Sometimes when conditions are just right, it happens. Fleas get in your house. It’s never just one, and only if you’re lucky does the problem go away on it’s own.
It’s frustrating, but you have to understand a little bit about this pest and how to deal with it to successfully remove it from your home environment.
House fleas are almost always associated with pets. Just treating your dog or cat and/or the areas they hang out in the most, unfortunately, isn’t going to do the trick. And what do you do if you don’t even have pets?
Fortunately, there is a way to get some relief and win the battle against these pesky, skin irritating rascals.
You just have to arm yourself with a little knowledge and the right products.
Read on to learn what you need to consider with these insects and steps to take for getting rid of fleas forever.
First, we’ll learn a little about fleas so you know exactly what you’re dealing with.
Then later, we’ll give you the steps to remove and take control of your flea problem.
What Do Fleas Look Like?
First, let’s make sure you know what you’re dealing with.
A typical house flea is usually the common cat or dog flea. While there are a numerous types, adult fleas all grow to about the same size (yes, they are clearly visible with the naked eye!).
They can range in colors from a semi-transparent auburn-brown to darker brown or almost black when fully developed.
We know them mostly from their trademark jumping abilities; they leap so quickly and cover such long distances in one super-springy bound that they look like they’re disappearing when you try to grab one.
In fact, they’re down right as elusive as a fly! They aren’t easy to catch, plain and simple.
How Fleas Get in Your House
If you’ve spotted fleas in your house such as on the furniture, your bed, carpeting or even in the bathroom, you could have anything from just a temporary annoyance to a major infestation.
Unfortunately, it’s rare that you would only end up with one or two. Once a flea gets inside your home, by the time you see it (or get bitten), you’re in trouble.
Fleas get in your house usually by pets
Again the leading partner in crime when you have fleas living indoors are pets. It’s not all their fault though, because fleas can stick to us humans just as easily.
Just walking outside, a tiny flea can jump on your clothing or bare skin unbeknownst to you.
And all you have to do is bring one inside who lays some eggs in your carpet, clothing or sofa (gross, right?) and the repeating life-cycle begins.
There are ways to stop this process entirely if you act early, but more on that later.
In the meantime you can use Fuzzy Pet Health to get a free month’s supply of flea treatment for your cat or dog. Fuzzy Pet is great because they give you personalized pet care recommendations right online, plus unlimited access to their digital pet care professionals.
We have used them for months now, and LOVE having this access, which costs less and is more convenient that visiting the vet for our dog and cat. You can check them out here.
If you have pets that come in and out of the house though, and you find fleas, it’s a safe bet they are responsible for bringing them in.
Believe it or not, even if you’ve treated your pets for fleas with skin gels or collars, fleas can still hitch a ride right through the door.
If the type you have in your area “like” human blood, then it’s just a matter of time before you notice a bite (especially when your pet is unappetizing because you treated them).
Fleas can also survive for weeks and months without a meal, so it’s not uncommon for them to find soft, dark places in your home to live and reproduce while they wait for a viable meal host to come along.
Can Fleas Live on Humans?
Contrary to what you’ll hear at pet stores or even from some exterminators, fleas can live on humans in the sense that they do use us for a purpose related to survival.
While they can’t live on a human for what they truly need a host for (food and a protected place to lay their eggs), this doesn’t mean they aren’t attracted to us.
We’re warm and inviting, and fleas sense it. They’ll jump on the first chance they get if there is nothing better around…like a dog or cat.
What happens from there is they quickly realize the food source isn’t quite what they want. Essentially, our blood isn’t an ideal diet.
Despite this, many of us know fleas for their bites, and can become more a nuisance than ants or even spiders.
Small, red dots or bumps can appear on our legs, arms, bellies and necks without us even knowing what happened.
While it’s true that fleas will bite humans, it’s not an equal opportunity here! Some people are more susceptible than others.
You might have noticed this in your own family where one person seams to be a target more than others. Maybe some of us are just sweeter than others?
In any case, humans can serve as a transportation source.
In fact, many people have found fleas in their house and their cat or dog doesn’t even go outside!
Worse yet, are those of us lucky ones that don’t even have pets but suddenly have a flea infestation in our house.
The fleas hitched a ride on someone’s leg, either on clothing like sock or directly on the skin without us noticing.
