Will Borax & Boric Acid Kill Bed Bugs?

  • Written By Dan Edwards on December 23, 2017
    Last Updated: December 23, 2020

Do you ever wake up with red, itchy bites all over your skin? Have you ever found bed bug shells or bug waste in your bed in the morning? Do you ever wish that you could just get rid of these pests without dangerous DIY remedies or expensive professional pest treatments?

If so, you’re not alone. Fortunately, you can be free from itchy rashes and get rid of disgusting bed bugs. In fact, some safe home treatments may be able to get rid of bed bugs. A lot of different home treatments have been suggested, and one of the newer ones I’m being asked is whether boric acid and borax will kill bed bugs.

Here’s what you need to know:

What Is Boric Acid / Borax?

Boric acid is a mineral salt, also called sodium borate. It is used for many household cleaning purposes. The most commonly sold type of boric acid is borax, which is a powdered form that is often used as a laundry aid. That’s not borax’s only use though.

Does Boric Acid Kill Bed Bugs

Many people use boric acid as a natural pest remedy. For instance, it can be mixed with honey or another sweet substance and set out for ants. When the ants eat the sugary food, they also consume the borax crystals and take it back to their colony. Because ants share food with each other, the poisonous salt quickly spreads to other ants in the colony.

Boric Acid Crystal
Boric Acid Crystal

Does Borax Kill Bed Bugs?

I won’t keep you waiting. The truth is that the debate is still out about how well boric acid may work to kill bed bugs. Very few actual experiments have been carried out to determine its effectiveness, but some people who have treated bed bugs themselves claim that it helped. You can try it and see if it reduces your own bed bug problems.

Let’s take a look at how borax supposedly works to kill bed bugs. It’s not the same as with ants. The bed bugs don’t need to ingest boric acid in order for it to kill them. In fact, it would be impossible to get them to eat boric acid because bed bugs don’t eat anything except blood. That is their only source of nourishment.

If they don’t eat it, how can it kill them? It works in a similar way to diatomaceous earth, by affecting other bed bug bodily functions. Being a salt, boric acid in strong concentrations will dehydrate and suffocate the pests.

All you need to do is sprinkle it heavily over the areas where bed bugs hide. Of course, finding all their hiding spots can be difficult, so it would be unlikely to reduce your bed bug infestation using only boric acid. It’s a better strategy to combine multiple DIY techniques to get rid of the pests as fast as possible.

Why boric acid may not work

As mentioned, bed bugs cannot eat boric acid, which makes it less effective on this pest than other insects. Salts tend to be toxic and abrasive, though, so it is possible that they could breathe it in and suffer ill effects. It is unlikely that death would be immediate.

Removing bed bugs from clothes with borax

Although we’re not really sure yet how effective borax may be at actually killing a bed bug infestation, you can use it for treating infested clothing and bedding.

Bed Bugs On Clothes

To do so, add boric acid to your washing machine along with any suspected bed bug-infested clothing. Washing the clothes on the highest possible temperature and drying them thoroughly will kill the bed bugs and their eggs, but adding boric acid can help to ensure that you get all of them off the clothes.

Can Boric Acid Kill Bed Bug Eggs?

It is extremely unlikely that using bed bugs will destroy bed bug eggs. Eggs tend to be the most difficult part of an infestation to get rid of. That’s in part because they are tiny and protected by their exterior. Again, however, you can use boric acid to get sticky bed bug eggs off clothing and bedding in the wash, and the high heat setting in the dryer will destroy eggs.

Will All Types Of Boric Acid Work?

You may find several different brands of boric acid available at the store. Some are sold in the household cleaning and laundry section. Others may even be found in insect and pest control. They are all the same compound. You’ll get more boric acid for your money if you buy the type in the cleaning aisle rather than the pest control section.

Each type of borax will be a powder that can be sprinkled on an area. It often comes in a cardboard box, but you may find some varieties in a type of plastic dispenser with a spout.

Boric acid can also be an ingredient in various salines, but it will not work against insects in this form.

How To Use Boric Acid Against Bed Bugs

Those who suggest using borax as an effective treatment say there is a specific method to treating a mattress this way. Generally, it is used for treating just the bed or carpet.

The most commonly cited method is to sprinkle a heavy layer of borax on the mattress or carpet and then spray it with warm water to create a suffocating layer of borax over the bed bugs. Allow all of the borax to dry, and then vacuum it up.

Ideally, some of the bed bugs will have died, and others will get trapped in the wet borax and be sucked up later by the vacuum. You will want to take care to double-seal any vacuum bag or vacuum canister that may contain bed bugs and dispose of it or, in the case of a bagless canister, thoroughly remove bed bugs and clean it.

To do this, double bag all the debris inside the canister, and thoroughly wash out the canister with hot water to make sure no bugs remain. Remove and replace filters inside the vacuum.

Remember, you can also use borax to help get baby and adult bed bugs out of affected clothes and bedding. It’s a mild abrasive that will scrub them off of fabric.

Risks Of Using Boric Acid Against Bed Bugs

Borax is fairly safe to use. Of course, you shouldn’t eat it or let any of your children or pets consume the borax. Other than that, it is much less toxic than other substances used as pesticides and insecticides.

Because of the risk of pets or children ingesting borax, you should take care not to sprinkle it where they may play in it. Even if they don’t eat it intentionally, it may get on hands or paws and be accidentally licked off.

If someone in your home does accidentally ingest borax, it probably won’t cause too much harm. Likely effects are nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. You should contact a doctor just to be sure everything is okay, though, in the case of ingesting boric acid.

Borax is pretty safe for skin contact and typically causes no skin irritation. You’ll want to wash your hands after using it just to make sure it doesn’t get in your eyes or mouth, but again, no big risk. In fact, boric acid is used in contact lens solutions, which are designed to go in eyes.

The biggest human risk factor for borax is inhalation. Inhaling any powder substance is irritating to the respiratory system. The irritation is usually temporary.


It doesn’t hurt to try a DIY treatment method to see whether boric acid or borax kills bed bugs. You’re going to need a multiple technique approach, so you might as well use it as a suggestion along with other strategies. It’s unlikely, however, that borax will be the determining factor in getting rid of your infestation.