I got a lot of advice, both on the blog and in real life, about getting rid of fleas after I posted Ugh! The Flea Circus is in Town.
In addition to the advice, I tried most of the ideas in my original post. I thought I'd do an update to let you know what worked, in addition to some additional flea control ideas that might work.
Flea Tip #1: Kill 'Em with Salt
Status: Unconfirmed, but Worth a Try
Jae-Jae said that a friend sprinkles the rugs and furniture liberally with salt, lets it sit overnight, then vacuums thoroughly in the morning. The salt dehydrates and kills the fleas. This method is also suggested by the website Flea Control Book. I didn't personally verify this because we got our fleas under control with other methods, but it's worth a shot if you're having a flea problem. The bonus is that salt is cheap, so you won't have to spend a lot of cash to try it out.
Edited to add: One year later, I'm using it as a way to prevent fleas from taking hold in our carpets and furniture. A generous sprinkle of salt and a thorough vacuuming a few times a week can only help!
Flea Tip #2: Vacuum the Suckers Up
In my original flea post, I said I was going to vacuum the rugs and furniture thoroughly and often. I followed through on that. It worked to get rid of adult fleas. It definitely needs to be done everyday or every other day to get the newly-hatching fleas, but this method is cheap and effective.
Flea Tip #3: Sheep-dip the Pets
In a blog comment, Anonymous said her dad used sheep-dip on the dogs to prevent fleas. I've never heard of this before and a quick Google search didn't turn up much. The only things I could find were references to sheep-dip on message boards. It seems this might be something that is available to farmers. If anyone knows more or has a link, I'd be happy to post it.
Flea Tip #4: Use Pennyroyal on Furniture and Pets to Repel Fleas
Status: Mixed Results
Pennyroyal is an herb that repels fleas, according to the book Herbal Treasures by Phyllis V. Shaudy (Garden Way Publishing, 1990). We are lucky to have a local herbal store where we can buy any (legal) herb our heart desires. I was anxious to try this, so I bought some. After I vacuumed the furniture, I sprinkled dried pennyroyal liberally under the cushions and on the arms and backs of the upholstered furniture. The next day, I vacuumed again and added more dried pennyroyal. We haven't seen any fleas on the furniture or us since then. The question is, was it the vacuuming or the pennyroyal?
I also made a pennyroyal-stuffed collar for my dog while we waited for her Advantage II to come in the mail. I don't know if the fabric weave was too tight or if the pennyroyal had lost its scent after a couple of days, but I found a flea crawling on the collar. That flea didn't seem to care one bit that it was supposed to be utterly repelled by the contents!
Flea Tip #5: Use Fleabusters
Ann commented that a vet tech she knows recommends a product called Fleabusters. It kills fleas physically, rather than chemically, so fleas can't build up a resistance to it, like they have to chemical sprays and foggers. I have not tried this, so can't verify it's effectiveness. I'd love to hear from those of you that have!
Flea Tip #6: Control Fleas Outdoors with Diatomaceous Earth
I bought some Diatomaceous Earth from a garden center, but I haven't used it yet. The idea is to sprinkle it outdoors in the areas the pets spend time. Like salt and Fleabusters, it kills fleas physically. It's a safe product that won't harm plants, large animals or people. It will kill other insects, in addition to fleas. It needs to be applied on a dry, sunny day, allowed to sit for 24 hours and then rinsed with a hose. I still want to use it and will update when I do.
Flea Tip #6: Change Chemical Flea Control Frequently
We've used Frontline for flea control on our pets for probably a decade, or at least as long as it's been available. It doesn't work for us anymore, but I'm not sure that's the Frontline itself, or the fact that the fleas in our immediate area have adapted to it. We've switched to Advantage II for the time being.
I'm positive the cats don't have fleas, but I'm not convinced the dog is flea free. I haven't seen a flea on her since we've treated her with the Advantage a week ago (Thanks to Entirely Pets, it took us much longer to get it than I would have liked. But, that's another story.) Maggie is still itching a bit, but she seems more comfortable. I'm thinking her last flea bites are still healing and the itching will taper off completely soon.
Changing flea control methods makes sense to me . It's something we are going to have to do to keep the little blood suckers at bay.
Flea Tip #7: Get the Rugs and Furniture Professionally Steam Cleaned
Status: Unconfirmed, But Pretty Sure it Will Work
I've been waiting to try this until after the fleas were under control on the pets. Now that they are, I'm ready to book a steam cleaning session. (I'll write for free steam-cleaning services. Anyone? Free review of your steam cleaning service up for grabs!) Desperate plea aside, I'm going to get my rugs cleaned, regardless. The super-powered equipment of professional steam cleaners pulls all remaining fleas and eggs out of upholstered furniture and rugs.
It's also interesting to note that we can thank our super-soaked weather for the exploding flea population. My neighbor commented that the rainy weather, courtesy of the tropical storms, drove these things out of the deep-dark crevices and into the light of day. Along with them came rodents and an extreme spike in the local mosquito population.
No matter the cause, there's been far too much itching going on around here lately. I'm ready for that first frost, now!