the very least, it will offer a measure of control against the infestation getting worse.
However, if you are able to find more than a dozen bed bugs when you flip your mattress to check, then the odds are that tea tree oil won’t be enough. You’ll have to try something else.
What Gets Rid of Heavy Bed Bug Infestations?
If the infestation is that bad—you can see countless bugs hiding underneath a mattress, or even crawling up the wall—then your first port of call is to get rid of your infested furniture. If it’s that infested, it’s likely unrecoverable. However, there are a number of treatments you could use.
Heat Treatment for Bed Bugs
Your first option is heat treatment. Bed bugs are vulnerable to heat: in temperatures of over 150 degrees Fahrenheit, they start dropping like flies. You can use steam treatments to achieve this effect. This is why clothes dryers are so effective at killing bed bugs, too.
Vacuum Treatment for Bed Bugs
Using a vacuum is a basic but effective method to get rid of most bed bugs, all at once. It’s also useful for getting rid of eggs and larvae. However, since bed bugs hide in cracks and crevices, you have to combine the vacuum method with other treatments like tea tree oil for maximum efficacy.
How Long do Bed Bugs Survive Without Food?
Another bright idea is simply to wrap the mattress in question in a bug-proof cover. If they can’t escape the mattress, they can’t bite you. Bed bugs take a very long time to die without food—up to a year. But you can outwait them. You have to make sure that there isn’t any left in your bed frame if you choose to use this method.
So, what kills bed bugs instantly? Well, some insecticides, heat treatment, vacuuming, freezing, and—sometimes—tea tree oil, too.