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.

Golden lab puppy sitting in grass and scratching fleas behind her ear.

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.

Do 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 hosts.

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.

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.

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. One of the first indications your pet has fleas is, of course, scratching. Although fleas often hitch a ride by jumping onto your pet’s legs, they typically travel to the fur on their stomach or around their ears — places where they’re less likely to be disturbed.

On humans, flea bites are typically raised, red dots with a paler halo. Bites often appear in lines — a sign the flea has been feasting as it travels on your skin. Flea bites often appear on feet, ankles, and legs as fleas jump from the ground or carpet onto their human host. For hairier individuals, though, they can show up anywhere.

How Long Do Fleas Live?

Fleas go through four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. This cycle typically lasts 60-90 days, but fleas can go dormant and live without blood for as long as three months. Understanding the flea life cycle makes it clear why efforts to get rid of fleas in your home needs to be an ongoing effort once you’ve found them.

The Flea Life Cycle

Flea eggs are laid by adult females after eating and can take two days to two weeks to hatch. Warmer, more humid conditions make this cycle much faster. That’s why fleas appear more often in the summer, though they’re really a year-round problem. When the flea eggs hatch, they become larvae. Around one-third of the fleas in a home are in the larval stage.

When a flea larva spins a cocoon, it becomes a pupa. Pupae survive in their cocoon for several months while waiting for optimal conditions (75-80° F temperatures) to emerge. These cocoons are made of sticky strands which hold onto carpet and fabric fibers that light vacuuming doesn’t dislodge.

Adult fleas emerge from cocoons and feed on a host’s blood, then begin breeding and laying eggs within a couple of days. A single adult female flea lays around 40 eggs per day and lives up to a couple of months. In other words, that female flea can lay a couple of thousand eggs in her life, and the females of those, in turn, can lay thousands more.

Fleas Can Cause Health Problems

Fleas aren’t just a nuisance that causes extreme itching and discomfort for you and your pets. They can also pose serious health risks. People with compromised immune systems due to cancer, HIV, certain medications, or pregnant women and infants are highly susceptible to such complications.

Flea Bite Allergies

For some pets and humans, there’s also a risk of flea allergy dermatitis. In pets, this can lead to “hotspots” and hair loss from incessant scratching. It can also lead to other health complications. Even without an allergic reaction, flea bites increase the risk of secondary bacterial skin infections from scratching. These infections require medical treatment to avoid sepsis (blood poisoning).

Flea-Borne Diseases

Fleas are more than just an irritant: they can carry some serious diseases, too. These include bubonic plague, cat-scratch disease, typhus, and flea tapeworm. In other words, those tiny little fleas are big deals. Still, with attention to detail and some work on your part, you CAN get rid of fleas naturally.

How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home

Orange cat in a pet carrier on the sofa is isolated while owner gets rid of fleas naturally

Isolate Your Pet to Start

Bathing your pet before performing the following steps won’t solve the problem — indoor fleas will jump right back on. Put your pet in a crate or bathroom while you work. If you use the Natural Flea Killer Spray below, keep your pet confined until the spray has dried.

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.

Clean Your Bedding and Mattress, Too

Even if Fido or Fluffy don’t sleep on your bed, fleas may have hitched a ride on you and are now settling into your bedding. Strip your bed and wash your mattress pad, sheets, pillowcases, and bed cover in the hottest setting allowed on the manufacturer’s label. While your bed is bare, give your mattress a deep cleaning. You should also wash your pillows, including any decorative ones.

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 8 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.

Use this Natural Flea Killer Spray

The Natural Flea Killer Spray below combines salt to dehydrate any remaining flea larvae or pupae, vinegar to kill any remaining adults and eggs, and essential oils that control and deter fleas. The oil also counteracts the vinegar smell for those of you who dislike it.

Use this 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.

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.

Use a Flea Comb

fine-toothed flea comb helps remove most fleas and their eggs. Do this in the bathroom over a sheet, repeatedly dipping the comb in a bowl of water to dislodge fleas and their eggs. Put the sheet into a plastic trash bag before you release your pet into the rest of your home. Immediately carry the plastic bag to your laundry room and dump its contents into your washing machine. Right away, launder the sheet using hot water, then run it through the dryer for at least 40 minutes when you’ve finished.

Use an Ongoing Flea Treatment

If your pet has flea allergies or you live in an area with mild winters, you should consult your veterinarian about prescription flea treatments. Several flea medications last for an entire month and repel ticks too. Be careful about combining over-the-counter flea and tick medications, though! It’s a dangerous mix.

Where to Next?

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16 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.

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