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House & Home

5 Of The Best Essential Oils To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs

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Done all you can to prevent bringing bed bugs into your home, only to find signs of them in your mattress, or itchy bites on your body? You may want to consider using essential oils for your bed bug situation as a natural, skin-friendly solution before you move on to the stronger stuff.

The smell of essential oils can help you repel and even kill bed bugs, and we’ve discovered the top five smells that bed bugs absolutely hate.

Hand holding magnifying glass over a bed, eith a cartoon bed bug magnified.

Can essential oils kill bed bugs?

Essential oils can help you get rid of bed bugs, as their high potency levels disorientate them. This makes it difficult for them to regulate their breeding and eating cycles, causing them to starve or at the very least, not reproduce. By attacking their nervous system, essential oils can effectively repel and kill bed bugs, even suffocating them in some instances.

However, the most effective way of getting rid of bed bugs overnight is to implement a few different techniques, such as smoke bombs, sprays, and powders. If you suspect bed bugs early enough, then essential oils might just do the trick by making your sleeping areas inhospitable to them.

The only surefire way of getting rid of bed bugs completely is to get a professional in to fumigate your home, but you can start with essential oils, especially if you want to prevent bed bugs. In fact, essential oils are the best place to start, as they’re chemical-free so they are unlikely to damage your bedding, curtains, and other upholstery that you’ll need to apply them to.

If you have pets, it’s imperative that you check that your essential oil of choice is safe for them, as many can be toxic.

The best natural bed bug killers:

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is potentially the best essential oil to use if you suspect bed bugs, as it not only repels them but destroys their eggs, and can be used as a soothing ointment for bed bug bites.

This essential oil can help to calm irritation and has similar soothing effects to chamomile. The smell of lavender is highly potent to bed bugs, and they also hate its taste, so they won’t want to stick around (or bite you) if you and your bed smell like lavender.

While lavender is a relaxing scent to humans, helping us drift off to sleep at night, it’s too strong for bugs and disrupts their breeding cycles.

So, use lavender oil if you notice itchy bites on your skin, as you can apply directly to your bed bug bites to soothe them and prevent yourself from getting bitten again!

Woman with bottles of lavender essential oil.

Citronella Oil

Just like mosquitos hate the smell of citronella, bed bugs do too. A citronella-scented candle is recommended to keep bed bugs at bay, as they hate the smell of it burning, but you can also use citronella essential oil more directly on your bed - plus you shouldn't leave a candle burning while you're asleep.

Mix a few drops of citronella essential oil with water and spray it over your mattress and bed sheets if you suspect bed bugs. The smell will be far too potent for them to live happily in your bed, with the strong smell impacting their feeding cycles and encouraging them to move on or starve.

Read our guide to avoiding mosquito bites at night for more help staying bite-free, and importantly, how to know if you've been bitten by a mosquito or a bed bug!

Thyme Oil

Thyme oil is great at getting rid of bed bugs due to its active ingredient, Thymol. Like most essential oils, it has a strong smell, which bed bugs and other unwelcome pests will dislike. Its herby scent is also often used in aromatherapy due to its relaxing properties, so it's the perfect essential oil to use in the bedroom.

Thyme oil also has antibacterial properties, which is a must for creating a clean, hygienic sleeping environment. It also has insecticidal properties, which means it naturally repels pests and can actually kill bed bugs by overwhelming their nervous system.

One scientific study found that Thymol is the most effective essential oil for getting rid of bed bugs, as out of the oils tested, only a small amount was needed to do the job.

Teatree Oil

Teatree oil can kill bed bugs by blocking their breathing pores and suffocating them, just like bug spray does. They have to come into direct contact with the teatree oil for this to work, so we recommend putting a few drops of this essential oil in cracks in walls and doorframes where you think they might be coming through.

The smell of teatree oil will stop bed bugs from laying eggs and affects their exoskeleton, but you can also use it on your skin to soothe bug bites. Its anti-bacterial properties will keep the bite clean and reduce the risk of infection, which is ideal if you can’t help yourself scratching!

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is also known to kill bed bugs on contact. This essential oil is popular for deterring creepy crawlies, with people often using it to prevent spiders in their homes - just pop some on your windowsill to stop them coming in!

Peppermint is a natural insecticide, but like teatree oil, it has to come into direct contact with the bed bugs. So, you can use peppermint essential oil to repel them, as they won’t come near the smell, but you can also spray it on areas you suspect they’re hiding to kill them.

Although bed bugs hate it, peppermint is a refreshing smell and you can pop a few drops of its essential oil into a diffuser to actually improve your sleep quality. Research has found that peppermint has similar sleep-enhancing properties to lavender, with both being effective at helping you drift off to sleep.

An array of small bottles and pipettes with mint leaves scattered around them.

Teatree and peppermint oils, while effective at killing and repelling bed bugs, are very toxic to dogs. If you’re a pet owner, check that the essential oil you’re using is safe for your furry friend before you spray it over your bedding, especially if you share your bed with your dog.

How to use essential oils for bed bugs

All of the essential oils in our list are readily available online or in health stores, but its important that you dilute them properly when you’re ready to use them. Mix a few drops of your essential oil of choice with a good amount of water - in a spray bottle is ideal - and spritz it over your mattress, bedding, bed frame, and even your curtains.

If you’re not sure where your bed bugs are coming from, make sure you target places like your sofa (they’ll like to hide in the inner frame, so make sure you take the cushions off and give it a good spray) and any cracks in walls or doorframes, especially if you live in a block of flats, as they can easily move from apartment to apartment.

You can also add a couple of drops to your bedside diffuser, letting the steam float over you and your bed as you sleep, making your whole sleeping environment inhospitable to bed bugs.

Woman using a spray bottle to clean the top section of a bed.

What smell do bed bugs hate the most?

There’s no one smell that bed bugs hate the most - they hate any strong smell that disorientates them, as this messes with their nervous system. Essential oils are known for their potency, which is why they’re so good at repelling and killing bed bugs

Essential oils that get rid of bed bug bites overnight

Treating your bites as soon as you notice them is key to getting rid of bed bug bites quickly. If you notice small, itchy red lumps in a line or cluster, there’s a high chance you’ve been bitten by a bed bug. Luckily, you can use essential oils to treat bed bug bites, but make sure you choose skin-safe ones.

All of the essential oils in our list are safe for you to apply to your skin, so long as you dilute them properly and you’re not likely to be allergic - we’d also recommend you steer clear if you have sensitive skin. Put these oils on your body to prevent bed bug bites, or to help them heal faster:

Lavender: Anti-inflammatory, reduces swelling, and relieves itching

Citronella: Antiseptic properties that can help small wounds heal faster - ideal if you’ve scratched too hard!

Thyme: Contains antioxidants that help the skin heal faster by boosting collagen production

Teatree: Antihistamine-like properties, meaning it can prevent bites from becoming worse or causing a larger allergic reaction

Peppermint: Has a menthol cooling effect that calms your skin and reduces irritation

Woman's hands applying essential oil to her wrists with a roller bottle.

For more advice on keeping your home, bedroom, and sleeping environment free from creepy crawlies of all kinds, read our guide to preventing common insects in your home.

Once you've eradicated all signs of bed bugs, it's a good idea to replace your mattress and bedding to make sure they're gone. You might even want to consider replacing your bed frame, as they are known to lay their eggs there! Luckily with our free next day delivery service, you can sleep bed bug-free as soon as possible.

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