How to Use Essential Oils for Bed Bugs

bed bug image over an image of bottles of essential oils

Imagine tossing and turning at night, not just because of the day’s worries but due to tiny, unwelcome bedfellows. It’s a battle many face, yet the solution could be as natural and simple as using essential oils for bed bugs.

This article is your ultimate guide to essential oil for bed bugs. We’ll explore which oils pack a punch against these pests, how to blend and apply them for maximum effect, and even which ones to use to soothe bed bug bites.

Why Use Essential Oils for Bed Bugs?

In the quest to maintain a peaceful and pest-free home, many people are turning towards more eco-friendly or green solutions. This is where essential oils come in. Unlike traditional pesticides, which can carry a heavy chemical load and pose potential risks to human health, essential oils offer a safer alternative.

However, though they serve as a natural deterrent against bed bugs, it’s important to recognize that essential oils alone are not a silver bullet for eradicating a full-blown infestation. The best strategy for dealing with bed bugs is a holistic approach that combines multiple methods, such as heat treatments, steaming, and chemical insecticides.

What Essential Oils Work for Bed Bugs?

bed bug on skin
Photo Credit: Mainely Photos / Canva Pro / License

The idea of using essential oils to combat bed bugs might seem like a soothing solution to a distressing problem, but not all essential oils are created equal in the eyes — or antennae — of these pests. 

Recent research has shown that bed bugs have a distaste for certain compounds found naturally in some essential oils, which act as a deterrent against them. Their efficacy is immediate upon contact and remains potent even after 24 hours. Here are the compounds that bed bugs find most repulsive:

  • Eugenol
  • Geraniol
  • Citronellic acid
  • Carvacrol

As repellents, these substances are not merely irritants to these insects; they are toxic and interact with their neurotransmitter receptors at the nervous system level. They also show a notable distaste for thymol, linalool, and trans-cinnamaldehyde, but their effectiveness is predominantly immediate post-application. 

Best Essential Oils for Bed Bugs

bottle of clove oil and cloves on marble
Clove oil
Photo Credit: formatoriginalphotos / Canva Pro / License

Here are the essential oils that contain the compounds that have been found to work against bed bugs:

  • Java citronella oil
  • Clove oil
  • Red thyme oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Oregano oil
  • Blood orange oil

As for store-bought essential oil sprays, a different study indicates that the following products are the most effective at killing bed bug nymphs (both) and eggs (EcoRaider only). You can buy them online or at your local hardware store:

How to Use Essential Oils for Bed Bugs

Citronella oil with grass
Citronella oil
Photo Credit: zetat / Canva Pro / License

You can purchase sprays for bed bugs that already contain essential oils and other natural ingredients, or you can embrace the DIY spirit by creating your own blend. 

Use an amber spray bottle to mix your ingredients and 10 to 15 drops of essential oils like clove oil, red thyme oil, or java citronella oil. You can also mix them to amplify their effects against bed bugs. 

Here’s a recipe to try:


  • 1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol
  • 6 ounces distilled water
  • 10 drops oregano oil
  • 5 drops red thyme oil
  • 5 drops java citronella oil


  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Give it a good shake.
  3. Spray the solution around your mattress, upholstered furniture, bed frame, nightstands, and any other critical area.
  4. Repeat daily.

Essential Oils for Bed Bug Bites

fresh peppermint and oil on a wooden surface
Peppermint oil
Photo Credit: Rawf8 / Canva Pro / License

Bed bug bites are a common aftermath of an unwelcome encounter with these pests, often resulting in an itchy, bumpy rash. These bites usually resolve on their own, but the discomfort and itching can be quite bothersome.

For those seeking relief, over-the-counter steroid creams are an effective option to reduce inflammation. If you’re looking for a more natural approach, here are the essential oils with antimicrobial or anti-inflammatory properties:

  • Peppermint oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Lemongrass oil
  • Camphor oil
  • Chamomile oil
  • Witch hazel

As you may have noticed, these oils differ from the ones used to repel bed bugs. Oils like clove, oregano, cinnamon, and thyme can irritate your skin even more after a bed bug bite, so steer away from them.

Essential Oils That Don’t Work

bottle of tea tree oil and plants
Tea tree oil
Photo Credit: Africa images / Canva Pro / License

It might be tempting to reach for that forgotten essential oil in your cabinet, hoping for a quick fix. However, not all essential oils have evidence demonstrating their efficacy, so using them might lead to wasted time. 

The following essential oils, despite their popularity and various other benefits, lack sufficient evidence to support their use as pesticides or repellents for bed bugs:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Peppermint oil 
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Cedarwood oil

Other Natural Remedies for Bed Bugs

person vacuuming mattress
Photo Credit: Africa images / Canva Pro / License

While essential oils have shown promise in repelling bed bugs, relying on them as the sole method of control is not advisable. Here are some additional natural remedies for bed bugs to consider:

  • Vacuuming: Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter can help reduce bed bug populations by physically removing them. Just be careful to dispose of the bag carefully, placing it in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Mattress encasements: Using specially designed mattress encasements can trap bed bugs inside, preventing them from biting and eventually leading to their death due to starvation.
  • Drying on high heat: Putting clothing and bedding in a dryer on high heat for at least 30 minutes can effectively kill bed bugs and their eggs.
  • Steam cleaning: A thorough steam cleaning with temperatures of at least 130 F can penetrate fabrics and crevices, killing bed bugs and their eggs on mattresses and upholstery.
  • Professional heat treatment: Hiring a professional to perform a whole-home heat treatment can be a great way to treat your entire property or even individual rooms. This method raises the temperature of your home to lethal levels for bed bugs.
  • Freezing infested items: Placing infested items in a sealed bag and leaving them in the freezer for at least three days can kill bed bugs. Ensure the freezer is set to 0 F.
  • Diatomaceous earth: Sprinkling diatomaceous earth around crevices, cracks, and other potential bed bug hideouts can dehydrate and kill bed bugs. Don’t forget to wear a mask.

FAQ About Bed Bugs and Essential Oils

Does Clove Oil Kill Bed Bugs?

Yes, research has indicated that clove oil, which is rich in eugenol, possesses properties that can both kill and repel bed bugs. However, it is not a standalone solution and will not eliminate an entire infestation from your home. 

Can I Spray Peppermint Oil on my Bed?

You can spray peppermint oil on your bed if you enjoy its refreshing, minty aroma. However, when it comes to bed bugs, there’s not enough scientific research to support its effectiveness in killing or repelling bed bugs.

That said, peppermint oil can deter spiders. So, if spiders are unwelcome visitors in your home, using peppermint oil can serve as a natural home remedy to keep them at bay.

Does Diffusing Essential Oils for Bed Bugs Work?

Diffusing essential oils like java citronella oil, red thyme oil, or blood orange oil may contribute to creating an environment that is less attractive to bed bugs, but directly spraying these pests with essential oils is more effective.

When to Call a Pro

Essential oils are a natural and pleasant-smelling line of defense against bed bugs. However, when facing a full-blown infestation, it might be wiser to bring in the big guns. Call a pest control professional with the expertise and tools to handle your bed bug problem, and leave the essential oils for aromatherapy sessions.

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Main Image Credits:
Essential oils: bit245 / Canva Pro / License
Bed Bug: Mainely Photos / Canva Pro / License

Maria Isabela Reis

Maria Isabela Reis is a writer, Ph.D. candidate, and plant enthusiast from an area where mosquitoes are as relentless in their pursuit of blood as she is in her quest for knowledge. When she’s not swatting away these buzzing annoyances, she’s playing with her dogs and savoring a cup of tea.