The Dreaded F-Word!

No, not THAT one!  Although it does happen to be one of my favorite words, but that’s not what this post is about.  The F-Word I’m talking about is fleas ~ EEK!!!!

Since we have a lovely feline friend who has chosen to live with us, we are now battling these nasty little buggers. And I was lazy about it all winter ~ I should have been bathing her like mad and treating the house before this terrible flea season hit us. But NOOOO!!!! I was busy trying to stay bundled up and warm all winter instead. And poor kitty would have froze to death in this cold house had I bathed her all winter long too.

Sometimes you don’t even realize you have an infestation until they are everywhere!  At least that’s what happened to us this year.  They don’t seem to like me too much, maybe it’s all the garlic I eat, but they sure do like my Honey.  If you could see his feet and ankles you would cringe!  Apparently he has a bad reaction to them too.

No matter how many “medicines” they make for us to poison the fleas and our pets with, the fleas are always going to form an immunity to them.  It’s unavoidable.  That’s evolution.  It’s how species adapt and survive.  However, nature has provided for us.  There are several natural remedies for repelling and killing fleas available, that they will not get immune to.

The easiest being some items you just may already have at home, and some you may not.  I had some of them left over after making my Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap.

Pantry Items:
Borax
Baking Soda
Vinegar
Lemons
Alcohol
Table Salt
Diatomaceous Earth (food grade, of course)

Plants:
Rosemary
Peppermint
Citronella
Garlic
Lavender
Thyme

Essential Oils:
Citronella
Eucalyptus
Peppermint
Lemongrass
Cedarwood
Lavender
Thyme
Rosemary

One thing I want to say at this point is, nothing is an over-night fix.  You will NOT kill or run off fleas immediately!  You have to take into account the life cycle of the fleas, their eggs and larvae.

You’re going to have a busy first month in this war.  But the good news is that you can see that you’re making a different in the sheer numbers of fleas after a few days.  And you do need to do some maintenance all through-out the flea season.

Now your work begins:

RESTRICT ACCESS

The first thing to do is block off some of your home from your pets.  In other words, don’t give them free range of your entire house for a little while.  For us we’ve blocked off the bedroom from Kat, for now, so that we can really focus heavy efforts in eradicating the fleas from the bedroom.  We are focusing on the rest of the house too, but since we are laying relatively still for many hours every night we needed to really get rid of them from the bedroom quickly.

VACUUM

The second thing you need to do is vacuum the entire house.  Every inch must be vacuumed including on and under furniture.  Fleas are not strong enough to withstand the sucking action of the vacuum cleaner, so you will catch quite a lot of them this way.  THROW AWAY THAT BAG!!!  Get the bag out of the house because they can crawl right back out of that bag and claim their territory once more.  Even better is to enclose the vacuum bag in a large plastic bag and let it sit out in the sun for a while.  You’ll kill all the fleas so they can’t get out of your trash can to re-infest the yard.

Then continue to vacuum several times a week.  I realize nobody likes to vacuum….well, maybe some of your weirdos out there do, but I know it’s not MY favorite chore.  But it’s effective here so keep at it.

THE BATH

Now, after all that work bathe your pet thoroughly!  One of the cheapest and most effective things to use is Dawn dish soap.  I know, I know ~ not the most natural thing to use.  But if you’re like me and on the strictest budget possible you gotta go cheap.  And it’s a lot healthier for your pet than flea shampoos that are on the market and better for your wallet.  As soon as I find a good homemade pet shampoo I’ll be sharing that with you.  But until then, go get some Dawn ~ the original blue flavor.  Lather up that pet and let it sit on them for 5 to 10 minutes.  You’ll be amazed at the amount of dead fleas that will wash right off of your best friend.  It’s actually pretty dang satisfying too!

WHOLE HOUSE TREATMENT

First of all, I want to answer a question that may be on your mind.  What is Diatomaceous Earth (DE).  Well, according to Wikipedia:

“Diatomaceous Earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae.  It is used as a filtration aid, mild abrasive in products including toothpaste, mechanical insecticide, absorbent for liquids, matting agent for coatings, reinforcing filler in plastics and rubber, anti-block in plastic films, porous support for chemical catalysts, cat litter, activator in blood clotting studies, a stabilizing component of dynamite and a thermal insulator.”

Whew!  Quite a mouth-full, huh?  For the purpose of this article we’re going to just focus on the “mechanical insecticide” portion of that.  In short, DE dehydrates the fleas which in turn kills them.  You must purchase food-grade DE, though, for it to be safe to use in your home.  Incidentally you can also give this to your pets mixed into their food.  If your pet has fleas it will unavoidably have worms.  Giving DE internally also works to kill those pesty worms as well.

