Both home and pet owners know how awful a flea infestation can be. Fleas aren’t just gross and irritating — they’re also vectors, meaning they can carry pathogens and infect humans with viral, bacterial, and other types of disease. The good news is that there are ways to get rid of fleas in your home and yard without using pesticides or herbicides. Two key things to know: what causes flea infestations and the best practices for flea control. Let’s get started.
Fleas at a Glance
Before you can begin removing fleas, it can be helpful to understand what fleas are and what causes a flea problem. Here’s a closer look at why flea populations develop and the best practices for flea prevention.
What are fleas?
Fleas are tiny insects that travel on mammals and birds and ingest blood to survive. That’s why pet owners are advised to use flea prevention methods like flea collars and ingestible and topical flea control medications to reduce the risk of flea infestations.
How do fleas get into your home?
It’s especially important to address a flea infestation in your yard the moment you notice it. That’s because flea infestations develop outdoors and are then transported from flea dirt to your home via your pet’s fur. Unlike pests like lice, fleas don’t show up in human hair. Instead, they’re drawn to the ends of lower extremities. If you notice bites and irritation around your feet or ankles, there’s a good chance you have a flea infestation in your home or yard. While animals are among the most common vectors for fleas, these pests can also enter the home on furniture and fabric. After purchasing, always wash bedding before using it, and inspect all new or used sofas, chairs, and other fabric-covered furniture that comes into your home. If you notice specks on the upholstery, check for fleas right away; if you diagnose an infestation, start the flea removal process immediately.
Why don’t we want fleas in the home?
Fleas tend to travel in large populations, with each flea carrying pathogens that can cause diseases in humans. Many mammals are actually allergic to flea bites, and itching and scratching flea bites can lead to hair loss and skin inflammation. Fleas can also make your pets more susceptible to tapeworms and anemia.
How To Get Rid of Fleas
The good news is that if flea prevention fails, there are several ways to rid your home of fleas and address their root causes in the yard and the house. Here are just a few.
1. Wash Your Pet
If you notice fleas on your dog or cat, give them a wash right away. This will help to reduce the irritation and itching caused by flea bites. Start with gentle soapy water. (This will drown many of the adult fleas.) Then, move slowly through your pet’s fur with a flea comb to capture remaining fleas and remove them. If you need something stronger, speak to your veterinarian about flea shampoo options so you know you’re using the best product for your pet.
2. Wash All Bedding
One of the most important flea treatment steps is washing bedding. Even if your pet has been thoroughly cleaned, it’s important to prevent re-infestation by removing pests from the space they occupy. This starts with a thorough cleaning of their bedding and all fabrics they sleep on or wear. Wash both your bedding and your pet’s bedding in hot water with detergent. Make sure to inspect bedding and fabrics when removing them from the wash to confirm no fleas remain. You may need to do this several times. For more severe infestations, the best option may be to simply replace pet bedding.
3. Use a Vacuum Cleaner and Steam Cleaner
In addition to cleaning the bedding and blankets where your dog sleeps, you’ll need to clean around the affected area as well. Use a vacuum and steam cleaner combination to take care of fleas living in floors and rugs. Vacuuming ensures the removal of fleas at all stages of the flea life cycle, including flea eggs, flea larvae, and adult fleas. Vacuum all areas of the house regularly while the infestation persists, especially areas that show obvious signs of flea activity and areas where your pet spends a lot of time. A spinning brush is best for penetrating the surface of rugs where fleas burrow. You’ll also want to use your hose or brush attachment to reach baseboards and corners, where fleas like to congregate.
In addition to vacuuming, steam-clean carpets, rugs, and any furniture that can’t be washed in a machine. Fleas lay dozens of eggs each day, so make sure to clean fabric surfaces daily to prevent re-infestation.
4. Make Flea Traps and Sprays
You can purchase or make DIY flea sprays and treatments. To make at-home flea traps, place soapy water on surfaces near incandescent light. (This light attracts fleas.) Make DIY flea sprays with vinegar and lemon juice. Pour these into a spray bottle for spot-on treatment on couches and rugs.
5. Treat the Yard
One of the most effective ways to kill fleas in the yard — before they’re able to come into your house — is with a flea treatment process. Herbicides and pesticides can be very effective at managing infestations. Be careful, though, as their harsh chemicals can harm pets and family. DIY sprays and treatments made of vinegar or dish soap are pet-safe and can be sprayed regularly throughout the yard, starting in the evenings.
6. Give Your Lawn a Clean-up
One of the best ways to prevent fleas is to mow your lawn and clear brush and dead foliage. Additionally, remove standing water, as fleas need water to survive. By giving your lawn a cleanup, you’ll create an environment in which fleas cannot survive. To prevent bites and irritation, wear high socks while both cleaning up your yard and applying any flea treatment.
7. Add a Barrier
Another effective way to remove fleas from your yard is by creating a barrier that prevents fleas from penetrating and permeating your lawn. Cedar mulch works well here, as fleas and other insects are repelled by cedar’s scent. Simply spread cedar mulch throughout your lawn and around the perimeter of your yard. You can also use diatomaceous earth, a type of powder that kills fleas by damaging their exoskeleton and causing dehydration. This is one of the most effective ways to remove fleas from your yard, and it can even be scattered in specific indoor areas, if needed.
Fleas, be gone!
Fleas are nasty pests whose bites cause itching, irritation, and even disease. The good news is that there are numerous ways to combat a flea problem, whether in your home or yard. These start with washing pets, bedding, furniture, and floors. While it’s especially important for pet owners to take care when it comes to flea prevention and pest management, fleas can also enter the home on upholstery, so inspect all furniture deliveries for signs of fleas.
Most flea infestations, however, do start outdoors. That’s why treating your yard for fleas with sprays, yard management, and the use of barriers like cedar chips or diatomaceous earth is useful. Sadly, you’re not alone when it comes to combating this and other home ownership snafus. The good news, however, is that these treatments are effective and fast.