You can pick up ticks when walking through tall grass. Your pets can also pick up ticks when they spend a lot of time outside. Looking at how to kill a tick is a good way to make sure you know what to do when you find one on you or your pet.
To kill a tick, you can suffocate it with packing tape, drown it by flushing down the toilet, or burn it by throwing it in the campfire. Caution is needed when killing tick because they contain disease and bacteria. Because of this, you should avoid squishing ticks. Here are some better ways.
Table of Contents
How to Kill a Tick: 14 Methods That Work
Here are the best ways to kill a tick, in decending order.
We’lI begin with the most effective and safest ways to kill ticks. If you don’t have what you need for that step, you can proceed to the next.
1. Don’t Squish Ticks
Everyone wants to squish a tick. Seems like a mix of vengefulness and absolute elimination.
Can you squish a tick? Sure, it’s possible.
The more important question is “should you squish a tick?” That answer is probably no. It is dangerous to squish a tick.
Why? Ticks are full of disease and bacteria. An unsquished tick is like a closed container, holding all that vileness inside. Why would you want to burst that container open?
If you decide to squish it, make sure that it is not attached to a human or animal. If it is attached (feeding) then the act of squishing can cause it to push the content of its stomach back into the open wound.
Imagine an engorged tick like a water ballon – full of blood from its recent feeding(s), also disease, parasites, and bacteria. It’s best to keep all that toxic slop inside.
While you might choose to carefully squish an unengorged tick between two rocks, you should never squish an engorged tick.
More on tick squishing at the end of the post.
Here are alternative (and safer) ways to kill ticks.
This is the safest way to handle ticks.
- If the tick is just crawling on you, use the tape to remove the tick without touching it. You can use it like a sticky fly trap.
- If it has begun to feed, remove it first and then place the tick on a piece of tape. Don’t use tape to remove an attached tick.
- If you’ll have the tick identified later, tape the tick to a paper. You can write the details (time, day, location, etc) on the same paper, to share with the lab or government agency who will review it.
Once you’ve trapped the tick between two pieces of sticky tape (packing tape works best), you can just throw it in the garbage. It can’t escape and it will die very quickly.
By trapping it in the tape, you’re also containing disease and bacteria that it is carrying.
Note: Remember to fold the tape over on its self. This will keep the tick from crawling away or falling off. And it will also suffocate it very quickly. It’s more humane to kill the tick quickly, than let to starve to death over many days.
An easy way to kill ticks when you’re at home is with your toilet.
Once you get the tick off, drop it in your toilet bowl and give it a flush.
When you use this method, make sure that the tick goes down the pipe. You may find that it clings to the side of the bowl and doesn’t go down with the water.
To help it go down, just place the tick inside of a few squares of toilet paper before flushing. This increased surface area will ensure that the paper and tick all go down the first time.
As long as you get the tick off your skin, you can kill it with heat.
If you’re camping outside, feel free to throw the bug’s body in the fire and let it burn.
Note: Don’t use heat to remove an attached tick. This can cause it to regurgitate the contents of stomach back into the host.
Using a lighter also works as long as you use caution and keep the flame on the tick. In a pinch, you can even put the tick in your microwave.
We’re not recommending it, but here’s someone who microwaved a tick.
Permethrin is one of the best pesticides to use on ticks.
You’ll find this chemical in liquid and powder versions as well as sprays. If you see ticks roaming in your yard, apply a layer of Permethrin to kill them on the spot.
Here are three ways that you can use permethrin to kill and repel ticks:
- Permethrin can be applied to an individual tick that you discover. Spraying directly can limit direct contact with the tick.
- You can also spray outdoor areas known to be tick habitats.
- You can also treat your clothing to repel and kill ticks before they get a chance to attached. Repel makes a permethrin clothing spray, that lasts up to two weeks and endures multiple washings.
6. Rubbing Alcohol
Did you know that you can kill a tick in ordinary rubbing alcohol? Once you remove the tick from your skin, drop it in a cup of rubbing alcohol.
The liquid will cause the tick to dry out and die. You can also use mouthwash that has alcohol in it in a pinch.
“Don’t pour alcohol on a tick that’s on your dog,” Dr. Lofton warns. “The tick is attached to your dog, and the alcohol will make the tick spit out its toxin,” he says.PetMD
7. Dental floss
When you find a living tick, use a simple piece of dental floss to kill it. Wrap the floss around the tick’s body and squeeze gently until you cut the tick in half. Only attempt this method with a flat tick.
Using dental floss is also a smart way to remove a tick from your body. Slide the floss under the tick and pull up until it slides off.
8. Hot Water
If you come home and find ticks stuck to your clothing, undress and toss the clothing in your washing machine.
You want to make sure that the water reaches a minimum temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius). It should only take one cycle to kill the ticks. Using a cold cycle or a lower temperature will not kill the bugs.
Some sites mistakenly claim that washing clothes won’t kill ticks. This is incorrect. According to National Library of Medicine, ticks will die in a washing machine, if the water is ≥130°F (≥54°C).
9. Hot Air
Using a clothes dryer is even more effective at killing ticks than a washing machine.
Placing clothing directly in a dryer and drying for a minimum of 6min on high heat will effectively kill ticks on clothing.NIH
You can easily suffocate a tick once you remove it. All you need is some type of airtight container.
A sandwich bag works well as does a jar with a lid. Place the tick inside the container and seal it tight.
It may take a few days for the tick to die, depending on how much air is in the container.
11. Other Animals
Many people find it helpful to keep animals that are natural predators to ticks, including chickens and turkeys.
