Flea-Busting The RV – The Non-Toxic Way

It is a sad day indeed
When you see a flea in the RV
(Nina Fussing, 2010)

Flea’s in the RV? Don’t blame the dog. It’s the environment.

In retrospect almost anything can be poetic, and the day certainly started that way. A gentle breeze, soft sunshine on the verdant grass. I was playing a leisurely game of fetch with the dog, reading Oscar Wilde and picturing a 1920’s beach party. The usual stuff. When we’d quite satiated our senses, we drifted into the RV for a well-deserved afternoon nap.

And that’s when I saw them…

There were 20…no, actually make that 40….no, no…in fact, you can easily raise that to 100 little black bastards crawling on the floor. “Aaaaahh, fleas, fleas!” I screamed, hyperventilating and going into a minor panic. After all, we’d been at this campsite 3 days and as everyone knows fleas make their bed in the environment. The dog (or cat, or even you for that matter) are just mere snacks. The fleas hop on for a quick bite and then hop off to spend the rest of their life making merriment in your home. Also, only 5% are adults. So, those mere 100 bugs on the dog were the least of my worries. I was panicking about the thousands of potential eggs and larvae around the RV.

Now, there’s many ways to kill a flea, but we chose the least toxic, most environmental methods both for our own sake and the health of our pets. So, here’s what you can do:

1/ Vacuum, Wash and Flea-Comb: This is the safest way to deal with fleas anywhere. Lots of vacuuming, wash everything you have  (soap and heat will kill fleas and their eggs), and flea-comb your pet several times/day (dunk any fleas in some soapy water to drown them). Then, do it all again, and again, and again for the next few weeks. Fleas have a several week life-cycle, so it takes persistence to get rid of them.

2/ Bathing Your Pet: If you need to bathe your pet to get rid of the 1st infestation, any regular bath that lathers will kill the adult fleas. Only do this once and then use the flea-comb so you don’t dry out pooch’s skin.

Cheap & Effective Borax

3/ Extra Help w/ Borates: If you need a little extra help in the environment, borates are a good, relatively safe choice. There’s boric acid options (Fleabusters or Fleago), or sodium tetraborate (20 Mule Team Borax – you can get this at Walmart). Sprinkle it on all your carpet (all corners) and then work it completely in with a brush until all the white powder is gone. Leave for 24-hours and then vacuum. Borates will eliminate immature fleas only, so you still need to work on the adults with #1.

4/ Extra Help For the Vacuum:  I don’t use flea collars on pets due to their toxicity, but I’ve found they’re perfect for the vacuum bag. Cut off a piece and vacuum it up. It’ll kill any fleas you vacuum and save you having to change and throw away the bag every time (which can be pricy w/ central RV vacuums)

That’s pretty much it. There’s plenty of other methods, but these are the ones we chose to do. 7 days, 25 vacuums, 30 flea-combs, a pass with borates, and 3 hot clothes wash’s later and I’m happy to report there’s not a single flea left. I’ve got to keep at it for a few weeks due to the eggs, but I’m pretty confident I have this bug conquered.

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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. rvfulltimers says

    Forgot how much I hated the little buggers. We don’t have heartworm, fleas, or ticks up here. It has been really nice, and much less expensive. Not looking forward to fighting that battle again.

  2. ant says

    Had a massive tick infestation from our dogs once in HK in our carpeted apartment but dealt with it in a slightly lazier approach – a bit of vacuuming and washing but mainly used Frontline (http://frontline.us.merial.com/) to end the infestation cycle – would recommend on using it for the rest of your trip – remember not to wash the pets for a few days before or after application and increase the dosing frequency to 3 weeks if you are in heavily infested areas and your pets are off leash.

    Good Luck!

    • libertatemamo says

      Frontline is definitely an option, and will kill adult fleas and ticks effectively but does also carry some potential toxic side-effects since it’s a chemical pesticide. For fleas you do still need to treat the environment. Frontline only kills the fleas actually on the dog, and the majority of eggs are in the environment. Appreciate you sharing your experience!

  3. rvfulltimers says

    Hi Nina,
    Sorry for the delayed reaction on this. I’ve been finishing up the siding on our house and getting more things done to the RV, as well as getting our toad ready to go.
    I had to think it through and look through a box I have in my garage of my supplies from when I was a dog groomer. There is a product that my customers loved, and I loved. It was used up here to keep mosquitoes off my pups when they were out in the yard, but because it is an all-natural product – it is great for spraying a perimeter around your motorhome whenever you stop. It is made by Best Shot and here is the information (it is used by a lot of people who do field trials and agility with their dogs)


    Best Shot’s ready to use all natural insect repellent is great for dogs, cats, horses too!

    Its unique blend of Tea Tree, Rosemary, Sage, Cedarwood, Peppermint, Orange, Eucalyptus, Citronella and Pine extracts is a proven remedy for an age old problem.

    Perfect for those long walks or rides in the park. Great for the outdoorsman, agility trials and field trials.

