Don’t use kerosene to kill bed bugs; be cautious with alcohol

by nobugsonme on June 18, 2014 · 4 comments

in Bed Bug Control Techniques, bed bug treatment

A tenant in Augusta, Georgia was horrified to find that after her building’s maintenance department treated her home for bed bugs, it smelled like kerosene.

She was right to be concerned, since applying kerosene is a dangerous and inappropriate method for treating bed bugs.

WRDW reports,

“They came in to spray for bed bugs, to exterminate for bed bugs, and this was almost going on two weeks, and the fumes from the machine got all over the apartment,” said [tenant Sonji Brantley].

She said maintenance at Fox Den Apartment off Wrightsboro Road used a chemical that smells like kerosene to treat her carpet for the pests. We arrived to find a pile of carpet sitting outside.

“If you smell it, you can smell the chemicals in it,” said Brantley. Workers were inside putting down new carpet.

(You can also view the video online at WRDW’s website.)

What’s with spraying the carpet?

As an aside, I’m not sure about the amount of attention given to the carpets here, since the pros on our forums don’t seem to talk much about treating carpets. The focus seems to be more on treating cracks and crevices.

Then again, if the maintenance crew were applying kerosene to kill bed bugs, then it’s likely they don’t know a whole lot about this pest or how to get rid of it.

Thinking of using kerosene or gasoline? Don’t do it!

Kerosene is highly flammable and not a suitable method of bed bug treatment. If your landlord uses a method like this, I recommend calling the local health and building departments to file a complaint.

Now, there’s always someone who comments on an article like this saying, “my grandparents used kerosene to kill bed bugs”. Many substances will kill bed bugs on contact, but they may not all be safe as in this case. Many people have burned their homes down using such methods. Don’t do it.

Gasoline treatment for bed bugs is thought to have been behind the infamous 1909 “crib fire” in Chicago, where 50 laborers died. (The laborers were living on a wooden structure — the “crib” — while working on a tunnel under Lake Michigan.)

There are many more effective and safer methods than kerosene and gasoline that you can use to kill bed bugs. And yet this misguided approach is still common enough that the New York Fire Department has issued repeated warnings to city residents (for example in 2009 and 2011) that they shouldn’t use gasoline-based products to treat bed bugs.

Note also that in some places, like New York City, landlords have to hire a pest management professional to treat for bed bugs — they can’t just have a maintenance guy come in and spray (even if they’re using a legitimate pesticide). I’m not sure about the laws regarding this in Augusta, Georgia, where this story takes place.

Isopropyl Alcohol is also flammable

It’s worth reminding readers that 91% isopropyl alcohol use in treating bed bugs appears to be much more prevalent today than kerosene and gasoline, and is not without its dangers. While an effective contact killer for bed bugs, is also extremely flammable and numerous homeowners and tenants have started fires after using it.

For example, in 2012, up to 30 people were made homeless after a fire in Kentucky destroyed neighboring buildings, after a woman treated her sofa with alcohol.

During the period of 2009-2012, a Hamilton Co. Ohio man, a resident of Cincinnati’s Bond Hill, and an Avondale, Ohio woman, a Mount Carmel, Ohio tenant, and a Colerain Township, Ohio family all seem to have set their homes on fire in similar circumstances. And those are just a few examples.

Let’s not overlook the fact that the media coverage suggests these things seem to occur disproportionately in the Cincinnati area, a fact that suggests something about the availability of affordable bed bug treatment for homeowners and renters who have limited funds and live in the area.

It’s also important to note that in most or all of the above cases, a lit cigarette was involved, though it’s possible to start a fire in a flammable environment even without lighting a match or cigarette (electrical items can give off sparks, for example).

Do you need to do it yourself?

The bottom line is if your home needs bed bug treatment, there are more effective and safer methods than spraying alcohol everywhere or applying kerosene or gasoline. DIY methods can be effective, but you should choose those which never put your family, neighbors, or home in danger.

Consider methods like dry vapor steam (we have a FAQ on killing bed bugs with steam), and ask the volunteer experts on the forums about DIY treatment options. Do your research (our resources page is a good place to start, with links to free comprehensive guides to bed bugs and treatment).