Now, back to the whole house treatment.  The night before you plan to begin put a couple of lemons, cut in half, into a saucepan and fill with water.  Boil for a few minutes then turn off the heat and let steep over-night.  In the morning, combine 1/2 cup vinegar and 5 tsp table salt into a spray bottle and fill to the top with the lemon water.  You’ll use this in a little while.

Sprinkle diatomaceous earth, borax and baking soda all over your floors.  Pay particular attention to cracks and crevices where fleas like to hide.  If you have carpeting then sweep it into the pile to make sure it gets down in.  Fleas don’t just hang out on top of your carpets, they get down in.  So if you leave the powder just on top you won’t be doing anything to the pests.  I’ll tell ya right now ~ if you haven’t already noticed ~ it’s going to be messy!  But dealing with some mess for a few days is much better than getting eaten alive by vampires in my opinion.  Leave the powdery mess down on your floors for as long as you can stand it.  A few days up to a week is best.  The DE is drying them out, the baking soda is smothering them and the borax is just straight up killing them.

Now go back over the carpet with a fine mist of your spray bottle mixture.

It’s totally safe to walk on.  You can do this all over your house or just start, at first, in the rooms you have restricted your pet’s access to then work your way through the house room by room.  If you’re worried about tracking it into your bed, then you can put a path of hand towels down to walk on.  Keep in mind that the fleas will probably jump up onto the towels to get away from the powder.  But if you set out a saucer in the room at night, filled with soapy water and place a tea light candle in the middle, it will attract any  fleas that are trying to survive and they will drown.

See why I called this a war?

For the first week, at least, vacuum your furniture daily!  You can even sprinkle the same stuff you just put on your floors under all cushions of your furniture.  After a few days to a week thoroughly vacuum up the mess you made of your floors.  If you still are seeing fleas then put more powder down and do this process again.  Remember that it can take the fleas a week to 4 months to fully develop.  But normally in an occupied home there isn’t a long delayed emergence, you can have tiny new fleas pretty quickly.

Wash all bedding (pet’s and yours and including comforters and blankets) in hot water.  Don’t forget the throw blankets and pillows you have laying about.

PET TREATMENT

You’ve already bathed your pet, but now it’s time to treat him/her inside and out.  I’ll just give you a list of all the things you can do here:

1.  Put a tsp or two of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in the water bowl.  This is safe, and actually quite good for your pet.  Start with a little and slowly increase the amount you put in as your pet tolerates the new flavor.

2.  Add garlic to their food.  This is quite controversial.  Some people say it’s safe for pets to eat, others say it’s not.  Even vets vary in their opinions.   Read up on it and decide for yourself whether or not you want to give it.  I add it here to let you make that choice.  Fleas hate it and if they sense it in your pets blood they will steer away.

3.  After-bath herbal soak, also known as a homemade flea dip.  Before your pets bath boil a handful of fresh or dried rosemary in a medium saucepan for 20 to 30 minutes.  Allow to cool to body temperature or slightly warmer.  After you’ve rinsed all the shampoo off you can either pour this all over the coat or if your pet is small have the tea in the sink and place kitty or pup in to soak.  5 to 10 minutes should be sufficient.  Do not rinse it off, this is the final rinse of the bath so just dry your pet as you normally would.

4.  Homemade herbal flea collar.  Store-bought flea collars are terrible for both you and your pets.  Just think about it ~ you’re both breathing in poisons the whole time it’s in use.  But you can make one pretty easily ~ just soak their regular collar in a mixture of alcohol and essential oils, let dry and put back on.  Here’s a good recipe for this:

1/2 tsp Alcohol
1 drop Cedarwood Essential Oil
1 drop Lavender Essential Oil
1 drop Citronella Essential Oil
1 drop Thyme Essential Oil

Allow the above to synergize for about 15 minutes then mix with the following:

contents of 4 capsules of garlic
or
2 drops of the following mixture:
1 tsp of vegetable oil in which 1 drop of garlic essential oil has been diluted.

Blend all together and pour it over the collar until fully absorbed.  Let dry and put back on your pet.  Should be effective for about a month.

5.  Use a flea comb regularly.  Have a small bowl of alcohol ready to put the fleas you comb off into to kill them.

6.  Before going outside, take a wash cloth or pet brush to which you have added drops of Citronella Essential Oil to and wipe or brush down your pet.  This should deter any fleas (or ticks) from hitching a ride inside.

7. Bathe weekly all throughout flea season for maintenance.

DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE

I know this seems like a lot, possibly a tad over-whelming.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.  Gather all the items you’ll need, get organized and just go for it.  You’ll breathe better knowing you haven’t filled your home or covered your pet with toxic chemicals, I promise!  And guess what!!!  The borax, baking soda and lemon water/vinegar mixture will help to freshen up your carpets, and all the essential oils you’ve been using are cleaning the air and giving it a nice fresh scent.  The essential oils also have therapeutic values, but that’s for another post.

And your pet will be more relaxed from not having to be constantly scratching and be a lot more healthy!

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