What Smells Do Bed Bugs Hate? Using Lavender or Peppermint Oil For Bed Bugs

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | January 3, 2024

Woman wonders what smells do bed bugs hate, what repels bed bugs, and can you use tea tree oil for bed bugs, lavender oil, clove oil or peppermint oil for bed bugs?

Have you ever asked yourself, what smells do bed bugs hate?

Getting rid of bed bugs is difficult, and many people wonder if there are ways to prevent them from infesting your home, by using simple essential oils and fragrances.

You may be surprised to know that there are some scents that bed bugs and other household pests don’t like. For example, cinnamon oils can be used to deter ants.

This complete guide explains the answer to the question, what smells do bed bugs hate and explores some essential oils you can use to both kill and repel bed bugs from your home.

What Smells Do Bed Bugs Hate? What Repels Bed Bugs?

Certain smells are unpleasant to bed bugs and can help you reduce their likelihood of infesting your home.

Smells that bed bugs hate which what repels bed bugs such as tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, alcohol,citronella oil, lavender oil, and clove oil.

The following substances emit an odor that bed bugs avoid.

Tea Tree Oil for Bed Bugs

Apart from plenty of health benefits, tea tree oil has been long used as a repellent and insecticide. It’s very effective against most household pests, such as mosquitoes, roaches, ants, lice, and bed bugs.

Its potent scent will drive bed bugs away. When sprayed on bed bugs, it will penetrate their exoskeleton and suffocate them.

So, how do you use it? Dilute and apply it along the bed frame and the mattress to repel these bugs.

Keep in mind that more than 50% concentration of tea tree oil is considered a poisonous dose to humans, so use it carefully. Moreover, consider mixing it with a better-smelling oil that you like, such as Lavender or orange oils.

In fact, many citrus oils are also antibacterial.

Eucalyptus Oil

Just like tea tree oil, bed bugs also hate the smell of eucalyptus oil. The smell is too strong, so they can’t come close.

Although eucalyptus oil will not kill bed bugs outright, it can help make your mattress a hostile environment for bed bugs.

Peppermint Oil for Bed Bugs (What Smells Do Bed Bugs Hate?)

Peppermint is one of the most popular essential oils. It’s used in adding flavor to dishes and teas, adding fragrance to lotions and soaps, and in aromatherapy, as well as relieving muscle stiffness and headaches.

But insects like bed bugs don’t share the same love for peppermint. The strong menthol scent of peppermint will keep bed bugs from coming near your house.

In fact, it is also a contact insecticide that works for ants as well.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol will repel and even kill bed bugs. Bed bugs hate the scent of rubbing alcohol, and they will want to be as far away from the smell as possible.

When rubbing alcohol comes into contact with bed bugs or their eggs, it usually dissolves their outer shell and dries out the insides. However, it’s not completely effective.

Rutgers University conducted a study using two products, one containing 50% and another 90% alcohol. None of the products killed all the bed bugs.1

Remember, rubbing alcohol is flammable, so never use it near open flames.

Citronella Oil

Citronella oil, which is distilled from lemongrass, is popular for repelling mosquitoes. But do you know it can also repel bed bugs?

Mix 10-15 drops of the oil with water and spray around the house. The scent might be yucky for people as well, so you can also mix in additional oils to mask it.

Lavender Oil for Bed Bugs

Lavender is sweet, but not everyone loves it. Some people feel it’s too overwhelming.

So do bed bugs and other insects. Its scent will ward off bed bugs thanks to a compound within the oil called linalool.

If you don’t have lavender oil, you can still use flowers or sachets.

Clove Oil for Bed Bugs

Clove oil has natural compounds like beta-caryophyllene and eugenol, which have repellant and insecticidal properties.

Like other oils in this list, the strong scent is irritating to bed bugs, so they’ll prefer to stay away.

What Essential Oil Kills Bed Bugs?

A study by Purdue University indicates that essential oils derived from thyme, oregano, citronella, and clove are the most effective against bed bugs.3

Among the 15 essential oils compounds tested, the most effective compound was 70,000 times less effective in killing a bed bug compared to synthetic insecticides.

And as a fumigant about 400 times. So, do essential oils kill bed bugs, really?

Yes, but on contact only. This means you must spray the oil mixture directly at the bug, which most of the time is impossible.

And when you do, the death isn’t immediate, as with insecticides. Just remember essential oils are not as potent as insecticides, and as mentioned above, their effectiveness will vary.

It’s best to involve professional pest control services in case of an infestation.

