Flea infestations are one of the most problematic infestations you can have in the home. Symptoms include a gut-wrenching feeling, headache, and an overwhelming sense of dread. To get your flea problem under control, you first have to identify how they got inside.
The most common way fleas get into your house is for them to catch a ride on your pet. Your pet comes inside, the fleas breed, and the eggs fall off onto your carpet. Fleas can also get inside from wild animals. The fleas that live on the animal will get off and come inside through cracks and crevices.
You don’t have to have pets to have fleas in your house. Let’s check out how they get in, how to get them out, and how to keep them away for good!
- Pets are the most common reason that fleas infest homes. Fleas jump on pets outside, and then the pet brings them inside.
- Treating your pet and all areas where they go in the house is crucial to getting rid of fleas in the home.
- Fleas may also enter homes via used furniture, clothing, and from wild animals in the yard.
Here’s 7 Ways Fleas Get Into Your House
Fleas can get into your home through multiple avenues. Flea infestations are not like mice or rat infestations, they’re more similar to when you have a cockroach infestation. No matter how many fleas you catch in a trap, they seem to just keep coming!
If this sounds familiar, don’t fret. This article will explain the BEST ways to get fleas out of your home. But before we get into that, let’s talk about how they’re getting in.
Knowing how fleas are getting inside is the first step in keeping them out for good. Once you identify the areas where fleas are sneaking in, you can fix, seal, or plug those areas to keep your home flea-free. Let’s get to it!
1. Fleas Come Into Your Home On Your Pet
We love our pets, snuggling up close with them and showering them with toys and treats. But if you let your pet outside, they can come in contact with lots of things that aren’t good for them, including fleas.
If your pet happens to pass by a flea, the flea isn’t just going to sit and wait for the next furry visitor. It’s going to hop on! Once the flea hops on your pet, it can hitch a ride inside your home when your pet comes back inside.
The lifecycle of a flea is incredibly fast. The University of Florida backs this up by telling us that it can take as little as two weeks for a flea to go from tiny egg to full-grown bloodsucker. For this reason, it’s important to treat your pets before you have a flea infestation.
However, if you’re currently dealing with an infestation, it’s not too late to treat your pet to try to get these troublesome pests under control. But more on that later…
And remember, pets are just one flea attractant, but we can’t place all the blame on our pets! Cruise over to our article on the things that attract fleas to your home for a more detailed look at what bring these pesky insects inside.
2. Fleas Come Into Your Home On You
The type of flea that is most likely to infest your home is called the cat flea. Despite the name, cat fleas do not discriminate who their host is. It can be a dog, cat, opossum, skunk, or even you!
Fleas do not normally use humans as hosts. We do not have as much hair to hide in as our pets. However, fleas might jump on you as you’re heading inside. Once they test the waters and find you unsuitable as a host, they’ll hang out in the home searching for a new host.
Flea bites on humans occur most often around the ankles or lower legs. Some people find flea bites more intense than others, especially if there is an allergy. Flea bites will look like red welts and will be itchy.
There’s no real way to prevent fleas from using you as a way to get inside your home. This type of entry is uncommon and, unfortunately, cannot be helped. However, if you treat your pet, bringing a flea inside will not cause an infestation because there will be no suitable host.
3. Fleas Will Get Inside On Used Furniture
While the new couch you got for a deal may go great with your curtains, there could be something lurking inside the furniture that doesn’t go well with anything in your home – flea eggs.
To fully understand why flea eggs are hiding in used furniture, let’s take a look at the flea lifecycle:
|The female flea lays eggs on the host or in the host’s environment. The eggs are small, white, and oval-shaped.
|2 days to 2 weeks
|In the host’s bedding, carpets, and upholstery
|The eggs hatch into larvae, which are small, white, and worm-like with bristles. They feed on organic debris and flea feces.
|5 days to several months
|Dark, humid areas such as under furniture, in carpets, and in soil
|The larvae spin a cocoon and develop into pupae. Inside the cocoon, they transform into adult fleas.
|1 week to several months
|Similar to larval areas, as well as in cracks and crevices
|The adult flea emerges from the cocoon and seeks a host for a blood meal.
|2 weeks to several months
|On the host animal, in carpets, and in pet bedding
The lifecycle stages we’re worried about here are larva and pupa. Homes that are infested with fleas could have eggs or larvae in the furniture and not know it. When they sell their furniture, the eggs and larvae go with it.
After the larva makes their cocoon, they will wait to hatch until a suitable host arrives. So even if the furniture has been sitting for weeks with no one living in the home, fleas can still emerge as soon as vibrations alert them that a human or pet is near.
Once a flea manages to sneak inside, it’s not likely to leave. Why? It all has to do with finding a host. Learn more in our article on the reasons why fleas won’t leave on their own.
4. Fleas Can Get Inside Via Used Clothing or Blankets
Similar to used furniture, fleas can hitch a ride into your home on hand-me-down clothing or thrift store blankets and clothing. This happens more often with used blankets than clothing, but if the situation presents itself, flea eggs may get trapped in old folded clothes.
