Will Salt Kill Bed Bugs?

  • Written By Dan Edwards on December 18, 2017
    Last Updated: December 30, 2020

Finding bed bugs in your home can be highly distressing and difficult to deal with. Not only can they rapidly multiply into large numbers, but they also hide in the smallest, unseen cracks. Expensive professional help will often be needed. However, there are also some cheaper, more natural alternatives to try first, such as salt, to kill bed bugs.

Salt is a tried and tested method that is successful in killing a variety of different pests. With it working so well at killing other creatures you may be wondering if it will also get rid of the bed bugs.

How Does Salt Kill?

Salt has been used for hundreds of years to target such creatures as snails and slugs. Classified as mollusks, this means that they have thin skin which allows the transfer of fluids quite easily.

The salt reacts with a snail or slug’s body and absorbs the fluid. This leads to severe dehydration and, eventually, death. As salt works so successfully at killing these garden pests, it is widely used by many as a chemical-free alternative.

If you were hoping to use this easy solution to treat bed bugs, however, you will be disappointed. Salt does not work in the same way when applied to other creatures, particularly bed bugs. Let’s find out why.

Does Salt Kill Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs do not have the same skin as mollusks. While their shell may have a certain amount of moisture, it works to protect the bugs and will not allow excess moisture through. Therefore, if salt comes into contact with a bed bug’s shell, it won’t cause any damage.

There may be some confusion between table salt and a white powder called diatomaceous earth. The substances look alike but diatomaceous earth is much more effective than salt at absorbing liquids.

Diatomaceous Earth and Bed Bugs

Diatomaceous earth is designed to work in a similar way that salt does on slugs and snails. It will stick to the protective layer of a bed bug and absorb it, causing it to die of dehydration. As this substance is so effective at absorbing liquids, it can kill bed bugs quickly and effectively.

diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth

The reason it works so well on bed bugs is due to its ability to target thick and sticky substances. The outer shell, or exoskeleton, of a bed bug, is laced with waxy lipids. Where salt will not stick to this substance, diatomaceous earth will.

When looking for Diatomaceous Earth to use, don’t worry about buying anything too special or expensive, as most forms are more or less similar to each other. However, choosing a food-grade DE is probably your best choice as it can be less hazardous than other forms. A bag like this DiatomaceousEarth Food Grade 10lb should work absolutely fine.

How to Use Diatomaceous Earth Effectively

If you are hoping to use this substance to treat an entire bed bug infestation, you may want to think again. Diatomaceous earth can kill those bed bugs that come into contact with it, but won’t eliminate an infestation in one go. It is also advised for use only in cracks and crevices as opposed to more open areas.

Therefore if you can effectively penetrate these areas with diatomaceous earth it is more likely to be a success. However, it can be rather challenging to accurately apply the powder to these hard-to-reach areas. If you have a problem with bed bugs, I would advise using a secondary treatment as well.

Diatomaceous earth can also be used as a preventative measure to help contain and repel bed bugs. It should be applied across carpeted doorways, behind or under couches, as well as around, or under, beds. This will help to prevent the migration of bed bugs and give you a chance to treat them in a contained space.

When using diatomaceous earth liberally indoors, make sure you buy the food-grade product. If you have a severe infestation and want to use the pesticidal grade, precautionary measures must be taken and the product used sparingly. Wear a dust mask, as this product is hazardous if inhaled. Make sure children or pets are not in the vicinity during the treatment.

Final Thoughts

When dealing with bedbugs, you want to be certain that you are using an effective method. This will help to ensure that they are killed off as quickly as possible. There are a number of different ways to try and treat these pests and the salt-like substance, diatomaceous earth, is just one of them.

Unfortunately, if you were hoping to use regular table salt to kill bed bugs, this method is not going to work. More powerful, chemical-based treatments are the best option for these tough creatures, as invasive as they can be. I also advise using a number of different treatments at the same time, to maximize your results.