Nonetheless, here is a list of other essential oils known to kill bed bugs in addition to the ones mentioned above:

  • Blood orange oil
  • Neem oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Spearmint oil

How To Use Essential Oils To Repel or Kill Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are hard to kill, but not that much if you know how to get rid of bed bugs using essential oils. Just follow these steps.

  • Dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil, jojoba oil, or water before application. This is because undiluted essential oils can cause skin irritation.
    Moreover, this will also help with even distribution.
  • To prepare the mixture, add the essential oil and water in a ratio of 1:10 in a spray bottle.
  • Shake the bottle and spray the mixture in areas where bed bugs hide.
  • In addition, soak cotton balls in essential oil and place them strategically in the house.

What Kills Bed Bugs? What Smells Do Bed Bugs Hate?

Do you want to learn how to get rid of bed bugs permanently? Start by learning how to find bed bugs during the day, so that you can understand the gravity of the situation.

Graphics with texts and images that shows what kills bed bugs such as heat, pesticides, diatomaceous earth, exterminator, and freezing.

From the bed to the couch, how to check for bed bugs, use a flashlight to spot those hiding in dark corners. But if one room has bed bugs, do they all have?

Not really, but it’s a possibility if there are people or pets sleeping there. The only way to know is by inspecting.

If you have an infestation, essential oils may not help.

Here are other methods to help kill bed bugs:

  1. Heat: During the inspection, have a vacuum on standby and vacuum all areas with bed bugs. Afterward, seal the vacuum content in a plastic bag and dispose of it.
    Collect all items that had bed bugs and wash them in hot water for 30 minutes, then put them in the drier for another 30 minutes. On how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress, use a steam cleaner.
  2. Freezing: Although bed bugs are very cold tolerant, they will freeze and die when exposed to temperatures below 0°F for several days.
  3. Diatomaceous earth for bed bugs: Diatomaceous earth is a very effective but passive way to kill bed bugs. You need to spread the powder anywhere you suspect these bugs crawl.
    Once they come into contact with it, they’ll dehydrate and die in less than 48 hours. While this method can work in the long run, it should be used with other methods.
  4. Pesticides: Pesticides are very effective against bed bugs.4 Each bug that comes into contact with the pesticide will die in a few hours.
    Some are even able to flush out bed bugs from their hiding spots. Unfortunately, pesticides do not kill eggs, so you will need follow-up treatment to get rid of bed bugs fully.
  5. Hire an exterminator: If you already have an infestation, hiring an exterminator is better. An exterminator will be able to conduct a thorough inspection and recommend the best treatment.
    But how much does a bed bug exterminator cost? Exterminator prices usually vary depending on the location, infestation size, and treatment type.

For instance, heat treatment for bed bugs costs from $1000 – $3000 per 1000 Square feet, and fumigation from $4000 – $8000. For Terminix pricing, reach out to them through their website to request an inspection.

Bed bugs are very hard to eliminate because of their nocturnal nature and high reproduction rate. If you don’t act sooner, the bugs will spread to every room in your house.

While hiring an exterminator is the most effective way to get rid of bed bugs, you can still use the DIY solutions to discover the answer to the question, what smells do bed bugs hate?

Frequently Asked Questions About What Smells Do Bed Bugs Hate?

What Kills Bed Bugs Instantly?

Heat and insecticide are the most effective ways to kill bed bugs.2 However, many people now seek cheaper and greener solutions, and essential oils have emerged as a top choice.

How Long Do Bed Bugs Live?

The average lifespan of these bugs is between 7 months and one year. However, this will depend on many factors like temperature and feeding habits.

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Food?

Ordinarily, a bed bug needs to be fed at least once every two weeks. But they can survive up to five months without a blood meal at room temperature.

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without a Host?

These critters can last for over a year without eating in colder climates because their metabolism will slow down.

Read More About What Smells Do Bed Bugs Hate


1Wang, C., & Cooper, R. (2019, March). Cost-Effective and Money-Wasting Bed Bug Control Methods. Rutgers. Retrieved December 21, 2023, from <https://njaes.rutgers.edu/fs1251/>

2State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. (2023). CHOOSING AN INSECTICIDE FOR BED BUGS. The Greate State of Alaska. Retrieved December 21, 2023, from <https://dec.alaska.gov/eh/pest/bedbugs/choosing-an-insecticide-for-bed-bugs/>

3Purdue University. (2019, March 12). Study identifies essential oil compounds most toxic to bed bugs. Purdue University. Retrieved December 21, 2023, from <https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2019/Q1/study-identifies-essential-oil-compounds-most-toxic-to-bed-bugs.html>

4United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023). Pesticides to Control Bed Bugs. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved December 21, 2023, from <https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/pesticides-control-bed-bugs>