How to Get Rid of Fleas in the House

Know where to look and what to do after you find fleas

Happy pet terrier dog scratching chin with leg
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Selling a house where pets have lived has its own unique set of problems without having to deal with fleas, too. A flea infestation can be a time-consuming problem to fix, but don't make the mistake of thinking you need a professional to handle the job. You can get rid of fleas in the house yourself.

Finding and Eliminating Fleas on Your Pets

The first place to check for fleas is on your pet. Fleas will run the other direction and hide when you part your pet's fur or hair. Special flea combs are made with the express purpose of flushing the little pests out and capturing them, too.

Flea Combs

But finding them is one thing, and getting rid of them is another. Live fleas will become get trapped in the teeth of the comb. Now you have to dispose of them.

  1. Start with your pet's head, near the ears. Also, check near the tail or under the legs.
  2. Quickly run the comb through the fur in these spots.
  3. Immediately dip the comb into a bowl containing a solution of liquid dish soap mixed with water. Act quickly before the fleas have a chance to spring loose after getting stuck in the comb.
  4. Any fleas that were trapped in the teeth will die in the soapy water.
  5. Repeat, if necessary, after drying the comb.

Concentrate your efforts on the areas where fleas gather most: the neck and the tail.

Spotting Fleas on You

Don't blame your pets entirely for a flea infestation. Humans can track fleas into the house, too. You might have a cat that never goes outdoors, yet you have fleas. In this situation, they almost certainly came in on you, then perhaps found a comfortable home on your cat.

Put on a pair of white knee-highs and walk around in your stocking feet for a while. Fleas will jump from your carpet onto your legs, and they'll be much easier to spot against a white background.

Flea Control for Your Pets

Combing out fleas is just a temporary measure. Your best option is to kill the fleas that are present on your pet and kill those that hop aboard later, too.

Plenty of great products will not only get rid of fleas, but they'll also prevent them from coming back for three weeks or so. It might take a couple of treatments to kill the remaining fleas and those that hatch after the flea infestation is under control, however.

Products that are effective in controlling and eliminating fleas:

  • Collars
  • Powders
  • Sprays
  • "Spot-on" liquids (these are applied to a spot on your pet's back)

You can also bathe your pet with a flea shampoo. Take your cat to a vet or a groomer if you think you'll have problems giving it a flea bath.

How to Apply Products to Get Rid of Fleas

Carefully follow all instructions included with your flea-control products. For spot-on applications, puncture the tube of flea control or bend the applicator tip and squeeze out the contents.

It's best to apply the ointment at the back of your pet's head, near the base of the neck or between the shoulder blades. These are spots your pet can't easily lick or scratch. Part the hair until you can see skin and apply all of the treatment in that spot. Make sure the treatment is applied to the skin and not the fur.

Flea Control for the House: Foggers

Foggers or "bug bombs" work well, but you'll probably need one for each room. Foggers are flammable, so be sure to turn off all pilot lights and keep them at least six feet away from appliances with ignitions, such as refrigerators or air conditioners. Remove animals—fish, too—and humans from the room you're treating, and exit quickly after you've activated the device. Don't leave any toys or uncovered food in the room, either.

The fog is toxic so you won't want to breathe the fumes. Leave the house undisturbed a minimum of two hours, or as directed.

Thoroughly air out the space by opening doors and windows before allowing small children or pets back in. Fans can help with ventilation.

Powder Treatments

Flea powder can act as an extra measure of defense. First, remove all bedding in the room and wash it in hot, soapy water or have it cleaned. Thoroughly vacuum all carpeting and rugs.

Regularly vacuuming and steam-cleaning rugs and carpets is an important method for keeping fleas under control.

Remove cushions from furniture and sprinkle the flea powder in the crevices. Sprinkle the powder along the perimeter of all the walls as well, and cover your floor area with it. Brush into the carpet with a broom until the powder is no longer visible, and wait at least an hour before vacuuming. Don't let your pet back into the room without treating it with a flea-control product.

Flea Control for Your Yard

Many yard products can get rid of fleas outdoors as well, but some are toxic, so read the instructions carefully.

Flea-control sprays attach to your garden hose and can cover thousands of square feet. Attach the product to your hose and thoroughly spray all affected areas, concentrating on moist and shaded spots, such as under shrubs and decks. Repeat the treatment every two to three weeks for six weeks, or until fleas are under control, and then you can switch to a maintenance schedule of treating every four to six weeks.

Another option for outdoor control is diatomaceous earth and other desiccants, which kill fleas by drying out the body of the flea, its larvae, and eggs. These desiccants don't harm dogs, cats, or humans.

It Can Be an Ongoing Project

It might seem like a lot of extra work, but if you regularly apply flea control products on your pets, and if you aggressively treat the house and yard, your flea problem should disappear ... at least for a while. You'll need to keep up with your efforts consistently to ensure they don't come back.