Don’t use gasoline products to treat bed bugs

by nobugsonme on March 15, 2011 · 5 comments

in bad ideas, bed bugs, DIY bed bug treatment

The New York City Fire Department is again warning residents not to attempt to treat bed bugs with gasoline products.

The Queens Gazette reported last week that

Queens fire officials last month issued a warning to borough residents to steer clear of gasoline or gasoline products to fight bedbug infestation at home.

FDNY officials said residents in Astoria have called 911 to report a gasoline odor coming from adjacent apartments in their buildings.

Firefighters responding to the calls discovered several incidents where residents poured gasoline on mattresses to kill bedbugs.

Allegedly a number of people, following dangerous, misleading advice had wiped gasoline on their own arms and their children’s arms to stop the bedbugs from biting, officials said.

Such incidents involving the use of extremely flammable gasoline prompted FDNY officials to issue the warning about fatal consequences that could result from the misguided use of gasoline to battle bedbugs. ‘This is not the first time we have issued this warning,’ a fire spokesperson said. ‘We warn people over and over, just how dangerous it is to use gasoline or gasoline-based products in the home, but they don’t listen.’

This is a serious problem — and not just in Queens or New York City.  (Though according to the FDNY, this does especially seem to be a problem in Astoria, Queens; the Queens Gazette published a similar story in 2009, which I posted about here.)

We’ve heard reports of people attempting to treat bed bugs with flammable products (gasoline, kerosene, mineral spirits, a.k.a. white spirits) both in NYC and from other parts of the US and the world (examples in this thread).

These methods are very dangerous to human life and property — yours and those of others around you.

Even if you must self-treat for bed bugs (which is probably not the case for renters in Queens), there are safer, more effective methods.

It’s often noted that isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol is a contact killer, but even this is flammable and gives off fumes and should be used with caution, if used at all.

As the Queens Gazette also notes, NYC residents should notify landlords, building management, or superintendents about bed bug problems.

In New York City, you can call 311 for assistance from the NYC Department of Health, or to report bed bugs if you are renting and your landlord is non-responsive to direct requests for bed bug treatment.

1 Medina March 15, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Calamine lotion I have found to be the best against itching. Hydrocortizone just doesn’t have the same punch for me. I got clear calamine and have used almost an entire bottle in one day for treating over 100 bites received in one night.

2 bugbitcha March 16, 2011 at 11:37 pm

anyone have any info on using the new Veralux vacuum cleaner with UV light? It claims to kill BB’s, eggs, nymphs and all.

Article in the NY Times:

3 nobugsonme March 18, 2011 at 12:28 am


I’m very skeptical about this one.

You might want to read this thread on the forums.

The article itself suggests the vacuum does not kill all bed bugs present. Look, for example, at the directions for how to empty the canister after vacuuming. If all bed bugs were killed, why would you need to carefully double bag the debris and run to the garbage can?

4 supercalifragilisticexpialidocious March 20, 2011 at 5:41 pm

I like isopropanol. It evaporates completely. Once I’ve found where some bugs are hiding, I don’t want to put a repellent on it, and spread them to somewhere else. Other contact killers are likely to repel the bugs.

However, it’s important to understand that this is for spritzing on individual bugs after you’ve found them, not for spraying willy-nilly.

5 nobugsonme March 21, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Hi Super,

That seems reasonable.

My concern is for people that are using alcohol more willy-nilly and without regard for its flammable nature. There have been several news reports out of Cincinnati alone of people burning their homes down while trying to treat bed bugs with rubbing alcohol.

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