Does Borax Kill Bed Bugs? Everything You Need To Know

A container of borax about to be used for killing bed bugs

When it comes to the topic of borax being able to kill bed bugs or not, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. While this compound is a fantastic tool to have in your pest control arsenal, it interacts with bed bugs a bit differently.

In this guide you’ll learn if borax will kill bed bugs, and the best ways you can use it to keep your house free of these pesky little insects!

Does Borax Kill Bed Bugs?

Borax is a mineral compound that manufacturers utilize in a wide array of products. It’s pretty widespread in household goods like laundry detergent, glass cleaner, and more. You may even see it in cosmetics.

All that said, borax is also a popular insecticide. Many commercial insecticide products contain borax in some form. However, you can also use it in its raw form as bait to kill roaches, ants, and more.

But does borax kill bed bugs?

Despite borax’s effectiveness with other common pests, it’s not the most reliable option for killing bed bugs. It’s still useful and has its place in your pest control arsenal, but bed bugs don’t react to this compound the same way other insects do.

One bed bug after being killed by borax

The reason for its lack of efficiency comes down to how it works.

You see, borax primarily acts as a stomach poison. When insects ingest borax, it slowly kills the bacteria in their gut. Not only that, but it interferes with the digestive system and slows the metabolism to dangerously low levels.

Quick Tip: The effects of borax are slow, but that’s why it’s so effective for most insects. Roaches and ants can bring the borax-laced bait food to the colony and kill even more bugs.

So why does that hinder its effectiveness when used to kill bed bugs?

Bed bugs feed exclusively on blood. They’re parasitic pests that feed on your blood in the dead of night. They don’t eat crumbs on the floor or even other insects.

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Therein lies the problem! There’s no way to create blood bait with borax. Even if you were to collect some blood and put it on a dish, bed bugs wouldn’t touch it because they prefer warm, fresh blood.

You can definitely still use borax to kill bed bugs. It offers some degree of efficiency in killing these pests. However, you have to use it a little bit differently than with other insects.

The most reliable way to use borax to kill bed bugs is by tossing it on their bodies directly. Upon contact, the powder can abrade the exoskeleton. Eventually, the tiny insects will inhale the compound and slowly suffocate.

As an contact killer, borax has an estimated death rate of about 33 percent. While you’ll see a higher success rate using borax to kill ants and roaches, this means you can still see some modest success with bed bugs if you use it correctly. So if it happens to be what you have handy around the house, give it a shot!

How To Use Borax For Killing Bed Bugs

While it’s not the most potent bed bug killer out there, borax can still come in handy when it comes to eradicating these pests. You can use it to weed them out directly or to treat infested items.

Here are a couple of ways you can use borax to kill bed bugs.

Cleaning Mattresses & Upholstery

If you’re unlucky enough to find bed bugs on your mattress, you can use borax to your advantage. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to toss your mattress at the first sign of bugs. It’s still salvable with deep cleaning.

That’s where the borax comes in.

Start by removing your sheets and pillows. You’ll treat those later!

Once you have a bare mattress, start sprinkling a thick layer of borax all over the top of your mattress. Don’t be afraid to apply the powder liberally. The goal is to suffocate as many live bed bugs as possible!

Next, fill up a spray bottle with some water and go to town! Spray the water all over the mattress until it’s decently saturated. The water will mix with the borax, forcing any remaining bed bugs to inhale it and die.

Quick Tip: Let the mixture sit and dry before vacuuming it up later.

Washing Linens

As you wait for your mattress to dry, start a load of laundry! It’s important to wash every piece of linen you have on your bed. That includes the fitted sheet, pillowcases, the comforter, and anything else.

Bed bugs are great at hiding in bedsheets (it’s often how they end up spreading so fast). Even if you don’t spot any live bugs now, there could be some hiding in there.

A bed bug walking across linens

Washing your sheets will kill and eliminate the bugs. Technically speaking, you don’t need to kill the bugs before sending them through the washing machine. A standard hot wash cycle is more than enough to get the job done.

However, borax may speed the process up. You can include it in a shorter cycle without any issues. Plus, the borax provides some peace of mind and a boost of freshness.

Quick Tip: Just don’t forget to use hot water. The cold cycle will not be sufficient.

If you’re not sure about the size of the infestation, you may want to think about washing other fabrics in your room with borax as well. These insects can easily hide in curtains and clothes.

Suffocating Stray Bugs

Finally, you can use borax to kill bed bugs directly. Sprinkle the borax on any surface that might be harboring bed bugs.

Use it liberally on the carpets and around furniture as well. Thanks to their small size, bed bugs often lurk between the fibers of high-pile carpets. Work the borax into the plush flooring so that it makes contact with as many bugs as possible.

