Going To War Against Fleas: Indoors, Outdoors & On Pets

These are one of the most irritating, stubborn, bloodsucking species of pests and they’re determined to thrive despite your best efforts.

While certain types confine their feeding to animals, others are equally satisfied with human blood.

Cat and dog fleas resemble each other closely, feed interchangeably between the two and are usually found in the Eastern states.

The human flea lives on all sorts of animals, wild and domestic, being particularly fond of hogs, in whose litters it will breed prolifically.

Sticktights breed on poultry and only occasionally transfer their attention to man.

These insects must have the blood of warm animals to reproduce. Once the eggs are laid, however, it can develop from egg to larva, pupa and adult and continue to live in the latter stage for several weeks with no food at all.

They will breed in hordes wherever animals sleep, especially in basements and out-buildings. From there they may be brought into the house by an animal and will migrate upstairs through the various living rooms, where they will cause no end of annoyance and embarrassment.

Difficulties In Getting Rid Of Them

You must treat your house, your pets and your yard all at the same time to prevent one location being a safe haven that allows them to move into another area (after you’ve cleaned it).

To successfully rid yourself of them, it’s imperative that you kill both the adults and the eggs. I mentioned above that they’re stubborn, and they are. It takes diligent care to get rid of these insects.

If you find they come back within a few days of cleaning, chances are you aren’t getting to all the eggs (they’re hatching after cleanup).

You can buy commercial powders and sprays or mix homemade concoctions for control (I have a few recipes below), but if you prefer something natural and is pet & child friendly, consider Diatomaceous Earth (DE).

This is a non-toxic pesticide that can be found in garden centers (look for the food grade stuff). It’s a soft, chalk-like sedimentary rock that is crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. This has an abrasive feel, similar to pumice powder, and is very light, due to its high porosity. The typical chemical composition of diatomaceous earth is 86% silica, 5% sodium, 3% magnesium and 2% iron (Source: Wikipedia).

As I mentioned in a previous article about ant control, DE is easily picked up by the hairy bodies of most insects, whereupon it scratches through their protective wax layers and they also absorb some of this material. The result being that the insects dehydrate rapidly, dry up and die. Further protection is provided by its property of repelling many pests.

In houses it can be used effectively to prevent the entry of certain creepers such as earwigs, ants, and cockroaches, and to control these and others that are present in cupboards containing food, carpets, basements, attics, window ledges, etc.

In all of these examples it is important to place a small amount of the DE in corners, cracks, crevices and other areas where bugs might hide (Source: Ecological Agriculture Projects, McGill University).

It’s generally advisable to wear protective eyewear and a face mask to prevent irritation to the eyes and throat while spreading any product or sprays.

Methods of Treatment: General Care

Laundry: Wash all bedding and draperies in hot, soapy solution to kill any bugs that may be living in them.

Carpet: Treat with flea powder (follow the package directions), or Diatomaceous Earth, or a homemade mix (8 cups Borax + 1 cup table salt). If you choose to use DE or the homemade mix, spread evenly over the carpet with a shaker (such as a talcum container) and leave on for about 8 days before vacuuming up. Repeat again.

After vacuuming, remove contents from the vacuum and dispose of immediately in an outside sealed container for garbage pickup. Don’t forget to wash out the canister.

Flooring: Wash flooring and dog bed with hot soapy water then spread DE in the bed and surrounding area (make sure to get it into all floor cracks where the critters may be hiding).

Furniture: Sprinkle DE or flea powder over upholstered furniture and vacuum up after 8 days, repeating process again (or follow directions on the package).

General Surfaces: Walls, countertops, table legs, etc. Wash well with hot soapy water.

Caring For Pets

As soon as their living areas are free of the bugs, the animals themselves should be treated. How can you tell if they have them? The first sign is your buddy will be very itchy and scratching a lot.

