Home Remedies for Fleas: What Works and What Doesn’t

On the hunt for the best home remedies for fleas? Who can blame you. After all, if you’ve identified a flea infestation in your home, then you don’t need me to tell you how torturous your domestic life can suddenly become.

Much like any pest infestation, the trickiest part is neither the identification nor the daily fight for survival – it’s the act of actually getting rid of the suckers.

And you want to do it fast. A single female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day and these eggs can hatch in a couple of days if conditions are right. So any time you waste on ineffective remedies is time that the flea population is growing to massive numbers in your very own home.

Which is why we’re going to focus on some of the most effective and cheap home remedies for kicking fleas out of your house, as well as highlighting some of the apocryphal flea ‘deterrents’ that you probably have right in your kitchen or bathroom cabinets.

Note: this will mostly focus on the home, rather than your long-suffering pets. If you’re a highly intelligent dog looking for some answers, then might I point you in the direction of some of our other flea articles? Atta boy.

Does Dish Soap Kill Fleas?

Let’s keep it simple to start with. If you’ve encountered a flea-ridden dog before, you’ll know that one of the highest recommended methods of getting rid of fleas is to simply bathe your furry friend in a bath of dish washing soap. And yes, bathing your pet in dish soap can remove fleas - but so can bathing your pet, period.

Anyhow, this isn’t just a case of flying around the house dousing the carpets in liquid soap, unless you really despise your home furnishings… In which case, more power to you. Off you go.

There are neat little DIY tricks for using washing up liquid to your advantage, however; homemade flea traps in particular. The humble, homemade flea trap is a lot simpler than you might think – simply fill a shallow bowl or deep plate with some water. Boom, you now have flea poison.

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A popular solution is to mix in Lysol with your water. It has the same effect, overall, whilst also being safe for use around animals.

Leave this potion in areas you know the fleas are prominent or, if you want added insurance, place one in each room (particularly places with thick carpets). Some folk recommend leaving a candle either in the water, or nearby to attract the fleas toward the light. This isn’t strictly necessary and I don’t know many people who’d feel comfortable leaving an open flame so close to their carpet unattended, but hey. You do you.

Anyway, the gist: flea wanders out, finds the water or light source, gets all excited, jumps into the toxic bath and gets all gooey and stuck. Dies shortly thereafter. Flea family holds a funeral service and moves out of the neighborhood. Or something to that effect.

Does Lemon Juice Kill Fleas?

It’s one of the most common household pest-deterrents. A rule of thumb if you find yourself dealing with a high rate of creepy crawlies of most kinds: spritz some citric oils or sprays around the problem areas and see what happens.
Luckily for you, your home and your pets – fleas are one such pest.

It’s actually the active element Limonene that does the work, which you can get in a concentrated form, which can be found in the rind of citric fruits like lemons, limes and oranges. It has the extra perk of making your house smell like lovely oranges.

Now, this isn’t a trick for actually killing any fleas in your chosen area, but more of a repellent or deterrent to get them packing their bags and staying away in the future. Citric essences, oils or tinctures are the go-to for this sort of easy repelling but be warned – pure citric oils can often spell trouble for your pets too.

Cats and dogs, especially, have been known to have fairly dodgy reactions to the Limonene element if they come into direct contact. So please don’t think it’s alright to douse your pet in the stuff as a method of getting rid of fleas and try, as a general rule, to keep them away from any areas that you citrusify. Yes, that is a word. No, I will not prove it.

Does the Vacuum Kill Fleas?

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If you get rid of the culprits at their source, then you’ll put an end to any flea progeny raising their own families in your shag carpet in the spare bedroom. And the humble, simple vacuum cleaner is effective against fleas in so many ways. For starters, it allows you to thoroughly suck up flea eggs scattered in and around your carpet - this is crucial since the carpet is probably harboring the majority of the flea eggs.

