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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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
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.
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup table salt
- 5 drops each rosemary and lavender essential oils
- Add the ingredients to a spray bottle and shake until the salt dissolves. Then add the essential oils.
- Shake well and spray on carpets, sofas, and other soft surfaces daily.
- 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 Dawn liquid dish soap. 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 dog’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 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.
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