Washing Away Those Fleas

We have hot, humid summers and, with such a mild winter, this has become one of  the worst flea seasons in Mississippi since as long as I can remember.  My first attempt to eradicate these ferocious biters was with diatomaceous dirt.  It was slowly working but I found I had to rub it into Kirby’s fur almost daily. He was still scratching but somewhat less.  What I hated almost as much as the fleas was how it made my house look so filthy and Kirby looking like he hadn’t had a bath in a very long time.

In my search for another natural way to combat this flea infestation, I discovered an amazing and safe product.  I wasn't the first since there are numerous testimonies across the internet praising this inexpensive, household item prompting me to give it a try.  


Original Blue Formula Dawn is the same product used to clean wildlife in the Gulf Coast after the oil spill.  It is safer than any chemicals and has been recommended by veterinarians.  Following are the steps I'm using to eradicate the flea invasion in my home.

Directions for your pet:

  • Fill a bathtub with warm water. Do not use extremely hot water while bathing your pet. The amount of time the dish washing detergent stays on your dog's fur, not the water's temperature, is what kills fleas.
  • Wash your hands and arms up to about the elbow with the soap. This will prevent fleas from jumping on you during the bath, biting you, and then re-infesting the pet.
  • Place your dog into the bathtub and fully soak him or her.   I am washing our large current foster dog in the kiddie pool in the backyard.
  • Squirt dish washing detergent onto the fur and massage. Add enough dish washing detergent to create a full lather on your dog's body. You will need to spend several minutes scrubbing him or her, more depending on the severity of the fleas. Be gently while scrubbing but you will need to scrub well to get to the skin where the fleas will hide. Having a pet brush on hand can be helpful when getting deep in the hair.
  • Pay special attention to the head, ears, face and neck areas as fleas migrate to these undisturbed points when their habitats are disrupted. This means you will probably have to add a tiny drop of detergent and rinse. You can pick them off the face as you see them so you don't get soap and water in the eyes.
  • Be very cautious when washing around the eyes. If contact with the eyes occurs, rinse with cool water and dry with a towel.
  • Let the soap sit on your pet's fur for about 15 minutes while it kills the active fleas.  I just keep massaging the detergent into the fur so he thinks we aren’t done.
  • Rinse when you see dead fleas. When you start to see fleas fall off into the tub, you will need to rinse the pet to get rid of the dead fleas and get to the live ones. Scrub until you see no fleas in the tub when you rinse which can take a few minutes.  The soap residue may irritate your pet's skin so rinse the fur thoroughly.
  • Comb the fur with a flea comb allowing the fleas to drop into the soapy water.
  • When finished let the fur dry naturally.
  • Slather a fur or skin conditioner for dogs on your pet so that its naturally occurring body oils are balanced again.
  • Rinse the bathtub out to get rid of dead fleas.
  • Do this at least once a week or when flea problems arise.

For pets that cannot be bathed, such as cats:

  • Take a bowl and mix 2-3 teaspoons of detergent and fill the rest a little over half full with water.
  • Use a spoon or fork to mix well until it's bubbly.
  • Use a flea comb and dip the fleas in the bowl of water and detergent. This kills them instantaneously. This can take quite a while, but it's worth it.
  • Scrub deep into the fur, but be very careful not to scrub too hard. If the pet cries, you're scrubbing too roughly.
  • Continue combing until you see no more fleas.
  • If you notice more fleas within a couple of days after bathing, simply repeat the process every couple of days.

Directions for your home

  • Vacuum often being sure to empty the bag or bin into a sealable garbage bag and placing in your outside garbage container.
  • Steam clean your floors and upholstery with a few squirts of the dish detergent added to the hot water compartment. If you don’t have a steam cleaner then mop your floors and lightly sponge clean your upholstery.  My tile floors are clean and shiny with no sticky residue.
  • Wash all pet bedding, toys, etc. in hot water using a small amount of the dish detergent.
  • Mix a few drops of dish detergent with water in a spray bottle and spray on problem areas such as carpets, pet bedding, and toys.
  • Make sure you are not using Dawn with bleach which could cause discoloration.
  • If you notice you are leaving a soapy residue then use less soap.
  • Do this once a week when you do your normal cleaning.

Directions for your Yard

 Don’t forget your yard because each time your pet ventures into the yard a new crop of fleas will infest your pet

  • Mow your lawn to a height of 1-1/2 to 2 inches. This allows sunlight to heat the ground killing flea eggs and allows the spray to reach the ground where fleas and their eggs live.
  • Fill a lawn sprayer with water and add 1 oz. of Dawn dish soap.  I use an empty Miracle Grow feeder bottle that snaps into a thing on my water hose. Remove the top, squirt some soap in and re-attach it to the water hose.  Using the feeder option I “fed” some fleas!
  • Spray your entire yard with the Dawn dish soap and water mixture in the late evening so the detergent has several hours before the sun rises and dries the soapy water reducing its effectiveness.  It’s soap so I further spray down my deck and patio furniture letting the spray drip down the cracks to the ground under the deck.  I also spray all of my flower beds and I haven’t seen any problems arise for my flowers or vegetables.  Basically, I am spraying everything!
  • Repeat this for two or three days in a row and again approximately 10 to 12 days after the first spraying. This will allow flea eggs that were present during your first spraying to hatch and allow you to kill the next batch of fleas.
  • Continue to spray with Dawn every few weeks to maintain a flea-free yard.  I really focus on the back fenced area Kirby plays in.  I also spray my flower and vegetable beds and have not found any detrimental effects.
  • I've also noticed less problems with mosquitoes around my deck which could be a coincidence or another added benefit.

I started this process last weekend.  Seven days later Kirby started scratching again which told me the flea eggs had hatched.  I again went through the entire process.  It was time consuming taking a full day but was well worth the effort.  My house is shining like a copper penny and the Kirbster is back to his old self.  Relief and comfort is everything.  Not having to use chemicals on his little body is a further comfort becuase I don't have to worry about poisons slowly seeping into his skin causing irreparable harm.   

I have also begun adding small amounts of garlic powder to his meals which is supposed to make his skin give off a slight garlic odor insects hate.  It's only June so I plan to be diligent throughout the summer months ahead.  

Have you tried Dawn?  I would love to hear about your experiences and what worked for you.