It also sucks up adult fleas as well as flea eggs, larvae, some pupae as well as the disgusting flea poop scattered around your house - you really don't want that stuff lying around. And the best part? The vibrations from the vacuum can stimulate flea pupae to leave their cocoon, which makes it easier to suck them up into the vacuum. Because the cocoon is resistant to insecticides and often spun around the base of the carpet fibers – they can be very difficult to kill or remove. Enticing them out of it is the best way to deal with them.

A regular and thorough vacuum regime for problem areas (or just the home in general: what do pests love more than anything? A dirty, unkempt home!) should be a very strong tactic in the war against fleas. There ain’t really any special instructions here… Just vacuum like you’re Freddie Mercury.

Want to superpower your vacuum cleaner's flea-killing powers? Add some powders to your vacuum regimen, like...

Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Fleas?

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Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth, $22

Before you whip out the vacuum – it’s maybe worth doing a little bit of ground work, at least for the first few sessions. A highly recommended natural flea killer is diatomaceous earth (DE). If you’re anything other than a novice to the pest world, you’re likely already well acquainted with DE.

This is a fantastic natural chemical which works deathly wonders over all kinds of insects and unwanted home invaders. The active element in the earth latches on to the skin or exoskeleton of the pest and then slowly dehydrates them from the outside in, eventually killing them. Unless you’re dealing with Bear Grylls-esque flea survivalists.

This ingredient is, generally, safe to use in a pet-friendly home but there is a lot of conflicting debate regarding whether it can actually be used on your pet’s fur as a safe flea-killer. To be on the safe side, always buy food-grade diatomaceous earth - not pool-grade - and look to it as an environment/home deterrent rather than one for your animals.

Application is relatively simple – vacuum and then evenly sprinkle the DE in problem areas or places that you think fleas are likely to travel in/out of and then await the results. Once your carpet is littered with the dried husks of fleas that once were (sorry), then it’s a great time to vacuum. We recommend waiting at least a week.

You’ll clear up the corpses and eliminate any dehydrated stragglers that are still clinging on for dear life. I could make for a pretty cool dystopian Young Adult movie villain with sentences like that.

Does Borax Kill Fleas?

Another helpful flea-killing vacuum ingredient is Borax. In case you're wondering if boric acid can be a substitute -both boric acid and borax work since they both have boron in it, which is what kills these buggers. Get whichever one you can find.

Application is more or less the same as diatomaceous earth, although it can be a little bit messier and leave a lot of dusty detritus around – so it’s probably best to clear out the room in question as best you can (but be careful, you don’t want to spread the flea infestation into other areas of the home).

Some Borax solutions will come with a dispenser included, but in the spirit of this being a DIY/home remedy article: you can also simply fill up an empty jar or container with the powder and then poke some small holes in the top to create a thrifty salt shaker for handy flea genocide.

Sprinkle the Borax powder into the carpets or soft furnishings that are proving to be high-traffic areas and then rub the powder in as best you can. Cover your mouth, eyes and hands during this process...

Then, simply wait for it do its business and vacuum up the dead and leftover Borax!

Note: Do not use this home remedy to kill fleas on your pets. Boric acid can cause serious illness to your pets if they ingest it, which they’re likely to do since both dogs and cats groom themselves. Also, some fabrics may suffer discoloration or other detrimental effects, so it’s best to test a small corner overnight before you go in hard with the flea napalm.

Does Baking Soda Kill Fleas?

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Now, here we find our first incorrect flea-repelling myth: that baking soda is a cure-all for flea complaints in pets and homes. Baking soda itself, will not kill or repel fleas in the home, but if it’s mixed in with salt then you have yourself yet another handy dehydration concoction.

You know the drill by this point: once you’ve got your baking salt/salt soda mixture ready just sprinkle it in problem areas and make sure it penetrates deep enough to have an effect.

Sleep on it then hoover up the results the next day. Bob’s your uncle. Nice guy. Big family. Seems to be uncle to a lot of people.

