Fleas are not just annoying to deal with; these pesky bugs can cause extreme itchiness and discomfort to our furry companions and, sometimes, to humans. They can also be deadly to young kittens, and without proper management they will reproduce at an alarming rate.
You might have heard already about Dawn dishwashing soap – perhaps through an advertisement or from another cat owner who swears by its effectiveness at getting rid of fleas. And, if you are watching your feline friend suffering from intense itching and irritation, it could be enticing to try this remedy, especially since it is readily available in your kitchen.
But, you may be wondering: is Dawn actually safe for your cat, and does it truly eradicate fleas?
Dawn is quite a popular dish soap, as well as a home remedy for fleas. So, what makes it effective at managing flea infestations? Let us break down the details below.
How Dawn dish soap kills fleas
Dawn dish soap is one of the most popular liquid dish soap brands in the US. It is a versatile cleaner, effective on almost any surface covered with oil, grime, and tough dirt, including upholstery, kitchen tops, and even clothing. Thanks to its safety and effectiveness, it has also become a common home remedy for removing grease and fleas from pet fur.
Dawn dishwashing soap is a non-allergenic product and is known to be well-tolerated on human skin. It is formulated with surfactants that effectively break the barrier between grease and water, making it easier to detach grime or dirt from dishes, clothing, and even animal fur.
The surfactants present in Dawn liquid soap also reduce the surface tension of water. So, instead of floating on the surface, they bind with the water to easily break down the dirt, stains, and oil. The same process also helps to drown the fleas – but how exactly does that work?
Fleas have tough exoskeletons and lightweight bodies, which makes it challenging for them to be removed by water alone. The combination of water’s high surface tension and their very light weight means it is very difficult to drown them.
Another interesting fact is that fleas are covered with a waxy coating that effectively repels water. Furthermore, their bodies are also designed with little combs that can firmly grip onto animals’ fur.
So, fleas can survive while floating on water, and can even repel it. What about submerging them under the water? Unfortunately, this also does not work. Although fleas might appear dead when submerged, they can survive up to 24 hours and easily recover after about four to five hours once they are out of the water again.
To effectively eradicate these pests from your pet’s fur, Dawn dishwashing soap works in three ways:
- The surfactants and other ingredients in the soap reduce the water’s surface tension and compromise the flea’s exoskeleton. This way, it is easier to drown adult fleas.
- The active ingredients effectively remove the flea’s waxy protective coating, allowing water to penetrate its respiratory system.
- The soap’s rich suds block the air openings in the exoskeleton, preventing the flea from breathing, or from recovering after submersion in water.
What about the fleas’ eggs?
Flea eggs can also be removed with Dawn dishwashing soap, because the eggs are smooth and cannot grip strongly to your pet’s fur. When washed thoroughly with soap and water, the eggs will be washed off and sink easily down the drain.
However, Dawn liquid soap alone will not be effective at eradicating the flea infestation. Additional measures have to be taken in order to prevent these bugs from coming back.
The first thing is to ensure that you eradicate the pests throughout your house. It is likely that flea eggs have fallen from your pet’s hair everywhere it goes. Once they have settled in your environment, the eggs will only need about ten days to hatch and then cause a reinfestation. So, be sure to vacuum your rugs, cushions, carpets, and sofas. Clean all the bedding, especially your cat’s bedding, with detergent and water.
Fleas can also thrive in any shady areas, so make sure that your yard is free from pests as well. Here are some ways to ensure that your yard is not an attractive breeding place for fleas:
- Mow the lawn regularly. This will keep the soil exposed to the sun, making it unbearable for the pests.
- Avoid overwatering your garden plants. Remember that fleas thrive in moist and humid environments.
- Rake your soil thoroughly to expose potential breeding places to the sunlight.
- Keep rodents and other stray animals away from your home.
Is Dawn dish soap non-toxic and safe for cats?
In general, Dawn dishwashing liquid is completely safe for cats and other animals. However, it should only be used as a quick and temporary measure. Prolonged use can cause excessive dryness on your pet’s delicate skin and might worsen any pre-existing skin conditions.
Keep in mind that the detergents in Dawn are not designed for your pet’s skin. Unlike human skin, the skin of animals like cats will not be able to tolerate this soap so well, due to their thinner epidermal layer. If you are dealing with reinfestation, Dawn might not be the best long-term solution. It may irritate your pet’s skin further and cause a new problem.
