Bed bugs are terrible pests. Although they don’t spread disease, they can cause bite marks that may itch mightily, which could lead to infection if you scratch extensively. They also are notorious for hitching a ride home with you and overstaying their welcome quickly.
We spoke with specialist Ben Hottel, Entomologist with Orkin Pest Control about what to look for in a bed bug spray. Mr. Hottel says, “Bed bugs are extremely resilient, making them difficult to control."
With his insights in mind, we researched dozens of the leading bed bug sprays available online and tested each product on this list.
Ortho Home Defense Max Bed Bug Killer
Easy to use
Wand makes it easy to reach hard-to-access spaces
Also kills fleas and ticks
Kills bed bugs and eggs
Need to apply every two weeks
The Ortho Home Defense Max Bed Bug Killer is our best overall choice for treating the earliest signs of bed bugs in your home. This product is a favorite due to the variety of formats you can buy, from the simple aerosol spray to the more economical gallon container, with wand.
The battery-operated wand option makes this product usable just about anywhere, which is one way to lessen the stress of a bed bug infestation. Because it sprays more evenly than other methods, you can cover hard-to-reach areas such as curtain edges, behind mattresses, and under furniture. Made for indoor use, this spray is stain-free and unscented. It can be used directly on visible bugs and eggs. If you continue to see these pests or their eggs, Ortho suggests reapplying every two weeks until they are gone.
It is important to clear the room first before use; as with all insect sprays using chemicals, the chemicals can be harmful to pets and children if ingested.
Price at time of publish: $23
Volume: 1 gallon | Ingredients: 0.250% Bifenthrin, 0.050% Imidacloprid, 0.450% Piperonyl Butoxide | Effectiveness: 2 weeks
EcoVenger Bed Bug Killer Travel Size
Easy to use
No wand application
You can kill bed bugs while on the road and still maintain your eco-friendly status with the travel size of EcoVenger's Bed Bug Killer. The small 2-ounce size comes in at under $10 and is perfect for taking with you on vacation. Most bed bug infestations in the home start from bugs coming home with you from other destinations. This spray will help make sure no bugs hitch a ride in your suitcase home.
Comprising essential oils, this mixture kills on contact, keeping you safe while providing excellent results. For those who are looking for a larger size, it also comes in 16-ounce and 128-ounce containers.
Price at time of publish: $8
Volume: 2, 16, or 128 ounces | Ingredients: Cedar Oil | Effectiveness: 2 weeks
Best Spot Treatment
HARRIS Bed Bug Killer
Great for spot treatments
Suitable for indoor use
Toxic (make sure to keep away from children and pets)
If you need to spot treat for bed bugs, Harris’ Pyrethroid Resistant Bed Bug Killer is a great option as it comes in a handy, easy-to-use spray bottle. This highly effective formula is designed to eradicate even the most stubborn of bed bugs that have become resistant to pesticides containing pyrethroids. What sets this bed bug spray apart is the fact that it continues to offer residual protection for up to 16 weeks.
While Harris Pyrethroid Resistant Bed Bug Killer is available in many sizes and formats, we recommend the 32-ounce spray bottle for spot treatments, which is easy to use with one hand. This spray does contain imidacloprid, which is toxic to people and pets, so use with care.
Price at time of publish: $27
Volume: 32 ounces | Ingredients: 3-phenooxybenzyl, n-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide, imidacloprid | Effectiveness: 16 weeks
Best for Baseboards
Rockwell CimeXa Insecticide Dust
Easy to use
Lasts up to ten years
Works for any home type
Kills a variety of pests
Application can be tedious
For baseboards, sprays might not be able to provide the layer of penetration you need, and that is when it is time to reach for powder or dust. CimeXa Insecticide Dust is a bed bug powder made from a fine silica powder, which dries out the exoskeletons of bed bugs, eventually killing them. CimeXa can be applied with a paintbrush, and only a thin layer is needed. Keep in mind that you will only need a small amount, as the small particles of silica will attach themselves to bed bugs passing through.
Although the application process can be a bit tedious, you only need to apply CimeXa once, as it can provide up to ten years of effectiveness if applied correctly.
Price at time of publish: $15
Volume: 10 ounces | Ingredients: Silica | Effectiveness: 10 years
Best for Large Spaces
Harris Bed Bug Killer Gallon
Easy to use
Can be used on multiple surfaces
Effective for up to 16 weeks
The Harris Bed Bug Killer is essential for anyone who wants to get rid of bed bugs in larger spaces. This 128-ounce formula features a handy wand that will allow you to access hard-to-reach places where the pests may be hiding.
Aside from the size and helpful wand, what sets this product apart is its longevity—Harris claims that, if applied correctly, this product can be effective for up to 16 weeks, so you won't have to worry about reapplying it often, like some other products on this list. The manufacturer also notes that it's best to use this product directly on the bed bugs and their eggs. You can apply it on many different surfaces, including bed frames and the edges, folds, and seams of a mattress, but it should not be applied on bedding, clothing, or pillows.
Price at time of publish: $55
Volume: 128 ounces | Ingredients: 3-phenooxybenzyl, n-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide, imidacloprid | Effectiveness: 16 weeks
Best for Upholstery
Say Bye Bugs Bed Bug Exterminator
Safe on fabric
May need to apply multiple times a day for best results
If spraying toxic chemicals on your clothes and bedding makes you nervous, try the Say Bye Bed Bug Exterminator. This water-based formula degrades the exoskeletons of the bed bugs on contact, leaving your upholstery bed bug free in no time. This handy spray bottle comes in several sizes, including a travel option, and is safe to use on any type of material.
