What scents keep away bedbugs?

Bed bugs are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed on human and animal blood. They are a nuisance pest that can be very difficult to get rid of once established in a home or apartment building. Their bites can cause itching and skin irritation in people, and they can lead to stress, anxiety, and sleeplessness. Finding effective ways to prevent and control bed bugs is important for maintaining quality of life.

One approach to bed bug control is using scents and smells that naturally repel the insects. Certain strong odors can deter bed bugs from congregating in areas where people sleep and spend time. The smell may mask chemical cues bed bugs follow to find hosts to bite. Repellent odors may also trigger avoidance behaviors in bed bugs. Understanding what scents drive away bed bugs allows people to incorporate natural scent deterrents into an integrated pest management plan.

What Scents Repel Bed Bugs?

Research has identified several types of smells that can help keep bed bugs away:

Essential oils

Studies show that some essential oils like tea tree, lavender, and mint oils can deter bed bugs. The strong fragrance overwhelms the bugs’ senses so they have trouble locating hosts. The oils also contain compounds toxic to insects. Diluted essential oils can be sprayed in targeted areas to create barrier treatments. Oils can also be used to rinse bedding and laundry.


Eucalyptus oil and dried eucalyptus leaves have an aroma that drives away bed bugs. The smell masks cues bed bugs use to locate hosts. Eucalyptus leaves can be scattered around infested rooms. The oil can also be diluted and used in sprays.


Cedar wood has a strong, natural scent that makes an unsuitable habitat for bed bugs. They avoid taking up residence in areas that smell like cedar. Cedar chips, boards, and essential oils can be used to make areas inhospitable. Chests made of cedar can protect stored items.


Lemongrass essential oil has citronella compounds that act as a natural insect repellent. Bed bugs dislike lemongrass’ potent lemon scent. The oil can be diluted and used as a spray treatment or infused into laundry. Dried lemongrass can also be used similar to eucalyptus leaves.


Thyme essential oil contains thymol, a compound with antibacterial and antifungal properties that repel bed bugs. Thyme oil sprayed onto surfaces and bedding creates an unfavorable environment for the pests. The dried herb can also be placed in small muslin bags.


The intense minty aroma of peppermint oil repels bed bugs and masks the attractant odors they follow to locate human hosts. Peppermint essential oil can be diluted into a spray or used to soak cotton balls placed throughout infested areas.


Clove oil has a strong smell that bed bugs dislike. The oil can be diluted and mixed into a spray solution. Place cotton balls soaked in clove oil in infested areas. Like other essential oils, clove oil also has insecticidal properties.

Bay Leaves

Bay leaves contain lauric acid and eugenol, compounds that repel bed bugs. Scatter bay leaves around infested rooms. The leaves can also be crushed to release stronger aromas. Place bay leaves and dried chilies inside mattress covers.


Citrus fruits like lemons contain limonene, a compound with a clean, citrus scent that deters bed bugs. Peels can be placed around infested areas. Spritz lemon juice diluted in water onto surfaces as a repellent. The fresh citrus smell masks scents that attract bed bugs.

How Do Scent Repellents Keep Bed Bugs Away?

There are a few ways scent-based repellents discourage bed bugs:

Mask host odors

Bed bugs locate hosts by following carbon dioxide, body heat, and certain skin odors we produce. Strong fragrances from essential oils and plants can mask these cures and make it harder for bed bugs to find human hosts to bite.

Deter settlement

When scents like cedar and eucalyptus permeate an area, bed bugs avoid settling in the treated spaces. The smell indicates the area won’t be suitable for nesting and breeding.

Irritate their senses

Some strong odors overwhelm bed bugs’ senses. Compounds in the scents can overstimulate their smell receptors so they avoid the area to escape the irritation. Powerful mint, citrus, and spice scents have this impact.

Repel with toxicity

In addition to their strong aroma, some essential oils like tea tree and clove contain insecticidal properties. With repeated exposure, the oils can poison and kill bed bugs. This makes scented areas undesirable.

