The thought of citrus and salt might bring a tasty cocktail to mind. But those ingredients can also be a cheap and natural defense against fleas.
Depending on where you live, fleas can be merely an annoyance, or a headache worse than a hangover if they infest your entire house, including your bed.
Luckily, there are many natural and affordable options for protecting your pets, house and yard without resorting to expensive and hazardous chemicals.
Protecting your pet
Proper hygiene and good grooming habits are vital in the battle against fleas. Soap and water actually kill the wee vampires. Plus, a clean and brushed dog is much easier on the eyes, nose and hands.
Once your furry friend is cleaned and combed for fleas, a natural repellent can be applied.
- Five drops of oil: PETA suggests five drops each of these oils — tea tree, citronella, rosemary, peppermint and eucalyptus — mixed with a cup of water and applied with a spray bottle. This fragrant spray can be applied daily. If you don’t feel up to making your own, you can buy a premixed version at a health food store.
- Doggie lemonade: Mother Earth News has a recipe for a doggie lemonade that will tone your pet’s skin and leave a flea-repelling scent. Slice one whole lemon and drop the slices (peel and all) into a pint of very hot water. Allow it to set overnight, then strain out the pulp. Sponge the lemon rinse onto your pet’s coat and allow it to air-dry rather than towelling.
- Black walnut: Taken as a capsule or in liquid form several times a week, this supplement makes an effective flea repellent for dogs, says PETA.
You may be tempted to try popular “spot-on” chemical flea repellents sold under brand names like Frontline and Advantage, but PETA warns against using them:
The active ingredients in these solutions include chemicals such as imidacloprid, fipronil, permethrin, methoprene, and pyriproxyfen, all of which have caused serious health problems in animals in laboratories.
Mother Earth News offers the following caution: Any time you use a flea repellent, natural or otherwise, be sure to put the treated pet outside for a few hours in order to keep any fleas already on your pet from escaping into your home.
Making your home unwelcoming
A key component of the battle at home is to vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. Then, vacuum again just to be safe.
“Fleas constantly lay eggs, so if you suspect a problem, vacuum your home more often and throw out the bag or dump the canister, because fleas can live in there,” says PETA.
Furniture, especially items frequented by your pet, should be vacuumed frequently as well. Launder the pet’s bed weekly during flea season in the warmest months.
To further repel the wingless insects, you have options that are not only natural but also under about $10.
- Salt: Make it as powdery as you can get, and sprinkle it lightly over your carpet. Brush it in and leave for about a day before vacuuming thoroughly.
- Boric acid: Either add this to the salt or use it alone sprinkled lightly over the carpet, after you have checked to make sure it won’t damage the fabric. The procedure is the same as with plain salt, but with the following warning: “While boric acid is generally nontoxic, long-term, low-level exposure to boric acid can cause some health conditions in humans and pets, so this treatment should not be used frequently,” warns the book “Flea Control: How to Get Rid of Fleas Naturally.” The acid can be poisonous if ingested. Don’t use it near food, and it should be avoided by pregnant women or in a household with babies, both human and animal. Recommendations about how long to leave it in the carpet vary widely, but keep your pet out of the room until you’ve vacuumed it up.
- Diatomaceous earth: Made of fossilized remains of algae-like creatures, it can be used on your flooring and pet bedding. This fine powder prevents flea larvae from maturing into adults. PETA urges you to remove animals from the area and to wear a protective mask while using diatomaceous earth, which is harmless if ingested but should not be inhaled. The powder should sit on the carpet for at least a few hours before removal. It can be found at garden, animal supply, home improvement and health food stores.
Keeping fleas out of the yard
- Diatomaceous earth: This powder also can be used outdoors. Spread it around the foundation and entry points of your home. An empty Parmesan cheese shaker can be used for this task.
- Cedar chips: Place them along the edges of your lawn.
- A mixture of equal amounts of bleach and water: Spraying this on grass every 10 days can also do the trick.
Do you have other tips for frugally getting rid of fleas? Share them in comments below or on our Facebook page.