Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Does Alcohol Kill Fleas? Science-Based Safety & Effectiveness Advice

Cassidy Sutton

By Cassidy Sutton

Rubbing Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol, or rubbing alcohol, is a powerful disinfectant and bug repellent. Technically, rubbing alcohol can kill fleas and ticks, but the cons of using alcohol to kill fleas definitely outweigh the pros.

Instead, we will introduce safer methods for killing off infestations for good.

The 4 Reasons Why Alcohol Isn’t Ideal for Killing Fleas

1. It’s Not Practical

You’d have to pick each flea off your pet, one by one, then drown it in alcohol. Since fleas can multiply in a matter of days, you couldn’t possibly keep up with this laborious task.

a cat that feels sick and seems to vomit
Image Credit: chie hidaka, Shutterstock

2. It’s Harmful to Pets

Small animals don’t require much alcohol to feel the adverse side effects, so it’s easy to overdo it and cause alcohol poisoning in your pet.

Signs of alcohol poisoning include the following:
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shaking
  • Stumbling
  • Disorientation

It’s unlikely you’d cause alcohol poisoning in your pet just by dabbing rubbing alcohol on the skin, but it can cause localized skin irritation.

3. The Smell Is Offensive

Alcohol smells terrible, and your pet can smell the offensive odor far better than you can thanks to its powerful sense of smell. For this reason, your pet could be triggered to bathe itself, causing it to lap up some alcohol in the process.

4. Alcohol Is Flammable

This point won’t apply to everyone, but those who have active fireplaces or smoke frequently should be wary of using alcohol on their pets, furnishing, clothing, and other fabrics. Alcohol is flammable and can cause severe damage if you’re not careful.

cotton pads and alcohol
Image Credit: Fangfy, Shutterstock

Top 7 Methods of Vanquishing Fleas (Without Alcohol)

So, if you can’t use alcohol, what can you use?

Fleas are pesky but there are plenty of options for effectively eliminating them. You may have to spend more time and money on treatment, depending on your pest problem, but it will be worth it. Here’s how to tackle fleas the right way:

1. Take Your Pet to the Vet

Getting your pet on a flea and tick preventative is always a good idea. If the infestation is bad enough, your vet may need to prescribe stronger forms of medications to kill the fleas on your pet or treat any secondary issues like skin irritation or infection. Once the issue is resolved, you can restart your pet on flea and tick preventative.

vet checking up a dog with health certificate on his hand
Image Credit: Ivonne Wierink, Shutterstock

2. Use a Flea and Tick Shampoo

There are several flea and tick shampoos, each with varying degrees of effectiveness. Ideally, you want a shampoo that kills adult fleas and larvae and soothes the skin simultaneously.

3. Use a Fine Comb and Pick Out the Fleas

Use a fine comb and pick out the fleas and larvae. If you’ve ever dealt with lice or fleas, you know how tedious this task is. Still, it works and will prevent fleas from overtaking your house.

flea combing a tabby cat
Image Credit: Simone Hogan, Shutterstock

4. Flea-Repellent Collars

Store bought flea collars are often ineffective and can cause skin irritation around the neck. There are some safe and effective flea and tick repellent collars available through your vet.

5. Wash and Vacuum Clothes, Linens, and Rugs

Fleas will hide in any fabric as if the fibers are pet fur. Vacuum and wash your clothes in hot water to kill those pesky critters. Don’t forget your pet’s bedding as well!

curious Sphynx cat laundry washing machine hepper nest liner

6. Use a Steamer

If you don’t have a steamer, you should think about investing in one! This simple tool can disinfect, remove wrinkles, ward off allergens, and kill insects in materials that can’t go in the washing machine. Just fill it with water, plug it in, and the machine does the rest.

7. Call in the Pros

You may need to call a professional exterminator if the flea infestation is bad enough. A professional will do a walk-through of your home, locate areas where the fleas are breeding, and organize an action plan.

Calling an exterminator is the most expensive option. Still, it’s worth not having fleas jumping out of the carpet and biting your legs.

a woman spraying the furnitures at home
Image Credit: leungchopan, Shutterstock

Be Willing to Repeat the Steps

You’ll likely have to repeat these steps until the flea problem is resolved. Flea eggs hatch in 1 to 10 days and spread like wildfire, so don’t feel discouraged if you try everything you can and the fleas aren’t going away.

Natural Remedies to Try

Not keen on using tons of chemicals? No problem. Natural options exist for ridding your house and pets of fleas.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a chemical-free organic powder that contains high amounts of silica. This powder works by dehydrating insects to the point where they die. You can even find food-grade diatomaceous earth that’s safe to use around your pets.

Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

Essential Oils

Cedarwood, lavender, lemongrass, and tea tree oil help keep pests away. Use these oils when cleaning your house or mix them with a carrier oil and spray directly on the area you believe the fleas are breeding.

However, please remember to keep essential oils out of your pet’s reach.

Natural Flea & Tick Shampoo

Natural flea and tick shampoos are deemed pesticide-free. They won’t work as well, but they’ll kick some fleas to the curb.


Having to deal with fleas in the house is a lot to deal with, but you’re not alone. Pet owners everywhere have had to deal with this problem. That’s why so many flea and tick options exist in the first place.

Conquering fleas once and for all is difficult but not impossible. Just don’t use alcohol. Opt for the other options we mentioned above and your home will be flea-free in no time.

Featured Image Credit: Rubbing Alcohol (ajay_suresh, via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database