How to Get Rid of Fleas in House
This site is a guide for controlling fleas in house. Included are information, tips, videos, and flea control product reviews.
Are you sitting there with itchy ankles, or watching your dog scratch away at himself? Uh oh! Chances are you are dealing with fleas in house. Don’t worry though, we are here to help you quickly treat your flea problem. You will be back to a healthy, pest-free house in no time!
Prior to treating a flea problem, make sure that the pests you are dealing with are actually fleas. Otherwise you are just wasting your time. If you and your pets have small, red, inflamed, itchy bites, chances are that you have a flea problem. However, this is not always the case.
There are couple other culprits that could be causing these bites, namely bed bugs. Bed bugs and fleas are both wingless, parasitic insects that infest homes. These two pests can be hard to tell apart for the untrained eye. In fact, they are very close relatives to each other. Here are the main differences between bed bugs and fleas:
- 3.3 millimeters
- Round and bulbous
- Long hind legs
- Can jump very high
- Found mostly in carpets and pet areas
- Random bite marks on body
- Bites have a puncture mark
- Can be found at day and night
- Can live on hosts (dogs)
- 5 millimeters
- Flat and oval
- Short legs
- Cannot jump
- Found mostly around beds
- Bites usually in a line
- Bites do not have a puncture mark
- Feed and live at night
- Will not live on hosts (dogs)
Understanding fleas can help us know how to control them. So what exactly is a flea? Fleas are small, wingless, parasitic insects. Since they have no wings, fleas primary move around by jumping, and they can jump huge distances, often times 200 times their body length! This makes them highly mobile.
Like other parasitic insects, fleas are adapted for feeding on different animals. They have special mouth parts to pierce skin and draw blood. Both male and female fleas will feed on the blood of animals. Females flea can drink up to 15 times their body weight in a blood a day. They need the blood meals for both subsistence and reproductive purposes. There are over 2,000 different species of fleas, and each targets a specific host (humans, dogs, cats, rats, etc).
Like other holometabolous insects, fleas go through four distinct stages in their life. You must understand all of these stages of a flea’s life cycle if you want to completely eradicate a flea infestation from your house. Failure to kill fleas in all stages of life will result in a re-infestation. Then you will have to start all over again from scratch!
Learn what different flea life phases look like so you can identify them in you house.
Flea Eggs – 50% of Infestation
The first stage in a flea’s life is in an egg. A mother flea will normally lay 20 to 30 eggs a day, and up to 500 in her life. The most common place to find flea eggs in homes are in carpets. The eggs are very small and white, looking like grains of salt. Flea eggs will normally hatch in 2 to 14 days. Since eggs make up 50% of a flea infestation, killing them is essential.
Flea Larvae – 35% of Infestation
This second life stage of fleas. White, worm-like larvae will hatch from the eggs. Flea larvae will begin feeding on organic matter in carpets. Their food supply is almost endless. The carpet also provides shelter and protection. Flea larvae will avoid light, so they will be at the bottom of the carpet fibers. They will molt their skin 3 times before pupating, normally taking two weeks.
Flea Cocoons – 10% of Infestation
The larva will eventually spin a silken cocoon, and enter the pupal phase. The pupal casing is very stick, and will pick up debris in carpets. This provides an almost perfect camouflage. There, over the course of a couple weeks, the flea is slowly transforming into in an adult. The adult will only emerge when they detect a possible nearby host.
Adult Fleas – 5% of Infestation
The adult fleas are the irritating insects that hop around and bite us. Many people will focus on killing the adults, because this is the only visible stage. Adults only make up 5% of an infestation though, so killing them to end an infestation is futile. That being said, it can still be beneficial to kill the adults to prevent them from biting you and laying more eggs.
We previously mentioned that the majority of pre-adult fleas will be found in carpets. Carpeting provides the perfect environment for fleas to thrive in, and multiply rapidly. If you are not sure you have fleas in your house, go check the carpet. Look in carpet corners, under furniture, and dark places where debris builds up. Make sure you are looking for all phases of growth (egg, larvae, cocoon, adult).
