How to get rid of stink bugs with dish soap, vinegar spray, and more

Keep these smelly pests out. Here’s how to get rid of stink bugs with natural home remedies and defensive strategies

Stink bug on window
(Image credit: Getty/Borealina (#526372631))

Figuring out how to get rid of stink bugs can be frustrating. These uninvited sharers of your home might not create a health risk but, just like many other critters, they’re a nuisance – and ones that smell if they're scared or squished.

And while brown marmorated stink bugs won’t spread disease or damage the structure of your home, they can be present in large numbers, flying around your rooms and crawling on surfaces.

Identifying these bugs is pretty simple. With their hard shell and shield-like shape, they're pretty distinguishable. You might also know that they release a nasty smell when they’re threatened as a natural defense, and the same happens if you squash them (gross). The malodor also hangs about after the bug is dead – for example if it has expired in a light fitting. 

Don't panic, though. There are measures you can take when stink bugs are in your home, plus strategies you can adopt to block their routes inside to help put a stop to their whiffy ways.

While some say that stink bugs smell like cilantro, others note burnt tires. Whatever your nose picks up on, it shouldn't be masked with chemical cleaners like bleach. So if you're having to get rid of stink bugs, put down the strong stuff, and look to your pantry and household cupboards instead. We'll show you how to use a multitude of gentler items (namely vinegar, garlic, and even dryer sheets) to help the Halyomorpha halys find their way out of your home.

How to get rid of stink bugs

The bad news is that stink bugs like to eat many native plants (including grasses, weeds, berries and apples), so your garden is likely to attract them. The key, then, before we go into detail, is to stop them from coming inside in the first place, as well as deal with them if they do breach your defenses.

Shopping list:

1. Dustpan and brush: OXO's Good Grips model (opens in new tab)is smart
2.
Steam cleaner: choose from a range on Amazon (opens in new tab)
3. A
vacuum cleaner or handheld vac
4. A cheap spray bottle:
so handy for cleaning (opens in new tab)
5.
Dish soap: use the rest to wash dishes (opens in new tab)
6. White vinegar:
cleans a multitude of household items (opens in new tab)
7. Caulk:
seal that gap with Gorilla on Amazon (opens in new tab)
8. Insect screens:
pest-proof your doors and windows (opens in new tab)
9. Motion sensor external lights:
a bright idea (opens in new tab)
10. Garlic granules:
Outstink the bugs with aliums (opens in new tab)
11. An
essential oil diffuser
12. An essential oil of your choosing:
pick your scent (opens in new tab)
13. An old towel
14. A bucket
15. Antibacterial wipes:
clean up your act (opens in new tab)
16.
Airtight food storage containers (opens in new tab): food for thought
17. A lawn chair

1. Take them outside

You’ve spotted a stink bug inside your home, and you’re tempted to squash it. That’ll get rid of it, right? Stop right there! Do not squish a stink bug because that’s what will make it stink. And, no, don’t step on one either.

Instead, try to gently take the offending critter outside, or flush it down the toilet. If it’s a question of more bugs, you can sweep them up using a dustpan and brush (opens in new tab) (again, don’t squash as you go) – and then flush. Alternatively, a good handheld vacuum cleaner will suck them up swiftly. You can then choose to relocate them by emptying the vac canister outside.

2. Try a dish soap solution

You can kill stink bugs in a dish soap solution. Put water into a bucket and add a good squirt of washing-up liquid. Knock the stink bugs into your soapy solution using a brush, and they’ll drown.

3. Make a vinegar spray

Try this home remedy to a stink bug invasion from Farm and Dairy (opens in new tab). You’ll need a spray bottle (opens in new tab). Add two cups of hot water, one cup of white vinegar (opens in new tab) then a half cup of dish soap (opens in new tab). Put on the lid and swirl to combine. You can use the solution to spray the stink bugs directly. Bear in mind that you’ll need to wipe up afterward with this method.

