How to Get Rid of Fleas Naturally

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Here’s help to get rid of fleas making you and your pet miserable, including a natural flea control spray and flea shampoo you can make at home.

A dog scratches fleas

You don’t have to be a pet owner to find yourself wondering how to get rid of fleas naturally. These parasites bite humans, too. This guide explains how to identify fleabites and what you must clean to get rid of fleas naturally. There is also a natural flea killer spray to protect your pet and your home.

Signs You Have Fleas in Your Home

You can get fleas in your home even if you don’t own pets. Surprised? Many people are, especially after suffering through itchy nights and unexplained rashes.

What Do Fleas Look Like?

Fleas are wingless parasitic insects that are a few millimeters long. (2-3 mm) Their colors range from reddish to dark brown. They have flat bodies with six legs. Their flat bodies enable them to move more easily through animal hair (and carpet fibers). Flea legs feature tiny hairs on their legs that help them hang onto their hosts. Their back legs are longer and stronger, enabling them to jump surprisingly long distances in search of food.

Closeup of flea eggs on a fingertip

What Do Flea Eggs Look Like?

Fleas are tiny, and their eggs are even smaller — they’re less than 0.5 mm in size! When first laid, flea eggs are transparent though shortly before hatching, they become white. To many people, they look like grains of sugar or salt. This tiny size makes them very difficult to see.

What About Flea “Dirt”?

Flea eggs shouldn’t be confused with “flea dirt” — those patches of black, dusty-looking matter you may see in your pet’s fur. Plainly put, those clumps are flea poop — the digested remnants of blood that makes up the flea’s diet.

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Closeup of male ankle with flea bites shows a ring of red dots around the leg where the top of the sock would be.

What Do Flea Bites Look Like?

Flea bites look like tiny red bumps on dogs and cats, often surrounded by the “flea dirt” described above. On humans, flea bites are typically raised, red dots with a paler halo. Bites often appear in lines on feet, ankles, and legs as fleas jump from the ground or carpet onto their human host and bite as they climb. For hairier individuals, though, they can show up anywhere.

Steps to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home

The process of naturally removing fleas from your home can take anywhere from a couple of hours to an entire day. If you have a pet, you should isolate them in a crate or kennel while you get rid of fleas in your home, then bathe your pet with the natural flea shampoo immediately afterward. Finish by cleaning the crate or kennel where you’d isolated them.

1. Wash Your Pet’s Bedding

Launder pet beds, toys, and blankets using your machine’s hottest, longest setting. Add 2 cups of white vinegar with your preferred detergent. Do not use fabric softener, which can help flea eggs cling to fibers. Use the dryer‘s hottest setting. Do not air-dry indoors, or fleas may jump back on it. If you can’t machine wash and dry your pet’s bedding or toy, it needs to be thrown out. Hand-washing and line-drying do not use hot enough temperatures to kill fleas and their eggs.

2. Clean Your Bedding and Mattress, Too

Even if your pet doesn’t sleep on your bed, fleas may still have infested your bedding. Remove and wash your mattress pad, sheets, pillowcases, and bed cover in the hottest setting allowed on the manufacturer’s care label. While your bed is bare, give your mattress a deep cleaning. You should also wash your pillows, including any decorative ones.

3. Vacuum All Floors and Upholstery

Light vacuuming won’t separate the flea larvae in their sticky cocoons from carpet fibers. Vacuum properly, going slowly in overlapping strokes until you’ve finished the room, then turn and repeat at a right angle. You’ll also need to move furniture so that you can clean the floor beneath it.

Vacuuming to kill fleas is even more effective if you first sprinkle soft furnishings and carpets with diatomaceous earth (DE) and then wait several hours. DE works by dehydrating flea eggs, larvae, and pupae and cuts through adult flea exoskeletons before drying them, so the fleas come right up. Once you’re done, clean your vacuum thoroughly.

4. Use this Natural Flea Spray

Use this homemade flea spray daily on soft surfaces throughout your home for two weeks. Do not use it on fabrics like silk, suede, or other materials that might be damaged by water. If in doubt, spot test fabric in an inconspicuous area to find out if it’s water-safe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup table salt
  • 5 drops each rosemary and lavender essential oils

Directions

  1. Add the ingredients to a spray bottle and shake until the salt dissolves. Then add the essential oils.
  2. Shake well and spray on carpets, sofas, and other soft surfaces daily.
  3. Store any unused portion in a cool, dark spot.