If you do not find fleas in your carpeting, you are not in the clear yet. There are a few other places where fleas like to hang out in houses. These locations are:
- On pets
- Pet kennels
- Pet beds
If you do not find any fleas, you should focus on keeping it that way. Prevention is just as important as treatment. Preventing fleas requires that you know how fleas get into homes in the first place, and this is what we will cover next.
How did the fleas get into your house in the first place? They can enter homes in a variety of ways. By understanding these entry methods, you help to prevent future infestations. All it takes is one female flea to trigger a full blown infestation.
Fleas are specially adapted to hope long distances, and their jumping abilities make them highly mobile. Outside there may be fleas living in dark, damp locations. Often times these fleas in your backyard will jump onto dogs or cats. Then your pet will bring them inside.
Dogs can also get infected by coming in contact with other dogs. If your dog is going to be around other dogs, make sure to ask owners if their pet has been checked and treated for fleas. If you do not ask, you could be inviting in an infestation.
If you are relocating into a new home, make sure to check for fleas prior to moving. There could be dormant fleas and cocoons just waiting for a blood meal. Once you move in, they will begin feeding and will restart an infestation. If possible, ask your realtor if there was previously a flea problem.
Many people are worried about the potential diseases fleas can carry. While the odds are slim of getting sick from fleas, you should still be aware of the flea transmittable diseases. The two most common will be discussed here, and you can read more in our article about flea transmitted diseases.
The most common ailment from flea bites are skin allergies. This is known as flea allergy dermatitis, and is most prevalent in dogs and cats. Skin will be red, inflamed, and extremely itchy. It can result in excessive hair loss from scratching. In the worst situations, scratching can cause bacteria to enter the blood steam. In most cases skin allergies will clear up on their own once fleas are gone.
Although rare, fleas can transmit tapes worms. What happens is the flea larvae will somehow ingest a tapeworm egg when feeding. The tapeworm will then start growing inside of the flea. Then a dog or cat will bite at the fleas as a method of scratching. The tapeworm infested flea gets swallowed, and the tapeworm transfers to a new host. Sometimes this can even happen to humans. Keep in mind, you will have to actually swallow the flea to be infected with a tapeworm.
Flea bites are extremely itchy, so luckily there are some ways to stop fleas from biting. You can use these repellents as you work on ending the infestation. There is flea repellent for clothing (permethrin), and for skin (DEET). Here are a few effective repellents that can stop fleas from biting. Check out reviews for them below.
If you want to remove fleas from your carpets, vacuuming the fleas is very effective. Plus, most of us already own a vacuum, so you won’t have to run out and buy anything. This may seem too simple, but vacuuming is great for controlling a flea problem.
Once you detect fleas, you will want to start vacuuming more regularly. By vacuuming more, you will be sucking up all of the flea eggs, larvae, and cocoons. You might even get a few adult fleas. By killing these fleas in the first stages of life, you will put a halt to the infestation. This is because there will be no new generation of adults to continue laying eggs.
Try to vacuum everyday, and be thorough. Get underneath furniture, in corners, and in other hard to reach locations. You will need a vacuum that is powerful enough to efficiently suck up all of the debris. If your vacuum is old, it would be wise to purchase an upgrade for flea treatment and prevention.
Flea traps work great for eliminating adult fleas, especially for those who want a safe, non-toxic method. Plus, flea traps are cheap and easy to use. Flea traps work well in conjunction with other treatments. They will capture the pesky fleas that get away! It should be noted that these traps only work on adult fleas. You will need to use another method to kill the egg, larvae, and cocoons.
Flea traps are simple devices that only have two parts; a light bulb and a sticky pad. The fleas will be attracted to the light and warmth, thinking they are about to get a nice blood meal. When they jump in close, fleas will land on the sticky pad and get stuck. It really is as simple as that. You can even make your own flea trap if you want.