4. Keep them out by sealing cracks and gaps

The best way to get rid of stink bugs is to keep them out of your home in the first place. Start by sealing cracks through which they could be gaining entry, which might be around window and door frames, siding, pipes, and so on. Use caulk (e.g: Gorilla Caulk & Seal (opens in new tab)) to fill the gaps. Not sure how to caulk? Our expert tutorial will show you how to keep those critters out.

You should add weather stripping (opens in new tab) under exterior doors to seal gaps by which stink bugs could enter as well.

5. Check screens

Stink bugs don’t need much in the way of an entry point, so make a thorough check of window and door screens and patch repair or replace as necessary. Adding insect screens (opens in new tab) to vents in attics and crawl spaces is a sound strategy, too, to stop the critters from getting in this way. 

6. Pay attention to exterior lights

Unfortunately, exterior lights attract stink bugs, so turn yours off when they’re not required. You could also consider swapping to motion sensor outdoor lights (opens in new tab) so they only come on as necessary. Close blinds and drapes after dark, too, so the light from inside your home isn’t beckoning the beasties.

7. Use dryer sheets

Yes, really, dryer sheets (opens in new tab). Some homeowners have reported that these can be used to get rid of stink bugs. Rub a fresh sheet – or sheets for large versions – on window screens. Apparently, the stink bugs don’t like the smell and stay away, which seems a neat reversal.

8. Attract them – then kill them

Here are two other quirky remedies we’ve heard good reports about. The first is to leave a damp towel draped over a lawn chair at night to attract stink bugs. In the morning you can kill the stink bugs that have flocked to the towel by putting it in a dish soap solution in a bucket. You could also try guiding the stink bugs directly to a bucket of soapy water so they meet their ends. How? Easy. Just put a light over your trap.

9. Repel them with garlic granules

Yes, the same stuff you add to your garlic bread and yummy dinners can be used to evict stink bugs from your property. But you don't have to waste a fresh clove to get rid of these pests.

Instead, get yourself some garlic powder (opens in new tab) (much cheaper and less perishable), and mix it with warm water to dissolve. Then decant this into a spray bottle, and spritz around the areas you've spotted them.

10. Fill the air with natural fragrance

Luckily for us, stink bugs hate essential oils. So if you happen to own one of the best essential oil diffusers, use your favorite home fragrance neat, or mix a few plant extracts to create your own essential oil recipes. The calming properties of geranium, ylang-ylang, and lemongrass will make you forget about the infestation altogether!

What attracts stink bugs?

Like many living creatures (including us), stink bugs are motivated by food. So it's no surprise that if you're leaving food out on your kitchen worktop, you're practically inviting them in for a multiple-course meal. Even your best trash can tempt them inside, so be sure to clean your kitchen bin thoroughly, and use antibacterial wipes (opens in new tab)or your best steam cleaner to mop up any bin juice.

Dominique Stumpf, chief executive of National Pest Management Association (opens in new tab) supports this, saying: 'Another method for how to get rid of stink bugs is to remove their access to food,'

'Store food in airtight food storage containers (opens in new tab) and dispose of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles. Also, make sure you wipe down counters and sweep floors to eliminate crumbs and residue from spills.'

Not sure how to clean your kitchen countertop? Whatever material it's made from we've got a guide on how to keep it sanitized.

How do stink bugs get into a home?

The arrival of spring is welcome, but not so much the stink bugs that emerge with it... But how do they end up inside? The experts at Orkin (opens in new tab) explain, ‘Stink bugs have an uncanny ability to slip into homes through torn screens and door cracks thanks to their flat body shape. When the weather turns cold, these pests overwinter indoors in hopes of surviving until the spring.’ In other words, when temperatures rise and the sun comes out, stink bugs emerge. 

When to call in the experts

If it’s an invasion of stink bugs you’re facing, or your efforts to eradicate them indoors, and stop them coming in from outdoors, have failed our advice is to call in the pros like Rentokil (opens in new tab) for help. 

In the worst-case scenario, pest controllers can apply chemical products around the possible entry points to deter unwanted visitors.

Sarah Warwick
Freelance Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For Realhomes.com, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.

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