    You can find it here:

    You can buy a gallon of it, and it dilutes so much that you put it in a spray bottle. It would probably last you a year or two.

    BTW…I also met this old guy when I was camping who was spraying something around his motorhome when we were a particularly “pesty” park. He said he’d been using it for years. Murphy’s Oil Soap! Diluted in water. He sprayed it at the entrance to his RV and all around it. No mosquitoes or ants. (or fleas and ticks)

    I use Murphy’s oil soap in our birch trees and spray it on aphids and other annoying bugs. It’s fantastic.

    • libertatemamo says

      Thanks for the tip! I can’t use the Best Shot or any type of essential oils on the dog because of the cats (essential oils are toxic to them and I can’t have them anywhere in the environment), but this is another great solution for people travelling w/ dogs only.
      Oh, and interesting about the Murphy’s Oil Soap…would never have thought.

      Getting excited yet? You’re almost there!!

  4. rvfulltimers says

    Forgot to put the name of it up there: Best Shot ®All Natural BUG SPRAY and it is about 2/3rds of the way down that page I sent you to.

  5. says

    Great tips! We use Cedar oil on Wyatt and haven’t seen a single flea… yet. Diatomaceous Earth is another natural flea killer that works well on beds and carpets. We wrote about that and other natural flea and tick remedies in the Tripawds News blog.

    • libertatemamo says

      Thanks, Jerry. Cedar Oil is another great natural tip (as long as you don’t have cats). And, DE is great too. I’ve read alot of people who use it and have good success.

  6. Cis says

    Also, PennyRoyal, an essential oil that you can buy at a health food store works great. It is a natural repellent and astingent. I put a drop or two on my cats collar (she does not love it),and fleas (and mosquitos!) run. That and combing really keeps the population down here in Florida!

    • libertatemamo says

      I would actually not recommend doing this. I realize it may work for you, but essential oils are toxic to cats and it’s the very reason I don’t use them myself. Specifically cats lack the enzyme glucuronyl tranferases and so have trouble metabolizing essential oils through the liver. This is different from dogs & humans (who tolerate them fine). The effects in a cat may not be immediate, but they accumulate over time and can lead to liver damage. There are lots of aticles on this on the web, just google “essential oil toxicity in cats”. I would not recommend using any essential oils around cats.

  7. says

    Have you ever tried (food-grade) diatomaceous earth? We use it on our two pugs instead of either flea collars or flea birth control (monthly tablets). DE is sharp on the microscopic level and cuts and then dehydrates little bugs with exoskeletons, causing them to die an unpleasant death in about two hours of having come in contact with it. I just rub some into their fur and they are good to go! I also rub some it into the carpets.

    • libertatemamo says

      Never tried it directly on the fur, but have used it externally (in a garden, back when we had one). You do have to be somewhat careful about inhalation risks, but it’s a good product and definitely does the job.

  8. Bea says

    One of my dogs had an allergic reaction to Advantage three years ago; he had to spend the weekend in the ER. So, now I’m extra careful. For some reason this spring, we got a horrible flea infestation. I did use Advantage once on the cat, who lives mostly separately from the dogs. But, otherwise, it was the flea comb and baths. What I finally found that totally eradicated the fleas, inside and out, was 100% Neem Oil (this one was organic, Dr. Somebody’s from chewy dot com); some sources say not to use it on cats, so I didn’t. You put a few drops in 8 oz of something other than water (I used dog conditioner) and rub it on their fur. I like the scent; but, fleas hate it. In fact, if I skipped a spot, that would be the spot where the fleas were hiding, the next time I combed. At first, I was getting 40 fleas per day, per dog. After several months, none at all, and that has continued, although I stopped using the Neem about 4 months ago. I think they all just starved to death, since they wouldn’t feed on the parts of the pets with the Neem on them.

    • libertatemamo says

      Nice tip with the Neem. We carry Advantage in the RV, but we’ve only ever used it *once* on our dog in 5 years, specifically in a spot that was over-infested with ticks (ticks much more than fleas are the one thing that scares me). I don’t like using anything toxic on my pets (or us) so I will always try to find a more natural solution. Thanks for sharing yours!


  9. Bea says

    Oh, and Neem is also antibacterial. One dog had terrible hot spots until the fleas were gone. I found that Neem healed them as well as any of the hot spot products I bought.

  10. Susanna says

    Interesting ideas.

    Advantix (not sure on Advantage or Frontline) is toxic to cats the first few days after applying to your dogs but it is the only topical that works in my area.
    Apparently the fleas and ticks can outsmart these products after time.

    One pair of orphan puppies I was fostering were infested with fleas, it was awful. The vet rubbed a lice remover all over them and that is safe, basically what you would buy for kids and he left it in their fur, it is chemical though so not sure you would like that but sometimes you have to bring the big guns out.
    I also rubbed baby oil in the spots the fleas were really in and that worked, they can’t live where oil is and the puppies smelled good


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