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Will Bleach Kill Fleas? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ


May 8, 2023
Powdered bleach spread on the table


Powdered bleach spread on the table
Dr. Lauren Demos Photo

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Fleas are a nuisance insect that most pet owners deal with, mainly in the spring and summer months. Fleas have impressive jumping skills and can propel themselves 40 to 100 times their body length in distance, jumping up to 2 feet in height. To gain perspective on their jumping skills, this is equivalent to a 6-foot human jumping approximately 336 feet! They are small, black, wingless, and hard to kill due to their long life cycle. So, how do you get rid of these pests? Will bleach kill fleas? The answer is yes, bleach is effective in killing fleas; however, bleach is harmful to pets.

So, what to do? In this article, we’ll explore the use of bleach on fleas and how to remove fleas from your home and pet safely.


How Is Bleach Harmful to Pets?

Bleach is highly effective in killing fleas due to its significant toxicity. Not only does bleach kill fleas, but it also kills all stages of the life cycle, including the eggs and larvae. Bleach contains an active component called sodium hypochlorite that kills fleas quickly and it only takes 2 to 3 hours to kill them entirely, eggs and all. That sounds wonderful, right? Unfortunately, the same product that kills fleas is also harmful to your pets.

Bleach can cause severe skin lesions on your pet and may also cause respiratory and digestive issues if accidentally consumed. In a nutshell, if you have pets, you should never use bleach as a method of killing fleas.

sad french bulldog
Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Fleas Without Harming Pets? 

Bleach is out of the question for killing fleas around your fur babies, but what can you use to kill them safely around your pets? Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a DIY option for killing some life-cycle stages of fleas around your home.1 DE is made from fossilized diatoms, which are single-celled algae that inhabit streams, oceans, lakes, and other water channels. The cell walls of these fossilized diatoms are made of a fine powder called silica.

Silica is made up of tiny particles that act like shards of glass when fleas venture through it. Since fleas have a hard exoskeleton that is hard to break, the silica penetrates the exoskeleton, causing the flea to dry up and die.

Applying DE directly onto your cat or dog’s fur is not recommended, as this method is ineffective in killing fleas. Instead, sprinkle DE in the areas you see fleas, such as the perimeter of your yard. Most veterinarians do not recommend using DE due to overusing the product, and DE only kills adult fleas; plus, you should use safety precautions when handling it. If you choose to sprinkle the product in your yard, ensure you wear clothing to protect the skin, goggles, and a dust mask to prevent respiratory issues.

What Are the Most Common Fleas to Worry About?

There are over 2,500 species of fleas worldwide, with 300 species in the United States. Fortunately, only a few species of fleas pose a risk to humans and pets,2 which are as follows:

  • Dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis): The dog flea can spread a tapeworm called Dipylidium caninum and is more commonly found in dogs and cats; however, humans are not immune, as they can occasionally affect us too. Oddly enough, the dog flea is not as common on dogs in the US.
  • Ground squirrel flea (Oropsylla montana): A flea bite from this species can spread plague, a bacterium that can be spread to humans and other mammals. Thankfully, antibiotics are effective in killing this disease, but prompt treatment is needed to avoid serious illness or death.
  • Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis): This species can spread cat-scratch disease (CSD) and flea-borne typhus. Despite the name, this flea is more commonly found on dogs and other domestic pets. This flea can spread plague bacteria but not as efficiently as the ground squirrel flea. They are commonly found in rural areas in the western part of the country.
  • Oriental Rat Flea (Xenopsylla cheopis): This rat-associated flea can spread plague and flea-borne typhus globally.
close up fleas on cat
Image Credit: KanphotoSS, Shutterstock

Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe from Fleas

The best form of protection against fleas for pets is keeping your pet on a monthly flea and tick preventative. You can choose from a topical application, pill form, or a flea and tick collar. These items are available from your veterinarian.

We recommend consulting your veterinarian before putting your pet on any medication to ensure it’s safe for your pet, as some medications may come with adverse side effects. You should also consult your vet if your dog has an illness to ensure the product is safe.


Final Thoughts 

As a pet owner, you will more than likely deal with fleas at some point. While bleach is effective in killing fleas, do not use the product due to its toxicity to pets. Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth will kill adult fleas, but ensure you use caution when using this product. Do not apply it directly to your pet’s coat and take the mentioned safety precautions when applying. Avoid applying DE to your pet’s bedding, especially cats, due to potential respiratory harm if licked off.

Keep your pet on monthly flea and tick preventative, and if the flea problem is significant, consider calling your local pest control to eradicate them.

Featured Image Credit: kropekk_pl, Pixabay

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