For those of us living in the colder regions of the world, summertime has finally begun. And blinking, step into the sun, fleas are lying in wait for us, our family, and pets. (While bloodsuckers are annoying in general, at least fleas don’t sparkle in the sun.) You know flea season is in full swing once temperatures start to stabilize between 70°-85°F (translated into Celsius that’s 21°-30°).
Using diatomaceous earth for fleas is an all encompassing solution because you can treat your animals and home with the same product. You can buy flea collars, medication, shampoo, lotion, and pills but all of these products focus on just the dog or cat. Diatomaceous earth is safe enough to be used in the home.
With that said. I would love to say that diatomaceous earth is an easy solution, it’s not. No solution is. I will say using diatomaceous earth for fleas is effective, safe, and organic. But like all infestations, it takes lots of cleaning, product-using, and re-applying. I found diatomaceous earth because I was skittish about using harsh chemicals in the house, especially around a baby.
One way to make your diatomaceous earth even more effective is understanding the flea’s life cycle. Your dog roams outside and picks up fleas. She then comes into the home and visits her usual hang out places. As she goes, fleas use their powerful back legs to jump off and land on the carpet and pet bed. Then you come along and unsuspectingly become a bus for fleas to hitch a ride on to. They land on your socks and pant legs. You walk by your bed and decide to take a nap, and now the fleas have gotten into your bedding.
While this scenario sounds like the beginning of an epidemic, it’s actually your personal horror story involving fleas. Adult fleas, larvae, pupae, and eggs can cover your house. According to About.com, the time from egg to adult flea can take anywhere from two weeks to two years. A female can lay up to 50 eggs a day. If we do the math, this can result in 500-600 eggs in a few months. So, constant vigilance is the key when to defending against fleas. Especially if they can survive for a long time.
Knowing that fleas, at all stages, can survive in different environments teaches us a few things:
- It takes more than just applying DE to get rid of fleas
- You can’t just treat your home. You can’t just treat your pet. Both have to be treated to break up the cycle
- Because fleas can jump it’s important to take care when outside and avoid areas where fleas live where they can jump onto your pant leg
- All stages of the flea can survive living in your home
Find Fleas Like Sherlock Holmes
- On you pet you spot “flea dirt” (which is just a nice way of saying feces)
- Dried blood especially around the ears and upper legs since your pet has a hard time reaching those areas
- Flea eggs (tiny white flecks)
- You find small, red bite marks with whitish centers on your body
- If you rub a white rag on the carpet (or wear white socks) and find red smears
- If you bathe your pets and find fleas in the water
- Using a magnifying glass (the hallmark of detective-dom) you see fleas on your pet or his bedding
Once you’ve found them, then it’s time to use diatomaceous earth for fleas.
Using Diatomaceous Earth to Murder Fleas
This a battle that has two fronts: your home and your pet. In this section we’ll go over the steps needed to address both.
- Take your dog outside for the application process. It might get a little messy, so go someplace you don’t mind spilling DE. You can use an applicator (usually found online) or you can use an old ketchup or mustard bottle, which can work just as well. If you use your hands then you’ll need some lotion after because it dries out your hands. I prefer to just use my hands so I can get to the skin more easily.
- Your dog might actually enjoy this part because it feels a lot like a massage. Start at the base of the tail and work up. Push the fur back so the skin
- is exposed because that’s where the fleas are. As you can see, my pal Ron here is an Australian Shepherd. He has thick fur that is hard to get all the way back sometimes. You need to apply diatomaceous earth to the skin so it works properly (DE must come in contact with the flea to work.) If your dog still has remnants of a winter coat, get a brush and work as much as the winter coat of as you can. By now, like Ron, your dog should have his summer coat. Ron received a good brushing before this process anyway, which also helped him to be relaxed during the process. If you have a flea comb, it’s a good idea to use that as well. (After you should put the brush in the dishwasher or similar to ensure no fleas survive on the brush.
- As you start working from the base of the tail, get those easy-to-forget places like the armpits, paws, and belly. Move the collar around to get Cover your whole dog. Repeat these steps about once a week until your dog is flea-free. Make sure your dog’s skin doesn’t dry out because DE will dehydrate your dog’s skin.
Dusting Your Cat
I like to dust cats outside, but you could also do it in the house where your going to apply some DE anyway. We (notice the “we”, there is a definite need for back up on this project) used a cat harness and leash to help keep her in place. It takes one person to hold the cat and the other to apply DE. Both people will end up on the cat’s “murder” list
Start off by brushing your cat with a flea comb if you have one. This will start the de-fleaing process and while it might calm some cats, it’s likely to anger all the others. If you’ve braved a bathing your cat recently,
- Your cat is unlikely to appreciate an applicator because of the noise. Unless you have the calmest cat ever, or she’s already used to the noise then go ahead and get an applicator. But you have been forewarned. When we started this process our cat jumped straight in air. That was just from stepping outside. Grab a handful of DE and start the process.
- Again, start at the base of the tail working forward pushing the fur up as you go. You need to expose the skin to expose the fleas. Since it only Cover your whole cat avoiding the face and inside the ears.
- Repeat this process at least once a week until the cat is flea-free. One note to remember is that DE doesn’t kill eggs so it’s important to do this for at least a month to make sure all the fleas are dead.
Treating the Home
- As with most infestations the best place is to start by de-cluttering your home. This limits the amount of places fleas can hide and places you’ll only have to clean later.
- Launder all clothes, sheets, and potentially infested fabrics in hot water. Then dry them on high heat.
- Afterwards place them in plastic containers to keep them safe from re-infestation.
- Give the same treatment to your pet’s bed. If it’s beyond saving just throw it out.
- Start vacuuming your home and start from top to bottom. Vacuum your couches and then vacuum the carpet. Everywhere. But pay particular attention to your pet’s high traffic areas.
- You’ll be vacuuming a lot while in the process of getting rid of an infestation, but after each time be sure to pull out the vacuum bag, put it in a plastic bag, seal it, and then throw it out. Fleas are able to stay alive after they’ve been through the vacuum. If your vacuum is bagless, then after carefully dumping the contents into a plastic bag and sealing it, wash the container in hot soapy water.
- Afterwards it’s time to apply diatomaceous earth to your home. Dust all the places your pet hangs out and spots he sleeps. Apply liberally to any places you’ve spotted fleas.
Other Useful Resources
While I’ve used diatomaceous earth for a while, I’m always looking for other sources of information. Besides there is mountain of knowledge at Wikipedia, eHow, and DiatomaceousEarth.com, and other blogs. It’s worthwhile to check them out and learn more about going green.