Ridding Your Home of Fleas

Ridding Your Home of Fleas
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I've only had a few experiences with fleas, and it wasn't pleasant. One of the first apartments I moved into after college was literally covered with fleas so that I couldn't sit and read without them jumping on my legs and biting me.

It was many years later that our family cat came down with them, and though it was unpleasant, it was nothing like that first experience. My husband convinced me to use a "flea bomb" and it didn't work, plus I was so afraid of the chemicals I told him we all had to leave the house for the day and then air it out.

Since these experiences I've come up with some easier and less toxic methods. They won't work for everyone. Climates are different, as are the type of fleas, but these are a good place to start before having to go the chemical route.

The first thing you need to know is that if your pet is an outdoor pet, they will be more likely to get fleas. Talk to your vet and decide on a good treatment. I've tried several and Frontline has worked the best so far.

Also, especially during warm/hot weather keep things clean and vacuumed. Carpet, furniture, pet beds/blankets, pillows, throws--anywhere your pet may lay or sit. Empty your vacuum bag and throw it in the trash (outside) if you even suspect you may have fleas. I also found that I really have to keep it clean under things---the computer desk, sofa etc. If you can do this ALL the time, you may head off the fleas. But sometimes, no matter how clean you are, they sneak in anyways. If they do, here are a few things you can try:

Boric acid, which is in Borax , kills fleas and the larvae by dehydrating them--drying them out is how I understand it. You can go to a hardware and buy boric acid or pick up a box of Borax at the grocery store. If your area doesn't have it, ask around for a laundry aid that contains boric acid. Sprinkle it on the dry carpet, allow it to sit overnight if possible, then vacuum in the morning.

Vacuum twice if you have to, then throw away the bag. If you aren't sure and your carpet is newer --I'd test a spot first to make sure it doesn't fade. You will have to repeat this every two weeks--to make sure you get them all. Keep up the steady vacuuming. It also might be easier to put the borax in an empty oatmeal or cornmeal container-then poke holes in the lid-then take the top to make sure it's secure, and sprinkle on that way.

An extra option is to add 20-25 drops of an essential oil to the borax first---working it in with your hands (wear rubber gloves). Let it sit a couple of hours, then put in the container and sprinkle. You can use cedar, citronella, pennyroyal, lemongrass, rosemary, eucalyptus, and lavender. This is optional though...

An important note on essential oils. You'll find recipes online that suggest spraying pets...rubbing oils on them...etc. I do not recommend this. Unless you are an experienced herbalist it's not a good idea to use the oils on pets, especially cats. When you do use the Borax, with or without the oils, keep your pets away. You don't want them eating or rolling in the Borax. Make sure you vacuum it all up before letting them go in that area.


I have used just plain table salt and it works great. Isn't dangerous to pets. It even helps to brighten the carpet. You need to repeat every couple of days tell you get all the eggs that hatch. It must dehydrate them too, I would think. ~Paula Barringer

I have tried all kinds of remedies for decades before finding one that works, safely! I now use Diatomaceous Earth diatomaceous earth, food-grade, and have for about a month. Applied it directly to all the cats and rubbed them well, and mixed about a half-teaspoon into "special food". Then sprinkled the stuff all over the bare floors, swept it into the cracks, on the furniture, in the drawers, wherever fleas might hide. Liberally applied and then mixed it into the sand all around the house. It also dehydrates like borax, but with one big difference-DE is non-toxic, it will also kill the parasites caused by flea-infestation. Wear a cloth mask to avoid inhaling it-dries the mucus cavities right out. Apply lotion or oil to hands after washing them.

The first week I'd follow this regiment daily. The outdoor cats were treated more often, as they'd roll in the sand, disperse the DE and collect more fleas. By the middle of the second week I only had to do the cats every two days, the house continued to get a daily sprinkle. I added a bit of DE to one meal for a week then did it every two days and now once a week. It is now a month later, the cats are back to their familiar roosts. DE was the only thing I'd found that could be and was used on infant animals, was chemical-free and completely non-toxic. ~Shaggylord, Adirondack Mountains

Last year we took on two cats from a lady we knew through church. Because of the circumstances for the first two weeks they were in our house it was all anyone could do to make sure they (and the two resident cats) got fed and watered and the litter boxes got cleaned. We only stayed overnight in our own home twice in those two weeks due to church events and other end-of-summer busy-ness. After things settled down we discovered a severe flea infestation. We couldn't walk across a floor anywhere in our place without getting about ten bites on our shins. We fixed this in one hard weekend of work (with a few more days of bites as some of the 'missed' adults died off), using exactly what you suggest (Borax, DE and a long acting flea treatment like front line) but the way we did it was different and I think labor saving in the long run.

The first thing we did was wash all the cats with an appropriate non-flea shampoo. Once they were dry we treated them with a long acting flea treatment. I don't recall which brand we used.

The next thing we did was mix 1 part diatamaceous earth to 1 part borox in a container with hole punched in the lid for sprinkling. We secured the cats in one part of the house and moved furniture off the carpet in the other part of the house, covered the carpets (where the cats weren't) and the corners of the tiled areas. Then we used a broom to work the powder into the carpet (very dusty. Use some sort of mask. We used wet bandanas with some success) and under the floorboard cracks and let it sit overnight. The next day we vacuumed up the loose powder. Some of the powder stays in the carpet to continue to control flea larvae, but isn't accessible to cause problems for pets or children. We also had to do some damp dusting of surfaces to get the residue of borox and DE off of shelves and such. Then we mopped the hard surfaces with hot soapy water. Soapy water does a good job of killing fleas because it dissolves their waxy coating, but plain water will not.

After that's done, secure the cats in the already done area, and then do the area that the cats were in the previous day in the same way -- sprinkle, work in, let sit, vacuum and damp dust.

This shouldn't have to be repeated. If there isn't a serious drop off in the number of fleas immediately, or if there are any fleas at all after three weeks, it probably means that somewhere has been missed. I've done this before for less severe infestations but decided that the couch or desk didn't need to be moved and had to do it again. Move all the furniture, dust (with the borox and DE), sweep (work the dust in with the broom) and vacuum any upholstered furniture that doesn't have washable slipcovers (wash what you can in soap and water. It's easier) and the fleas won't have anywhere to hide.

It's been 18 months and we haven't seen a reoccurance yet. Because the cats are indoor cats we didn't renew the long acting flea treatment, so we know that the fleas are good and dead.

We also used food grade DE (all of this uses food grade DE, not pool filter DE which is totally different and likely won't work) for internal parasites brought in from these cats (they had been given a 'clean bill of health' by a vet and brought directly from the vet's boarding kennel to our home, so we thought they were safe) very effectively, the way Shaggylord mentioned. We only dosed the cats once every two weeks for six weeks (half a tsp mixed with wet food) rather than every day. It worked.

In order to deal with the ear mites we used an essential oil product sold commercially for cats through our food co-op. I don't recall the brand but it was primarily neem oil with other essential oils (lemon grass by the smell of it, plus some mint or something). That would probably be a safer bet than pure EO for those who are not experienced herbalists. It claims to work on fleas though we didn't check that. It did work nicely on the mites.

One thing about DE -- it's high silica content is rough on the lungs of people with asthma, so if you or your kids or animals have such issues it's better to have them avoid the area while you're working, or if someone with asthma must work with the DE, then have them wear some sort of mask. Even a dampened bandana is better than nothing. This is why we didn't dust our animals nor leave the dust around, because I have asthma. ~Vinnie

You may also enjoy:

10 Tips for Using Essential Oils in the Home

Eliminating Pantry Pests

How to Control Mice Without Poison


Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.


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