How to Get Rid of Fleas
No one is a fan of fleas, especially not homeowners with pets. Fleas are, however, a fact of life for many dog and cat lovers. Although there are over 2,000 species of fleas, cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) are the likely culprit if you suspect fleas — even if you have a dog.
Fleas do more than make pets itchy. They can transmit diseases, including tapeworms, and cause murine typhus and plague in human beings. Many people also develop allergies to fleas, which can cause breathing difficulties, asthma and rashes.
If a customer suspects a flea infestation, advise them to quickly take steps to clean their home and pets.
Recognizing a Flea Infestation
Fleas are very hard to see with the naked eye, but there’s one major sign of their presence: feces. Flea feces, also called flea dirt, look like tiny grains of pepper. Look for flea dirt on pet beds, blankets or favorite napping spots.
Another symptom of an infestation is that pets will scratch themselves frequently if they have fleas. Adult fleas feed on blood, which fuels egg production. Adult fleas live on pets and hide among pet hairs.
Even people can show signs of fleas. Bites on humans are often around the feet and ankles for fleas that have found their way into carpeting.
How to Check for Fleas
Your customers may not know how to find fleas in their home. Our first bit of advice is easy: Always check the pet first. Here is how:
- Search for adult fleas on a pet’s back, near the base of the tail.
- Gently push the hair up on this area and look for moving, pepper-like black dots. If the dots are moving or jumping, they have found adult fleas.
- If a shower of pepper “flakes” fall from the pet, the animal may be infested and the owner is just seeing droppings or dead adults fall to the ground.
- Female fleas lay their eggs on pets, but most eggs drop to the floors, bedding and carpet. They hatch into larvae several days later. Larvae feed for about 12 to 15 days before pupating and eventually growing into adults to start the cycle all over again.
These fleas don’t “infest” people, though. They really don’t like human blood and prefer dogs and cats.
Rid Your Pet of Fleas
Fleas enter a home on animals, so the first step is to get rid of the fleas living on the dog or cat. Flea baths, flea collars and topical treatments are all good options.
From there, your customers will need to address the free-roaming fleas:
- Diatomaceous Earth: This fine powder contains the ground-up skeletons of tiny prehistoric creatures. The pieces of these fossils are so small that they cut into the exoskeletons of insects such as fleas. Humans, however, feel only a powder. Apply in areas where pets stay, wait 48 hours and then carefully follow clean up instructions before allowing pets to return.
- Victor® The Ultimate Flea Trap®: This helpful product is used to attract and trap fleas within a few feet. Use one per room until catch numbers die down.
- Spot treat: Use TERRO® Spider & Ant Killer to spot treat areas with heavy infestations. This quick-knockdown treatment can be used indoors and outdoors.
Take Action! How to Kill Fleas in the Home
The entire lifecycle of the flea takes about a month. Your customers must kill fleas at every stage of the lifecycle. If not, survivors will simply multiply and cause a new infestation.
Treat Cloth Items
Fleas love to hide inside cloth, including drapes, pet beds or people beds. Kill adults, pupae, larva and eggs using hot water, soap and/or bleach.
- Wash pet bedding and any machine-washable bedding, blankets, drapes and comforters in hot, soapy water. Use the hottest temperature setting if possible, depending on fabric requirements.
- For clothing, bedding and household items that are bleach-safe, add diluted laundry bleach to the load. For items that cannot be bleached, use a detergent with antimicrobial action.
- Tumble dry all items that can be dried by machine.
The vacuum cleaner is the perfect weapons in the battle against fleas.
- Use the upholstery attachment and vacuum all of the upholstered furniture. Take out the cushions and vacuum all of the cracks, crevices and corners, inside and outside, top and bottom for all cloth-covered furniture.
- Vacuum the rugs. Shampooing rugs helps, as does using simple table salt sprinkled on rugs. Don’t leave salt on the rug for very long and test a small spot first. Vacuum it up right away.
- Note: Diatomaceous earth can also be used to kill fleas in rugs. Be sure to carefully follow cleanup instructions after treating a rug. Excess DE can only be removed by certain vacuum cleaners.
- Vacuum hardwood floors and mop them with a pine-based disinfectant cleaner.
When you’re finished vacuuming, remove the vacuum cleaner bag and seal it inside a plastic bag. Throw the entire thing into the trash so that the fleas can’t return.
Add a Dehumidifier
Fleas need at least 50 percent humidity to survive. One method to kill fleas naturally is to use dehumidifiers to remove moisture from the area. By keeping the average room humidity down around 50 percent for at least two days or more, your customers will kill most of the adults, pupae and larvae.
Fleas are tenacious critters, and no matter how hard you scrub, your customers may miss a few. It’s advised they repeat the cleaning regimen at least once, if not twice.
Natural Remedies That Do NOT Work
There are a lot of natural remedies that work, but some don’t work at all. The University of Florida states that brewer’s yeast, vitamin B and garlic — all popular folk remedies against fleas — do not work at all. Ultrasonic flea collars that claim to use sound waves against fleas don’t work either. Stick with known natural products and remedies, and use what works safely around your home.
An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure. Today’s Homeowner suggests mixing three to four drops of either cedar or lavender essential oil to one or two tablespoons of water. Mix it well, then place five to 10 drops of this mixture on a pet’s bandana or cloth collar to keep fleas at bay.
Outside of the home, get rid of any areas that harbor fleas. Fleas love shady, moist spots, so raking up garden leaves and throwing away dead plants can help. Cedar repels fleas, so adding cedar chips or mulch around your plants may keep fleas away.
Flea Repellent Products
Making home remedies is great, but sometimes more help is needed. Safer® Brand and TERRO® offer homeowners and pet lovers some great alternatives to other conventional flea control products.
Victor® The Ultimate Flea Trap™ offers a convenient trap to catch those pesky fleas. It’s a clean, simple way to catch fleas and dispose of them without mess, smell or harmful chemicals. Glue discs inside the trap capture fleas, which then die and can be easily thrown out in the trash.
If you’re looking for a good source of diatomaceous earth, Safer® Brand Ant and Crawling Insect Killer can be used indoors. It comes in a “puffer” bottle to puff it out into cracks and crevices within your home to kill fleas within 48 hours. Not only does it cut into their exoskeletons, but it also dries them out by reducing the humidity levels around the areas where it’s applied.
For those who wish to use diatomaceous earth in the garden as well as in the home, Safer® Brand Diatomaceous Earth – Bed Bug, Ant, Crawling Insect Killer 4 lb offers a larger bag so that you have plenty to use against all types of insects. This OMRI Listed® product is compliant for use in organic production and can be used around vegetable plants and wildlife.
Try TERRO® Ant Dust or TERRO® Ant Killer Plus to eliminate fleas before they come into the home.
TERRO® Spider & Ant Killer is another option for quickly treating fleas inside a home and out.