Can I kill fleas naturally with home remedies?
Yes, you can! The good news is that with just a tiny amount of effort and a few cheap products, you can rid your house of these annoying pests without the need for dousing your house and loved pets in chemicals!
We have become accustomed to dealing with flea’s with chemicals over the years but there are some issues with this. Flea’s are hardy creatures, they adapt to their environments quickly. This has lead to them building up tolerances to the chemicals we use to treat things like fleas.
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Can flea’s build resistance to flea products?
Flea’s are not easily killed. They have been even been known build resistence to some of the commonly used chemicals in most flea products like imidacloprid, fipronil, permethrin, methoprene, and pyriproxyfen. Whilst flea’s can end up building a tolerance to these chemicals, the same cannot be said for our furry friends who can suffer or even pass away due to the use of these products.
Side effects caused by flea drops & sprays
The side effects of some insecticides are nausea, tremors, seizures and death. Some flea products even warn against skin contact with them and to keep them out of reach of children, yet we allow them to absorb into your well loved pets body. These reasons alone should make anyone look for less harmful and risky alternatives.
If there were no alternatives for flea control available, it would be understandable to take the risk of putting these chemicals on your pet. The fact is, there are far less harmful, cheaper and more ecologically friendly ways of dealing with fleas, just like we did for thousands of years before flea products were around.
The main products I use to successfully keep fleas at bay are a flea comb, diatomaceous earth, apple cider vinegar, white distilled vinegar, a vacuum and some essential oils. Using a combination of these in my daily routine I manage to keep my house flea free!
Can I really get rid of fleas without chemicals?
There are many articles and blogs made out there by people with no experience in what they are talking about. I am an animal lover with a Dalmatian and Cat. I keep both of these flea free using a variety of methods.
Over the years I’ve tried various different methods of natural flea control and here is what I’ve learned;
- No one methods works on its own
- It takes some effort, but not too much
- You MUST maintain your routine
Life cycle of fleas
It helps this process if you understand the flea’s life cycle. These creatures are not indestructible, you just have to tackle them at the right time. That point is at the beginning of their life during their egg and larvae forms.
How many eggs do fleas lay?
Like many insects, fleas being their life as eggs. An adult flea can lay 10-100 eggs in one day! In ideal conditions, eggs will hatch into larvae anywhere between 1-6 days. A flea egg is about the size of a grain of sand, white and round in shape.
Flea eggs are not capable of ‘gripping’ or ‘sticking’ to anything, this means that once the eggs are laid they will likely make there way to the floor or onto your furniture. We will cover how to deal with eggs properly later in this article.
Larvae, how long do flea eggs take to hatch?
After 1-6 days as an egg, the flea then develops into it’s larvae form. However if conditions are not optimal and they do not hatch, an egg can still survive months until conditions improve. Once hatched the larvae are usually around 2-5mm long and are white but slightly see through.
Again, the adult population of the flea is the least of your worries during an infestation. Larvae can comprise up to and over ¼ of the entire flea population in your house, it is at the egg and larvae stage you need to be tackling your flea problem.
Fleas egg cycle
The larvae stage of a flea’s development will last around 5-11 days, they will scavenge the area for pre-digested, dried blood matter left behind by the adult flea’s. This is their only sustenance during this vulnerable stage of growth. Vacuuming regularly can help decrease the amount of food available to the larvae.
Once they’ve had their feed and after molting 3 times during this stage, the larvae is ready for its pupal stage. Just like a caterpillar the larvae will spin itself into a cocoon and develop into a pupae.
Fleas as pupae
This stage of development could be considered the flea’s toughest form. A pupae can survive for a year or more waiting for the ideal temperature and humidity. Once triggered by the right conditions, or even the presence of a host, the pupae will start its final stages of growth.
Pupae are hard to deal with and the best approach its to stop as many larvae as possible entering this stage. They will stick and lodge themselves in deep, hard to reach areas that are not easily accessible with a vacuum or cleaning products.
As you can see, its another good reason to maintain a variety of techniques to get rid of the leaf infestation. Due to the differences in the fleas life stages like this one you need different approaches for each stage. You will be able get some pupae, but not all by using a powerful vacuum and reducing the amount of larvae before this stage. A spray made from diatomaceous earth is also good to get into hard to reach places.
Once ready and a host is present, the adult flea will emerge from its pupae form ready to eat.
The adult Flea
At this stage the flea is at its most obvious and annoying stage, but not at its most vital for dealing with. Adult flea’s make up only 5% of the flea population. The other 95% are in the forms that we have just covered. After emerging from its pupae an adult flea can be feeding quickly. Once on its host, it can be eating within 10 seconds.
An adult flea can be black or brown (depending on cay or dog) with a large abdomen and flat body, they will often be seen navigating your pets coat or hoping around the house. It does this using its large cricket like back legs and hair like bristle on its body
Size & colour can vary in different species, but you will be dealing with mainly the cat and dog flea. Here’s a quick rundown of the 2 main species we see around our homes, the dog and cat flea.
The cat flea
The cat flea is the most common of the two species. Although it’s named the cat flea, it is often found on dogs more than the ‘dog flea’. Cat fleas are around 1-2mm and are a reddish brown.
The dog flea
There is no difference! It’s a commonly made distinction but the facts are that a flea is a flea. They don’t discriminate between cat or dog and will feed on both.
How to get rid of fleas naturally!
Identify the source
To deal with the flea, one must understand the flea! It’s important to identify two things;
- The major part of the ‘Infestation’ is in your house, not on your pet
- Identify where the fleas are coming in and tackle it
For this blog we will use the methods that I use in my household. Feel free to adapt this plan to suit. The fleas in my house are brought in by my cat, he goes out wondering and hunting. It is during this he picks up fleas from the long grass and his prey which is often rats. There are also lots of hedge hogs in my area, whilst very cute they are also known to harbour fleas and ticks.
