When I was young and we had cats that were indoor/outdoor, we got fleas frequently. My mom’s solution was to bomb the house and put flea collars on the pets. I hated when we bombed the house because we’d have to seal up all of the food to make sure the chemical didn’t get in it. Afterward, we’d have to do a thorough cleaning to remove all of the chemical. The whole process didn’t feel safe to me, and I wished we had used natural, low cost flea treatments instead.
When I moved out, I decided that my cat would only be an indoor cat, and I’ve lived happily for 20+ years with nary a flea. However, a family friend who was terminally ill recently asked us to take in her cat. I specifically asked if the cat had fleas because when I was petting her, I could feel scabs all over her back. I was assured that she did not.
BUT SHE DID!
About two months after we adopted the cat, we saw a flea run across her belly where her shaggy, thick fur was thinner and white. I was horrified!
After all my diligence, the adopted cat, our cat we already had, and our house had fleas!
I’m pretty “crunchy” and don’t like to use chemicals unnecessarily. I certainly didn’t want to bomb our whole house as my mom used to do.
Natural, Low Cost Flea Treatments
Instead, I scoured the Internet obsessively for a few days before I started using a variety of natural treatments to rid our home of fleas.
Here’s what we did:
Give the cats a bath with Dawn soap. Dawn soap is safe for the cats, but it kills the eggs and fleas currently on the cat. We made sure to put a ring of soap around the cat’s neck so the fleas couldn’t high tail it up to the cat’s head, as they’re prone to do.
Salt the carpets.
Yep, you read that correctly. Our house has carpet in the living room and three of the four bedrooms. We bought 8 round canisters of table salt and generously sprinkled the salt on the carpets. Ideally, you should leave the salt on the carpet for 8 to 24 hours. Make sure to get the salt near the corners and baseboards where flea eggs and larvae may be hiding.
Why salt? Salt dries out the flea, and it dies. (There’s even a video on YouTube to illustrate this!)
There are a few warnings with this strategy—your cats (or dogs) shouldn’t be allowed on the carpet during this time. Also, you’ll want to make sure to vacuum vigorously to get up all the salt so that it doesn’t damage the carpet.
Mop with essential oils.
I found many recipes online mixing essential oils with water to use to mop tile floors. The oils repel the fleas. I ended up using a variety of oils including Geranium, Tea Tree, Citronella Java, and Lemongrass. My only complaint about this technique is that I’m sensitive to smells, and the essential oil smell was overwhelming to me. Remember to mop all of the crevices, where the floor meets the baseboards, and the baseboards themselves.
Wash and dry all bedding on hot.
We didn’t wash the pillows, but we put them in the dryer on high for 30 minutes. Everything else was washed and dryed.
Follow Up Strategy
After the initial blitz, we had several activities that we did every day for about three weeks:
Brush the cats with a flea comb.
This got out any fleas that may have jumped on the cats after the bath as well as the eggs the fleas might have laid. I had a glass nearby with water and a dab of Dawn dish soap. As soon as I put the brush in that, the flea died.
Bath the cats every three days.
Yep, our cats loved baths by the time this was over. Not!
We vacuumed thoroughly every day including all the nooks and crevices of the couch and the baseboards. This is necessary to vacuum up any flea eggs before they hatch. Make sure to do a thorough job and vacuum not only the carpet but the baseboards and any cloth furniture as well as in the cracks of the furniture where the cushions go.
Mop every other day.
We mopped every other day with the essential oil mixture.
Wash the bedding the cats are on every other day.
Since fleas will be on the cat, you’ll want to pay special attention to their bedding and wash it every other day on hot and dry on hot.
Wash all other bedding twice a week.
An Easy Strategy in the Summer
If you live in a warm, dry climate, I discovered a very easy way to get rid of the flea problem once and for all. We live in Arizona, and our air conditioner died on the 4th of July. For three days, we had no air conditioning, and our indoor temperature reached a sweltering 100+ degrees. Of course, we stayed in a hotel during that time, but when we returned home, our fleas were completely gone. Fleas cannot survive in temperatures over 95 degrees.
I’m not sure how well this remedy would work in a humid environment. However, it doesn’t hurt to try. If you can go somewhere else, turn off your air and let the summer heat bake the inside of your home. If you have a humidifier, set it to make the inside of your home as dry as possible while you’re doing this. When you come home, your fleas might all be dead.
I’m not going to lie, this process was time consuming and a total pain. Although these were natural, low cost flea treatments, they weren’t easy to do. If you’re able, I’d highly recommend trying the strategy of heating up your house as high as it will go to kill the fleas. That is definitely the quickest, most efficient method. We are glad we avoided filling our house or our cats with chemicals, and we got rid of the fleas.
Here’s to hoping I never have to deal with fleas again!