Of course the true power of the vacuum and its various powdered solutions is repetition. One time is not going to do the trick. To properly kick out any flea freeloaders, you need to setup and maintain a strict regime!

Does Bleach Kill Fleas?

While we’re here: an honorable mention for bleach. Bleach is a popular form of cleaning out areas that are prone to pests such as fleas, but it can be very hit and miss. It doesn’t repel the fleas in and of itself, and once bleach has dried out or dissipated, it’s useless. Powdered bleach solutions are much preferable and can be mixed in with some of the above solutions for an extra bit of fire power!

Does Salt Kill Fleas?

Simple and to the point – also a cheap alternative to repeatedly buying diatomaceous earth (although effectiveness will likely vary; most folk would invest in equal parts baking soda too) – ever had a really salty meal? What’s your next move? A huge drink of water that your stomach immediately regrets, that’s right.

Well, the same goes for fleas. Salt dries out flea eggs and dehydrates the fleas themselves – you might even want to try another flea trap using salt instead of washing up liquid. Regular table salt should do the trick, which can also be used on thick fur of pets if your problem persists.

This is more of a quick and fast acting treatment to tide you over until you can find something a little more heavy duty or at the very least find some baking soda to mix in.

Do Essential Oils Kill Fleas?

As highlighted above with the citric fruits and acids – essential oils are also a great, simple and fairly pleasant method of repelling fleas and keeping them on the outside of your home.

Most essential oils are fairly effective in this capacity, with particular prominence usually lying with lemongrass, citronella, lemon eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint, cedarwood and citric oils. Keep in mind that not all essential oils are safe for dogs and most of them aren't safe for cats!

The pungent smells are absolutely untenable for fleas and a wealth of other beasties. A couple of whiffs and they tend to high-tail it for somewhere altogether less fragrant.

The good thing about essential oils is the sheer mass of choice and creativity that’s on hand. You can create little parcels of dried leaves from the plants and hang them in choice areas if you so wish, you can use tinctures and oils and leave them in water bowls or around plants, you can spritz lavender and orange perfumes, spread cedar flakes and chips…

The list goes on, and it’s all down to your own personal taste. Experiment to see which drives off the fleas best.

Does Drowning Kill Fleas?

Drown the suckers! Sounds good, right? Even Noah barely survived some heavy rain.

But simple water solutions aren't that effective against fleas since fleas can survive up to 7 days in plain old water. When completely submerged, it can take a flea at least 24 hours to drown!

So it definitely won’t be as potent as some of the above methods. To speed up the process, though, you can add some dish soap to the water - the surfactants help to speed up the process.

Does Cold Kill Fleas?

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One of the most important things you can learn about a pesky, pest foe is at what temperature they flourish and at what temperature they wither and die. When it comes to fleas, they're pretty resilient.

Just a little bit of cold won't faze these blood suckers. In order to kill adult fleas, it must be very cold:

  • Adult fleas die within 5 days at 30.2°F (-1°C).
  • Only around 20% of adult fleas die within 24 hours at temperatures below 30.2°F (-1°C) but 72% of pre-adult flies will die at 30.2°F (-1°C).
  • But fleas can live up to ten days at 37.4°F (3°C), slightly above freezing.
  • Fleas are a lot more likely to survive at temperatures above 46.4°F (8°C), with around half of adult fleas being able to stay alive for 20 days.

So yes, extended cold temperatures can kill fleas but setting your home to such low temperatures isn't going to be too comfortable for your and your family either.

Plus, fleas tend to live on your pets and their body temperatures are more than warm enough to meet the fleas requirements for a warm, humid home.

One area where cold can help, though, is when it comes to flea babies. Flea eggs can survive temperatures above 55.4°F (13°C) but they will lie dormant and wait to hatch until the environment improves again.

This does leave them vulnerable and susceptible to your vacuum of death. So if you're willing to do it, you can drop the temperature in your house to prevent flea eggs from hatching while you vacuum up as many dormant eggs as you possibly can. Easy pickin’s.