Place traps around pet areas, bedding, carpet corners, and places where people frequent. One trap will cover 30 feet in all directions, which is perfect for most rooms.
If you are trying to eliminate fleas in your house, carpets are the most important area to focus on. While vacuuming more is a good first step, sometimes flea killing powders can be more effective. Flea powder will kill any adult fleas that is comes in contact with. These powders are handy because you can simply vacuum them up when done. You can find both chemical, and all natural powders.
A popular choice is FleaBusters Rx. This is a very light weight powder that uses boric acid as its active ingredient. This substance will affect both the flea’s stomach and their exoskeletons. The cool thing about this powder is that it is statically charged, so it can easily penetrate carpet and cling to fleas.
For a natural solution try diatomaceous earth. Just like the Fleabusters RX, you will want to give your carpet a light but thorough dusting. Using a mini handheld duster can be helpful. Diatomaceous earth is just finely powdered sedimentary rock. It has microscopic sharp edges that cut into insect’s exoskeleton and cause them to dehydrate. This product is safe around you, your children, and your pets. In fact, diatomaceous earth is often given orally to animals to kill parasitic worms. It is best to not breathe it in though, because it can be abrasive to lungs.
Perhaps the most effective way to end a flea infestation is to use an insecticidal spray. These sprays work well because they affect both adult fleas (insecticide) and larvae (insect growth regulators). To use these, just spray a light coat over your carpeting, furniture, pet areas, or other flea hot spots. These sprays will prevent re-infestation for up to 7 months.
The active ingredients in these sprays are safe for homes. Permethrin is derived naturally from plants, and will attack fleas’ nervous system. Eventually the flea dies from excessive nerve firings. This chemical is toxic to cats, but not humans or dogs. Pyriproxyfen is also called Nylar, and works by altering fleas’ hormonal responses. It basically stops larvae from ever reaching adulthood. Instead, after pupating the larvae re-emerges. This completely disrupts the life cycle of fleas. This substance is safe for people, dogs, and cats.
You will need to treat your pets for fleas if you want to completely end an infestation. Fleas can reside on dogs and cats, and can re-infest a home if not killed. Plus, it give your pets some relief from the itchy bites. Adult fleas, eggs, and larva can all live on pets’ fur.
A good first step is to use a flea comb and wash pets with flea shampoos. Deflea makes a great flea shampoo that is all natural and non-toxic. Flea shampoos will kill on contact, but are not meant for lasting prevention.
Using a topical treatments, such as Bayer Advantage, are the most effective ways to kill fleas on pets. This is because Advantage will work on flea adults, eggs, and larvae. The active ingredients are similar to those in home flea spray; insecticides and insect growth regulators.
Oral medications are another option. You can find some over-the-counter medicines, such as Capstar Novartis. This will only kill adult fleas. It is a good idea to talk to a veterinarian for assistance before using oral medications. They can advise on the best options and can prescribe stronger medications.
Killing fleas in your yard is just as important as treating inside your home. Many times the infestation actually originates outside. Fleas and their offspring may be hanging out around pet areas, just waiting to feed. Outside fleas like dark, shady, moist areas. Pet areas are also flea hot spots.
You can use permethrin and insect growth regulator sprays around your yard. The combination of these active ingredients will effectively kill adult fleas, eggs, and larvae. Diatomaceous earth can also be used outside as a natural insecticide. Keep in mind, you should only use these treatments if you actually observe fleas. This is because you do not want to kill other beneficial insects.
In extreme cases when a house has been totally infested, it may be out of your hands. Fumigation may be the only way to go. Take note however, as this must be done by professional exterminators. An exterminator will fill the home with gaseous pesticides to completely remove fleas. You will need to stay away from your home while this is done. Prior to fumigation, make sure to remove all items that could be used by children or that might go in people’s mouths.