Knowing this I will introduce the way to deal with fleas on your pets.
The flea comb
As the adult fleas spend their time hopping on and off their host they will often be scurrying about in your pets fur. Buy a flea comb, at every opportunity give your cat a good going over with the comb.
To make the experience less hassle for the cat, I often brush him at breakfast and dinner time while he’s distracted. It’s important to make your cat like this as you will need to do it a lot! If they are hesitant at first, help them along with treats. I also stroke my cat intermittently and turn the whole affair into a pampering with treats – there aren’t many cats who don’t like a pampering!
To flea comb your cat you will need:
- Flea combating
- A bowl of soapy water (dish soap)
- Keep a towel handy
As you comb your cat you will come across some flea’s, you need to get the flea’s into the soapy water. Soap breaks the surface tension of the water and allows the fleas to sink and die. If you dunk the brush, remember to keep a towel handy to dry the flea comb before continuing.
The help the flea comb brush through more easily, I brush my cat with a normal fur brush see below, again he loves it!
Do this at least twice a day, the more the better as flea’s do not spend all of their time on your pet. Adding more brush times to the rota increases your chance of catching them.
Dealing with flea eggs & larvae naturally
This is the most important part of flea management and reducing their numbers quickly, then keeping them down. To do this you will need;
- Diatomaceous earth / Bicarbonate
- A good vacuum
During the height of flea season which is in the warmer months, you will need to keep on top of these things – vacuuming and washing.
If you are dealing with your first infestation, vacuum the entire household and throw all bedding, couch and pillow covers you can in the wash, especially pet bedding. Put these on the hottest wash you can. Buy or make a shaker for the diatomaceous earth.
Cover any fabric furniture and carpets like you would with any carpet cleaner. This will not only kill larvae, it will dehydrate the eggs too. At the same time it is a very efficient odour eater so it will remove any unwanted scents from your couch and carpets.
Food grade diatomaceous earth or bicarbonate of soda will puncture the larvae and also dehydrate it, eventually killing it. Leave the substance down for as long as possible, preferably 24 hours, especially if its your first run. This allows plenty of time for the dehydration process to work allowing for maximum effect.
It is a good idea to try and keep your pets off and away from areas with diatomaceous earth on. Whilst its quite harmless it can cause irritations if it gets between paws or on dry skin. I have never had an issue with my cat or dog, my dog is also susceptible to dry skin.
After allowing 24 hours, thoroughly vacuum your household from top to bottom. This will pull up any dead or dying larvae and dried eggs. Empty the vacuum right away and dispose of the bag in the outside bins.
This process should be repeated during the months March through to October at least once a month to that extent. You should however hoover at least once a day where the pets spend a lot of their time, and thoroughly once a week. It doesn’t hurt to leave some diatomaceous earth for a few hours before each time you vacuum too. Wash animal beds and bed covers as much as you can, on the hottest setting you can. Around 60c will kill fleas in its various stages of growth.
How to deter flea’s from your home
The idea is to make your home as uncomfortable as possible for flea’s. Essential oils are a great way of doing this, and if your like me you will enjoy the scent of a home scented with essential oils. The essential oils I have tried and have success with are lavender oil, tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil. Not all at the same time though I must add.
Choose one that you like that will also be abhorrent for the flea’s. Citrus oils are good as well as the aforementioned essential oils. You can use them to make a cleaning spray (How to make eco friendly cleaning products), cleaning your house down with sprays scented with essential oils like lavender or tea trea will help deter fleas. The vinegar in these sprays also acts as a flea deterrent.
Never apply essential oils directly to your pets in any circumstance, it can be toxic and harmful to their health.
Grow some herbs
Keeping some pots of herbs will deter fleas from your property, it is good to plant these near entrances and doorways, or put them in pots around the home. Again lavender is a great deterrent that smells great!
Keep the grass down in the garden
Fleas love tall grass, it provides shelter and a high points to gain better access to a host. By keeping your grass cut short you can avoid unwanted pests such as fleas and ticks. This is something I do on a regular basis, not only does it help stop fleas getting around, it also helps keep the garden well maintained!
Use an oil burner
Of an evening when things are settling down in my house hold I will put my oil burner on. This is a ceramic bowl with an area for a tea light to heat, you fill the bowl with water and some essential oils of your choice. When the tea light heats it the aroma is carried through the air.
Whilst this has no direct benefit, it is again about making the environment as unwelcoming for fleas as possible. By filling the air with scents it does not like, on top of the techniques we just covered, you can deter the pesky insects even more
Why did you go chemical free to treat flea’s?
As an animal lover I’ve never really been comfortable with putting chemicals on my pets. Having researched what chemicals were involved with keeping fleas off my animals and what side effects they can and were having across the globe, I decided to look for alternatives.
It took a few flea seasons to get it right but I eventually figured out that is was not one process that would kill the fleas off but a combination of techniques and maintaining them. They are now a part of my daily routine and go hand in hand with my general cleaning practices.
As my cleaning products are home made and eco friendly, the ingredients of essential oils and vinegar work wonders as an effective antibacterial cleaner and flea deterrent. Also having pots of herbs and a herb garden supplying edibles and again, deterrents to fleas and other pests.
If you are maintaining a routine properly and its working, you should not find a consistent amount of fleas or flea waste in your home. If you do, you need to reassess your situation and start from scratch.
Did you know?
Although they might not look like it this day and age, chickens are related to the ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex – they are the closest living relative of the T-rex!