Do bed bugs die in water?

Drowning and choking are on the list of the worst deaths one can have. It is a very distressing and agonizing way to die, and most mammals can suffer drowning similar to humans. But in the animal and Insect Kingdom, some animals that live on the surface also develop an impressive resistance to drowning and running out of oxygen. Is that the case of bed bugs? Can you kill bed bugs by soaking them in water or any other liquid?

Can I drown bed bugs in water or any other liquid?

Bed bugs are surface creatures, and they do not have long-lasting water resistance, as amphibious do. They can’t swim, either. So, technically, drowning bed bugs can kill them. If you take bed bugs into a glass of water, they will ultimately die when they run out of oxygen. However, this will not get rid of bed bugs and is not considered a useful measure to counter a bed bug infestation at home.

Even a small glass of water will be enough to drown one bed bug. Their natural habitat does not have water, and they don’t know how to push themselves to a given direction to save themselves. Their legs are also very short and not appropriate for the task. However, you will notice that they stay on top of the water the whole time. Their bodies are very light and do not sink, and remember that they keep some air from breathing. So, it may take a while before they actually die.

Still, you may experiment with killing one or two bed bugs with water, but it is definitely not making any difference. Every adult female bed bug lays several eggs every day, and the process of drowning them is not an adequate measure against an ongoing infestation.

How to get rid of bed bugs in your clothes and bedding?

Bed bugs do not survive inside a washing machine, and there are many reasons. Firstly, they do not swim and are not adapted to the water. Thus, they ultimately drown and die. But the detergent is also a strong chemical with a degree of toxicity that contributes to killing bed bugs. Moreover, if you use hot water, bed bugs may not survive high temperatures and die almost instantly. So, you may use this in your favor if you want to get rid of bed bugs from your clothes and bedding.

If you have bed bugs at home, it is recommended that you wash your clothes and change your bedding as frequently as possible. Take everything directly into the washing machine to prevent spreading bed bugs to other areas of your house. If you’re collecting clothes to wash them, use plastic bags. And, after washing your clothes and bedding, be sure to place them inside sealed plastic bags.

Another recommendation to get rid of bed bugs in your clothes and bedding is using a steam treatment machine. Bed bugs do not survive in very hot temperatures, and they die almost instantly with steam. Just make sure that you’re patiently covering with steam every part of the fabric. Do it very slowly instead of a fast and hurried pass.

All of this will help keep bed bugs away, but do not forget that these creatures are not only in your bedding and clothes. Actually, they do not live there. You can usually find them in crevasses and cracks on your walls, on old furniture, hidden beneath your clutter, or behind the wallpaper. They have a nest in these places, and that’s where you want to go if you really want this bed bug problem to be over.

Liquids that kill bed bugs effectively

Water can kill bed bugs by drowning. As mentioned above, you may need to wait for a while before they actually die. Killing bed bugs in water is even easier when it is very hot because they do not stand high temperatures. But if you just found one of those nasty bed bug nests in your mattress, your walls, or any old furniture, pouring water will probably not drown them or kill them. You can use other liquids more effectively to kill bed bugs.

Effective insecticides against bed bugs include:

  • Pyrethrins and pyrethroids: These insecticides are commonly used in bed bug control. The former comes from the chrysanthemum flower, while the latter are synthetic compounds that mimic the same chemistry to kill bed bugs.
  • Cold-pressed neem oil: It is another natural substance that comes from Neem tree seeds. You can pour neem oil in bed bug nests, and it will be more effective than using water. It is effective against bed bugs at all stages in life.
  • Pyrroles: This is a substance that activates inside a bed bug and disrupts a series of molecular mechanisms. In the end, it is very toxic for these bugs and appropriate to get rid of them
  • Insect growth regulators: There are many substances in this group. Some of them retard growth, and others accelerate growth too much. Either way, the development of bed bugs is inappropriate. They have malformations and die.

If you’re not a fan of insecticides, and especially if you have pets or small children in your home, there are other options to get rid of bed bugs. We usually recommend diatomaceous earth, a type of desiccant traditionally sold as a powder that dehydrates bed bugs and makes them die slowly. It is not fast, but it is handy and, more importantly, safe for your pets and small children.


Wang, C., Singh, N., Cooper, R., Liu, C., & Buczkowski, G. (2013). Evaluation of an insecticide dust band treatment method for controlling bed bugs. Journal of Economic Entomology106(1), 347-352.

Naylor, R. A., & Boase, C. J. (2010). Practical solutions for treating laundry infested with Cimex lectularius (Hemiptera: Cimicidae). Journal of economic entomology103(1), 136-139.

Chrysler, D., Foster, E., Reik, R., Schwartz, A., Signs, K., & Stobierski, M. G. (2010). Michigan manual for the prevention and control of bed bugs. USA: Michigan Department of Community Health.

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