Twenty-eight years ago, I lived through a flea infestation, the likes of which I never want to see again.
I don’t know if it was that house [we’d only just moved in], or a flea plague generally, but the cat had fleas, despite his flea collar, and the whole house was infested as well. I could literally see them jumping from the polished floor boards onto my legs. It was awful and took two lots of professional, whole-house, heavy-duty chemical flea treatments to get rid of them.
I’m not saying all this to try to scare people. I’m just trying to explain why I have a horror of fleas. But the flip side of that bad memory is that I also have a horror of the chemicals used in commercial pet treatments. I’ve read so many horror stories about cats, and dogs, dying from those treatments that I simply can’t do that to Mogi and the cats. But I still fear and loathe fleas…
Two years ago, I decided that I’d tackle the flea problem naturally. I went on a research binge and discovered that:
- fleas tend to stay on the animal that is their ‘home’,
- fleas lay eggs on the animal, but the eggs drop off after about 2 hours,
- flea eggs tend to accumulate in the areas where pets sleep and groom themselves. These areas include carpets, bedding and soft furnishings,
- flea eggs need fairly strict environmental conditions to hatch. Again, carpet, bedding and soft furnishings provide the perfect conditions for both eggs and flea larvae.
Clearly, just killing the adult fleas wasn’t going to keep my pets, and house, flea free. To break the cycle, I’d have to tackle both the pets and the surrounds at the same time. More research.
The natural solutions I found for the house centred on bi-carbonate of soda – plain old, cheap-as-chips bi-carb. Apparently, it kills fleas and their larvae. I also discovered that salt dehydrates the flea eggs, killing them. Salt can be a bit rough on the carpets though, and you wouldn’t want the pets eating it so a combination of bi-carb and salt is an option of last resort.
Bi-carb on carpets
To see if the bi-carb solution was real or simply an old-wives tale, I began sprinkling bi-carb on all my rugs and the few carpeted areas of the house [bedrooms]. Next, I’d brush the bi-carb deep into the carpet fibres [with a broom]. This pushes the bi-carb down to the base of the fibres where the fleas and eggs are located. It also stops the rugs/carpet from looking too awful while the bi-carb does its job. This can take from 14 hours up to a maximum of 48 hours.
Why the time limit? Because after 48 hours the bi-carb loses its effectiveness.
As well as keeping the carpets/rugs from becoming infested, I also wash all the animal bedding once a week. My washing machine includes a soak option, so I soak the bedding in hot water with Bositos washing powder [Bositos includes eucalyptus oil] for an hour or so. Then I rinse the bedding and hang it outside to dry.
So far so good. I haven’t had a single flea bite on my legs so I know the bi-carb is working, but what of the animals?
Fleas on pets
As it’s been so dry, I know I’ll have to do something about fleas on the cats. According to my research, you can put bi-carb directly onto a cat, especially around the neck area which is where fleas congregate, but…I’m a bit worried they may ingest too much of it as they groom themselves. Back to the research.
I found the following website just this morning:
It’s the most comprehensive site I’ve found to-date and mentions some options I’ve never come across before. These include apple cider vinegar and a home-made citrus oil. Apparently, fleas hate the acid of the vinegar and the smell? taste? of the citrus oil. As I’ve been a huge fan of vinegar for years, I’m going to get some apple cider vinegar today. I’ll wrestle the cats tonight and report back in a few days.
Now, the only pet left is Mogi, the dog. I bathe her regularly and wash all her bedding etc, but you should only wash a dog once a week, maximum, so I may try giving her a diluted vinegar ‘rinse’ as well, especially near the base of her tail. I’ll report back on the vinegar rinse as well.
Natural vs chemical
One last thing, I don’t suffer from extreme chemical sensitivities, but I have friends who do. I know it’s real, and potentially deadly. I also worry about the explosion of chemical cleaning products in the home. They all list ingredients that read like an alchemist’s cookbook. Each individual product ‘may’ be safe, but has anyone tested the effect of all those products added together? I think not, and that worries me. The cost worries me too, especially when so many of them don’t actually work all that well. What you see on the commercial doesn’t translate to a real home environment.
For all those reasons, I try and use natural cleaning products as much as possible. Apart from the bi-carb on the rugs, I also wash my polished wood floors with either hot water and vinegar or hot water and eucalyptus oil. Both do a fantastic job, and the vinegar at least, is ridiculously cheap, so I strongly recommend throwing all those expensive and potentially harmful chemical products away.
Seriously, you don’t need them, and neither do small children and pets. Remember, they’re closer to the floor than you are.