See any voids in your furniture or walls? Toss some borax at it! You can’t go wrong with using this powder aggressively. 

After letting the borax sit for a bit, you can vacuum it up alongside the dead bed bugs.

Safety Precautions To Take

Before you start going to town with the borax, there are some safety precautions you need to take.

As a whole, borax is pretty safe. When you compare it with chemical-based insecticides, it’s one of the gentler options. However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t cause trouble if you misuse it.

It’s perfectly capable of harming or even killing you. Ingesting the stuff can lead to some severe side effects. Not only will you suffer from diarrhea and vomiting, but it could cause headaches, fevers, and body tremors.

Eating several ounces can even kill you! Borax wreaks havoc on your system and harms organs. Without treatment, it could lead to organ failure and death.

Quick Tip: Needless to say, ingesting borax is a big no-no. However, kids and pets don’t know the dangers of borax. If you plan on utilizing borax to treat bed bugs, make sure that you keep them away.

It’s also a good idea to wear some protection for yourself. 

To prevent accidental inhalation, wear a mask when sprinkling borax onto surfaces. Inhaling it could harm your lungs and lead to many of the same negative ramifications as eating it.

When killing bed bugs with borax, use gloves and glasses. Prolonged skin exposure can lead to rashes and irritation. Borax isn’t nearly as risky to use as insecticides with harsh chemicals, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful!

Borax vs. Diatomaceous Earth For Bed Bugs

Many people mistake borax for diatomaceous earth and vice versa. It’s not hard to see why!

Both substances come in powder form, serve many purposes around the home, and are used for pest control. While similar, these two products work very differently.

Diatomaceous earth is the crushed up skeletal remains of diatoms, which are algae with cell walls made of opaline silica. The powder is ultra-fine and all-natural. 

A container of borax about to be used for killing bed bugs

The powder is a fantastic contract killer. To us, the powder is fine and safe to touch. But on a microscopic level, it’s downright lethal!

Diatomaceous earth causes extreme abrasive damage to insect exoskeletons. Not only does it generate tons of tiny injuries, but it’s also absorptive. The powder effectively dehydrates bugs and prevents them from retaining any moisture, resulting in death.

You can use diatomaceous earth on a wide range of pests. That includes bed bugs!

For bed bugs, diatomaceous earth is often considered a little more effective than borax. While borax has abrasive properties that can harm the bug’s body as well, it’s not as robust as diatomaceous earth.

Quick Tip: The interesting thing is that bed bugs are one of the only pest insects where you would reach for diatomaceous earth first. In most applications, diatomaceous earth is the second choice because it only kills bugs you can see. Insects don’t eat this stuff, making it useless for harming the population at large.

But because bed bugs don’t eat either powder, diatomaceous earth is usually the go-to option for eradicating visible insects. But again, that doesn’t mean you can’t kill bed bugs with borax if that’s all you have around the house!

Can Borax Kill Bed Bug Eggs?

Seeing bed bugs eggs should be a significant cause for concern. Those tiny eggs will eventually turn into hungry baby bed bugs (aka nymphs). Plus, it could indicate that you have a thriving population to tackle.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to turn to other methods of extermination for bed bug eggs. Borax doesn’t do a thing to them! The eggs are well-protected from harm.

Furthermore, eggs can’t eat or inhale the borax powder. As a result, it does not affect them. There’s a small chance of physical damage if you dust them in borax. However, most are going to continue developing either way.

Is Borax Soap Effective?

Borax is available in many different forms. The most common is pure powder. Powdered borax soap is easy to use and pretty cost-efficient.

By now you should know that you can use borax to kill bed bugs. However, you will probably see better results if you opt for boric acid instead of borax soap.

Boric acid goes through additional refinement processes. Some manufacturers add other acids into the mix to increase its efficiency against pests.

Generally, boric acid is the ingredient that manufacturers use in insecticide products. It’s a little more potent than standard borax soap, which could be helpful when dealing with bed bugs.

Some products contain a mix of plain borax soap and boric acid. Generally, the boric acid concentration influences the product’s strength. On average, a mixture with one percent boric acid can eliminate bed bug infestations in four to five days with repeated use.

Quick Tip: Higher strengths might get the job done a little faster, but a more potent product does create more safety risks. Make sure to use adequate protection when using boric acid or borax soap.

Final Thoughts

By now you should be aware that the answer to the question, “Does borax kill bed bugs?” is a bit tricky. While it definitely can kill them, it’s not as lethal as other methods.

With that being said, you can still find success if it’s all you have sitting around the house. Just be aware of its strengths (and weaknesses) and you’ll do fine!

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