Tea tree oil has been used for well over a century to help treat wounds, get rid of fungal infections, and deter unwanted pests. However, modern medicine is still struggling to catch up with the anecdotal evidence surrounding tea tree oil. Consequently, it can be a challenge to use it correctly, safely, and effectively in treating household fleas.
Tea tree oil is derived from Australian paperbark trees, relatively popular due to its antimicrobial properties. Tea tree oil may be used to repel fleas and is safe to spray on most fabrics. Diluted oil solutions can also be applied to humans and pets to help them shed any remaining fleas.
In this guide, we’ll explore what tea tree oil is and where it comes from. We’ll also discuss the potential safety risks of using tea tree oil. Additionally, we’ll explore the potential uses for this substance and determine the best ways to utilize it for flea remediation and removal.
What Is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is a type of oil derived from the Narrow-Leaved Paperbark (Melaleuca alternifolia), or tea tree. It is typically pungent, with a scent that is often compared to menthol or mint. In terms of color, most tea tree oils are a light yellow or golden hue. Still, some heavily distilled and purified varieties can be transparent.
This particular plant oil has been used for centuries to combat various illnesses or conditions. However, tea tree oil is still a relatively novel medicinal substance for most Western medical practitioners and pharmacists.
That’s because tea tree oil hails from Australia, which was uninhabited by Westerners until the 1700s. As such, it’s beneficial components, and potential usages are still being revealed to us. The aboriginal population of Australia could help shed light on the true history and nature of this potent plant oil.
Brief History of Tea Tree Oil Usage
Tracing the history of tea tree oil’s use as a medicinal substance can be a significant anthropological challenge. That’s because Western culture and medicine were ignorant of its existence until the eighteenth century.
When Captain Cook landed in Australia (then called New South Wales), he discovered the benefits of tea tree oil by creating a tea from the paperbark’s leaves. Emboldened by his discovery, he made haste to share his experience with Western society.
By 1770, tea tree plants were in high-demand as primary ingredients in medicinal tonics and supplements. The antimicrobial and antibacterial effects were not lost on Western physicians and pharmacists, who made short work of turning tea tree oil into a profitable business venture.
Tea tree oil and tea tree derivatives would remain one of the most sought-after sanitizers and antimicrobials until the 1920s. With the discovery and rise of penicillin, tea tree oil usage and consumption began to decline.
However, the sudden overreliance on penicillin for antibiotic treatments contributed to a sharp increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Consequently, modern tea tree oils could help keep equally modern bacterial strains at bay in ways that penicillin-based solutions cannot.
Every worthwhile remedy should be used in moderation. After all, penicillin initially helped millions of people survive harrowing bacterial infections.
It then went on to cause significant changes in the way that bacteria protects itself, resulting in hyper-virulent strains that are resistant to even the most advanced and potent medications. As such, it’s crucial to remember that even the least-toxic homeopathic alternatives can prove disastrous when incorrectly used.
Tea tree oil is no exception. Pure, undiluted tea tree oil tends to fall on the low end of the pH scale, making it a relatively acidic substance. With an average pH of 5.5., most tea tree oils produce the same irritation as would spilled black coffee or fresh tomato juice.
Individuals with sensitive skin could experience redness or irritation after applying undiluted tea tree oil. That’s why dilution is essential to experiencing the most comfortable and effective tea tree oil treatments.
Potential Side Effects
Keeping tea tree oil diluted may also help prevent unwanted surface stains from forming. However, skin irritation is not the only safety concern tea tree oil enthusiasts should consider. Tea tree oil may produce unpleasant side effects, such as:
- Producing a burning or stinging sensation
- Causing a dermatological allergic reaction
- Contributing to unwanted breast growth
- Causing headache or nausea when inhaled
- Being fatal when consumed, especially in large doses
When using tea tree oil for external or topical applications, it’s crucial to dilute it using a skin-friendly carrier oil like argan oil. This may help reduce unpleasant redness and irritation.
When using tea tree oil for internal purposes, it’s essential to rinse any remaining oil residue away before eating or drinking. If you’re determined to use tea tree oil for dental purposes or wound sanitation, always ensure that the tea tree oil in your possession is approved for such purposes.
Should you experience any intense negative reactions upon using tea tree oil, immediate medical intervention may be necessary. By keeping these precautions in mind, you can keep yourself safe while using tea tree oil.
Though this antimicrobial substance can be harmful when used incorrectly, it could also be a significant boon for those looking to experience relief from fleas, fungal infections, or acne.
What Is Tea Tree Oil Used For?
Tea tree oil has a litany of potential uses. Like lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar, it is often lauded as one of the best all-natural solutions to household problems. When used correctly, tea tree oil may help with:
- Helping relieve fungal infection symptoms
- Sanitizing skin and surfaces
- Repelling insects and pests
- Cleaning shallow wounds or cuts
- Keeping gums clean
- Helping reduce stubborn acne
- Helping the body fight skin inflammation
Understanding how tea tree oil can help with all of these issues is crucial to using it correctly. If your primary purpose in purchasing tea tree oil is to help sanitize your home, you may not need a therapeutic-grade oil.
However, if you’re planning on using tea tree oil to help combat periodontal disease and gingivitis, you’ll need a medical-grade solution. When it comes to treating fleas, you may want to purchase two different types of tea tree oil.
For spraying around the home, a non-therapeutic, non-medical grade oil may be the most cost-effective solution. However, when treating yourself, your family members, or your pets, it’s often better to opt for the pricier-yet-purer tea tree oils.
Choosing a medical-grade oil could help prevent any unwanted allergic or dermatological reactions. Finally, you’ll need to consider which carrier oil you’d like to use to dilute your tea tree oil. Water is an excellent additive for around-the-house sprays, but skin-soothing carrier oils are a must for topical applications.
Don’t worry—we’ll cover all of the best oils, recipes, and application methods right this second.
Using Tea Tree Oil to Kill Fleas Around the Home
Fleas aren’t only just annoying; they can also contribute to serious health conditions and issues. Flea bites can spread disease to your pets and household. When allowed to proliferate, fleas can infest every inch of a home. This is true of home with and without pets or carpeting.
That’s why it’s crucial to treat a flea infestation in its earliest stages. Doing so could help you save hundreds of dollars in flea poisons and professional treatments. Some infestations may be bad enough to require carpet removal and replacement or whole-home fogging.
Avoiding these poisonous treatment options could be as simple as employing a tea tree oil spray at the earliest signs of flea issues. Using tea tree oil to kill and repel fleas around the home is as simple. You’ll need to:
- Dilute the oil properly.
- Spray the solution onto infested areas.
- Vacuum your home thoroughly.
- Repeat as necessary.
Like many other types of natural flea remedies, it’s crucial to repeat the above steps on a daily or weekly basis to enjoy the full effects. It’s also vital to dilute your oil properly before applying it to surfaces, especially fabrics.
Dilute the Oil
Proper tea tree oil dilutions differ depending on the intended usage. When it comes to multi-purpose, flea-fighting household sprays, it’s a good idea to limit your oil usage to one drop per two ounces of water. For example, a one-liter spray bottle filled to the brim with clean water can safely accommodate about twenty drops of tea tree oil.
Unlike topical methods used to treat humans and pets, this dilution relies on water rather than oil. That’s because oils are prone to staining porous and semi-porous surfaces. It may be a good idea to spot-check your tea tree oil solution before applying it to carpeting, upholstery, or kitchen counters.
Still, once you have your diluted oil solution (and you’re confident it won’t stain your belongings), you’ll want to give it a good shake and begin applying it to flea-ridden areas.
Spray the Oil Solution
Be sure to choose a spray bottle that is capable of producing both a fine mist and a high-pressured blast of liquid. Misting can help you cover large areas such as carpets. The pressurized spray function is ideal for live fleas or visible flea eggs.
Fleas tend to prefer covered, fabric-based homes. Be sure to spray all carpeting, rugs, and upholstery before moving on to other common flea habitats. Baseboards often harbor juvenile fleas and flea eggs. You may also find evidence of fleas near warm areas of your home.
Be sure to spray your tea tree oil solution onto countertops, beneath heat-generating appliances, and along entryways into the home. This will help to kill any lingering eggs and repel adult fleas from jumping into your newly-cleaned home.
Once you’ve sprayed all of your trouble areas, you’ll want to go ahead and break out the vacuum. While wet-dry vacuums can help remove any lingering moisture from the spray, standard upright models are just as effective at suctioning away fleas eggs, corpses, and excrement.
Vacuum the Flea-Ridden Areas
Before vacuuming, be sure that your vacuum’s canister or bag is clean and secure. Any holes or excess internal debris could render your vacuuming ineffective. Once you’re sure that your vacuum cleaner is in tip-top condition, begin by vacuuming the most flea-ridden areas of your home.
Any remaining adults who survived your initial attack will either be sucked away during this step or they’ll scamper off to unvacuumed areas. By targeting the most affected regions first, you can help minimize the number of stragglers that make it out alive. After hitting these spots, you can go ahead and move on to the rest of your home.
If you’re using a bagless vacuum cleaner, you may benefit from timely canister emptying. For example, you may want to go outside and empty your vacuum cleaner after tending to the most infested areas of your home. Be sure to remove the canister and shake it clean far from your doorways or windows.
After you’ve vacuumed your entire home (and take a few extra minutes to use a specialized adapter on hard-to-reach baseboards and corners), you’ll need to empty the canister anyways. Then, go over all surfaces once more with the vacuum before emptying it once again.
Bagless vacuum cleaners may benefit from a quick spritz from your tea tree oil solution. This could help prevent any microscopic flea eggs from hatching inside of your vacuum during disuse.
Repeat the Process
Fleas are notoriously persistent, especially when pets or outdoor-loving children are involved. In some areas, you may even bring fleas indoors by simply walking indoors from your parked car. To keep fleas at bay throughout the year, you’ll need to repeat the above steps as often as necessary.
For heavy infestations, this could mean spraying and vacuuming at least once a day for several weeks. Lighter flea incidences may go away with weekly applications.
Of course, if you’re noticing flea bites on your skin, you may be dealing with a long-term infestation that requires a little extra treatment. Fortunately, there’s a tea tree oil solution designed to work well with human skin.
Household Flea Spray Recipe
Before we reveal the best way to keep fleas from jumping into your hair or into your skin, it’s time for us to reveal our most effective household flea spray recipe. After all, water and tea tree oil might be a fine combination for killing and repelling fleas, but it could be better.
To create a potent, multi-purpose spray for household surfaces and fabrics, you’ll need:
- Clean water
- A spray bottle with an adjustable nozzle (1-liter size)
- Tea tree oil
- Peppermint oil
- Rosemary oil
- Lemon juice
- Witch hazel oil
While this may seem like quite a few ingredients, each one has a specific purpose and role in fighting and repelling fleas. Because there are many different types of oils at work here, it’s crucial to ensure that there is more water and lemon juice present than oil.
To create this powerful flea-killing cleaner, you’ll need to:
- Fill a large spray bottle with water. Leave at least threes inches of space near the top to accommodate for oils and lemon juice. If you’re using a scale, you may want to aim for 0.65 to 0.75 liters of water.
- Add tea tree oil first. Depending on the amount of water in your spray bottle, you may need to add 10 to 20 drops of tea tree oil. Shake well before adding other oils.
- Add witch hazel oil. The amount of witch hazel oil you add is also dependent on your water amount. Still, you’ll want to add at least eight tablespoons of witch hazel oil. If you’re using a large, one-liter spray bottle, you may want to opt for a full cup.
- Add remaining oils and lemon juice to the mixture. Add between five and ten drops of your remaining oils. The exact amount is up to you, as peppermint and rosemary oil have a similar repellent effect on fleas. A few drops of lemon juice should be enough to make your final solution acidic, something fleas abhor.
- Shake well and use immediately. Now that you’ve combined all of the listed ingredients, you can go ahead and twist the spray bottle cap onto the body of the bottle until it’s secured. Shake your DIY flea spray well before use. If you don’t use all of it during your initial application, you can save the remainder for later use. Just remember to shake well before applying.
As always, it’s a good idea to check for color fastness before spraying this mixture throughout your home. It’s also a good idea to keep this solution away from small children or pets. While it is an effective flea-killing spray, it isn’t necessarily safe for human or animal contact.
To find relief from skin-biting, hair-dwelling fleas on your body, you’ll need to turn to a less caustic, more soothing tea tree oil remedy.
Using Tea Tree Oil on Humans
When it comes to ridding yourself of fleas, tea tree oil might help do the trick. When paired with consistent home cleaning and clothing laundering, tea tree oil salves and solutions could help keep remaining fleas far from your sensitive skin.
