Fleas can be more than just a pesky nuisance; they can affect the health and wellbeing of your pets. Take a look at a few tips to help get rid of fleas.

fleas in the house

Dealing With a Flea Infestation

If you want to learn how to get rid of fleas, you need more than just some simple tips on bathing your dog. Fighting a flea infestation isn't a one-and-done battle. It's a war that could take days, maybe even weeks, thanks to the flea's life cycle, abilities and habits. It's not an easy job, but one that has to be done right. Here's everything you need to know about how to get rid of fleas in the house.

Killing fleas at the source

Most flea infestations stem from pets. Your cat or dog might have caught fleas while running around the yard, or from other animals during boarding or a play date. It doesn't matter just yet. The first step is always treating the source of the problem as soon as possible. It makes no sense to treat the entire house if your pet is going to keep bringing fleas in.

Start with a flea comb, paying extra attention to the neck and tail of your pet since these are a flea's favorite areas. Drop any fleas you comb off into hot soapy water to kill them. Next, be sure to speak with your veterinarian about flea control services for your pet. They will be able to recommend the best treatment for the type of fleas you have and for the climate in your area. There are many safe and effective flea treatments for your cats and dogs on the market. These might be topical, oral, spot treatments, shampoos, sprays, dusts or dips. The important thing is that you or your veterinarian effectively apply these treatments on a regular basis.

Always remember to treat each of your pets for fleas. If you treat just one, the fleas will jump to your other pets and the infestation will continue. Many flea control treatments only need to be applied once a month or once every few months. Oral and topical applications start protecting your pet before the flea population begins to increase during the warmer months of "flea season." Learning how to get rid of fleas ultimately means embracing prevention.

Prep your home for flea treatment

Next, pick up all of the stray items from all carpeted areas of your home. This includes clothes, toys, shoes, boxes, papers, etc. You want as much carpet surface to be accessible to your vacuum as possible. Be sure to remove items inside of closets and under the beds as well. If possible, you should also move furniture. You can leave larger objects that sit flush with the floor, such as dressers or bookcases, in place if the fleas are not able to get underneath.

Clearing your home of pets and children

In addition to cats and dogs, you should also remove any other pets from your home, such as birds or fish, if possible. Cover aquarium tanks and bird cages, as well as any water dishes or food bowls. Turn off any systems that support the pet's environment, such as aerators in fish tanks or heat rocks in reptile tanks. Ideally, you should do this when the entire family is also out of the house.

What to do for heavy flea infestations

For heavy flea infestations, it's best to destroy and discard all pet bedding. For mild or light infestations, washing the bedding thoroughly in hot, soapy water is necessary for killing fleas and destroying their eggs and larvae. You are going to have to wash your pet's bedding like this every week for at least one month, or until you are sure the infestation is over. Even then, it's a good habit to wash your pet's bedding on a regular basis to prevent reinfestations from taking hold. You can also dry clean the bedding, but be careful not to transfer fleas to your dry cleaner's business and thus, other customers.

Killing fleas: create a plan of attack

When you've cleared the house, take a walk through every room looking for signs of fleas and their larvae. Fleas in a carpet can look like tiny dark specks which disappear just as quickly as they appeared. Fleas congregate in places where your pets sleep the most. They also prefer to hang out in areas that don't have heavy foot traffic, and they avoid spots in the house that get a lot of direct sunlight.

Be on the lookout for the highly visible dried feces and blood fleas leave behind. These should be easy to spot on your pet's bedding, but also on lighter colored rugs. These dried secondary signs of fleas are also known as "flea dirt," resembling grainy specks of black pepper or black dandruff. Flea larvae feed on this flea dirt before turning into pupae. Removing it removes a growing infestation's food source. It's important to note areas with flea dirt. These specific breeding grounds need extra attention during the next step in how to kill fleas in-house: vacuuming.

How to get rid of fleas in the carpet

Now that you have cleared the area, use a beater-bar style vacuum to thoroughly vacuum the house. Get under beds and any other furniture that you weren't able to move. Use corner attachments for baseboards, heat vents, floor cracks, carpet edges and room corners.

Pay particular attention to areas of carpet where your pets sleep or spend a lot of time. If you're unsure of where they sleep during the day, look for spots and furniture that accumulate a lot of pet hair. Use the same attentive approach in areas where you and your family sleep or spend a lot of time. Fleas can transmit diseases to humans, so you want to be sure you do a thorough job, not just for your pets, but for you and your family as well.

Instead of just killing fleas, the vacuuming will address a bigger problem that comes along with infestations: flea eggs, larvae and pupae. Eliminating just the adult fleas won't work, since you'll soon have a new generation of biters to deal with. Vacuuming also helps get rid of the dried blood and feces, thus removing the food sources of developing fleas.

Additionally, the vacuuming stimulates fleas to leave their cocoon prematurely. Since the cocoon is resistant to insecticides, this is an important step for thoroughly killing fleas. Further, as you vacuum, the nap of the carpet raises up. This makes it easier for insecticides to get deep down into the fibers where stubborn, developing fleas take refuge.

You're not out of the woods yet

When you're done vacuuming the carpets and throw rugs, turn to the hardwood floors, linoleum and tiles. Then, vacuum furniture, upholstery, cabinets, cushions, pillows and even your bed. If you have a disposable vacuum bag, it's recommended that you seal it tightly in a garbage bag upon removal, and then throw it out. Replace it with a fresh bag. Repeat this thorough vacuuming every other day until the flea infestation is gone (typically 10 days to one month).

For some serious infestations, steam cleaning before vacuuming is necessary. The heat will kill almost all of the adult fleas, but may not kill all of the eggs. Continue to vacuum every other day after the steam cleaning to make sure you are killing fleas as they hatch. Some might still make it to the adult stage. Insecticides are almost always a necessary third step in moderate to severe flea infestations, even after steam cleaning and vacuuming.

Yet even then, most common sprays fail to kill flea pupae, which means you will likely see a few fleas over the next two weeks. Keep vacuuming, as it stimulates the fleas to hatch prematurely, thus exposing their bodies to the residual pesticides. Vacuuming should be enough to control the lingering population as long as you've treated your pets. This is a lot of work, and not as easy or effective as calling a pest management professional.

How to get rid of fleas in your yard

Factors that can lead to a large outdoor flea population on your property include heavily shaded areas, crawl spaces where wildlife and feral strays might sleep or sheltered enclosures such as dog houses.

A good way to test your outdoor flea problem is to put on a pair of long, white socks that go up to your knee. Walk around your yard slowly, especially under decks, around vegetation and anywhere your pets like to hang out. Just like indoors, fleas will avoid outdoor areas with heavy foot traffic or direct sunlight. As you walk the yard, the fleas will jump onto your socks where they will be easily identified thanks to the black-on-white contrast. You should do this a few times during the week at different times of day.

If possible, remove low-hanging branches and brush to open up more of your yard to sunlight. This will lower the population of fleas dramatically. If treatment is necessary, residual insecticide and growth regulators are sometimes applied. Treatment should always be handled according to directions on the label, and is always best left to a pest management professional. This will help ensure that you, your pets and your family remain safe and bite-free while enjoying the outdoors. It is advisable to treat your home and yard for fleas on the same day, as well as having your pet groomed to ensure the source of the infestation has been eliminated.

The fastest way to learn how to get rid of fleas in the house

Getting rid of fleas in your home isn't easy. It's time consuming and not always 100 percent effective. Even if you do everything right, you're probably going to have to keep killing fleas for the next two weeks or so. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through this alone.

The fastest way to learn how to kill fleas in houses and apartments is simply to learn two important words: contact Terminix®.