One of the signs to look out for is little specks of salt-and-pepper-colored dust. While this may appear normal on second-hand clothing or blankets, it’s also a sign of fleas.
The dust is actually flea feces and dead fleas, but because they are so microscopic it’s often mistaken for a bit of dirt or dust.
5. Fleas Get In The House From Outdoor Wildlife
Most of the wildlife that lives around your home probably goes unnoticed. You don’t realize a raccoon is living in the cavity of your yard tree or the massive vole runway just beneath your grass. You probably have a lot more wildlife near your home than you think.
While wildlife can be enjoyable to watch and listen to, they can also be harbingers of fleas. Raccoons, opossums, skunks, feral cats, and squirrels are the most likely neighborhood wildlife that carries fleas.
So, how exactly do fleas get from wild animals and feral cats into your home?
Remember how we said wildlife lives closer than you think? Well, sometimes wildlife gets really close, like, living under your porch or stairs close. When these critters make a home beneath your house, the fleas that fall off can slip through cracks and crevices and make their way inside as the fleas look for a new host.
Check out our article on the signs of a skunk den to see if you have one living in your yard.
6. Fleas Get In The House From Indoor Wildlife
Mice, chipmunks, and rats are common pests that enter homes and live in the smallest of spaces. Unfortunately, while they’re inside your home, they can shed the fleas they’re carrying. These fleas can then spread to you or your pet.
These invading critters are unwelcome not only for their fleas but they’ll also munch on your food, go to the bathroom in inconvenient places, and keep you up all night with their scratching and squeaking. Our article on the ways mice get into living rooms can help you identify how these unwanted critters are getting inside.
7. Fleas Get In The Home From Visiting Pets
Not everyone feels comfortable leaving their pets at home when they go to visit friends or family. Some animals require special attention, have medical needs, or just don’t like being left alone.
Whatever the reason, when someone brings their pet into your home, there’s always the chance they will bring fleas with them.
Visiting pets may go home later that day, but the fleas they leave behind are here to stay. It’s important to know whether or not your visiting furry friends have been treated for fleas before they enter your home.
Your friend’s pet doesn’t have to be in the home for long before it releases flea eggs from their fur into your carpets and furniture. Even if they’re only visiting for a few moments, if conditions are perfect, they can deposit flea eggs.
If you happen to spot a flea in the house, head over to our article on the things to do if you find fleas in your house.
How To Get Fleas Out Of Your House
Fleas are persistent little pests that can seem infinite in numbers. But rest assured, you CAN get rid of the buggers. The key is consistency.
Failure to control fleas is mostly due to misunderstanding the lifecycle of fleas. Homeowners treat their pets and expect the problem to be solved. Unfortunately, to truly get rid of fleas you’ll need a multi-pronged approach.
Let’s check it out…
Treat Your Pet
Treating your pet may not completely solve your flea problem, but it’s certainly required to get rid of them for good. There are three main flea treatments you can use to protect your pet: Oral, spot, and collars. All three are highly effective at preventing fleas from infesting your pet and subsequently your home.
- Oral treatments: These are meant to make your pet’s blood toxic to fleas, eliminating them after they feed and before they can reproduce.
- Spot treatments: Applied to your pet’s back or neck and the oils of their coat naturally carry it to the rest of their body. Fleas that come in contact with your pet’s fur are then exposed to the treatment and perish.
Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Treatment is a popular product that many dog owners use as spot treatments. Frontline is also available for cats. Always make sure you are getting a product that matches your pet (cat or dog) and matches their weight class. Never use cat flea treatment on dogs, and vice versa.
- Flea collars: Worn by your pet for a set amount of months and continually produce a low dose of the flea treatment, which spreads over your pet’s fur similar to spot treatment.
Seresto Collars are popular flea collars. They are available for both cats and dogs, with different collars for different weigh classes. Always follow the directions on the label of your product.
Treat Your Pet’s Bedding & Blankets
Preferably, you’ll want to take all of these steps simultaneously. Don’t wait until days after you treat your pet to wash their bedding and blankets. Try to do everything within the same day.
The reason? The good ol’ flea lifecycle. Flea treatments can’t possibly target every stage of the flea lifecycle. Most times, flea treatments target adult fleas. It makes sense since eggs and larvae aren’t likely to get on your pet.
The downside is that flea eggs and larvae will still persist in your home. If your pet is protected, that means humans are the only suitable host….not good!
With that in mind, make sure to wash all of the material your pet sleeps on – their beds, blankets, your bed’s blankets and sheets, and couch cushion covers. You get the gist. This will help eliminate the fleas not eliminated by your pet treatment.
You can read about other places where fleas hide here to make sure you’re covering all bases.
Vacuum Your Home From Top To Bottom
Vacuuming is one of the most important steps in getting rid of fleas permanently. You’ve treated your pet and their hot spots, but there are still eggs and larvae hiding all over your home. Wherever your pet has walked, played, eaten, etc. So you’ll want to bust out your vacuum cleaner to nab the rest of them.
