By Jamie Gosselin and Joan Richter
A flea-free home is important for the happiness and health of your family and pets. Not only are fleas a nuisance that can cause painful itching and irritation, but they can also transmit various diseases to you and your pets. Read the rest of this article to learn how to naturally remove fleas.
A female flea can lay 5000 or more eggs throughout her life. Once they hatch, the flea larvae will move away from light and search for food. They tend to gravitate to dark places like cracks, crevices, carpeting, upholstery, air ducts and bedding. They feed on a wide variety of warm-blooded vertebrates, including dogs, cats and humans.
The adult flea’s primary goal is to find blood and then reproduce. An adult flea generally lives for two to three months, but without food or a host it may only live for a few days. With ideal conditions, however, which include the right temperature, good food supply, and humidity, an adult flea can live up to 100 days. Optimal temperatures for the flea’s life cycle are 70°F to 85°F, and optimal humidity is 70%.
The peak flea season in North Carolina is typically September and October. Since most fleas can survive our winters (unless we get a hard freeze) as well as live indoors year-round, unfortunately there really is no end to flea season here.
Many flea treatments are toxic and hazardous to humans and pets, but there are several remedies to naturally remove fleas without using harmful chemicals and insecticides.
- Keep your grass cut and weeds trimmed. Since fleas love shady areas and damp spots, try to expose those areas to sunlight or keep your pet away from those spots.
- Lay banana peels face up throughout your yard. Generally one peel per five to 10 square feet is enough, but more is better than less. Once the peels turn black you can determine if you need to place more. (You can put banana peels on a plate inside your house, too, but look out for fruit flies and remove all banana peels if you see any.)
- Use cedar chips for bedding in an outdoor doghouse.
INSIDE YOUR HOME
- Vacuum your house thoroughly and frequently, including all corners and baseboards and areas that don’t get much exposure to the sun. Also vacuum seat cushions and under furniture.
- Empty the vacuum bag or contents into a sealed plastic bag or airtight container and put it in a covered trashcan outside.
- Before vacuuming, sprinkle salt or baking soda on the carpets and work it in the base of the carpet with a broom or scrub brush and let sit for a few hours to help dry out flea eggs.
- Vinegar/lemon/witch hazel spray. After vacuuming, combine one gallon vinegar, ½ gallon water, 16 oz. lemon juice, and 8 oz. witch hazel into a large sprayer and spray your carpets, furniture, pet bedding, window sills, floors and every nook and cranny. Repeat this every three to four days, and once the fleas are gone, spray weekly.
- Citrus spray. Add a thinly sliced lemon to a pint of water and boil. Let it sit overnight and spray it onto areas where you think fleas may be. Rub it on your pet’s fur till damp. You can also add two to three drops of this mixture under your pet’s collar to help repel fleas. Do this once a month, but make sure your pet doesn’t show any signs of digestive discomfort.
- Vinegar spray. In a spray bottle, use a ratio of ¼ distilled white vinegar to ¾ water. You can also add one tablespoon of dish soap. Spray weekly on your fabrics. (This is also good for cleaning countertops and other surfaces.)
- Place a shallow bowl of soapy water beneath furniture. Add enough dish soap (many people swear by Dawn) to color the water, approximately one teaspoon for two cups of water. The fleas will jump in and drown. You can do this outside, too, but make sure to empty daily to prevent mosquitoes.
- You can also set the soapy water under a night light or lamp, as the fleas will be attracted to the warm light.
- Wash your pet bedding and blankets weekly in hot, soapy water, in addition to washing anything else your pet likes to lay or sleep on. If it can go in the dryer, 15 to 20 minutes on high will kill adult fleas, larvae and eggs.
- Get a dehumidifier. Since fleas like humidity, keep the humidity in your room under 50% for a couple days to kill adult fleas and larva and stop the eggs from hatching. Afterward vacuum the flea debris and their eggs.
- Apply diatomaceous earth throughout your home. DE is an all-natural, non-toxic product that looks and feels like talcum powder, but it will cut the fleas’ protective outer coating, killing them. A little goes a long way, though, so be careful not to use too much as inhaling large amounts can irritate the windpipe and lungs.
- Bathe your pet with a gentle shampoo. You can also wash your cat in Head and Shoulders shampoo. Wash the neck area first so you get any fleas before they jump to your pet’s head.
- You can also soak grapefruit peels in the bathwater before you bathe your pet. Be sure to do this outside, though, since fleas don’t like the smell and may jump off.
- Make an herbal flea dip. Add two cups of fresh rosemary leaves to two pints of water. Boil for 30 minutes, strain, discard the leaves, and mix it with a gallon of warm water. Pour it over your pet until saturated and allow your pet to air dry (do this on a hot day only).
- Use a fine-toothed flea comb on your pet, especially over the lower back near the tail base. To determine if any black, pepper-like material is flea feces, place it on a white paper towel and add a drop of water. If it is flea feces, it will make a reddish-brown stain since it is actually digested blood.
- Make a flea collar. Put drops of eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, citronella, lavender or geranium on your pet’s collar or kerchief and repeat weekly. (NOTE: If you use tea tree oil, make sure it is 1% or less strength. Do NOT use essential oils on cats.)
Once you have eliminated the fleas, you will still need to watch for them regularly and repeat your cleaning regimen as often as possible so they don’t have another chance to infest your pet or your home.
Additional sources of natural, non-toxic flea remedies to naturally remove fleas from your home: