Fleas are some of the most bothersome household pests. They feed on your furry friends, cause intense itching, and even set up camp in your house! We know that our pets can bring fleas indoors, but what are some other aspects of our home that attract these pesky critters?
A majority of flea infestations in the home originate from infested household pets. However, fleas can also gain entry into your home by attaching to shoes or pant legs. Once they’re inside, fleas are attracted to warm, dark, humid environments, and often hide in carpet fibers.
If the idea of fleas in your home makes your skin crawl, read on to learn about how these pests enter your home and actions you can take to keep them out.
How To Identify Fleas In Your Home
Even if you know what a flea looks like and where their bites show up on you and your pet, it can be difficult to detect a flea infestation. Fleas have a similar appearance and bite to other household pests, such as bed bugs.
It’s important to know the type of pest that is infesting your home so that you can take the right measures to eradicate that particular insect.
To help you out, we’ve put together two “tests” for fleas:
The White Sock Test
For this test, simply put on a pair of tall, white socks (such as athletic socks). Walk through your home for a little while, paying special attention to walk past furniture or areas where your pet sleeps or hangs out (if you have a pet).
If you do have fleas, they will be attracted to the warmth and vibrations of your steps and will jump onto your socks. The flea’s dark coloring will stand out against the white sock, allowing you to see the fleas easily!
You can also complete this test outdoors if you’re worried about an exterior infestation, but it might be best to wear an old pair of white socks for that one.
Not only will this test help you detect fleas in and around your home, but you’ll also look super stylish while you do it.
The Alka-Seltzer Test
Use this test, courtesy of the University of Minnesota, as a trap to catch any fleas around your home. Once you trap them, you should be able to identify them based on the description provided in the previous section.
To use this trap, you should grab a shallow pan and then fill it with warm water, a few drops of detergent, and an Alka-Seltzer tablet. After this, you can leave it out and wait for the fleas to fall into the trap!
Keep in mind that these traps are for detection purposes only. They aren’t an effective way to eradicate fleas.
What Attracts Fleas To Your Home In The First Place?
Now that we’ve learned how fleas can be a major source of irritation for both pets and humans, let’s explore the aspects of our home that are particularly attractive to these tiny parasites.
Fleas Are Drawn To Your Pets
As you may have guessed, flea-infested pets easily allow fleas to hitch a ride inside your home.
Pets, especially cats and dogs, become infested when a flea jumps on them! Fleas have large hind legs that allow them to vertically jump up to about six inches high.
Your pet can contract fleas from pet service locations, such as kennels or groomers, where the parasites often cluster and wait for their next host. Pets can also acquire fleas from coming in contact with other animals, including stray dogs, cats, and wild animals like raccoons or possums.
Fleas spend a majority of their time feeding on the animal, but the longer the flea stays on your pet, the greater the chance that the fleas will infest your home. Fleas mate and lay eggs right in your pet’s fur (gross, we know), and may lay up to 50 eggs per day.
Over time, the eggs fall off your pet and deposit in various places around your home.
The places around your home where your pet(s) spend the most time are the areas where an infestation is likely to occur. These areas are often called infestation “hot spots.”
If your pet mostly stays outdoors, you will likely find clusters of fleas in their kennel, dog house, or another area where they rest and spend most of their time.
For pet owners that share indoor space with their furry friends, this is especially troublesome because shared areas like couches, carpets, or even your bed could be infested with fleas!
Fleas Love Warm And Humid Homes
Fleas thrive in warm, moderately humid environments.
The parasite often chooses a cat or dog as its host because the animal’s skin and body heat offer an ideal feeding environment. Unfortunately for us, our homes are also a suitable environment where fleas can thrive and reproduce.
When flea eggs fall off your pet’s coat, they often fall onto areas where the animal rests, such as carpet or bedding. Fibers from carpet, bedding, or other fabrics offer a warm, dark place where larvae can hatch, form a cocoon, and become pupae (the intermediate stage of a flea’s life cycle.)
Pupae can hang out on carpets or other breeding areas for months as they wait for the right conditions to emerge as adults.
Fleas Hitch A Ride On Your Clothing
Did you know that you could be a walking shuttle bus for a family of fleas? While fleas like to jump onto your pets, they can also hitch a ride on your clothing! Since they can only jump a few inches, fleas are often found on shoes or pant legs.
This might explain why some homeowners who don’t have pets can still face flea infestations.
You’re especially prone to picking up fleas if you come in contact with a flea-infested animal. So, stay away if that random dog or cat is itchin’!
Feral Animals Around the Home Attract Fleas
If you don’t own any animals and are baffled that fleas are still entering your home, you might be in closer contact with animals than you think!
Wildlife around your home, such as squirrels, raccoons, possums, rats, chipmunks, and bats, are all prone to a flea infestation.
Flea-infested wildlife living in your attic, your walls, your chimney, under your porch, or in other nooks and crannies in the interior or exterior of your home can introduce fleas into your living space.
If you do have a pet and they come in contact with flea-infested wildlife, they can introduce fleas into your home when they come inside.
Fleas Love Your Carpet
If you recently moved into your home or apartment, you may be dealing with fleas that moved in before you did!
Flea eggs are pretty amazing because they can lie dormant for months on end while they wait for a potential meal to walk by.
They especially like warm, dark places like carpet fibers, where they can hang out in comfort until conditions are right for them to hatch.
This means that previous owners or renters could’ve introduced the fleas to your living space, and you could now be dealing with them!
Flea eggs “wake up” when they sense vibrations that occur from nearby movement (usually from an animal or human). Once they awaken from their dormant state, they hatch within seconds and mature into adult fleas.
How to Get Rid Of Fleas Inside Fast
As we’ve learned, fleas have many opportunities to enter your home and even raise their families right on your carpet.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be facing a flea infestation, we’ve got you covered!
Most flea infestations can be controlled by thoroughly cleaning your home, both inside and out, and treating your pet (if they are the source of the fleas). We’ve put together some tips for doing so, so read on to learn how to eradicate these little pests once and for all.
A quick note before getting into it – we do recommend that if you do have full blown fleas inside, to call a pest control pro near you and to contact your vet!
Treat Your Pet
Pets aren’t always the source of flea infestations in the home, but they are a common source. You can skip this section if your pet isn’t the culprit!
If you have a pet, the best way to keep fleas out of your home is to keep your pet outside. Practically, though, most pet owners don’t want to lock their furry friends out of the house!
So, let’s go over some other ways you can treat a pet who has fleas.
To tackle the infestation yourself, the best thing to do is give your pet a nice bath and use a flea comb to manually remove the fleas.
The soap repels fleas and acts as a natural insecticide, and the fine teeth of a flea comb are effective in removing the insects from the fur. It’s important to regularly dip your comb into soapy water when combing your pet to ensure that the fleas don’t re-infest your pet.
Check out this Hartz Groomer’s Best Flea Comb for Dogs and Cats. This comb has extra-fine teeth that are especially effective in removing fleas from your furry friend.
Not only is this method effective, but most pets love a good combing session!
Of course, this also goes without saying but – call your vet to confirm what they want you to do!
Vacuum And Then Vacuum Some More
Soon after you wash and treat your pet for fleas, you should also clean your home. Since fleas could be lurking around your home, doing your best to remove them will prevent re-infestation of your pet.
The most effective way to rid your home of fleas is to vacuum! Vacuuming removes up to 30 percent of flea larvae and up to 60 percent of flea eggs from carpets and furniture, according to Texas A&M University.
This is why it’s especially important to vacuum all your pet’s resting areas, both inside and outside the home. You should also regularly wash and change your pet’s bedding.
