Alcohol is a very flammable contact killer for bed bugs

by nobugsonme on January 11, 2016 · 14 comments

in bad ideas, bed bugs, detroit, DIY bed bug treatment, fire, michigan


Another person has set their apartment building on fire in response to bed bugs.  And this time, he was badly hurt.

According to Man trying to destroy bedbugs sets apartment ablaze in the Detroit Free Press, on Sunday at 4:30 am, a man in Detroit’s St. Antoine Gardens apartment complex (near Wayne State University) doused his couch and body with alcohol.

But then, while sitting on the alcohol-doused couch, the man lit a cigarette and also tried to set one of the bedbugs on fire, Austin said. That caused the couch to catch aflame, along with the man’s body.

Within minutes, Phyllis Waller heard shouts from her room just down the hall, on the building’s eighth floor. When she looked through the peephole, the smoke was so thick that she couldn’t see the door across the hall. She said she escaped by crawling to the stairwell.

The man who started the fire escaped as well, but his burns were severe. When resident Johanahn Larsosa saw him in the lobby, the skin on his arms seemed to be falling off. While they waited for help to arrive, the man got to his knees and asked Larsosa to pray with him.

This is a horrible situation.  The man who started the fire has severe burns, four apartments were destroyed, and a dozen were damaged by water, according to the article.

There’s always someone who responds to such a situation with a comment on the victim’s poor choices — using alcohol to spray his person and the sofa, lighting a cigarette to top it off.  Clearly, one might say, he is not thinking.

However, keep in mind this man has had bed bug treatments for four months, and has been treated weekly during this time.  Eight treatments spaced 2 weeks apart is a sure sign the problem is not being handled thoroughly by management.  The article also mentions that a 5th floor resident claims his floor has seven apartments with bed bugs.

Keep in mind that some people become very stressed and anxious (as opposed to just stressed and anxious) when dealing with bed bugs.  Add the fact that it is 4:30 am and you may be dealing with someone who is very tired and upset, and desperate.  We can’t know if there were other factors (mental illness, drugs, drinking alcohol, etc.)

We do know that desperate people do desperate things.

I hope this man recovers and I hope his neighbors get thorough bed bug treatment, and soon.

As for the DIYers reading this: 91% isopropyl alcohol is often touted as an effective contact killer for bed bugs.  However, it should be used only sparingly if at all.  It’s flammable and the fumes are probably not great for you either.

Alcohol shouldn’t be used if you smoke or light candles, obviously, and should never be sprayed on people (which isn’t a way to treat bed bugs anyway).  But remember fires can also be started by sparking outlets or electronics, something that happens sometimes — and if it happens when you’ve treated with alcohol, it’s very dangerous.

Please be careful out there and consider safer options, like killing bed bugs with steam, where possible.

Image: public domain.

1 Lucille January 12, 2016 at 8:42 am

We found alcohol a great defense against the bed bugs both as a spray on the walls and as a spray for things like suit cases and shoes.
We also drank a bit too much from the stress and now are in recovery not just from the bed bugs but from the drinking.

We used a company that uses heat to kill them and it was perfect. They did a great job August 17th this year and thank God they have not been back. I still check daily for traces of them but I think they are gone.

2 NotSoSNug January 12, 2016 at 9:42 pm

Cheers, NoBugs, and All the Best for 2016!

3 nobugsonme January 13, 2016 at 3:21 am

Good wishes for 2016! Thanks for being such a loyal blog reader.
I still owe you an email– sorry about that!

4 nobugsonme January 13, 2016 at 3:24 am

“We found alcohol a great defense against the bed bugs both as a spray on the walls and as a spray for things like suit cases and shoes.”

Lucille, I am not sure what you mean here since alcohol isn’t really a “defense”, if by that you mean a preventive. It only kills bed bugs you hit directly. If you don’t hit them, you won’t kill them. If you don’t see them on the wall, there’s no point spraying it. (Leaving aside the flammability issue…)

I am glad your bed bug problem seems to be gone. That’s great news!

5 Lucille January 13, 2016 at 4:59 am

I meant that the alcohol also killed the eggs and were in that sense a preventative measure. We also had the rugs steam cleaned and steam kills both eggs and bugs.

6 nobugsonme January 13, 2016 at 8:04 pm

Lucille, I see what you mean. As long as you’re aware of its limits and flammability, it can be useful. Unfortunately, many people seem to be trying to use it for large-scale spraying and that isn’t likely to do much except introduce an element of danger.
All the best to you!

7 AnxiousinQueens February 2, 2016 at 9:43 pm

I too sympathize. I had a very small infestation brought home from work, and I completely freaked out. I had very supportive building management that helped me right away. Some places, management doesn’t really care.

I totally understand that some people become sleep deprived, and that, combined with fear and desperation, create poor judgment. helped restore my sanity (mostly, I was phobic).

8 GLORIA April 7, 2016 at 3:49 am

Spraying alcohol has been my only form of comfort at this point. I can see how easily spraying over and over the same areas can become dangerous and highly flamable.I’m on day 5 of dealing with BB for the first time. I’m actually sitting in my bathroom on the toilet listing to my boyfriend drag or couch out of our condo.
I pray I make it through this without losing my mind.

9 GLORIA April 7, 2016 at 7:41 pm

What to do? I’ve just confirmed that my car is infested with BB (1963 wagon). I can’t sell her? How do you effectively kill and rid BB from a vintage classic car that you would never even let food or a drink enter?

10 nobugsonme April 8, 2016 at 1:03 am

Many people have started fires after using alcohol to treat bed bugs. We really recommend other methods. I hope you are getting some kind of treatment. Please come to our active user forums if you need support or suggestions:

11 Gary Chilcott May 15, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Well then… That is one way of dealing with the problem. However, one should be well aware that FLAMES & ALCOHOL don’t mix well indoors — HA!

12 Nick June 22, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Oh, lord,I’ve got a convertible with bedbugs. I’m trying DIY, such as Raid Max, and it has left a lot of dead bugs, but there are so many more. These things like laugh at you! An exterminator told me the best way to kill bedbugs in a car, is with heat. They come to the car, set up the heater, takes about 90 minutes and runs $ 250.00. That’s here in Manhattan, NY. Have you heard anything different? Thank you and good luck!

13 Samantha Rodriguez July 8, 2016 at 1:39 am

I’ve had 3 bed bug treatments. I’ve used alcohol and DE is spread all over the floor cracksI even put holes in the walls and put theDE into the walls and sealed it. I’m still finding these BB. Let me note that I do have popcorn ceilings. Please can anyone helpme with this??? I can’t remember the last time I’ve slept good. And I’m tap out of funds.

14 nobugsonme July 8, 2016 at 10:11 pm

Hi Samantha,
Please repost in our active user forums, where your question will reach more people. I will look for it there:

In the meantime, note that alcohol is only a contact killer, and you’re only killings bed bugs with it if you see them and hit them directly. It’s also flammable, so not the best option. Note also that you may be “washing away” residuals which were applied by a pro, if you’re spraying over them.

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