When to use Dawn on cats
Dawn is a great solution if you need a fast remedy for fleas. You can use it if you spot a stray flea to prevent it from reproducing further. Dawn is also an excellent combination with other infestation treatments. However, as mentioned above, it can dry out your pet’s skin and cause irritations, so make sure that you only use it sparingly.
Dawn also works well for young kittens that are covered in fleas but too young to use preventative flea medications. Dilute a small amount of the soap in warm water when bathing your kittens, but make sure to use just enough to get rid of the pests without causing skin irritations.
How to use Dawn to kill fleas
Dawn dishwashing soap is generally a safe and effective solution for getting rid of fleas on cats. You can use it like your cat’s regular shampoo when you bathe her. Here are some tips for bathing your pet with Dawn:
- Fill the bathtub or bucket with lukewarm water. Make sure that the water level is not too deep for your pet – it should only come up to your cat’s belly.
- In a separate container, dilute three tablespoons of Dawn in one liter of water. Mix well until you are able to work up a lather.
- Place the cat in the bathtub and soak her fur thoroughly, from head to toe. Cats with thick fur might need more time to soak their coats in the water.
- Pour the Dawn and water mixture over your cat’s coat. Rub the soap gently into the fur until the entire body is covered with soap. Scrub the areas where fleas are more likely to hide, such as the ears, tail, and legs. Avoid getting the soap into your cat’s eyes.
- Leave the soap for about five to ten minutes before rinsing, and use a fine comb to remove any dead fleas from your cat’s fur. To prevent skin dryness do not leave the soap longer than ten minutes.
- Rinse your cat with warm water. If you still see any random fleas, you may repeat the process once more. Do not use the Dawn soap repeatedly as this can cause skin irritation.
- If the infestation is severe, it is best to seek your vet’s help. Dawn soap should only be used as a temporary relief; never as a long-term solution for killing fleas on cats.
Other home remedies for getting rid of fleas
While commercial flea medications are effective at banishing these nuisance pests, there are other home remedies you can try to manage your cat’s flea problems. These natural alternatives can work best in combination with flea treatments to completely eradicate the infestation. These alternative are:
1. Coconut oil
Coconut oil may not completely kill off the fleas, but it does work as an effective tick and flea repellent due to the lauric acid present in the oil. It also soothes your cat’s irritated skin and prevents further itchiness and skin wounds from developing.
2. Apple cider vinegar
Another popular home remedy that fleas hate is apple cider vinegar. Just like coconut oi, the acidic properties of apple cider vinegar work as a repellent. Simply dilute the vinegar in water using a 2:1 ratio, and spray the mixture directly onto your cat’s coat. Repeat this until you have managed the infestation.
3. Lemon juice
The citric acid present in lemons is an effective remedy for getting rid of fleas. Boil a few slices of lemon in water and then pour the drained liquid into a spray bottle. Carefully spray the solution onto your cat’s coat, avoiding the eye areas as lemons can cause irritation. Repeat the process until the fleas are eradicated.
If your cat hates being sprayed with water, you can use a comb dipped in the lemon mixture instead. Use a fine comb to brush the fleas out. You can also add the lemon juice when washing clothes and bedding to kill any remaining bugs.
4. Lavender and chamomile
Another gentle way to soothe your cat’s skin while keeping fleas at bay is by using lavender and chamomile. In fact, these remedies are as effective as commercial sprays when it comes to killing fleas. You can steep a chamomile tea or fresh lavender in clean water and use the strained liquid on your cat’s fur. Repeat the treatment every day until the fleas are gone.
Ways to prevent flea infestations
Fleas can be very unpleasant, both for you and your cat. Prevent future infestations by following these simple tips:
- Clean your house thoroughly to get rid of any eggs left behind. Remember that fleas love hiding in crevices where they can reproduce undisturbed, so vacuum every part of the house: cracks, furniture, bare floors, carpets, and other areas where fleas are likely to hide.
- Wash all linen, bedding, blankets, towels, clothes, and other fabrics every two to three weeks.
- Maintain your yard regularly to prevent it from becoming a breeding ground for fleas.
- Make sure that your furry friend gets her monthly preventative flea treatments.
- Constantly monitor for any presence of fleas, including flea eggs and dirt, so that you can deal with them right away.
- Consider using a flea collar on your cat.
The bottom line
Dawn dish soap is a safe and effective solution for killing fleas on cats. However, it is not the ideal long-term solution due to its tendency to irritate our pets’ delicate skin. If your furry companion is badly infested with fleas, it is still best to visit your vet for the appropriate flea medications.
Image: istockphoto.com / Karin Chantanaprayura