Fleas are one of the most stubborn pests that there can be in a home. The instant you think you’ve eliminated them, they’re back in full force. What’s worse is that you don’t even need to have pets to get fleas. If you want to know how to get rid of fleas for good, then this guide is for you.
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are jumping insects that are about the size of a pinhead when fully grown. They may appear to be black, brown, or have a reddish tint to them. What makes them unique to look at is that they appear to be almost 2-dimensional in nature, being very flat on each side. They are wingless, but fleas can jump very high. This gives them the chance to latch onto anything warm blooded since that is their primary food source.
Female fleas are monster eaters. They’ll eat 15x their weight in blood every single day. The blood that is digested and then eliminated as waste then becomes food for the flea eggs that she’ll lay later on. After the egg cycle, where each female flea may lay up to 20 eggs per batch, fleas go through 3 other growth stages.
- Larva. In this stage, the flea is actually blind. They’ll avoid sunlight as well.
- Pupa. It takes about 10-14 days for the flea to reach this stage, assuming an adequate food source. They’ll stay at this stage until a host is near. Fleas have been known to stay in this stage for months at a time, particularly in winter.
- Imago. This is the adult stage. Fleas that reach this stage will live 60-90 days if there is a host.
Signs of Fleas
It can be very difficult to detect if there are fleas in the home. Because the insects are so small and their “dirt,” or waste, is even smaller, you’ve got to get right down to the carpet or other surfaces to inspect it. Once you do that, fleas will sense the presence of a warm-blooded host and jump onto you, so you’ll be able to confirm their presence visually.
Pets are generally going to be what bring fleas into the home. You’ll be able to tell that fleas are present because the animal will begin to scratch at flea bites on a consistent basis. If you look at the animals fur, you’ll be able to see red, swollen bites from the fleas. All warm-blooded pets can get fleas, not just dogs and cats, so keep this in mind when checking for these pests.
Most fleas will place themselves at an optimum place on the animals body to stay warm and have a good feeding source. This typically means the upper part of the animals legs, the chest, the back, and around the tail. When there are many fleas present, you may also see the insects on the animals paws, face, and the tip of the tail.
How To Kill Fleas
The most common method of killing fleas is through the chemical bombing method. 1-3 “bombs” are released in the home without humans or pets present. The chemicals settle into the carpet, clothing, and upholstery of furniture so that the insects don’t have much room to hide. It may take 2-3 complete bombings to get completely rid of fleas, however because flea eggs are remarkably resilient.
Treating pets is also a key component of killing fleas. If there are still fleas on the animal and a home has been cleared of the pest, then reintroducing the animal to the interior of the home will bring in a new infestation. Flea collars may not provide the complete protection a pet may need. Anti-flea medications, shampoos, and topical liquids that are applied to the back of the animal may need to be used in conjunction with other pest removal methods.
There are some things that fleas don’t like, such as salt or Diatomaceous Earth. When these substances are sprinkled into the carpet where the fleas are living, they’ll actually stick to the body of the flea and cause it to rip apart over time. You may need to sprinkle these substances daily for 10-14 days around the entire home to eliminate the infestation. Make sure that you’re vacuuming up the substances daily as well because this will help to eliminate any flea carcass debris that could be hidden in your carpet.
If you don’t have access to any of these items, then you can also bait the fleas into warm water to kill them. The vibrations of your feet attract the fleas to a new host. A flat plate that has warm water in it will then cause the fleas to jump into it once it is placed on the floor. Isolate the room overnight and you may have dozens of fleas that have drowned in the water.
Treating fleas on a hardwood floor is a little different. The fleas can hop onto anything, but they’ll be more likely to sit on your furniture or rugs than the floor itself. To kill fleas in this situation, you’ll want to steam clean the hardwood floor first. The heat will drive the fleas into the other areas of your home. Then a flea insecticide can be sprayed on the rugs and furniture or one of the alternative methods of killing fleas can be used. You’ll need to do this once or twice daily for 10-14 days to remove the fleas.
As a final step, it is also important to be daily washing your laundry in hot water. Wash as many clothes, sheets, and bedding that you can push through. The fleas can jump high enough to latch onto hanging clothing in a closet, so there really is nothing that is safe during an infestation. As a last resort, you may also wish to contact an exterminator for other commercial-grade options if the fleas don’t seem to be going away.