In this sense, you can track fleas from a neighbor’s yard or even someone else’s house from one home to another.
A human flea bite is usually not felt, but can itch for a couple days and become unsightly especially if you scratch it a lot.
It will start out as a bright red dot (size of a dull pencil head or larger) and turn darker as it fades over time (usually a week or more).
In most cases, you won’t see the fleas on your skin unless you’re looking for them.
What to do?
The best thing to do is quickly, but carefully, capture it by squeezing it between your thumb and index finger.
When you’re sure you have it, run your fingers under water until you see the flea go down the drain.
Do not attempt to crush or smoosh the flea on your skin or any other surface with your finger pads. Their soft skeletal structure won’t allow them to be squished easily.
You need two rigid enough surfaces. If you don’t catch a flea on you, it’s possible it can bite, have a meal and jump off. It will be back for more, you can count on that.
This video quickly illustrates how to kill a flea with your fingernail the right way. It’s not pretty but you gotta do what you gotta do!
Once you find a flea on humans in your house or a bite, you simply need to wash and/or vacuum all the areas where the flea was encountered.
This means a thorough cleaning of all furniture, cushions, carpets, bed sheets and other linens at least once.
Be sure to throw away the vacuum bag or completely empty the bagless container far away outside in the trash can.
It is possible for fleas to live in human hair.
In most cases though, it’s your hair that gets washed regularly, but not the blanket on the sofa or the rug by your bed.
Fleas prefer deep, undisturbed places they can hide and lay eggs and begin their life cycle, so human hair is not their first choice.
Now, let’s go through the process you need to follow to successfully get rid of the fleas in your house. If you don’t follow this stuff closely, you can end up wasting time.
So… follow this procedure carefully if you want the quickest way to a flea-free home! Follow these basic 3 steps to get rid of your flea problem in your home or apartment.
There are some primary principles that work for just about everyone and some further tips to try depending on your situation.
You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s important to take an aggressive approach to ridding this bothersome pest.
This means: 1) Clean!, 2) Exterminate, 3) Prevent
1. First, Clean and Get Rid of All Adult Fleas
As a heads up, here are some helpful products you’ll use to successfully clean your house and help remove fleas:
Best Flea Traps
Removes urine smells for good
UV Sanitizing Vacuum
Removes fleas/eggs from mattresses and furniture
What’s the goal in this step?
Remove and kill any fleas you see on you, your pets and areas of your home.
Roll up your sleeves because it’s cleaning time!
But first…trap ’em!
Before you start, do yourself a favor and set up a flea trap to capture as many of your enemy troops as you can.
You won’t get them all, but this will help your cause in reducing the number of fleas in your house.
We’ve tried the dish of hot soapy water left out all night under a lamp. It gets a few fleas… but that’s not good enough in most cases.
Pick up a flea trap; a device designed to make your flea trapping MUCH easier.
It does so much better than a DIY trap because it’s capturing surface (sticky part) will stay warm and sticky continuously.
Unlike soapy water fleas will be attracted to it and from longer distances, allowing you to cover more area with your trapping.
Check out this awesome flea trap from Victor that will work wonders! Just be sure to experiment with placements as you may not even know where the most fleas are.
Now, onto cleaning…
You’ll need to thoroughly vacuum all rugs, large carpets and soft drapery and furniture surfaces.
Grab a vacuum and get to work. It may take 2-3 passes on carpeting over a couple days, but take comfort in knowing your sucking up a big percentage of the fleas living in your home.
Most of us have bagless vacuums, but just in case you do, be sure to dispose of the bag as soon as you’re done vacuuming.
For us modern folks, be sure to empty the canister following each vacuum session. In fact, assure you don’t bring anything you sucked up back into your home by:
- Emptying out your canister in a plastic bag you can seal and put outside in a trash bin
- Rinse the canister and any filter media with hot water
A good vacuum is important!
If you want the best vacuum for catching fleas and monitoring what your doing, get a good vacuum like the Bissell Cleanview model.
It’s made for pets, but the nice thing about it is you can see inside of it more easily with its see-through like design.
This is especially helpful around the rotating brushes. You can actually look and see if any fleas are caught in there before you finish and put away your vacuum to store it. Love this!
Our favorite Bissell pet hair vacuum (and favorite cat!)
Hot-cycle time in the washer
You’ll need to wash all pet linens, beds, small rugs and clothing that are anywhere near where you saw or suspect fleas.