1 outsmartbb July 7, 2014 at 10:22 pm

One day, my request to join forum here will be accepted. Until then, I post here. How about a forum topic for generating new ideas on how to get rid of bed bugs without so much pain? My idea – make them climb a mini electric fence in order to get to you. Isolate bed and put electric fence around bed. Put insulating mats under bed legs so you don’t accidentally shock yourself if electric fence accidentally touches bed legs. Volts high enough to kill bed bugs but not high enough to kill humans.
My other ideas:
– laser pulse emitting every few seconds along floor around bed as human lure sleeps. If bb is out when laser is emitting, walking through path, it gets fried.
– Or, there is a ‘star wars’ machine used in Africa to kill female mosquitos – software identifies female mosquitos and then shoots to kill them with laser; the same can be done to just kill anything as small as a bb along the floor, crawling toward bed.
– A wind and vacuum combination. So, fans strong enough to irritate bb to move and have high powered vacuum in center of room to suck up bb midair (maybe a single contraption better than just a vacuum cleaner… bottom hose forces air out to move debris even bb, and top hose is the vacuum hose… so a double action to get bb out of hiding faster… perhaps blows hot air out like hair blow dryer… it’s suggested hair blow dryer repels bb out and then to vacuum them up… that seems to be a 2 person job, so let’s make a 1 person diy machine).
– heat kills them. Certain pheromones attract them. How about instead of those heat treatments with portable heaters and fans, electric blanketing that can be velcroed to walls and put on floors, anything else to cook them. More direct heat. Put fans too, to disperse heat. Likely easier to transport and set up than those huge clunky heaters.
– microwaves kill them. Find a microwave pulse that kills them but doesn’t damage household items. Nuke the house or apartment unit then.

Doing the same things that fail or take too long is a waste of money, time and causes too much mental anguish. Since bb doesn’t cause disease, the government isn’t funding research. It’s up to the citizens to solve this problem. Let’s do this!

2 nobugsonme July 8, 2014 at 2:50 am

outsmartbb said,

“One day, my request to join forum here will be accepted. Until then, I post here.”

Usually when people complain they have trouble registering for the forums, it’s because the password email sent to them never arrived (Sometimes these are delivered, but occasionally ISPs block these wholesale, and sometimes they end up in spam filters also.)

However, that doesn’t seem to be the case here as there is no user registered with the username you used for this comment, nor one linked to the email address you used for this comment. Maybe you used a different name?

If you have not done so, you can register for the forums via the blog or forum ends of the site. Try this link.

If you have trouble, please contact me directly. (There’s also a black banner on the forums with a link to email me.)

I am leaving your comment up here so you will find this response, but please note, off-topic comments on blog posts are not the solution for your not being able to register for the forum, and they will be deleted.

3 outsmartbb July 8, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Thanks so much nobugsonme. I appreciate your fast response, and hope I can contribute valuable input that leads to a faster and easier method of exterminating bed bugs which can be done by any adult using a single, simple do-it-yourself solution.

Given that your forum can be difficult to register to because of what you mentioned above, would you be so kind as to put a call out to the world to join minds and come up with a better solution to exterminate these bed bugs than the current, tedious and trying solutions? This way, anyone who wants to help doesn’t miss out on the opportunity due to ISP blocks and spam filters… I hope you find that idea for a blog post worthwhile.

4 nobugsonme July 9, 2014 at 3:21 am

“Given that your forum can be difficult to register to because of what you mentioned above,”

Actually, I don’t think the forum is difficult to register for. A small minority of people either have an ISP which places their password email in their spam filter OR which rejects it outright. In either case, the problem is solved when the user gets in touch with me (there’s a black banner inviting this with a link to the contact form, on the forums). After they contact me, I send out an email. This is usually resolved within a few hours.

In your case, NEITHER of those things happened (or else your account would have been created) and the issue seems to be that you do not seem to have initially registered. I see you have now successfully done so, and posted– and all, I note, with no intervention or assistance from me.

And now you have posted to the forums, I will redirect discussion of your ideas there. Thanks!

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