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Bedbugs are small, bloodsucking insects that live in furniture, bedding, and upholstery and bite people and animals. Bedbugs aren’t known to transmit diseases, but their bites can itch and, if left untreated, turn into a painful rash or infection.

Once bedbugs appear, they can be difficult to get rid of. The most common treatments are chemical insecticides that can be sprayed in the affected area. Treatments for the bites themselves are typically limited to antiseptic lotions and antihistamine creams.

Not everyone is comfortable with the ingredients in these traditional bedbug treatments. Essential oils derived from plant ingredients have become a popular alternative treatment for bedbug bites and infestation.

There’s even some research that backs up the claim that certain essential oils are an acceptable and effective alternative bedbug treatment.

Let’s take a look at what we know about using essential oils as a bedbug solution, as well as which ones are most likely to be effective at killing bedbugs, repelling them, and treating bedbug bites.

Essential oils are liquid extracts derived from plants. These extracts have a strong scent and retain some of the distilled “essence” of the plants that they come from.

People who swear by using essential oils for bedbugs say that this strong scent and plant essence works to deter bedbugs from being able to live and lay eggs in your bedding, carpets, clothing, and upholstery.

They claim that the botanical elements of certain essential oils have a toxic effect on the bedbugs themselves, overwhelming the nervous systems of the tiny insects.

Some essential oils have also been shown to have healing properties when it comes to skin rashes and irritation. Many have antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.

This gives some reason to believe that essential oils are an effective treatment for all different kinds of insect bites, including the ones that you get from bedbugs.

There are some essential oils that have been clinically shown to possibly repel bedbugs. Note that bedbugs can live an extremely long time (several months at minimum) without feeding on a host.

That means that while repelling bedbugs using essential oils may be enough to temporarily repel them, the effect of the oils will probably wear off before the bedbugs actually die. These are essential oils that may work to repel or kill bedbugs in your home.


Thymol is the main active compound in the essential oil thyme, which comes from the thyme plant that has been used for years as an insecticide and animal repellent.

At least one study has shown that scent of thymol does appear to overwhelm the nervous system of the common bedbug, making it a promising ingredient for bedbug repellants.


Geraniol is a terpene alcohol occurring in the essential oils of several aromatic plants like citronella, palm, and rose plants.

Geraniol is one of the essential oils that has been found effective at repelling cockroaches, so it makes sense that it might work to repel bedbugs, too.

A 2014 study that compared a treatment product containing geraniol with a more traditional pesticide in a bedbug infestation in an apartment building found no significant difference between the two, in terms of what was more effective.


Citronella oil, which is made from the Asian grass plant, is already a popular mosquito repellant. It’s used all over the world as an antifungal and wound healing treatment, too. Some studies have shown citronella to be an acceptable fumigant to bedbugs.


Eugenol is a phenol compound derived from various essential oils, such as clove. A 2020 study found that exposing bedbugs to a compound with eugenol did result in some of the bedbugs dying.


Carvacrol is found in essential oil derived from several plants, including the oregano plant.

A 2019 study found carvacrol to be the clear winner when it comes to potency among 14 other essential oils when testing for fumigant toxicity on bedbugs. In other words, research shows that carvacrol has properties that repel bedbugs, even if it doesn’t always kill them.

You may want to use essential oils to soothe and treat bedbug bites that have already occurred. Note that these are not the same oils you should be using when you are trying to repel and kill bedbugs. Oils that may help to soothe bedbug bites include:

  • mint and peppermint oil, which have some insect-repellent properties in addition to providing a cooling sensation
  • lavender oil, which is known for its calming properties and healing properties
  • tea tree oil, which has antimicrobial properties and is also known to stimulate healing
  • rosemary oil, which can prevent infections while soothing redness and itching

To use essential oils to treat bug bites, make sure that you dilute them well with a carrier oil (such as jojoba oil or coconut oil) before applying them to your skin. You can repeat the application as soon as symptoms of itching begin to reappear.

The biggest potential risk for using essential oils for bedbugs is that it won’t work. The sooner you treat bedbugs, the less an infestation will interrupt your life.

With that being said, you should always be very careful when using essential oils. They shouldn’t be ingested, and they shouldn’t be used in the area around your eyes.

Essential oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil (such as coconut oil) before being used on your skin. Due to their potency and fumes, you shouldn’t be applying large amounts of essential oils to your skin as a way to repel bedbugs while you sleep. (Chances are, this wouldn’t work).

Create a spray bottle solution that you can use to treat affected areas in your home. You can combine 10 to 15 drops of any of the essential oils mentioned above with a small amount of rubbing alcohol and some distilled water into a glass spray bottle.

Combining thymol and carvacrol, for example, may even amplify their effects. A recipe for a DIY bedbug repellant could be:

  • 1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol
  • 6 ounces distilled water
  • 10 drops carvacrol oil
  • 5 drops thymol
  • 5 drops geranoil

Shake all ingredients to combine them before spraying on your bedding and furniture, as well as your mattress. Avoid spraying areas that may come into contact with your eyes, such as pillows and pillowcases.

The active components of these botanical ingredients tend to evaporate quickly, so you’ll need to repeat treatment each day for several days to notice the results.

Of course, you can always opt for the more traditional effective ways to get rid of your bedbugs.

  • Start by treating with high heat to kill bugs and their eggs. Wash bedding and clothes at 115 degrees or higher. Use a steam cleaner on your mattress and other furniture that you can’t launder.
  • Place difficult-to-clean items in a black garbage bag and leave them in the hot sun or in a closed car to get rid of bedbugs on your pillows and comforter.
  • Use insecticides that contain pyrethrins, pyrethroids, and desiccants.

Some research suggests that essential oils like thymol and carvacrol can work to treat an ongoing bedbug infestation. Other essential oils may work to soothe symptoms of itching after a bite has already occurred.

If you’re cautious about the ingredients in chemical insecticides, this might be an effective solution for your bedbug issues.