Determine If They Are Infested With This Test:

  • Stand the animal on a white sheet or towel and comb through his fur with a fine toothed flea comb (give it a few strokes), if you see one or two on the comb, you can bet there are more. If black flecks fall off his coat onto the towel, see if they’re flea dirt by sprinkling them with water. They’ll turn red if they are (this is their blood excrement from feeding).
  • You can also spot check fur by spreading it apart and looking for this dirt (black specks), hot spots are behind the ears and at the base of his tail. You’ll also be able to feel them as you run your hands through the fur, they’re gritty and coarse.

Animal Treatment:

  • Bathe the pooch thoroughly with a shampoo formulated just for this purpose.
  • Brush fur daily with the special fine tooth comb to remove as many eggs as possible.
  • Use a commercial product or Diatomaceous Earth on fur, rubbing it deep into the hide to reach the skin. Keep out of their eyes, ears and nose to prevent irritation.

Outdoor Maintenance

As a supplementary measure to clearing your home and pets of the infestation, keep the grass cut short as contact with sun and rain kill these critters readily. If these measures still do no good, spread diatomaceous earth around the yard paying attention to shady areas and low shrubbery.

Prevention Tips

  • Bathe the dog (pets) regularly
  • Use cedar chips, shavings or sawdust in your dog’s bedding, this will help repel them
  • Pine needles spread on the dog house floor (outside) will also help repel them
  • Vinegar: Add a teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar to the pet water dish, helps prevent ticks as well
  • Repellent Floor Cleaner Recipe: 15 drops lavender essential oil + 1/4 cup liquid Ivory Soap + 1 gallon hot water. Mop with cleaner and do not rinse. You could also use rosemary essential oil rather than lavender.

Itch Relief (For Humans)

  • Vaseline
  • Vicks Vapo Rub
  • Calamine Lotion
  • Ice

Did You Know?

  • It’s the saliva from the bites that make them so itchy
  • They can transmit tapeworms to your canine
  • They don’t fly but jump from one victim to another
  • Each one can lay dozens of eggs per day
  • They thrive in warm & humid climates

Source: Some of the information above is from Woman’s Home Companion Household Book (1948)

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    • J.S. Mosby

    For homes with hardwood floors, this works well. You need a vacuum with a hose and tank and a new vacuum bag. Suck up some borax (or powdered flea poison if you prefer) into the bag and then vacuum the area of the flea infestation. Repeat daily until all the fleas are gone. It has never taken me more than three days to get rid of all the fleas. I prefer to comb my cat rather than use poison. I sit in front of the commode and drop the fleas from the flea comb into the commode. Fleas can’t swim. They cling to the fur and do not try to jump. Then flush and they’re gone. People laugh at my method, but it works for me.

    • Lana

    Until the fleas are “killed off” with the flea powder on carpets, furniture,etc… Take a shallow white bowl,add water with a squirt of dish washing liquid,set bowl under a nite-light,turn out all other light sources.You’ll be surprised in the morning…fleas are attracted to the light, they jump towards it, they fall into the bowl and drown. The dish liquid breaks the surface tension of the water, making it difficult for the fleas to “jump out”. I keep 3 bowls and night lights in different rooms, make sure to check them frequently for evaporation. These bowls usually signal the flea problem, before it is noticed on the dogs.

    • judy swearingen

    Don’t ask me how this works, but it does. My friends and I have used it with good success. Lay a few black walnut branches in areas of your home with flea infestations. It only takes a day or two. The fleas will disappear.

    • CAT

    Where would I find black walnut branches at?

      • Eileen Bodah

      Where do U get Black Walnut Branches ?

    • Bob

    I would never put Diatomaceous Earth directly on a pet — you could seriously harm them. If you have a cat or dog in the house, ask your vet to put them on Frontline or Advantage. This won’t just help your pet; it will also be a big help in getting rid of the fleas. Keeping them on a good flea medicine will also prevent future flea infestations.

