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Discovering a flea infestation in your home can be a frustrating experience. These tiny, blood-sucking pests often find their way in through pets or an infested yard. Once inside, they quickly multiply and make themselves at home in your carpet and upholstery, your pet’s bedding, and even your own bed. In this article, we’ll explain how to get rid of fleas safely and effectively. We’ll also provide tips to help pet parents prevent future infestations.
The first step in identifying and addressing an infestation is to understand fleas and the flea life cycle.
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are small, wingless insects that feed on the blood of mammals and birds. Their flattened body shape allows them to move easily through fur and feathers, while their proportionally long legs allow them to quickly jump onto passing hosts. Adult fleas are roughly 1/8 inch long.
If you suspect you have a flea infestation, keep an eye out for the telltale signs, such as flea bites. These small, itchy, red bumps typically show up around your ankles. You might also notice hair loss or dark sand-like specks, known as flea dirt, on your pet’s skin or fur.
Causes of Flea Infestations
Fleas thrive in warm, humid conditions. Pets, particularly cats and dogs, are the most common source of flea infestations. Fleas can hitch a ride into your home on pets that spend time outdoors or come into contact with other infested animals. Humans or wild animals can also bring fleas to your property.
The Life Cycle of Fleas
Fleas have an inconveniently long life cycle and a rapid reproduction rate. They can survive up to a year in favorable conditions, and female fleas can lay 40 to 50 eggs per day.
After fleas lay eggs on their host, the eggs fall onto the ground. About two to 12 days later, they hatch into legless flea larvae that feed on adult flea feces and organic debris. The larval stage lasts four to 24 days in the summer or up to 200 days in other seasons.
Once fully developed, the larvae spin cocoons and spend five to 14 days as pupae. After that, they emerge as adult fleas and wait for a host to pass by.
Preventive Measures Against Flea Infestations
Below are some steps you can take to protect your home and pets from fleas.
Regular Pet Care
Follow your vet’s pet care recommendations to prevent flea infestations. This includes the following:
- Flea treatments: Administer topical treatments, oral flea medications, or flea collars regularly. Consult your veterinarian to determine the right treatment for your pet and carefully follow any instructions on the packaging.
- Regular grooming: Brushing your pet’s fur helps remove adult fleas, flea dirt, or eggs from their coat. It also allows you to closely examine their skin for signs of fleas or flea bites.
- Routine checkups: As we already mentioned, your vet can provide guidance on the best flea treatments. They can also detect early flea infestations or related issues, such as allergies or skin irritations.
Regular Cleaning and Maintenance
Another vital component of your flea prevention strategy should be staying on top of cleaning and home maintenance. This includes the following:
- Tidying: Keep your home organized and tidy. Cluttered spaces provide more hiding spots for fleas, making them harder to eliminate.
- Vacuuming: Vacuum your carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture regularly to remove flea eggs, larvae, and adult fleas. Pay special attention to areas where pets spend a lot of time.
- Washing bedding: Wash your pet’s bedding frequently in hot water to kill any fleas or flea eggs nestled inside. Launder other washable fabrics that come into contact with your pets, such as blankets or cushion covers.
DIY Solutions for Flea Infestations
Home remedies can be a cost-effective and convenient option for pet owners facing a flea infestation.
Flea Comb and Soap
Use a special flea comb to remove fleas from your pet’s fur. Pay close attention to the warm and protected areas where fleas like to hide, such as near the neck and the base of the tail. After each stroke, dip the comb into a bowl of soapy water to drown the fleas. Repeat this process for a few days. Make sure to dispose of the water and clean the comb after each use.
DIY Flea Spray
Spray a DIY solution of water and vinegar to repel fleas. For dogs, you can also add a few drops of rosemary, citronella, or another natural flea repellent. Cats are more sensitive to essential oils, so we recommend finding another solution for feline family members.
DIY Flea Trap
Fill a large, shallow dish with a mixture of water and dish soap and place it where fleas have been, such as near your dog’s bed. Leave the trap in place overnight. Empty and refill the trap each morning. Add a source of heat and warmth, such as a candle, to attract more fleas.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on carpets, bedding, and furniture. After letting it sit for several hours or a couple days, vacuum the floors and furniture and throw bedding in the wash. Diatomaceous earth can also be used in your yard.
Professional Solutions for Flea Infestations
If you’re dealing with a severe or persistent flea problem, we recommend finding a pest control company or purchasing commercial flea control products. Below are a few popular products and services to consider:
- Flea bombs: Set off a flea bomb or fogger in your home. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully and consider the safety of your pets and family members.
- Flea collars: Give your pet an adjustable flea collar infused with chemicals that repel and kill fleas.
- Flea shampoos: Bathe your pet with a shampoo specially formulated to kill and remove fleas.
- Flea sprays: Use a flea spray to kill fleas on contact and temporarily repel them.
- Flea traps: Install commercially available flea traps around your home or yard to attract and kill fleas.
- Insecticides: Purchase an insecticide and apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Integrated pest management: Pay for professional pest control from a company like Terminix or Orkin that offers integrated pest management (IPM) services to eliminate fleas and prevent reinfestations.
- Oral flea treatments: Give your pet a pill or chewable tablet that kills fleas from within.
- Topical flea treatments: Apply a topical solution to your pet’s skin to kill and repel fleas.
Regular pet grooming, vacuuming, and other preventive measures play a crucial role in achieving and maintaining a flea-free home. You can tackle mild infestations yourself with a flea comb and soap, diatomaceous earth, and homemade flea traps. However, if DIY solutions fall short, pest control companies such as Terminix and Orkin offer safe and highly effective professional services to eliminate and prevent flea infestations.
How to Get Rid of Fleas FAQ
What naturally kills fleas?
Diatomaceous earth naturally kills fleas by drying out their exoskeletons. Simply sprinkle it on the floor, let it sit for a couple days, then vacuum it up. Dish soap also kills fleas when mixed into water in a shallow dish as a homemade flea trap.
What do fleas eat?
Adult fleas eat the blood of their hosts, while flea larvae feed on adult waste and organic debris, including hair and their own skin sheddings.
How do you get rid of fleas outside your house?
You can get rid of fleas outside your house using diatomaceous earth, a flea-killing insecticide, or professional pest control services.
How We Chose the Top Pest Control Companies
Our pest control research process starts with analyzing customer reviews on third-party websites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Trustpilot, and Google Reviews. We then do a deep dive into each company’s website, service plans, and available cost information. We also secret shop the companies we review, reach out to representatives, and request quotes.
From there, we compile the information we’ve gathered and compare each company using our in-depth pest control methodology and review criteria. This process uses a series of factors that are important to our readers, and we score each company depending on how well they perform in each factor. For instance, companies that offer more guarantees for their service earned more points than others, and pest control plans with a larger range of covered pests earned more points than ones with fewer.
After analyzing dozens of residential and commercial pest control businesses through this process, we were able to determine the best pest control companies on the market.