Boric acid is a water-soluble derivative of the mineral boracite, or borax, as it is commonly known. Boric acid occurs naturally in seawater, plants and in most fruits. In dry form, boric acid appears as a white crystalline substance. It is used medicinally as an antiseptic for minor cuts and burns, in wound dressings and as an eye treatment in a diluted form. It is also used as an antibacterial for the treatment of acne as well as yeast and fungus infections, such as vaginitis and athlete's foot.
Boric Acid as a Pesticide
Boric acid has been used for many years as an insecticide for the treatment of ants, cockroaches, termites and silverfish. It has also been used as a fungicide and as a preservative as a wood treatment. When ingested internally, boric acid affects the metabolism of insects, causing dehydration and eventual death. The crystalline form of boric acid can also act as an irritant to the exoskeleton of insects that come into contact with it.
Use of Boric Acid on Bedbugs
The University of Kentucky Entomology states the application of boric acid as a treatment for bedbugs raises the issue of the dangers of continued contact with human skin and inhalation of the crystals. In general, boric acid may be applied in areas that will not come into contact with human beings with no inherent risk, although the use of boric acid for athlete's foot treatment has consisted of placing dry boric acid into footwear or socks. The application of boric acid in a diluted form on baseboards and in cabinets has been used as well.
Application of Boric Acid for Bedbugs
Although boric acid has a low toxicity, it is not clear whether continued exposure to boric acid will have any detrimental side effects from contact with the skin. However, applying boric acid in areas where bedbugs may exist other than mattresses or box springs will have a positive effect on their extermination. In general, applying boric acid around the bed, specifically any cracks or crevices where bedbugs may hide, can be seen as an effective approach to controlling bedbug populations.
Other Methods of Bedbug Elimination
Bedbugs will live in any small, enclosed area. This can include creases and folds in mattress fabric. Replacement of bedding that is suspected to have bedbug infestations would be one method of eliminating this problem. A thorough cleaning of the mattresses would also deter further infestation, including vacuuming all accessible areas of the mattress and box springs and laundering of all bed sheets and pillow cases.
Other Non-Toxic Treatments for Bedbugs
Bedbugs are susceptible to variations in temperature as well. Raising the room temperature in bedrooms and other sleeping areas where bedbugs are found will exterminate all stages of bedbug development. Restricting heated air to bedrooms and sleeping areas in cold weather will also eliminate bedbugs in some stages of development. Steam-cleaning of rugs and carpets in rooms with suspected bedbug infestations will also exterminate existing specimens.