      • TipNut

      Bob how does it seriously harm them? Diatomaceous Earth is even fed to pets as a supplement (see Product Description GreenSense Diatomaceous Earth: As a food supplement for pets: 1-2% of food volume.) It COULD cause problems if you sprinkle it directly in their eyes or lock them in an airtight room with pounds of Diatomaceous Earth being pumped into the air for them to breathe a lot of it in.

        • Jonathan

        Make sure you use Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth ONLY, the one used for swimming pools is toxic because it is refined with other toxic chemicals that makes it dangerous to ingest or inhale. Food grade only please.

        • Suzee

        I have used diatomasious earth(food grade) for a while on my pets for flea’s…i also mix it in their food…for worm control

      • Lakawak

      Every single person reading this…and likely their pets as well…have eaten DE. Farmers adds LOTS of it to their grain bags to prevent insect infestations. And guess what? You can’t separate it before you do anything to it. Food grade DE is not crystalline. So it will NOT harm your lungs. Sure…if you breathe enough of it at once, yo will likely cough, just as if you breathed in a lot of flour. And once it is wet, it is COMPLETELY ineffective for anything. The microscopic sharp edges of the individual particles are removed by the moisture. So eating it makes it nothing but powder. This is why you can’t get it wet and if you put it around your house, you have to reapply after it rains (after it dries completes) and why it is a waste to apply it except when you have several hours before dew will form at night.

      • Debbie

      Unfortunately Frontline and the other typical flea poisons are also part of the neonicotinoid family: that which is responsible for killing bees. Many carpet sprays also contain these substances as an active component, so if you don’t want to harm bees/getting into the environment it is better to avoid it altogether!

    • Steffie

    I’m impairing hearing..I try to do my best my write comment..I pour salt on carpet make flea burn.. I add fragrance into the salt.. flea hate fragrance or essitail or any kind of perume help flea aviod of carpet..
    I use deodorant any kind of scent on dog’s itch body ..when itch I put it on dog’s body again a few times.. my dog’s hair grow again..Flea don’t like any of scent..I check smell very strong scent soap like natural goat milk with scent and natural soap with scent help my dog’s itch..instead of pet medical no help..
    I’m making soap myself..I make help my dogs aviod of flea..I know flea very stubborn!!!
    Have a good day..

      • TipNut

      Hi Steffie, your comment was easy to understand and thanks for sharing your tips and info!

        • Steffie

        Iam so glad..

          • Elizabeth

          Don’t forget-essential oil is dangerous to cats. It can kill them. I can’t use it, but love the smell. I have six cats and two dogs. I do use the DE and have had great success with it, even though it does take a while to get rid of them. It is all natural. Yeah.

      • Rain

      I just salted my apt….ohhh how I PRAY this works…and BURNS’EM OUT….how long before I see results…???

    • Shirley

    Hi, what is ivory soap? I live in South Africa and would like to make a lot of the soaps diy and the one for dog fleas.

      • Ashey

      Ivory is a brand of soap here in the United States.

      • Stephanie

      alternative for ivory soap is dove soap

    • Laurie

    eucaliptus (sp) liguid castile soap is a great way to bath pets with fleas. the smell repels and the soap is easy to rinse off so there’s no drying soap left on to cause other skin problems. then I use a vinegar rinse.

      • Becky BW

      Please, never use eucalyptus on or around cats. It is poisonous to cats. My cat died after it was exposed to eucalyptus. Eucalyptus can be put in water and sprayed on a dog urine stain to neutralize the odor and the dog will be repelled by the scent so it will not return to that area again. Be sure to rinse dog completely and thoroughly if you use eucalyptus soap for flea control. Some dogs are allergic and may lose their hair or have irritated skin like my poor little dog developed after I used eucalyptus castile soap on him.

    • Ponch

    I agree with Steffie about getting rid of fleas in the house. I had some several years ago and a co-worker mentioned using common table salt. Used it on the whole home floor. I did not vacuum it up the next day as she suggested since she told me I had to do it again after 3-4 days (I figured it would still be helping my desired result). Anyway I salted again and was rid of the critters.
    If you can control the water source of your animal, you can add apple cider vinegar to their water. I think it changes their body chemestry just enough to make them repulsive to fleas and ticks.