To get rid of fleas, you should vacuum:
- Under furniture and cushions (including under chairs and beds)
- Along walls
- Rugs and carpets
- Crevices around baseboards
- Behind doors and cabinets
- Behind appliances
If your vacuum has disposable bags, it’s best to toss those after vacuuming to prevent a re-infestation. If you have a bagless vacuum, make sure to thoroughly empty and clean the canister.
While you’re cleaning, don’t forget to take care of the outside of your home! Areas outside your home, especially where your pet rests, can also harbor fleas. Here are some tips and areas to check:
- Thoroughly clean kennels, doghouses, dog runs, and other areas where your pets rest
- Remove debris and low-hanging plants (this will expose these areas to sunlight and will reduce flea populations)
- Block off crawl spaces, the area under your porch, and openings to your basement or attic. Wildlife likes to hang out in these areas, and they can often spread fleas to your pet.
Steam-Clean All Nesting Surfaces
If your infestation is more severe, you may want to steam-clean your home. Steam cleaning is especially effective when combined with vacuuming.
Once you’ve vacuumed, steam-clean or shampoo all carpets, rugs, and furniture. If you still notice fleas after doing so, it’s likely because some of them hatched from the warm water.
Don’t be discouraged! Vacuum again and continue steam-cleaning until all fleas and larvae are gone.
If your infestation originated with your pet, make sure to wash their bedding in hot water and dry in the dryer on a high setting. Do this once a week to prevent further infestations.
Something like this Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner can easily get rid of all fleas and flea eggs!
Also make sure to wash all pet bedding, and your bedding, in hot water and dry on a high heat setting in the dryer.
Use Natural Repellent Solutions
Natural, low-toxic treatments, especially citrus sprays, are another effective way to eradicate fleas in your home. Citrus sprays with limonene or linalool (chemicals found in the oils of citrus fruits) immediately eliminate fleas on contact.
There are a lot of different bug sprays on the market, and many people are still left to wonder if they work on bugs like fleas and ticks. Thankfully – most do!
There are also many naturally derived products that can help you get rid of fleas. One great example is the Wondercide – Flea, Tick, And Mosquito Spray.
Natural products containing oils are effective in removing visible fleas but shouldn’t be used as a prevention method. It’s best to combine the use of natural solutions with cleaning methods such as vacuuming or steam cleaning.
Many natural oils have strong scents that fleas hate. By using them you may be able to rid yourself of fleas for good!
If you decide that your infestation is beyond DIY remedies, you may need to consult a pest control professional to help you out.
While you can do it yourself, fleas are no joke to mess around with!
We know that the idea of fleas in your home is uncomfortable at best, but just remember that fleas are typically just nuisance pests. With that said, they’re still definitely not welcome in your home!
We hope that our tips and tricks can help you stay calm, cool, and collected when dealing with a flea infestation. Let’s recap what we’ve learned:
- You can use the “white sock test” or the “Alka-Seltzer test” to detect fleas in your home.
- Fleas often enter the home either by hitching a ride on your pet or your clothing. Once they’re inside, they flock to warm, dark, and humid places, like your carpet.
- Wild animals can also infest your pet. Block off all areas in the exterior of your home where animals find shelter (such as under the porch, in crawl spaces, or basements or attics).
- You can quickly eliminate fleas by treating your pet (if they are the source of the infestation).
- Thoroughly clean your home by vacuuming and steam-cleaning all infested surfaces.
- Remember to let in lots of sunlight!
Dobler, G., & Pfeffer, M. (2011). Fleas as parasites of the family Canidae. Parasites & Vectors, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1756-3305-4-139
Rust, M. (2017). The Biology and Ecology of cat fleas and advancements in their pest management: A Review. Insects, 8(4), 118. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects8040118
Souza, C. (1997). Fleas, flea allergy, and Flea Control: A Review. Dermatology Online Journal, 3(2). https://doi.org/10.5070/d35nn2w4bd
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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