Trigger aversion

Through instinct and experience, bed bugs have learned to avoid certain smells that pose threats. Scents like lemon and lavender signal potential toxins and dangers, causing bed bugs to instinctively shy away.

Tips for Using Scents to Repel Bed Bugs

Use scent deterrents strategically to enhance bed bug control:

Combine approaches

Use scent repellents along with other methods like steam treatments, mattress encasements, traps, and chemical sprays. Layering techniques improves results.

Apply directly

Place sachets of scented dried herbs or essential oil soaked cotton balls directly in infested areas like beds, couches, and dressers. Precise application is more effective.

Spray infested surfaces

Mix essential oils into water and spray onto baseboards, crack and crevices, mattresses, and furniture where bed bugs hide. This discourages them from settling.

Treat appliances

Bed bugs can infest appliances and electronics. Spray a dilute essential oil solution into vacuum canisters, outlet plates, TVs, and laptops.

Use with fans

Run fans in treated areas to spread the smell further. This expands the repellent impact. Just be sure not to blow around bed bugs.

Replace smell frequently

Scents fade over time so you need to reapply essential oils, dried herbs, and other odor deterrents regularly. Freshening the smell keeps driving away bed bugs.

Rotate scents

Switch between different essential oil scents so bed bugs don’t acclimate. Varying the smells keeps them off balance.

Dry thoroughly if using leaves/herbs

If using eucalyptus, bay leaves, or other dried plant material, make sure they are crackling dry. Moisture can allow mold growth.

Use rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol’s strong scent repels bed bugs. Spray it onto surfaces and around infested areas. Just avoid damage to fabrics.

Heat first

Heat treated areas with a steamer or heater first to kill some bed bugs, then apply scent deterrents to repel survivors and prevent reinfestation.

DIY Bed Bug Scent Repellent Recipes

Some easy homemade scent repellent recipes you can try:

Essential oil spray

Add 20 drops of essential oil like lavender, peppermint, or tea tree into 4 oz water. Shake vigorously and spray onto surfaces, infested crevices, and bedding.

Lemongrass leaves

Steep lemongrass leaves in boiling water to make lemongrass tea. Let cool and strain. Transfer to a spray bottle and spritz on infested areas.

Cedar boards

Line dresser drawers with cedar boards or cedar pads to make them inhospitable to bed bugs. The cedar smell permeates stored clothes.

Dried bay leaves

Place bay leaves and dried chili peppers inside small cloth pouches. Hide them in infested areas like box springs, couches, and headboards.

Repellent sachet

Add a few drops each of several essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, and tea tree into a small muslin sachet. Place in infested areas.

Table 1: Essential Oils That Repel Bed Bugs
Essential Oil Scent Description Uses Against Bed Bugs
Lemongrass Citrus, lemon Spray, sachet
Lavender Floral, herbaceous Spray, sachet
Eucalyptus Woodsy, minty Dried leaves, spray
Clove Spicy, sweet Spray, soaked cotton balls
Peppermint Minty, cooling Spray, soaked cotton balls
Tea Tree Medicinal, camphorous Spray, sachet
Thyme Herbal, earthy Spray


Bed bugs can be really difficult to eradicate once an infestation takes hold. Scent deterrents provide a natural method to repel and drive away the pests. Certain strong fragrances like essential oils, eucalyptus, cedar, and dried herbs create an environment bed bugs find inhospitable. Deploying these scents strategically throughout an infestation can deter bed bugs from congregating and make it harder for them to find hosts to bite.

Using natural repellent odors along with other techniques like steam, traps, and mattress encasements can enhance bed bug control. Always combine scent deterrents with vigilant monitoring. Continually inspect for signs of bed bugs, keep surfaces clean and clutter-free, and reapply repellent scents frequently. Pay special attention to beds, couches, and other areas where humans spend a lot of time resting and sleeping. With an integrated scent repellent plan, you can help keep bed bugs at bay and protect your quality of life.

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