Natural Flea Control Recipes
Effective flea control means balancing toxicity to fleas and safety for pets and people. Homemade natural flea control solutions offer a way to achieve that delicate balance.
Diatomaceous earth is one of the least toxic options you can choose for natural flea control. It’s a powder containing the skeletal remains of tiny sea creatures. While too small to present a danger to mammals, these microscopic particles act like shards of glass to insects, puncturing their bodies and eventually dehydrating them. It is important to only buy food-grade diatomaceous earth for flea control, as the heat-treated product sold for use in pool filtration systems or for gardens can contain other chemicals that aren’t safe for pets or people to ingest. You can find food-grade diatomaceous earth for a few dollars per pound, so it’s as economical as it is effective.
Unlike traditional flea powders, diatomaceous earth contains no chemical pesticides and works through physical means, so it’s safe to use directly on pets. However, the powder is fine and potentially messy; take your pets outside or put down a sheet if applying diatomaceous earth inside. For dry application, fill a salt shaker or repurposed baby powder container with diatomaceous earth and apply it liberally to your pet’s coat, working it in with your hands as you go. If you prefer, you can also mix a few tablespoons of diatomaceous earth with water in a spray bottle and mist your pet with it, shaking the bottle frequently to ensure the powder stays suspended in the water.
You can also apply diatomaceous earth to your carpet, your pet’s bedding, and near exterior doors to keep fleas away from areas your pet frequents. Spread it throughout your yard to control fleas outside if your pet spends a lot of time outdoors. Be careful with outdoor application if you maintain an organic garden that relies on natural predators like ladybugs to eliminate pests; diatomaceous earth will affect your garden’s guardians as much as it will unwanted insects like fleas.
If you prefer a chemical insecticide to a physical one, there are some inexpensive natural solutions you can use. Limonenes, naturally-occurring compounds found in citrus rinds, are relatively safe chemical insecticides that affect fleas’ exoskeletal integrity. Limonenes are the active ingredient in most over-the-counter natural flea sprays, but it’s also easy to make your own low-cost version at home.
Save the peels from four or five lemons, oranges, or other citrus fruit. Boil the peels in six cups of water for an hour or so until the peels are soft. Blend the mixture with a stick blender, then strain it through cheesecloth to remove pulp and bits of peel. Decant it into a spray bottle for easy application. You can then treat fleas directly on your pet by spraying the mixture lightly all over the animal’s coat while brushing the fur back with your hands to ensure that the spray reaches down to the skin. Spraying the limonene mixture on your pet’s bedding and on carpets will also kill fleas that hide there.
Take care when applying limonene-based products directly to your cat’s coat. As cats groom, they ingest anything on their skin or fur, leaving them more susceptible than dogs to inadvertent poisoning. Even a natural insecticide is still an insecticide and can be toxic to cats in large doses. Use a light hand with your application and watch your cat closely for any signs of illness after treatment.
Both diatomaceous earth and limonene citrus sprays kill fleas that are already present, but there are also products you can make at home to keep future flea infestations away. By using a combination of preventive treatments on your pet and throughout your home, you can keep your environment flea-free.
Treated collars are another popular and convenient method of flea control. Fleas flee from the smell of certain aromatic compounds; by infusing a bandana, absorbent cloth, or length of rope with these essential oils, you can make your own flea collar for your dog. (These flea collars are not recommended for cats because the essential oils they release over time are unsafe for cats’ grooming habits.)
Fortunately, the scented oils fleas dislike happen to have pleasant scents. Peppermint, lavender, citronella, cedar, rosemary, and lemon essential oils chase fleas away without smelling noxious to people or animals. Choose any of these oils that smell good to you and mix half a teaspoon of oil with half a cup of alcohol in a covered jar, then shake the jar well. Put the cloth or rope collar in the jar and let it soak for about fifteen minutes. Remove the collar and let it air dry completely before fastening the collar around your dog’s neck. The collar will need a fresh infusion of the oil/alcohol mixture weekly to remain effective. Check under your dog’s collar regularly. Some dogs are sensitive to certain essential oils and may develop skin irritation from wearing a collar infused with them. If you notice irritation, try switching oils until you find one that agrees with your pet’s skin. Also ensure that the oils you use contain no tea tree oil, as it’s potentially toxic in large doses.
The same oils that make good flea collars also make good home flea treatments in powder form. Dried lavender, peppermint, or rosemary crushed into a powder and sprinkled on carpets and in your pet’s bedding will not only repel fleas, but also keep your home smelling fresh. Mix four parts diatomaceous earth with one part dried aromatic herbs for a natural flea powder that both kills fleas and prevents more of the pests from taking up residence. This powder mix is also safe for household use with cats if applied with a light touch.