A few years ago, all the fleas in town heard that my house was the place to go for fresh cat-blood. Within about a week, our house was completely overrun with the little buggers, who decided that our cats and carpets were exquisite. No amount of vacuuming or cat-brushing could stop the biting beasts’ advances.
As a green-living family, we were reluctant to resort to harsh synthetic chemicals to kill or repel fleas, so we went about trying to find green flea control methods. Our best luck seemed to lie with essential oils, which we have used since then to keep fleas and ticks off of our pets and carpets. I was glad to see that these natural techniques worked well, but they did seem to vary in their safety and efficacy.
Here’s the run-down of eco-friendly flea control options using essential oils.
Neem Essential Oil
This ultra-green essential oil originates in India, where it has been used for centuries to feed livestock and produce medicine. Today, the neem industry is critical to the sustainable economy of rural regions of India, so it is one of my favorite options for eco-friendly flea control.
Neem is quite non-toxic and won’t irritate your sinuses or throat. We had good luck diluting it with 50% water or vegetable oil and spreading it over our cats’ fur. A few cottonballs soaked in neem also helped to deter the fleas.
Clove Essential Oil
Clove was by far the most effective essential oil I used or green flea control. I put a few drops of it on each of my cats on the area between the shoulder blades. The first two of my cats handled the product just fine, and the fleas dissipated very quickly. However, when I put it on my third cat– who has allergies– she reacted badly. Mucus seeped from her eyes and nose, and she coughed repeatedly.
Then, when my husband walked into the room, he instantly suffered a fairly significant asthma attack. Although I believe that clove oil is safe and effective as a form of green flea control, I discontinued using it because my cat and husband were sensitive to it. You may want to shy away from clove oil if you have a history of allergies or asthma.
Citronella Essential Oil
I was surprised by how remarkably inexpensive citronella oil was. It was less than a third of the price of other essential oils I examined. I used citronella oil liberally throughout my house, since it was so affordable. I massaged it directly into my cats’ fur, and none of them reacted badly to it. I also diluted the oil with water and sprayed it all around my carpet.
Citronella doesn’t seem to repel fleas quite as effectively as some other options, but it is nontoxic and easy to use. In addition to using it for flea control, I use small amounts of diluted citronella to keep mosquitoes and ticks off of my toddler when we go outdoors. This eco-friendly insect repellent is a must have for any green home.
Lavender Essential Oil
Valued in both aromatherapy and insect control, lavender oil was the final step that completely eliminated fleas from my home and pets. Although two of my cats tolerated lavender oil rubbed directly into the fur, my cat with allergies did better when I diluted a few drops in water. Lavender did not seem to bother my husband’s asthma, but it did fill our home with a pleasant, soothing aroma.
Fleas seem to despise the taste and scent of lavender oil, because they all left immediately when we started using it. Overall, it appears to be the safest, most effective, most versatile essential oil for green flea control.
We haven’t had a significant flea problem since we began our essential oil regimen. (Knock on wood.) I’m glad that we haven’t been forced to use unsustainable or toxic chemicals to rid our home of these tiny, nibbling terrors.