Ridding your home of fleas, without the use of synthetic pesticides, can provide a healthy solution to the problem of fleas in your home and on your pet. Synthetic pesticides, including Fipronil and Imidacloprid, are effective but can cause deleterious side effects. Incorporating homemade solutions into your regular household care and pet grooming routine is a comprehensive, multi-stepped process, requiring time and effort. Fleas are resilient creatures and are not easy to eradicate. The four cycles in a flea’s development are the egg, larva, adult and pupa—the cocoon stage between larva and adult. Each life cycle must be considered when deciding on a process to rid your home of fleas.
Things You'll Need
- Flea comb
- Cotton ball
- Pet shampoo
- Any or a combination of the following essential oils:
- Tea tree
- Spray bottle
- Any combination of the following powdered herbs:
- Yellow dock
- Shaker-topped jar
- Vacuum with a disposable bag
- Diatomaceous earth purchased at a garden center or pet store
- Washing machine
- Cooking pot
- Predatory nematodes
Practice flea prevention before fleas appear. If you own a pet, it is likely that your pet will be exposed to fleas at some point. Your pet can come in contact with fleas in different ways, including interactions with other pets and taking walks outdoors where flea-infested animals frequent. Even if you don’t own other pets and your pet doesn’t leave your yard, squirrels and other rodents can deposit fleas in your yard.
Maintain your pet’s good health. Fleas prey on weakened hosts with compromised immune systems. According to the Society for the Study of Evolution, a healthy pet with a strong immunity is more resistant to fleas, and the mortality rate of fleas is higher on a healthy host. Providing premium pet food, liberal amounts of fresh water and making sure your pet gets plenty of exercise, are just a few ways to ensure your pet’s good health.
Check your pet for fleas by using a flea comb, which can assist in gauging the level of flea infestation. A flea comb has two rows of narrowly spaced metal teeth which, when run through a pet’s fur, trap fleas and reveal flea dirt, or feces. If black granules are collected while using a flea comb, verify the existence of flea dirt by rubbing the granules on a wet cotton ball. If the granules become red, it is an indication of flea dirt, and confirmation of the existence of fleas.
Bathe your pet regularly. It isn’t necessary to use pet shampoos with harsh chemicals because the soapy water will kill the fleas. Start with your pet’s head and neck to prevent fleas from escaping to the face. Create a rich lather, making sure the soap remains on the fur and skin for about 15 minutes to ensure that all fleas are dead. Providing positive attention and gently massaging your pet’s skin during this time will preoccupy your pet, making it easier to keep it in the bath. To help repel fleas, add a few drops of essential oil to the shampoo, such as tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus or rosemary, all of which are effective insect repellents.
Add a few drops each of a combination of essential oils to water, and add to a glass spray bottle. Spray on your pet’s fur regularly to repel fleas. Do not get the solution in your pet’s eyes. Some pets have a higher sensitivity to essential oils, so if skin irritation occurs, discontinue use.
Repel fleas by creating your own flea repelling powder. Combine equal parts of powdered eucalyptus, rosemary, fennel, yellow dock, yarrow and wormwood. Put in a shaker-topped jar and work into your pet’s fur. Apply powder outside, so fleas don’t jump off your pet’s fur into your home.
Clean your home as frequently and as thoroughly as possible. Vacuuming kills 96 percent of adult fleas, 90 percent of flea eggs and 50 percent of flea larvae. Vacuum floors, carpets, drapes and all fabric surfaces. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in the vacuum bag. Diatomaceous earth contains tiny, sharp particles that kill fleas by puncturing their exoskeletons. Use caution, because breathing in dry diatomaceous earth can cause respiratory irritation.
Wash all bedding, linens, rugs and flooring with warm, soapy water, focusing on areas where your pet frequents. The warm, soapy water will kill adult fleas.
Slice a lemon, add it to near-boiling water, and allow the mixture to steep overnight. Add it to a spray bottle and apply to your pet’s fur, rubbing it in so it reaches the skin. Lemons contain l-limonene, which kills and repels adult fleas. Other ingredients also treat flea bites and other skin irritation. Use the mixture daily if you have an infestation, or when you think your pet has been exposed to fleas.
Treat the outside of your home as well as the inside. Keep your lawn trimmed, which will allow the sun to heat the soil, killing fleas. Watering your lawn regularly will drown fleas. Predatory nematodes, a kind of worm, feed on fleas and can be purchased online, but need a moist environment to survive.
Tips & Warnings
- Essential oils and powdered herbs can be purchased at health food stores or online.
- Predatory nematodes can be purchased in some garden stores or online.
- Diatomaceous earth should be purchased from a garden supply store or pet store and not from a pool supply store. The diatomaceous earth from pool supply stores can contain silica, which can damage the lungs if inhaled.
- EPA: National Service Center for Environmental Publications: Fipronil for Use on Rice (Regen, Icon) and Pets (Frontline) HED Risk Assessment: George F. Kramer, PhD, et al.: May 1998
- Journal of Pesticide Reform: Insecticide Fact Sheet: Imidacloprid: Spring 2001
- Journal of Pesticide Reform: Insecticide Fact Sheet: Fipronil: Spring 2005
- Evolution: Evolution: Host Life History and the Evolution of Parasite Virulence: Sylvain Gandon, et al.: 2001
- GALE Cengage Learning: Pet Peeves: How to Keep Your Critter Healthy & Flea Free, Naturally
- Photo Credit The spitz-dog and cat on a neutral background image by Ulf from Fotolia.com samoed's dog image by Alexander Maksimov from Fotolia.com
Flea & Tick Frontline Alternatives
There are several alternative medications that are intended for the elimination of fleas and ticks, particularly for dogs. While Frontline is an...
Making Homemade Flea Repellent
Homemade flea repellents include a lemon tea mixture, eucalyptus leaves, tea tree oil or lavender oil. Use homemade flea repellents to spread...