As promised here is my second monthly post about PESTS - this one dealing with fleas!
Fleas can be a problem for people with and without pets. If you have a mouse, squirrel, bat, or for those folks across the pond, raccoon problem, fleas can infest your house via them, or you could even inherit fleas from previous home owners. However you are most likely to encounter then if you have pets since fleas will jump onto your pets coat outside and travel with them into your home. The scary part is that fleas spend the majority of their lives away from the host animal - meaning, they will live in your home, and occasionally jump onto your beloved pet to feed not to mention jump onto you too!
The flea life cycle
Click on the picture to enlarge it, and read all about the life cycle of a fleas.
For your home
Fleas live deep within the fibres of carpets and fabric (yes, even your mattress). Fleas react to vibrations, which is why when you or your pet walks across the carpet area where the live, they jump up and feed. Therefor they come out of the fibres when you vacuum, and get sucked into the vacuum bag. Do however remember to empty the vacuum bag as soon as you have finished. If not the fleas might continue breeding and escape straight back into your home. You can add some cornflour to the vacuum bag to help suffocate the fleas.
Heat also kills fleas, but warm humid conditions is perfect environment for flea eggs to hatch, so make sure to follow steam cleaning with a once a day vacuum
If you don't have a steam cleaner, check with friends and family if you could borrow one, or invest in one. They are very handy - especially great for cleaning ovens and getting rid of bed bugs in your mattress.
I'm no scientist, so I don't know how true this is, but apparently sprinkling salt onto carpets and furnishings can help kill fleas or make them immobile. Something to do with it drying them out? And since salt is harmless, I reckon it's worth a try.
The use of cornflour is similar to that of salt, it clings to the fleas and makes them move slower. I use a teaspoon or so of cornflour in the vacuum bag to prevent the fleas from escaping straight back into the house
Diatomaceous Earth (food grade only)
DE is a mineral powder that kills fleas by causing them to dehydrate. DE is not toxic to humans, but it can be dangerous if inhaled. Both eye protection and a dust mask need to be worn when applying it. If you decide to use DE, make sure your child isn't around when you first apply it, and be sure to lightly vacuum any loose dust left over after application. Since DE isn't as easily available as the rest of the ingredients listed and can be harmful (although not toxic), I would use this as a last resort.
Light flea trap
This method is not going to get rid of lots of fleas at once, but it is a great way to check whether you've won the war against fleas. You'll need a desk lamp (or a lamp with directional light), a shallow bowl or dish and some soapy water (dish washing liquid works great). At night, place the dish with soapy water directly under the desk lamp near the area where you think you have a flea problem, or near where your pet sleeps. Leave it over night, and if you do have a flea problem, you will most likely see a few fleas that have drowned in your water bowl - the soap helping to weigh them down.
A flea collar can be made by rubbing a few drops of one of the following into an ordinary webbing or rope collar or even a doggy bandanna: eucalyptus oil, Tea Tree Oil, citronella, lavender or geranium. Don’t forget to do this weekly. We now stock a product that makes this easy for you.
As soon as you realise you pet has a flea problem, jump into action immediately by following these steps (if you don't have a pet, you get to skip trying to wash your pet!):
- Wash your pet starting by pouring water over the neck area (never submerge your pets face in water or use any soap near the eyes, mouths and ears). Move down from the neck area using lots of water at a luke warm temperature. This along with shampooing and rinsing should at least drown most of the fleas.
- Wash all your pets bedding, collars, toys etc on a warm wash cycle.
- Sprinkle salt on all soft furnishings and carpets or rugs where your pet frequents, and wash all removable fabric covers from pillows.
- Before you vacuum any surfaces, add cornflour to the vacuum bag as this will help to suffocate any fleas caught in the vacuum bag. Now vacuum all carpeting and furnishings thoroughly and empty the vacuum bag immediately into a plastic bag, seal the bag and place in an outdoor bin.
- Check your dog or cat again for fleas after he or she is dry from their bath - the best way to do this is by using a flea comb. If you feel that most of the fleas have gone, your pet may return to their bedded area.
- Repeat step 4 once a day for 10 days.
Now you'll know how to deal with fleas if you ever have the problem. I remember the fright I got when I first discovered our dog had fleas. I felt so bad that I hadn't done anything to prevent it. But I was quickly put at ease when I read that all pet owners have to deal with fleas at some point. So keep vacuuming and washing your pet's bedding, remember the lemons and hopefully you'll never be frightened of those litter critters again!
Next post will be about tidying that under the sink cupboard! You know the one I mean - and yes, I will be revealing my before and after shots of this.