Possums are also useful because one of these animals will eat up to 5,000 ticks in a single year. Guinea fowl also feed on ticks and can eat all of the bugs in your yard.
Curious about this method? Here are 19 animals that eat ticks.
12. Essential Oils
Essential oils work well to kill an repel ticks that you see outside, but this method should not be used on ticks still stuck to your body.
Peppermint and rosemary are popular essential oils for managing ticks.
13. Diatomaceous Earth
Sprinkle this substance outside to take care of ticks.
Diatomaceous earth features fossilized algae that cut through ticks and other insects to keep them from getting the water they need.
They will die of dehydration when they walk across the substance, which cuts them open.
Many outdoor survival kits come with plastic tweezers designed to remove ticks from humans and animals.
Tweezers safely remove the ticks but will not kill them, which comes in handy if you need to keep the tick for lab testing.
To kill a tick with tweezers, you want to put the bug between the pinchers and squeeze until you hear a popping sound.
Of course, the same warning about squishing an engorged tick applies here. It is not recommended to burst open ticks, especially when they are engorged. But do tweezers work to kill a tick? They sure do.
10 FAQs About Killing Ticks
Can You Squish a Tick?
It is possible to squish a tick. But because of the health risks, you should avoid squishing ticks, especially if the tick is engorged (full of blood).
Though you can squish a flat tick (not engorged) with your fingers, there is no guarantee that this will kill it. Deer ticks and other types of ticks have hard bodies that are too strong for your hands. American dog ticks and others have soft bodies that you can easily squish between your fingers.
Imagine an engorged tick like a water ballon – full of blood from its recent feeding(s), also disease, parasites, and bacteria. It’s best to keep all that toxic slop inside. Never squish or squeeze an engorged tick.
Warning: Definitely do not squish or squeeze ticks that are still on your body though. This causes the tick to vomit the contents of its stomach into your skin, which can make you sick.
More reading: 17 Smells that Flies Hate
What Kills Ticks on Contact?
There are a few things that will kill ticks on contact.
- Hot Coals: the fastest way to kill a tick is to incinerate it on a bed of hot campfire coals.
- Bifenthrin: Kills ticks by shutting down their nervous system. They become paralyzed and die quickly.
- Permethrin: This tick and flea killer will make short work of any tick.
- Alcohol: Not exactly on contact, but alcohol will quickly kill the tick. And in a sanitized way.
Does Cold Weather Kill Ticks?
Will cold weather or freezers kill ticks? No. Ticks can survive cold snaps, becoming dormant at temperatures below 45°F (7°C).
They begin to die when the temperature drops below 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius). But studies show that only 20% of the population dies off.
How Long Does it Take to Suffocate a Tick?
Though suffocating a tick is a good way to kill it, you should keep in mind that it takes up to three days for some types of ticks to die.
Suffocating works best when you use a remedy that cuts off their air supply such as a piece of tape that you wrap around them.
You can also use an airtight container like an old peanut butter jar that you seal. The smaller the container, the faster the tick will run out of oxygen and die.
Does Blood Come Out When You Squish a Tick?
When you squish an engorged tick, you will probably see some blood.
Because ticks feed on blood, they’ll likely spill the contents of their stomach when squished. This is good read to avoid squishing ticks.
Does Alcohol Kill Ticks?
Alcohol is one of the best and most natural ways to kill ticks. You’ll want to submerge the tick in alcohol, not just apply a mist or dab to its body.
One of the easiest ways to use this method is with a bottle or jar that you fill with alcohol. You can use rubbing alcohol or any other type that you have on hand.
Use tweezers or a special tool to remove the tick and then drop it in the liquid. The alcohol will kill the tick fairly quickly.
Does Hand Sanitizer Kill Ticks?
Hand sanitizer can kill ticks but only if you use a version with a high alcohol content.
Only use this remedy once you remove the tick though.
Hand sanitizer may cause the tick to vomit into your body. You can place the tick in a bottle and cover it with hand sanitizer to kill it.
Some people believe that applying hand sanitizer to a tick will instantly kill it, but this is untrue.
Does Flushing Ticks Kill Them?
Though flushing a tick is a quick way to get rid of the bug, the tick doesn’t immediately die. As it goes into the sewer pipe, it will eventually drown.
To avoid the tick from climbing back out, flush it as soon as possible.
Do Ticks Smell When You Kill Them?
When you kill a tick, you may notice a distinct smell but it depends on which method you use.
When you drown a tick or leave it in alcohol, you probably won’t pick up much of a smell.
If you squish a tick though, you’ll likely detect a foul odor that can smell even worse if the tick recently fed.
Does Hot Water Kill Ticks?
Hot water does kill ticks. The easiest way to use hot water is in your washing machine.
You don’t need laundry soap, but you do need to make sure the water is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
One cycle is usually enough time to kill ticks, though some feel better when they run the cycle twice.
If you’re in the wild and don’t have access to a washer, try using water that you heat on the fire. You can also use boiling water from your coffee pot or tea kettle.
As an alternative, you can also put your clothing in the clothes dryer. The high heat will quickly dehydrate the tick, killing it in 6 minutes.
Here are 12 Ways to Repel Ticks from the Yard
Learning how to safely kill ticks will help keep your family and pets safe from these diseased parasites. Have a tip or question? Join me below!
- About the Author
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Bryan Haines is a co-founder and writer at The Buginator. And is working to make it the best resource for taking back the outdoors from biting, stinging pests.
He also blogs about travel at Storyteller.Travel and photography at Storyteller Tech. Bryan is a partner at Storyteller Media, a publishing company he runs with his wife, Dena.