This includes your own bedding and any clothing you’ve worn outside or around your pets.
Use the hottest water possible with soap of course. Fleas are pretty robust, but they don’t survive well in scalding water! The soap will obviously make it hard for them to leap off as well.
When you wash, you’re not only helping to get rid of fleas you can’t see, but also their eggs, larvae, and pupa will be rinsed away too.
You don’t want these guys biting any more, and you don’t want them laying any more eggs to keep future generations going strong.
You’re not done…
Vacuuming and washing things is a great first step. But you’ve still got fleas. Sorry for the bad news. It’s time to focus on your pet and those other places that are hard to clean.
Grab a flea comb
For your dog or cat, it’s always wise to have a simple flea comb on hand.
Manually going through your pet’s fur with a fine-toothed comb will scrape out and capture fleas and their eggs, along with their excrement.
Yep, get that stuff outta there.
A flea comb is a quick way to stay on top of your flea problem with pets in the house.
It won’t solve all your problems but it’s one line of defense you can use to keep the flea population down on Fido and Kitty.
Spa time for your pet
The next level of cleaning your pet of course is to give them regular baths. Enter: Flea shampoo
Use a good shampoo like the one linked above in the table. It’s a safe but effective solution.
Cleansing your pet is another piece to this puzzle in your battle against pesky fleas.
A shampooing may not be your pet’s favorite activity (or yours!) but you’ll rid any fleas and eggs that weren’t caught by the comb.
And another benefit is your pet’s skin will feel better afterwards as natural ingredients can help soothe the owies brought on my nagging flea bites.
There’s also an ingredient, which can help reduce fleas from re-populating. This is helpful but I wouldn’t count on it to stop your flea infestation once and for all.
Remember, we’re just cleaning in this phase. Treatment is crucial in your war against the flea nation.
Follow the next step to continue to get this done the right way.
2. Second, Treat the Areas You Just Cleaned to Exterminate the Fleas
Now, comes the sad truth about the war against fleas.
Just because you’ve cleaned every square inch of your home, you just can’t get them all.
These are stubborn creatures with a reproduction process that can practically survive the next earthly asteroid hit!
It’s time for some help…
We’ll hit the details below, but here are the top flea treatment products to consider (that you’ll need!):
Best Flea Spray
Kills fleas in ALL stages of life
An all-natural alternative
For this, you’ll need a good flea control product. Below are two highly effective sprays.
One involves chemicals for large, stubborn infestations. Another is all-natural and can get the job done in small spaces and when you’re not under large attack. Read below to see what’s best for you!
As a note, we recommend sprays instead of flea bombs or fogger products. Let’s treat the sources of the problem directly without spreading our ammo over the entire house.
In pretty much every case, you don’t need them if you follow the steps in this article and use a combination of the products recommended.
Natural Remedy – Wondercide Home Spray
In the past, it was hard to think of loading your house with chemicals just because you spotted a few fleas, but today they have some great organic options if you have a smaller flea issue on your hands.
The natural stuff works plenty well at killing and keeping fleas from coming back in your house.
And best of all, the products are perfectly safe for the canine, feline and human inhabitants of your house WHILE you are using it. No waiting for the spray to dry like with Precor 2000 mentioned below.
If you only see a flea every few days, or your pets just scratch at them from time-to-time, all you need is a good natural spray.
Again here, if you put in the cleaning efforts outlined above, a spray is a treatment you can easily and safely apply by hand to reach the areas that matter the most for adequate flea control.
Our favorite all-natural product is Wondercide Flea & Tick spray.
Believe it or not, it’s a certified natural essential oil-based product that actually works – there are literally thousands of Amazon reviewers who attest to it!
We can too, as we’ve used it to knock out fleas at the first sign of them. Before they get bad.
One bottle can usually cover a small home’s rugs, furniture, pet bedding and any area that can harbor fleas.
That said, if you have fleas that seem to come out of nowhere in the middle of your carpeted floor, it would be good to spray your carpeting.
Just pick up the larger 32oz. bottle depending on the size of your home. They do sell them in sizes from 4oz. all the way up to a gallon if want to have to refill you bottles for a better value.
Vet’s Best also makes shampoos, wipes and spot-treaters if you want to use in other specific areas that are small, including even your car.