To use tea tree oil on yourself, you’ll need to:
- Dilute the oil.
- Apply to the affected area.
- Repeat as necessary.
This process is startlingly similar to the one used for household flea treatments. Still, this time around, you’ll be diluting your tea tree oil with carrier oils, not water and lemon juice. This makes all the difference when it comes to preventing skin irritation, redness, or burning.
Dilute the Oil
There are dozens of carrier oils you could choose to incorporate into your DIY flea treatment. Choosing among them can be an unexpected challenge. However, there’s plenty of anecdotal and scientific evidence that supports the use of some oils over others. Vegetable oil, for example, is fantastically common. But it’s not nearly as skin-friendly as well-pressed olive oils.
Some of the best and most skin-friendly carrier oils for tea tree treatments include:
- Coconut oil
- Jojoba oil
- Almond oil
- Olive oil
- Argan oil
- Sunflower oil
- Avocado oil
- Rosehip oil
The best way to choose one of the above carrier oils is to experiment. By trying plenty of different types and brands, you’ll be able to find one that works best for your skin type and condition.
Be sure to dilute your tea tree oil by the 1:12 ratio. For every one drop of tea tree oil you use, you should be using 12 drops of your carrier oil. You can use a ceramic, glass, or BPA-free plastic container to mix your oils together before applying them. You could also add them to a plain, comedogenic salve or cream.
Apply the Mixture
Using your fingers or a soft cloth, apply your oil mixture to a small portion of your skin and wait. If you notice any redness or experience any unpleasant sensations, wash this oil off using warm water and gentle soap. Dish soap works well when removing oils and tends to be gentle on the skin.
However, if you feel comfortable and confident to continue, you’ll want to apply your oil solution or oily salve to your arms, legs, shoulders, neck, and back. You could also choose to rub this oil into your hair and scalp. If you do choose to treat your scalp, be sure to let the mixture rest for several minutes before washing it out with a clarifying shampoo and conditioner.
Repeat the Process
You could rid yourself of fleas in a matter of minutes, only to have them return several minutes later. Fortunately, the strong odor that accompanies tea tree oil is often enough to keep them from immediately coming back.
Still, you may need to repeat this self-treatment process several times before finding permanent relief from household fleas. If you’ve yet to treat your pets, you may want to go ahead and do so before attempting to re-treat your home or body.
Using Tea Tree Oil on Pets
Using tea tree oil on pets is tricky. Cats and dogs are often sensitive to tea tree oil, and it can be challenging to apply a potent dose without harming your pet. As such, it’s crucial to exercise extreme caution when applying tea tree oil to pets.
Still, you could choose to massage small, diluted amounts into your pet’s coat and skin to help keep fleas from setting up shop. You’ll want to use a cat-safe or dog-safe carrier oil for this treatment process. Coconut, sunflower, and avocado oils are all generally considered safe for pet use.
Rather than following the dilution ratio used for humans, you’ll want to exercise a 1:20 rule. For every single drop of tea tree oil you use, you’ll want to incorporate at least twenty drops of your carrier oil. This can help prevent accidental poisoning while still helping keep fleas away.
When applying any kind of tea tree oil treatment to your pet, it’s essential to spend time observing their behavior. Dogs or cats that lick remaining oils from their fur or skin may find themselves quickly falling ill.
As such, a recovery cone (colloquially, ‘cone of shame’) may be an excellent addition to such treatment options. Pet owners that notice signs of discomfort, stomach upset, or lethargy should visit a veterinarian or animal clinic immediately.
Tea tree oil is still a relatively new medicinal substance, but it’s been used for centuries to help combat fungal and bacterial infections and keep parasitic pests at bay.
While it’s crucial to use caution when applying tea tree oil to fabrics, skin, or pets, it’s still far less toxic than store-bought pesticides and poisons. Proper dilution is key for safe tea tree oil treatments.
Restricting access to tea tree oil cleaners and pest control sprays can also prevent accidental poisoning to children and animals. To use tea tree oil for flea remediation, you’ll want to dilute it with water and other essential oils; lemon juice can help, too.
When treating human skin for fleas and flea bites, utilize a skin-friendly carrier oil. Tea tree oil on its own can be too acidic for sensitive skin, necessitating an olive oil, jojoba oil, or sea buckthorn oil additive. Treating pets requires the same amount of care and preparation.