    • kalynn

    I tried the apple cider vinegar in the water and my dogs wont drink it. I put about a tablespoon to about a gallon of water (it may be closer to two gallons)
    Where do you find the eucalyptus liquid castle soap?

      • susan chaffee

      check with a natural bath essentials company. or find a recipe and make your own.
      I knew a woman that raised long hair purshian cats and she never had a flea problem ever. She said all you have to do is clean all your washable surfaces IE: tile, vinyl, wooden, ceramic, metal, glass, laminate, plastic, and porcelane, with a strong solution of warm water and pinesol. She specified pinesol brand cleaner and not to use the cheeper version because, it needs to contain real pine oil as one of its top ingredients, fleas hate pine oil, cedar oil, black walnut, and eucalyptus oil. See a pattern here? they don’t like wood oil, but according to this cat women they really hate pine oil. She also kept cedar chip filled bed areas and she mentioned something about if you have carpet think about removing it, carpet is a luxory hotel for fleas, if you really have your heart set on keeping the carpet then place small amounts of borax in the corners ,it will dehydrate the fleas. don’t forget to spray under, around, and between everything outside your home at least every 3 to 6 months. keep your animals wormed and washed frequently with safe flea shamp[oo or you can use a weak solution of dawn dish soap a nd warm water, keep your home clean, and your grass mowed and raked and this combined will all help in the fight against fleas. make sure you dispose of your carpet bags, your lawn clippings, and your used litter from the litter box in to heavy plastic bags that are tightly sealed and removed by a proper disposal company.

        • RoxAnne

        Great Post!This is just the thing I’ve been looking for.A kicker advantage to to this treatment is that it also helps with those nasty roaches that think one’s home is the holiday inn.’Here’s your eviction notice boys’

    • peg

    Green pine needles, or eucalyptus leaves int he dog kennel keeps them free of fleas Peg

    • Catt


    I’ve tried almost everything when it come comes to getting rid of the fleas that my dog got from the neighbors dog…(they let her run lose) This is the worst that she’s ever had them, she’s pulled some fur out, & my poor baby is red. So of course I will be trying all of the tips that were left. I do have a question about the DE though… I have a 2 year old. Is it safe to use around him? Any other help or tips are greatly appreciated… Thanks!


    • Bill

    How is the best way to spread the DE powder in the house and also, in the yard?

    • Debb

    Commercial flea products as well as the vet preferred ones are deadly.

    • candy

    Mix 50/50 baking soda and salt. Sprinkle over furniture and carpet. Let sit at least 2 hours overnight is even better. Vaccume, dump bag/canister when done. Salt dries/kills eggs and larva, baking soda explodes bugs stomach. Got rid of in house fleas.

    • Riantika Prasad

    Ohhhh! Please someone tell me how to get rid of ticks on surface of a human skin. Not For Pets.

      • Rebecca

      Oh Wow a tick? I’ve gotten one on me before and either screamed and my boyfriend pulled it off of me or I ripped it off almost reflexively. If you can keep your cool about it then I heard if you light a match and let it burn for a sec, then immediately after the flame extinguishes touch the tick with the still hot match and it will let go and jump off. Now I’ve never tried that but I’ve heard about it. I also heard that it’s not good to pull it off because the ticks head could still be stuck on there. An it’s their mouth that carries or spreads the diseases. I would google what to do though before taking my advice, I literally wanted to put it out there to see if it is actually legit. Good luck!!

    • Edna

    Anyone tried human grade flowers of sulphur for fleas? My late Grandpa said only a pinch of it (probably about 1/4 teas) in dog’s food every day was good to rid fleas from the dog. I’m 84 and will try the sulphur on my dogs now that i have remembered that. They are bad this year. Tried one of the major flea meds from my vet and it broke my dog out like she had the measles. Had to call the maker and they adv to give my dog several baths in palmolive dish det. to try and remove the med from her body.

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