While the essential oils are non-toxic, they can be a little strong if you’re spraying a lot. Be sure to have good ventilation in the areas you’re using it.
If you have a smallish flea invasion you can help wipe it out by using this plant-based product directly on your dog or even your cat!
It’s a little funny at first, but once you brush it through and it has a chance to dry a little, you’ll see how easy it is to use on their fur.
The “Strong” Stuff – Precor 2000 Plus
Ok, sometimes you’ve just had it with your flea infestation. You and/or pets are getting bitten every day, and you spot more than one flea in your house daily.
You need what we call the strong stuff. Because, it just works. And the one we recommend has for so many people.
We’ve had to wipe out fleas in the house two out of five times with this particular spray. No issues once it’s done.
Hands down, the most effective product we’ve used is called Zoecon’s Precor 2000 Plus.
What’s great about this spray is it contains an effective insect growth regulator (IGR). The IGR interrupts egg and larvae development of young fleas.
This is crucial when you have a full on flea life-cycle existing in your home.
The formula also contains the insecticide needed to kill the adult fleas, including the ones that keep laying eggs!
In all the ingredients here will take care of the early life cycle forms of the house flea (egg, larvae, pupa) as well as the living ones you see crawling and hopping around.
While it may seem expensive (it’s still well under $30), it only seems that way compared to other sprays that can cost much less.
Unfortunately the other sprays, found at many stores only affect the adult fleas. Long term, they just aren’t effective for bigger flea problems.
The eggs they’ve left behind (that’s a guarantee) will hatch if they haven’t already, unaffected by the less effective sprays.
Invest in the better product, like this Precor 2000 and you’ll get the results you want.
Be sure to use the spray liberally, lifting up rugs and couch cushions and pillows. Don’t worry, it won’t leave any weird odors or residues on your stuff.
After you spray, be sure to circulate the air in your home with open windows if possible and allow to dry.
A quality product like this will also last for at least six months but usually more.
It is completely safe for kids and pets once it dries, which for us was about an hours – but we waited two hours, just to be conservative.
3. Third, Prevent Fleas from Coming Back
Now that you’ve done the first two steps above – Cleaning and Exterminating, it’s time to ensure the fleas don’t come back for a LONG time. Or ever, if you can help it!
We’ve had the best luck preventing future infestations in two ways:
- Treating our pets directly
- Treating the outside and yard areas
First, it goes without saying that if you have animals indoors, you need to treat your pets to truly get rid of the fleas in the house and prevent them from rebounding back.
Now, our vet told us about a shot he could give our cat. This shot essentially makes any flea that bites him sterile. Over the course of many months, the fleas die out simply because they can’t reproduce.
But is this shot necessary?
99% of the time it isn’t. That’s where topical formulas come in.
You’re probably familiar with these; the kind you squeeze directly onto the skin of your pet’s upper back.
These squeeze-on treatments really do work well. Apply monthly, and you’ll prevent fleas from coming back.
They start working quickly and are effective 24/7, including when your dog or cat gets wet.
Best of all they kill any flea that tries to “move in” on your loving pet! Bye-bye fleas.
For cats, Bayer’s Advantage II has a very long history success. This is a product you can trust will work for felines because of it’s long track record – see links above.
When it comes to Dogs, it’s Frontline who is the front-runner. They make cat products too, but their dog line has been helping to treat dogs with fleas for decades – see links above.
Collars As a Great Defense
Collars are also very effective and warding off future flea attacks because after all, we do take dogs to the park and other open areas where dogs (and fleas!) go.
A good collar like the Serento line linked above will last up to eight months. You might want to use a collar if you’ve run out of topical treatment or if you’re coming into the flea season (later spring) and just want some good protection in place.
Being proactive and preventing fleas is always the best plan!
Repeat Cleaning and Treatment
If you happen to still find evidence of fleas in your house, don’t hesitate to repeat step one above with the cleaning process while you wait for the treatments to do their thing.
If it’s early in the year, usually the first pass of a bottle like Vet’s Best will take care of the problem if you don’t see too many fleas.
But if you’ve quickly become taken over by huge colony of fleas it’s time to get serious:
Clean your house as described, then treat the indoors, your pets and the yard with the products suggested.
Then, get ahead of the fleas by treating around the exterior of your house, and of course your pets.
Following this information is the home-run solution for how to get rid of fleas for good.