DIY Flea Treatment
There are several high-quality products that you can use right now to start controlling a flea infestation. The key to using any of these products successfully is to be consistent in their application. If you miss just one treatment, you may give these insects the foothold they need to continue on being a nuisance.
This flea and tick spray doesn’t have the powerful ammonia smell that many other treatments have, but that’s only the beginning of the benefits that come when using this product. Most flea sprays require the animal to be 6 months old. This option from Vet’s Best is safe to use around cats and dogs that are 3 months old or older. Clove extract and peppermint oil naturally kill off the insects and the spray can even be used on carpets, floors, and furniture. It will even kill flea eggs on contact.
Part of the strategy to control fleas is to use a good flea collar on the pets that may be affected. Even if your neighbors have the fleas and you don’t, their treatments could drive the insects over to your home. Protect your pet with this flea collar because it remains effective even if the animal gets wet or has a flea shampoo treatment given to it. This collar also kills eggs, larvae, and adult fleas and begins working immediately. Change out the collar once per month to have the best results and make sure to order the appropriate size based on the age and weight of the animal.
Just one can cover most homes from top to bottom, but that’s just the first advantage that this flea mist provides. It has the same killing power as a traditional flea bomb, but it doesn’t require the evacuation time that insect bombs need to work. It’s water-based so there is better coverage, but the molecules drive this insect-killing formula deep into carpets and upholstery to kill the eggs and larvae before they can become problematic. Just remove the pets from the room, spray the carpet, and then vacuum after the spray dries. It’s really that easy!
Flea Exterminator Cost
There really isn’t a cost-effective method of controlling fleas. Even DIY methods, when used for the recommended amount of time, can be around $600 for year-round infestation elimination. Most exterminators are going to look both inside and outside for flea problems and may charge upwards of $60 per month for their services. This means a flea exterminator may cost up to $720 per year with ongoing treatments and there may be added costs to extend extermination services outside.
The average cost in the United States to exterminate fleas professionally is about $325. You’ll also want to keep in mind that to truly control this pest, you’ll still be using some DIY methods with your pets while the exterminator works, which increases your costs. This is why many homeowners simply opt for natural and DIY methods of flea removal.
How To Prevent Fleas
The first, best option to control fleas is to prevent any areas where they’ll want to live in the outdoors. Fleas love to live in tall grass that hasn’t been mowed for several weeks. Any place there is long grass, there is the chance for fleas to be. If you do have long grass from a field or pasture, where long pants that are sealed at the ankle and then brush the clothing off before entering the home.
If you have pets, then having a flea collar on the animal is a good proactive prevention, even if fleas aren’t present. You never know when a pet might escape outside and it only takes a couple fleas to create a major infestation.
Most fleas aren’t going to enter through your venting, foundation cracks, or other entry points. They will walk right in through the front or back door, on you, or your pet. Washing clothing and bedding in hot water whenever possible and regular baths for pets can eliminate an infestation before it can build. Vacuum regularly as well to prevent eggs and larvae from growing into the blood sucking adult stage of the insect.
Natural Flea Killer and Repellent
If you know for certain that you have fleas in your carpet, then regular iodized table salt sprinkled daily can help to eliminate a flea problem very quickly. Make sure to vacuum daily and then apply the next sprinkling of salt afterward.
Some people submerge their pets in water to drown fleas, but this is an ineffective treatment. They can move out of the water and onto the exposed breathing surface of the pet to survive. Even if the dog’s snout is the only thing outside of the water, you are guaranteed to have fleas flooding that area. It is more effective to comb the fleas out of the animal using soapy water and a special flea comb every day and have weekly shampoos.
If nothing else seems to be working, the installation of a dehumidifier can make the air inhospitable to fleas. Run the dehumidifier so that it reduces the moisture to below 50% in the air and then maintain this level for several days. In conjunction with other treatment levels, it can speed up the time it takes to bring your flea infestation under control.
Diatomaceous Earth is also a good natural option, but make sure to purchase food-grade quality if you plan to dust your pets with the substance. You’ll need to work the dust down to the pets skin at least once per week. Dust the animal’s bedding as well. You don’t really want to breathe this dust in when applying it, so a simple face mask from any hardware store or online shop can keep you safe.
Knowing how to get rid of fleas ultimately means being patient and consistent with the process. Use this guide to formulate your own strategy and these pests will look for a new place to live sooner rather than later.