Fleas are not just a hassle for you and your pets. Flea bites can lead to skin problems and other health issues in pets and humans. Once you find yourself with a flea infestation, it is difficult to eliminate the pests from your home. This is mainly due to the flea's life cycle. Fleas can remain dormant in the pupae stage and are resistant to flea control methods until they emerge into adult fleas.
Flea control products for use on cats and dogs can help keep fleas off your pets and reduce the flea population in the environment. However, a major infestation requires more attention to remove fleas, larva, and pupae from your home. Many people turn to diatomaceous earth to reduce fleas form their homes.
There are many environmental flea control products on the market, some more effective than others. Some of these are harsh chemicals that must be used with caution. Fortunately, diatomaceous earth is a natural substance that can help reduce the fleas in your home.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a powdered substance made from a soft sedimentary rock that occurs naturally in the environment. This rock is formed over time by the fossilized remains of one-celled organisms called diatoms that naturally contain silica. Dead diatoms decay and fossilize over time, forming sedimentary rock deposits in bodies of water. These deposits can be mined and easily made into a fine powder.
Diatomaceous earth consists of silica and traces of other natural minerals. Each particle has microscopic jagged edges that can cause irritation to certain surfaces. It also has a natural drying effect. When viewed under a high-powered microscope, diatomaceous earth particles look like shards of glass.
How Diatomaceous Earth Works on Fleas
Fleas and some other insects have exoskeletons, which are hard outer bodies or shells. When these insects touch diatomaceous earth, the tiny abrasive particles damage their exoskeletons and cling to their bodies, absorbing the moisture from their bodies until they dry up and perish.
Adult fleas may begin to die as quickly as four hours after contact with diatomaceous earth. The particles may kill some flea larvae as well, but it is not effective against flea eggs or pupae.
There are two main kinds of diatomaceous earth available for purchase: Food Grade and Filter Grade. Be sure to get the food grade form as the filter grade variety is not safe for use in your home.
How to Use Diatomaceous Earth to Control Fleas
Diatomaceous earth is easy to use and non-toxic to pets and humans. The goal of using diatomaceous earth for flea control is to minimize fleas in your pet's environment. The powder should not be applied directly to pets unless you are specifically instructed to do so by your veterinarian. Although it is not toxic, it can cause dryness and irritation. To keep fleas off of pets, use an effective flea control product developed specifically for the species of pet.
- Obtain food-grade diatomaceous earth (rather than filter grade, which can be hazardous).
- Wear gloves and a face mask to protect yourself from the drying effects of diatomaceous earth.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of diatomaceous earth all over your home, including carpets, rugs, hardwood floors, around baseboards, and on upholstery.
- Diatomaceous earth can be used outdoors but you will need to use much more. The effects may not last long depending on weather conditions.
- Allow the diatomaceous earth to remain in place for about three days.
- Vacuum all areas thoroughly then empty the vacuum canister or bag.
- Repeat steps one through five as necessary.
If you continue to see fleas on your pets or in the environment, consult your veterinarian for advice. You may need to put your pets on a more effective flea control regimen. For severe flea infestations, you may need to have a professional exterminator treat your home and yard.
Although food grade diatomaceous earth is safe for use around pets and humans, it should still be used with caution. Avoid breathing in the dust as is can dry out and irritate the airways of humans and pets. It can also irritate eyes and dry out the skin. Wear a mask and gloves when using diatomaceous earth. Remove pets from the area being treated until all the dust settles.
Considerations Before Using Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is safe to use on pet bedding. However, prolonged exposure can have a slight drying effect on your pet's skin. For better flea prevention, wash pet bedding in hot water once a week.
Because diatomaceous earth kills with a mechanical method (rather than chemical) fleas will not become immune to it.
Diatomaceous earth must be dry to work. Do not wet it down or mix it with water to make a spray. Also, note that diatomaceous earth is less effective in humid environments.
Diatomaceous Earth. National Pesticide Information Center.