Note that for best results, spray twice a day for a minimum of two weeks while infestation occurs. This spray leaves no odor and does not stain.
Price at time of publish: $69 (for three bottles)
Volume: 16 ounces | Ingredients: Sodium Benzoate | Effectiveness: Up to 2 weeks
Eco Defense Bed Bug Killer
Large size covers large area
Easy to read instructions
Must be in direct contact with insects to be effective
If you are concerned about harsh chemicals and are looking for an environmentally friendly option, Eco Defense Bed Bug Killer is easy to find and use. This bed bug spray has a natural formula and is non-staining. If you have pets or small children at home, you will appreciate the fact that Eco Defense Bed Bug Killer does not contain pesticides that are considered toxic.
While the formula does have a noticeable scent due to plant oils, we found it pleasant while testing, especially when compared to chemical-based pesticides. Eco-defense bed bug killer only kills on contact, so best results are seen through a combination of tactics, such as proper sanitation.
Price at time of publish: $60
Volume: 1 gallon | Ingredients: plant-based oils | Effectiveness: 2 weeks
Best Fast Acting
Easy to use
Works on most surfaces
Toxic chemicals for pets and people
If bed bugs have invaded your space, and you want to get rid of them quickly, Bedlam Plus is an excellent option. Bedlam is one of the oldest names in the business of busting bed bugs, and this water-based spray is safe for most surfaces, including your mattress. It also will not stain your upholstery and does not leave behind a lingering scent.
The Bedlam Plus spray will kill bed bugs on contact and has up to two weeks of residual killing power. Like many options on this list, it is toxic and should be kept out of reach.
Price at time of publish: $24
Volume: 17 ounces | Ingredients: Cyclodiathrin | Effectiveness: 2 weeks
MDX Concepts Bed Bug Killer
Can be used indoors and out
Only kills when bugs come in direct contact with spray
While scent might be far from your mind when you're seeking a bed bug treatment, you may consider the pleasing candy-cane scent from MDX concepts a bonus! Featuring a plant-based formula containing peppermint oil, this spray can be used both indoors and outdoors. In addition to killing bugs on contact, it also acts as a repellent, keeping future infestations at bay.
This formula is safe to use on any surface, works quickly, and is safe around pets and kids. For best results, be sure to clean the room before spraying.
Price at time of publish: $30
Volume: 32 ounces | Ingredients: Plant oils | Effectiveness: Kills on contact, repels up to 2 weeks
If you are searching for a fast-acting, easy-to-use bed bug spray, pick up the Ortho Home Defense Max Bed Bug Killer. We appreciate that it can also kill fleas and ticks. For a more budget-friendly or travel-size solution, we recommend the EcoVenger Bed Bug Killer Spray, which is made of essential oils and can kill bed bugs on contact.
What to Look for in a Bed Bug Spray
To get the upper hand on a bed bug infestation, most sprays are formulated with powerful insecticides. However, you should avoid pyrethroids, as those are no longer considered effective treatments on their own against bed bugs. Look for bed bug sprays that have gone through recent periods of testing and have published research you can review. You should always take precautions to protect children and pets, and if that is a concern, bed bug sprays that feature plant-based ingredients might make more sense for you. Usually relying on aromatic oils, these will only work when they make direct contact with the insect, though some offer repellent action.
As soon as you pull the trigger, bed bug sprays go to work. When an insect encounters the spray, it will either be killed immediately or spread the treatment to its relatives if it’s a residual formula. The effectiveness refers to its ability to remain active after use. For most, the effective window is about two weeks, with some, like the dust discussed above, lasting years.
Contact vs. Residuals
Bed bug sprays are typically sold as either contact or residual formulas.
Contact bed bug spray, as the name suggests, kills when it encounters a bed bug directly. This type works best on areas that you are sure have bed bug activity. Most are effective for two weeks, but remember that they need to physically touch bugs to do their job.
Residual bed bug sprays are your best bets for larger infestations or if you have no idea where the bed bugs are currently residing. The bugs are not instantly killed by the treatment and are more likely to spread it slowly to other members of their group. Residual does mean that you might have to wait longer for results, but it will still help lessen the severity of your infestation.
Do bed bug sprays really work?
Bed bug sprays are only as effective as the method of application. Be sure to read directions and note that reapplication might be required for certain products. Most advise a little extra effort on your end, in terms of cleaning rooms and moving furniture to help limit bed bug mobility. Most sprays work by coming in direct contact with bed bugs, so your aim is important, too. For best results, make sure to target areas where you are sure there is current activity.
What causes bed bugs?
Bed bugs are professional hitchhikers, with the females requiring the protein found in a blood-based meal to produce eggs. They do not occur naturally in the home and come from somewhere else, with hotels, hostels, and used mattresses being common culprits. Bed bugs can taxi in on your clothes, your luggage, and just about any other upholstery you own. Carrying a travel-size bed bug spray can be a great way to avoid any stowaways.
Can bed bugs survive the washing machine?
Just washing your linens is not enough to ensure that bed bugs will not remain. Heat is by far one of the most effective ways to get rid of bugs of any kind quickly, so a trip through the dryer will ensure that you get them all.
If you do not have a dryer, set your washing machine to the highest temperature it goes to (140 degrees is optimal) for best results.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Amanda Rose Newton, a freelance writer for The Spruce. As an entomologist, she is always on the lookout for effective, safe, and easy to use insecticides to recommend to friends and family. To prepare this roundup, Amanda Rose tested each product for ease of use, functionality, and accuracy. She also reached out to Ben Hottel, an entomologist with Orkin Pest Control, for further insights.