Does Salt Kill Bed Bugs? | Exploring the Effectiveness of Salt Treatment

Written by Thomas Matthews

If you find yourself one morning covered in bed bug marks and bites, the first thing which will come to your mind will surely be: “What can I do against this nuisance right now?” You will surely look for some remedy in your home, and sure Diatomaceous earth can be effective, but what about using salt?

Salt doesn’t kill bed bugs. Their exoskeleton and skin don’t absorb salt, so it can’t penetrate into their internal organs and cause them to dehydrate (as is the case with snails and slugs).

If you want to know more details on why salt is not effective against bed bugs you can continue reading this article. You will find some useful information about salt and some other products and their use against all sorts of pests, primarily bed bugs.

There are some mixtures that include salts, like a mixture with baking soda or borax, but they are also ineffective against bed bugs. Those mixtures don’t target the outer shell of a bed bug, so there is just no way to harm them with a mixture of those components.

You need more “firepower” which includes some type of pesticide which are used by professional bed bug exterminators.

Effects Of Salt On Bed Bugs

Salt takes the moisture out of the tissue. By applying it, you drain water and all fluids from the tissue. This is well known as a remedy for slugs, snails, and similar pests in your garden. When a creature is being sprayed with salt, or if they cross a surface covered in salt, it will absorb it through the skin. That way it drains all liquids from the creature causing it to dehydrate, and eventually, it dies.

One thing is a slug that has a soft outer layer, which allows the salt to enter the organism. However, with creatures that have a hard outer layer, like bed bugs, contact with the salt alone is not enough. Salt can cause some discomfort for the bed bug, but it can’t kill it, because it won’t enter the organism and internal organs of a bed bug.

So, if you want to use just salt against your bed bug problem, you won’t accomplish much. You can try to fend off some bed bugs from your bed by putting salt around it. That will demotivate them from moving into your mattress and pillow, but not for too long.

You can’t protect yourself with just salt. You can create a mixture of water and salt, and spray them with it. That way, you can keep them off for some time, but that is not the solution either.

What About Mixtures Of Salt With Other Ingredients?

You can mix salt with some other stuff you can find in your home, like baking soda or borax. If you mix salt with baking soda you get a great self-made cleaning tool for use around the house.

However, baking soda doesn’t contribute anything to help in the fight against bed bugs. That combination still can’t break through bed bugs’ outer shells, and they surely won’t eat it, so there is no chance to get that mixture into their organisms.

The borax mixture is well known for its use against some pests, but its effect on bed bugs is just not strong enough to help you get rid of the infestation. When you mix borax with salt and spray it on bed bugs, or their well-used trails, the best thing you could hope for is for bed bugs to inhale the vapor from the mixture. That way they will digest some quantity that might kill them. But again, that is just not effective enough, you can’t just rely on that when it comes to bed bug invasions. 

When it comes to the dehydration of bed bugs, it is proven that diatomaceous earth dries them out, but salt doesn’t work in the same way. Diatomaceous earth attacks the bed bugs in a different way – by sticking onto their exoskeleton. That causes scratching of their outer shell.

Continuous scratching causes peeling of the shell, and that makes bed bugs vulnerable to the effect of the diatomaceous earth. Now that their skin has been pierced salt can have some effect. Only if their shell is damaged salt can get onto the tissue of the bed bug, and cause dehydration. That method takes some time, but it kills them in the end.

Epsom Salt And Its Effect On Bed Bugs

Epsom Salt And Its Effect On Bed Bugs

Epsom salt is also known as magnesium sulfate, and it is used in homes and for industrial purposes. It is also used in agriculture to help in getting rid of pests. Epsom salt is also an important ingredient in the brewing industry.

Epsom salt can’t cause dehydration of the bed bugs because bed bugs don’t eat salt, so they can’t ingest it. And like regular salt, it can’t break through its shell, so it can’t dry its inner organs. So, in conclusion, Epsom salt is ineffective against bed bugs, just like regular salt.

Effects of Salt Water on Bed Bugs

Saltwater is just not toxic for them. You can spray them all day long, with no effect. The only thing you can accomplish with saltwater is to force bed bugs into hiding. They will hide in some crack or another hiding spot until you stop your spraying attack against them.

But again, that is just not an effective method for a fight against them. They multiply fast, and this method will just waste your valuable time. If you want to hit bed bugs, you need something proven as an insecticide, something that can actually kill them.

While saltwater can’t actually kill bed bugs, it is helpful in another way. Salt is long known for its antiseptic properties, and it is frequently used on mosquito bites. Its effectiveness on bed bug bites is not determined, but the principle of the bed bug bite is the same as for a mosquito bite.

After an insect bites you, it injects saliva into the bitten area. Saliva also has some numbing properties, so the insect can feed off the target unnoticed. After the numbing is stopped, the bite mark starts to show, and eventually, it is accompanied by itching and inflammation.

Saltwater can reduce your itching problem, but the inflammation needs time to wear off.

List of Sources

Sutherland, A. M., Choe, D. -H., Lewis, V. R. (2013). Bed Bugs. Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California.
Bed Bugs FAQs. (2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vail, K., Barnwell, P. (2016). Bed Bugs Management and Prevention. University of Tennessee Extension.

Thomas Matthews
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