How to Get Rid of Fleas On Your Pet

In addition to getting rid of fleas in your home, you also need to get rid of fleas on your pet. Treat your dog or cat for fleas before releasing it from isolation by using a homemade flea shampoo. Once your pet is dry, use a flea comb and ongoing flea treatments to keep them itch-free.

Homemade Flea Shampoo

Combine 1/2 cup warm water with 1/4 cup white or apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup castile soap or liquid dish soap. You can add essential oils if you like but stick with oils that are safe to use on pets. Use this to shampoo your dog, then rinse well. The vinegar helps soothe your pet’s itching while the dish soap creates a surface tension that damages the fleas’ exoskeletons, so the water gets into their shells and drowns them. Use this only to remove fleas — stick with your pet’s usual shampoo the rest of the time.

Use a Flea Comb

A fine-toothed flea comb helps remove most fleas and their eggs. Do this in the bathroom over a large plastic trash bag spread on the floor. As you comb fleas out of your pet’s hair, dip the comb into a bowl of water to dislodge the fleas and their eggs. Once you’re done, put that trash bag into another one and tightly seal it then throw it away.


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17 Comments

  1. When our cats brought a flea colony into our house last year (no more outside for you!), the DE worked perfectly, even on the cats. If I’d the recipe for the spray you mentioned, I might have tried spraying around the house with that, too.

    Now, does anyone want to buy about 9 1/2 lbs of diatomaceous earth?

    1. Vanessa Hendrickson says:

      I know this is an old post but I wish I could. All I can find around here is the stuff for pools. Not food grade.

  2. I have found that the best method for getting rid of fleas, eggs and larvae from carpets and furnishing is to spray the whole area from about 12″ (30cm) away with Raid fly spray — the blue can. Try not to breathe in too much while doing this and then just shut the door on the room for 1/2 an hour. It works far better than any commercial flea spray, even the flea bombs.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I would never feel comfortable recommending to people — especially those with children or pets — to use a product that requires a disclaimer of “try not to breathe in too much.”

    2. But the poison is left on the soft (and hard) surfaces, later being exposed to pets and humans, these poisons are easily absorbed externally, lotions, soaps (laundry too!), sprays, perfume, pesticides, and various pollutants all can be absorbed by our largest organ (skin)

  3. Check out local feed stores (cow, chicken, horse feed) my local one carried food grade DE for cows so I buy it there

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Great point! Our local Tractor Supply Co. has it, too.

  4. I have newborn baby kittens, about 4 weeks old that have fleas, are the essential oils and DE safe to use on them since they are so young? And what about thier momma, since they are still breastfeeding?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Timber,
      I’m not a vet, so I don’t know the actual effects on newborn kittens or breastfeeding mama cats. I’d recommend contacting a local veterinarian or animal shelter for their professional opinion.

    2. Hi,
      I don’t know about the natural remedies for kittens but you will want to wash them in no more tears shampoo and pick the fleas out. You may want to try food grade Damascus (not sure of the spelling) earth on their fur and rub it in.

    3. Dawn dishwashing liquid works great. It kills the fleas and ticks, and also acts as a conditioner for the fur and also helps dry skin. I use it regularly on my oldest cat who is now 24 years old, and it really helps her. I’ve also heard it works on dogs, too.

  5. I needed some bug/flea repellent and didn’t have any commercial product on hand so I sprayed this mixture on myself. It works great! I will be making more of this to have on hand.

  6. Frances J. says:

    I need help! My totally indoor kitty has brought our first flea infestation. I read where vinegar, dish soap and EOs can be sprayed on us and my kitty. But I don’t know the amounts to put into my spray bottle. Could you please help me. I took her to the vet and they sold us some medicine for cats. We put it on her like they told us and she stopped scratching for a few days but she has started again but not as bad. Thanks for your advice.

  7. Candise Learn says:

    I wouldn’t use Dawn on an animal.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Since the Audubon Society, Humane Society, and AKC are fine with it, I am, too.

  8. Kay Houston says:

    I bought the flea medicine that you put on their Shoulder blade all the way down to the end to where a tale is and that didn’t work I paid $29:99 for three two for the dogs and one for my cat I even used a flea Comb and got some eggs off my cat and some flea to I have used everything nothing seems to work put some water a lid and they sure do die in that baking soda and salt doesn’t work I am going to put a hot shot fogger in this back room and let it do it’s job I have a small rug