Does Bleach Kill Bed bugs? The Lowdown

Note: this article may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, I may be paid a referral fee at no expense to you.

The quick, “I’m in pinch here,” answer to “does bleach kill bed bugs?” is “Yes”. DONE.

However, some elaboration is necessary. 

So your home, or bed rather, has been invaded by, or INFESTED with rather (sounds even worse), bed bugs.  You’re mildly freaked out and in pinch for a quick fix…i.e. a common household item that doubles as a weapon of mass destruction against these blood-sucking little vampires.  Yes, vampires. 

Bed bugs actually feed on human blood.  In fact, other than actually seeing them crawling on your bed, bed bugs are often detected by the blood stains that they leave on your mattress—bloody bed bug excrement.  Yummy.  Chunking your bed sheets into the washing machine, you consider the prospect of BLEACH.   Good idea.  Here are a few simple suggestions:

Let A Pro Handle It.

Get a no obligation quote from a pest control pro near you:

Bed Bug - Bleach Kill Bed Bugs

Use A Color-Safe Bleach

Household bleach kills bed bugs, but it also kills color.  So, to prevent turning that dreamy red dress of yours into a pinkish nightmare, use a Color-Safe bleach.   Don’t worry Color-Safe bleach will still do the trick and effectively kill those bed bugs.

Bleach Kills Them – But So Does Heat…

You might be aware that bed bugs thrive in warm environments with rich levels of carbon dioxide (coincidentally what your body gives off).  Hence bed bugs love to make themselves comfortable in…well…just about whatever it is that you are making yourself comfortable in, i.e. clothes, shoes, bedding and of course, beds. 

However, bed bugs are relatively dainty vermin.  They can’t handle the heat.  Research indicates that the magic number appears to be 113°F—but it needs to be sustained for a prolonged period of time. 

Experiments conducted at Virginia Tech University have confirmed that a loosely filled dryer set on “high” is capable of killing all bed bug life-stages and their eggs in 30 minutes.  So be sure to launder your items on high heat in the dryer for at least 30 minutes to get the job done…that’s one episode with Pat Sejak and his Wheel of Fortune.

Furthermore, a dryer with a removable shelf is excellent for killing bugs on items that cannot be tumbled , like leather shoes, handbags, knick knacks, even books.  For further laundering advice, the University of Minnesota offers basic advice on washing items to remove bed bugs.  This laundering advice centers around three basic steps 1. Sorting and Handling your infested items properly,  2. Washing and Drying your clothes properly and 3. Storing your cleaned clothes properly.

Quarantine Your Items Until The Coast Is Clear

Ok, so you have washed your infested items in bleach and have dried the garments in the dryer on HIGH heat for at least 30 minutes.  Now what? 

Place and seal your treated items in a clean plastic bag.  Bed bugs are resilient and quick to reproduce. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, a female bed bug lays about 5-7 eggs per week and if fed, will lay 200 to 500 eggs in her life.  Eggs take about 10 days to hatch and bed bugs are fully grown in 2 to 4 months with a lifespan of about a year.

Furthermore, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they can live several months without a blood meal and they are notorious experts at hiding.  They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, and under any clutter or objects around a bed.  According to the CDC, they can travel over 100 feet in one night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

In order to avoid the re-infestation of your treated items, quarantine each and every treated item from the affected area until you are certain that the area has been completely purged of all bed bugs. Items must be stored in plastic bags or containers after laundering until the problem is under control.  Which brings us to the question of How?


Ok. So you have washed everything that you can wash in the washer with bleach and have dried it in the dryer in high heat for at least 30 minutes.  You have sealed your clean items off from the contaminated area.

Now what should you do?

A great place to start is by getting rid of clutter in your home. 

Getting rid of clutter will reduce places bed bugs can hide.  Move your bed away from walls or furniture.  After checking them for bed bugs, consider putting non-essential belongings into storage until the bed bugs are gone from your home.  Check all of your items again before returning them. 

Vacuum carpets, floors, bed frames, furniture, molding, windows, cracks and crevices daily, using the brush and crevice tools.  Empty the vacuum or seal and dispose of its bag outside of your home after each use.  Any cracks or crevices on walls or along baseboards should be painted or caulked with an appropriate sealant. This can prevent bed bugs from getting inside wall voids, where they can migrate to other locations in the building.

When cleaning and exterminating bed bugs from your home, avoid using pesticide bombs or foggers.  Not only do these cause a mess, but they actually are not entirely effective at killing bed bugs and can even make conditions worse.  After you home has been treated, be sure to wipe off dead bugs, blood stains, eggs and droppings with hot soapy water.  Make sure the water is HOT, and by HOT I mean at least 140°F HOT.

Does Bleach Kill Bed Bugs On A Mattress?

You might be wondering, does bleach kill bed bugs if I use it on my mattress, seeing that you most likely can’t stuff it into your washer or dryer, unless, that is, you are a pixie with a pixie sized mattress.

Now, if your mattress is particularly disgusting and infested, you might want to consider buying a new one, but this isn’t your only option. 

Spraying color-safe bleach with a typical spray bottle might take care of the surface of your mattress, but you must keep in mind that bed bugs burrow into the mattress and often don’t come back to the surface until night-time, with the express purpose of sucking your blood.  While you are sleeping they crawl onto exposed skin, inject a mild anesthetic and suck up a small amount of blood.

As disturbing as this sounds, and let’s face it, pretty much is—most people never feel the actual bite. 

In fact, some people do not even react to bed bug bites.  But for those who do, bite marks may appear within minutes or days, usually where skin is exposed during sleep. 

They can be small bumps or large itchy welts.  The welts usually go away after a few days.  Keep in mind that because the bites may resemble mosquito and other insects bites, a bump or welt alone does necessarily mean that there are bed bugs.  However, in the off chance that there are bed bugs teaming around in your bed, unless you plan on submerging your mattress in a giant vat of bleach, you probably won’t kill of the bed bugs and there eggs by simply spritzing the mattress with bleach.

There are alternative methods for getting bed bugs off and out of your bed and the University of Purdue suggests a few in detail.  These include sealing up your mattress with a plastic cover or bed bug enclosure cover for at least a year or hiring pest control professionals to use whole room heat, steam or extreme cold treatments to kill the bugs.


If you have bed bugs, don’t be too hard on yourself. Anyone can get bed bugs. They are usually transported from place to place as people travel…not from dirty living conditions. However, once bed bugs are introduced into the home, dirty, cluttered living conditions will enable them to thrive and wreak havoc.

Typically, bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize that they can transport stow-away bed bugs as they travel—infesting new areas, including their homes, as they travel and relocate. With that said, here are some thoughtful tips to avoid tracking bed bugs with you back into your home.

  • When staying in a hotel, place your bag on a suitcase stand rather than on the bed or floor. Keep the rack away from the walls or furniture. When returning home, wash the clothes from your trip and put them in a hot dryer as we discussed above.
  • Inspect new and used furniture before bringing it inside. Look in seams, tufts and under cushions.

It takes time and persistence to get rid of bed bugs, and can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Just remember though that bed bugs, in spite of how repulsive they are, are more of a nuisance than a health concern.

In fact, bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases to humans. With a little vigilance and bug fighting savvy you can effectively avoid or successfully deal with bed bug infestations. My hope is that this article has equipped you a little more in the art of fighting bugs—bed bugs.

Last Updated on