by SUSAN BOYOUNG BAILEY SCHABACKER
An urgent need to find practical, doable, DIY chemical-free ways to fend off an infestation of fleas inspired this article. A few days after pet sitting for a friend’s dog, I was covered with itch-induced scratching and rashes on my ankles, and I discovered that my apartment had been infested with fleas.
I quickly learned about possible health risks. It’s hard to believe that these blood-sucking pests, nearly invisible to the naked eye, could wreak such havoc. These unwelcome guests can usher themselves into your home, easily unnoticed via a dog or cat, and they multiply rapidly. Their bites are blood meals that can cause intense itching with inflamed red rashes, especially on feet, ankles and calves. Flea bites can put you at risk for parasites and infectious diseases, and if blisters form, there is a risk of developing secondary infections.
Since I’m a firm believer in purer, more organic and natural solutions, I decided against what I considered to be the last resort of having pest control fumigate and “bomb” every square inch of my apartment. I chose, instead, to avoid harsh chemicals and opted for a natural solution, and thankfully, it worked!
Whether preventing fleas or exterminating an existing colony in need of urgent eradication, here are some suggestions you can easily DIY to forgo the harsh chemicals.
Once you know fleas are in the house, do not delay! A week is more than enough time for the population to explode exponentially since it takes just three days for a flea to reach maturity and start breeding.
First, throw what you can into the washer and dryer to kill the invading intruders at high heat. Add half a cup of white vinegar to each load and toss in everything washable, including clothes, bedding, pillows, blankets, towels and throw rugs.
Next, pull out your trusty vacuum and steel yourself to vacuum every day. Sprinkle table salt and/or baking soda liberally on all carpets and floors. Allow to sit for 24 hours, then vacuum thoroughly. Salt and baking soda dehydrate and kill flea eggs and the vibrations cause adult fleas to jump and be scooped up into the vacuum. Studies show that vacuuming can kill 96% of adult fleas and 100% of the eggs, but you’ll have to move furniture around, vacuum all the nooks and crannies and be really diligent and thorough. Since you don’t want fleas you just vacuumed up to escape right back into the carpets, discard the old vacuum bag immediately. Seal it up in another bag, take it far away from the house and replace it with a new bag every day.
What about everything else? DIY to the rescue. Fill two spray bottles – one with a mixture of 50/50 plain white vinegar and water, and the other with a mixture of 50/50 hydrogen peroxide and water. Check color fastness first, then liberally spray furniture, fabric, under the bed and in all the closets. Be thorough and lift up cushions as you go. Spray throughout the area, several times throughout the day, alternating between the two mixtures.
Amp up your senses with an aromatherapy experience as you wipe down counters and mop the floors. Add about 30 drops of anti-flea essential oils in any combination to a spray bottle filled with one cup white vinegar and two cups water. Anti-flea essential oils include peppermint, tea tree, rosewood, cedar, eucalyptus, lemon and lemongrass. Essential oils must always be diluted and avoid contact with the eyes and mouth.
It’s tempting to scratch all those flea bites, but that only makes it worse. Instead, bring down the swelling, rashes and irritation with your own DIY spray. Dilute a few drops of lavender, chamomile, tea tree and/or peppermint essential oils in a plant-based carrier oil like jojoba, olive, coconut, avocado or apricot kernel oil, then massage gently into the skin. Thankfully, these natural remedies are also pretty budget-friendly.
Don’t get lazy. You have to be diligent with all the vacuuming, washing and spraying, but these natural measures will eventually be effective and leave your home flea-free without the use of harsh chemicals that could have an adverse effect on your health.