But apart from making it easier to pick off the eggs, extreme cold is an overall impractical way to kill fleas. The only way it might work is if you're willing hire outside professionals to do the job for you – and that's a truly extreme and expensive tactic, usually involving liquid nitrogen and heavy equipment. There are better options.

Does Heat Kill Fleas?

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Now, this is another tricky one. Generally, people like to say that hot temperatures will kill off any of your flea problems. This isn’t strictly true, although there is some knowledge to it.

Fleas flourish in warm climates and humid environments – these are absolutely ideal for them. Simply raising the ambient heat in the home is unlikely to do you any favors in reducing their activity or presence; it might even encourage the flea eco-system.

Where heat can help, though, is when it is hot, hot heat - think temperatures hotter than 95°F (35°C).

This is why your washer and dryer will be one of the most useful tools in your fight against fleas. No matter how young or old the fleas are, a long blast in the washing machine and tumble dryer will fry their little heads, making laundry day one of the best ways to kill fleas in all life stages.

So throw in all your bed sheets, throw covers, pet bedding and other soft furnishings that are machine washable to your regime of cleanliness.

As for the stuff that's not machine-washable, go for hot, hot steam. Steam cleaning is ideal for thicker fabrics where the vacuum may not have penetrated deep enough to dislodge any flea babies wedged into nooks and crannies, or that are too bulky to fit into the washer and dryer.

A professional heat steam treatment costs $300 to $1,200 but you can pick up a home steam cleaner that you can use again and again to clean and sanitize your house, even after you get rid of fleas. We recommend the Vapamore Primo Steam Cleaning System – it produces steam at a temperature of 214 degrees, which will kill flea eggs as well as fleas in other life stages. At $300, it is pricey but it’s great quality, highly effective and also comes with a lifetime warranty.

Does Dry Air Kill Fleas?

Here's a little known fact: Fleas don't just like humid, moist environments - humidity is actually key to a flea's survival. Which makes dehumidifying your home one of the best all natural ways to kill fleas in all life stages.

In very dry conditions - like a humidity level below 50% - flea eggs will actually dry up without hatching. This isn't fool-proof, though, fleas are hardy creatures and some eggs have been shown to survive humidity as low as 33%.

The good news is that hatching larvae will quickly die in dry environments since dehydration is fatal to flea larvae - they won't survive humidity levels less than 45%. In addition to this, fleas in the pupal stage progress into full, biting adults faster in high humidity.

So if you want to kill some flea eggs and larvae - and slow the growth of flea pupae - something as simple as using your dehumidifier can be all it takes to kill some fleas.

Does Raid Kill Fleas?

Raid – the go to, surely? How could it fail to blast away your residential fleas? Well… It won’t fail… as long as you’re targeting the adults. The truth about fleas is that they spend the majority of their lives in the early stages of their lifecycle: eggs and, larvae and pupae. And at any given time, those pre-adult fleas make up the majority of a flea infestation.

So Raid will kill the small selection of adult fleas that are knocking around your home, sure, but it won’t do anything about the fields of eggs waiting to hatch and take their place. Not to mention the toxicity of Raid can be harmful to your pets and even yourself, if used in abundance…

A great, ad hoc, occasional killer for the odd beastie you spot, but not a viable long-term flea solution.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Fleas?

Rubbing alcohol is another potent and simplistic repellent. There’s really not much to say here – dilute it with (usually) 50% water and dispense into a squirt bottle. Simply cover the areas you want to keep fleas away from as you wish, although make sure there’s not going to be any discoloration issues and try to keep it away from animals.

Some flea-killing enthusiasts recommend using it on your pets, but it’s really not recommended as it can dry out and irritate their skin.

Note: you can adjust the potency/dilution as you see fit – just don’t be tempted to drink any when the flea depression gets to be too much.

Take your pick or try them all – guaranteed you’ll find something that’ll have your fleas fleeing.

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