Before vacuuming, it’s good practice to pick up any loose items off the floor. This will ensure that every square inch of your carpet is exposed and able to be vacuumed.
Next? Vacuum EVERYTHING. Lift the couch, squeeze under the bed, move the bookcase, and vacuum vacuum vacuum! Don’t leave a single inch of carpet untouched. This will ensure you get all the eggs, larvae, and cocoons.
Once you are done vacuuming, be sure to empty the basket outdoors and directly into a large trash bag. Tie up the trash bag immediately and keep it outdoors. Believe it or not, there’s still one more step…
Treat Your Home
Once you’ve cleaned and vacuumed everything you possibly can in your house, it’s time to take one last step – treating your carpets, furniture, and other areas with a preventative spray.
A good choice to use would be Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Home Spray. This product can be used indoors or outdoors and is gentle enough to be used directly on your dog when used as directed. It uses the power of peppermint and eugenol to deter fleas. You can read about other scents that fleas hate here to make your own spray!
Spray this around your home, on your pet’s leash and harness, their bedding, your couches, the floors, the carpets, the rugs…you get the point.
You can also use this outside on areas where your pet likes to lay down such as an outdoor dog bed, kennel, or favorite shady spot. This will keep fleas from re-infesting your pet and home.
How Long Does It Take To Really Get Rid Of Fleas?
You’ve treated your pet, you’ve washed all the blankets, and you’ve vacuumed your home. The flea infestation is over, right?
You may have to re-wash your pet’s bedding and re-vacuum your carpets several times before you are completely rid of fleas.
Fleas Lay A Lot Of Eggs
The reason you have to do it more than once is because of the sheer number of eggs fleas can lay. Remember how we mentioned an adult flea can lay 40-50 eggs a day? Well, imagine there are a hundred fleas in your home, each laying 40 eggs a day for two weeks straight. It’s scary to think about!
Eggs are bound to get kicked beneath things, moved around, and missed with the vacuum. When the eggs hatch and complete their life cycle, you’ll have more fleas to take care of.
The good news is that with each washing and vacuuming, the flea population will be reduced significantly. Eventually, you’ll have a flea-free house! You can always purchase something like Protecker Flea Trap to check your progress after each cleaning.
Don’t Stop Treatment In The Winter
As soon as the temperatures begin to cool off and the first snows appear, insects seem to buzz off underground or perish. So, that means fleas are gone, right?
Fleas are far less prevalent in the winter than in the summer, but they can still hang on even during a cold, damp winter season. You should protect your pets year-round from fleas, not just in the warmer months. If you stop treatment in the winter, it may cause a reinfestation of fleas.
August and September tend to be the worst months for fleas and ticks, so pay close attention to your pets during this time. Consider bathing your pet more often during this period as well.
Stopping treatment in winter is one of the major reasons people can’t get rid of fleas. For a full list of reasons, check out our guide on the reasons why you can’t get rid of fleas in your house.
Dirt Doesn’t Attract Fleas
Keeping up with your home’s maintenance can be a daily challenge. Kids leave toys everywhere, Play-Doh on the wall, food on the floor. We totally get it.
So, if you leave a few dishes here and there and wait to clean up spilled food, will it attract fleas?
Fleas are not attracted to dirt, leftover food, or anything else involved with uncleanliness. Since fleas need a host to survive, they will not enter your home just because it is dirty.
However, having an unclean home will attract other critters like mice and rats. These sneaky rodents can carry fleas and infest your home if left unchecked.
Wrapping Things Up
Fleas are annoying and tough to get rid of. They aren’t like other pests that can be kept out by sealing holes or replacing broken window screens. They’re just too small!
But with proper care and consistent cleaning, you can get rid of fleas for good. The first step is figuring out how fleas got into your home in the first place.
To recap, here are the 7 ways fleas can get into your house:
- Your pet
- Used furniture
- Used clothing/blankets
- Outdoor wildlife living near your home – raccoons, skunks, cats, opossums
- Indoor wildlife – mice & rats
- Visiting Pets
While it is possible to get rid of fleas on your own, you can always reach out to a professional to help with your infestation. They can identify how the fleas are getting inside and develop a plan to remove them permanently. Our nationwide pest control finder can get you in contact with a professional near you.
Dhang, P. (Ed.). (2014). Urban Insect Pests: Sustainable Management Strategies. CABI.
Halos, L., Beugnet, F., Cardoso, L., Farkas, R., Franc, M., Guillot, J., Pfister, K., & Wall, R. (2014, May). Flea control failure? Myths and realities. Trends in Parasitology, 30(5), 228-233.
Marchiondo, A. A., Holdsworth, P. A., Fourie, L. J., Rugg, D., Hellmann, K., Snyder, D. E., & Dryden, M. W. (2013). World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (W.A.A.V.P.) second edition: Guidelines for evaluating the efficacy of parasiticides for the treatment, prevention and control of flea and tick infestations on dogs and cats. Veterinary Parasitology, 194, 84-97.
Slak, M., & Burrows, M. (2013). Flea Control in Cats: New concepts and the current armoury. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 15(1), 31-40.
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