Fleas are a nuisance pest that can carry disease organisms and parasites. They can also cause allergies for you or your pet. But flea powders, flea repellents, insecticidal shampoos or room foggers contain chemical pesticides that may do more harm than the pests they are designed to kill. Opt for the following less-toxic control methods:
Flea combs are one of the healthiest ways to keep infestations under control, since they involve no chemicals whatsoever. Use combs in the bathtub or outside in a tub of soapy water, which will kill fleas as they fall or are combed off your pet. Dunk the comb in the soapy water after each run-through to kill fleas. (Note: You can find these at all pet supply stores, so we didn’t include any on our Product Comparisons page.)
Chemical-free but energy intensive, flea traps use a lightbulb to lure pests to sticky surfaces. They’re available commercially, but you can make your own by hanging a lightbulb 6 to 12 inches above a pan of soapy water or a sticky surface.
Herbal Flea Collars
These don’t kill fleas but they prevent the bugs from jumping on your pet. If there are pregnant women or pregnant pets in your home, avoid herbal collars and products that contain pennyroyal oil, which is an abortive herb.
Less toxic than chemical pesticides, desiccating dusts kill insects by dehydrating them. The three most common are diatomaceous earth (DE), silica aerogel and boric acid. However, these dusts can irritate the lungs if inhaled, so wear a dust mask during application and vacuum afterwards to pick up extra dust. Also, read labels carefully to make sure you are using a DE intended for pest control, rather than a glassified DE (used in swimming pool filters), which can cause lung disease. Silica aerogel and some formulations of DE can be applied directly to pets and their bedding—read label instructions carefully.