The Spring after Nubi adopted me as “Mommy” (and moved in with Mr. Cozy Cottage), I discovered the horror story about our tiny cottage. Our cute little house is in a slightly rural area in Central Georgia, surrounded by huge pecan trees that shade us from the sweltering summer heat. It’s an old house, built in 1945; it’s uneven, drafty, and all the light switches are still pull-cord…and we adore it. But there’s a downfall to all that shade we live in: no grass. Our home has a dirt-and-leaf lawn. We love that we don’t have to mow it, and the fleas love that they have found a lovely refuge.
Those darn biting bugs infested us. They were on the puppies, in the house, in the yard. And they were nearly impossible to get rid of. It took all year and a good hard freeze that winter, but they never came back. It was a combination of numerous DIY remedies and a lot of work, but we have been flea-free for over a year.
Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely hate using expensive sprays, but sometimes you have no choice. One of the first things I did was to buy an outdoor spray that worked on multiple creepy crawlies, including fleas. I sprayed the doors, windows, and perimeter on the outside of the house where the puppies don’t normally go. This created a barrier. Nothing could cross that threshold without dying shortly afterward. Once I had this done, I moved on to the next step. We like Ortho Home Defense Max, picked up for about $13 at Lowe’s. It’s light enough for me to carry and the sprayer is very easy to use. As an added bonus, it killed all the spiders on my porch. It’s partially enclosed, partially screened in, and serves as both a laundry room and workshop, so there are lots of nooks and crannies for critters to hide in.
This is my favorite thing I’ve used!! Diatomaceous earth has long been used as a de-wormer for livestock, but I never realized how many uses it had. We bought a 20-lb bag from Tractor Supply (you can likely find it at any feed store), and Mr. Cozy Cottage poured some into a spreader. It required no more than half an hour of walking and the entire yard was covered in this powder (and he got to work off some of my cooking). D.E. is the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. To us it feels like a powder, but to critters it feels like razor blades. After a week of this stuff being on the ground we already noticed that our ankles weren’t munched on as much. A month later, nothing. During Spring and Summer, we typically spread out a good layer once a month.
In addition to that, I took it one step forward. After I deep cleaned the house, I sprinkled some onto the carpet and swept it in so that it could sink in really deep. I did this after every vacuum, and soon they were gone from the house too!
Apple Cider Vinegar
Just typing the words brings up that pungent smell that I absolutely cannot stand. As much as I love it, I really cannot stand it. But it works…for everything. I poured 1 Tbsp into the pups’ water every time I changed it. I expected to be wasting my time, but I found they actually drank more water. ACV evidently makes them taste yucky to fleas. It seemed to work, and it helped with their digestion. I also made a diluted spray (1 part ACV + 2 parts water) that I would spray on them each time they went out. Of course, they hated it. As strong as the smell is to me, I know it’s 10 times worse to them. ACV is also a great rinse when you’re bathing them. Fleas also can’t stand the smell of it, and usually flee. (HA! See what I did there?)
Dawn Dish Soap
I buy blue Dawn in large amounts. It works for numerous things around the house aside from dishes. Nubi and Scooby were infested with fleas. Since I had already treated the yard and the house, it was finally time to treat the puppies. I’m not a fan of commercial shampoos. Nubi is allergic to fleas, so his skin was already inflamed, and he’s very sensitive to many products. So I bathed him in blue Original dawn (not Ultra). It’s gentle enough and has a super thick lather. When bathing for fleas, once you’ve lathered them up and they’re all soapy, let it sit for about 5 minutes. The suds are so thick that it smothers the fleas. There is no cooler sight that watching all these black dots emerge from the bubbles and leap to their deaths in the tub. Rinse well, and then you can rinse again with the ACV. If the soap didn’t get them, the ACV will.
*A dog’s skin is much more sensitive than ours. Please do not bathe them more than once every two weeks, otherwise you will dry out their skin and cause even bigger issues. If the skin is broken, DO NOT rinse with ACV. It hurts.
Nubi’s skin was so inflamed that I was scared to use anything on him, but he was so miserable. I started giving each of them a tablespoon of coconut oil. They LOVE it, by the way, and it’s so amazing for their coats. I also rubbed some onto their skin, deep down under the fur. It instantly soothed them. So I did it once a night. It soaks into their skin without leaving them feeling greasy. I buy our organic coconut oil at Aldi for about $5.
If you’ve had these fast-breeding critters invade your home, please know that all these remedies take time. It may take a week, it may take a month, but they WILL work. Ours seemed to be extremely resilient, so it took a bit longer, but we finally got them gone. Now we just do monthly maintenance routines that take a couple hours to keep our home flea free. If you have any other DIY remedies that you’ve tried, please share!