How to get rid of fleas: a 4-step method to a flea free house

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How to get rid of fleas? Use a 4-step method to get rid of fleas on your dog or your cat and in your house forever. Flea infestation will reoccur if you don’t follow all the steps described below. Read more

As an indoor/outdoor cat owner, I have been dealing with flea infestations coming from my cat’s encounters with local hedgehogs and have first-hand experience with how persistent these pests can be. I had to go through several sources of information to figure out how to handle flea infestation and none of these had a complete “how to” guide. I thought it would be really handy to have all you need in one place, a “how to get rid of fleas” recipe.

I created the following 4 step method:

step 1 identify: how do I know my pet has fleas
step 2 sanitize: how to clean my house of fleas
step 3 pet treatment: how to get rid of fleas on my pet
step 4 follow-up: how to get rid of fleas forever

Read on to find out what each step of the process involves.

step 1 identify: how do I know my pet has fleas

Dog nibbling at flea bite

flea infestation symptoms in pets

If your pet suddenly starts to intensively nibble and groom its lower back next to the base of its tail and scratches its neck in sudden bursts or gets itchy after you pet its back, it may be due to flea infestation. Check their fur for flea dirt. Part the hair on her neck and see if you can spot what looks like specks of ground pepper. Dipping those specks in water turns their color to reddish brown. 

You may be able to see live fleas if your pet’s fur is short, otherwise, fleas hide deep within it and are difficult to spot. You will need to use a flea comb to remove live fleas from your pet. Keep a dish full of soapy water next to you while combing and dip the comb in soapy water whenever you catch a live flea. Soapy water kills fleas instantly and does not give them a chance to hide in your home.

flea infestation symptoms in pet owner

You may notice flea bites around your ankles and on your feet. These look like bug bites and tend to be raised, lumpy, and very itchy.

step 2 sanitize: how to clean my house of fleas

Vacuuming all floors

pre-treating large surfaces

Clear all the floors in your house of small objects (you will need to clean all floor surfaces, so removing all small objects first will help you accomplish this task). Vacuum thoroughly with your vacuum cleaner in the highest setting. Make sure you vacuum the wall edges with the small vacuum attachment as fleas tend to hide in these crevices. If it’s a bag vacuum cleaner, make sure you dispose of the bag outside as soon as you finish vacuuming. Live fleas can escape the bag and stay in your house. If you own or can hire a steam cleaner it will help to clean your house of fleas in all their life stages even better.

pre-treating soft furnishings

Vacuum or steam clean all couches, armchairs, chairs, and any other items of furniture covered in fabric. Make sure you vacuum all crevices.

Wash all your bedding covers and your pet’s beds and bed covers at the highest temperature recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure you use a washing detergent or soap flakes (remember: soapy water kills fleas).

using flea control spray

Next, treat all floors your pet frequents with flea control spray for the home containing insecticides. You will find a few brands on Amazon. Make sure the brand you choose contains chrysanthemum extract, permethrin, or pyriproxyfen as these components are the most effective against fleas. Use the spray according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When spraying floors, start from the wall opposite the exit and walk backward toward the exit as you spray. The insecticide needs to dry for 15-20 minutes before you can walk on the floor again.

You can also use the spray on your pet’s bed after it is washed and completely dry.

treating the yard

If your house has a yard, you will need to treat the yard too. It is likely that your pet caught fleas there. Treating your yard will prevent reinfesting your pet and your home. Fleas tend to congregate in shaded areas, where your pet hangs out the most. Use an insecticide spray or granules there. You can also clip the low-hanging branches and remove dead leaves and twigs from the ground to allow more sunlight in these areas. It will act as a natural insecticide too. 

If you are dealing with a large flea infestation, call a local pest control company. They can deal with flea infestation for you.

step 3 pet treatment: how to get rid of fleas on my pet

Anti-flea dog bath

how to get rid of fleas on dogs

  • comb your dog’s fur paying special attention to the neck and lower back close to her tail with a flea comb
  • wash the comb frequently in soapy water (soapy water kills fleas)
  • wash your dog with anti-flea dog shampoo
  • use prescription or over-the-counter flea treatment topical or oral; topical treatment is usually a thick fluid applied directly to your dog’s skin once a month, oral treatment can be either tablets or chewable

how to get rid of fleas on cats

  • comb your cat’s fur paying special attention to the neck and lower back close to her tail with a flea comb
  • wash the comb frequently in soapy water (soapy water kills fleas)
  • use prescription or over-the-counter topical flea treatment for cats, a thick liquid applied to your cat’s skin once a month
  • DO NOT wash your cat

step 4 follow-up: how to get rid of fleas forever

Flea free house

Repeat step 2 at least 2 or more times within 5-10 days of the first application. If you decided not to use topical treatment for your pet, repeat step 3 together with step 2. Repeating these steps will ensure you get rid of fleas in all 4 stages of their lifecycle. Adult fleas in a dormant state can survive up to 155 days.

Frequently asked questions:

What kills fleas naturally in the house?

You can sprinkle baking soda, borax powder, or very finely ground salt on your carpets (put table salt in a blender and blend until the pinch of salt between your fingers doesn’t feel grainy anymore; make sure you use a face mask when sprinkling it on your carpets), rub it in, wait for 1-2 days and the vacuum the carpets.

You can make a lemon flea spray and apply it to your home floors, furniture, and bedding. You will need 3 lemons, 3 cups of water, and 1.5 cups of vinegar (distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar). Slice the lemons thinly (⅓ of an inch), and mash the lemons to remove excess juice (D-limonene that kills fleas is in the lemon rinds, so you don’t need the juice). Put the lemons in a pot and add water. Cover with a lid, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, turn down the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the lemons seep for 8 hours. Strain the liquid into a bowl, then add vinegar and mix well. Pour into a clean spray bottle using a funnel and your lemon flea spray is ready to use.

How long does it take to get rid of fleas?

If you follow the 4-step method described in this post, it will take 5-10 days to eradicate fleas completely from your pet and your house.

What kills fleas instantly?

Fleas die immediately when submerged in soapy water. The insecticides in flea control sprays and topical treatments also kill fleas instantly.

What to do next?

Contact your vet if your pet has any unusual symptoms or develops unexpected symptoms after topical or oral flea treatment.

Do you want to prevent flea infestation? Read our guide on flea and tick prevention for dogs.
Is bathing your dog a struggle? Our guide how to bathe a dog has tips and tricks on ways to make it easier. And if you got rid of fleas but your dog is still itchy, read our guide to itchy dog skin home remedy.

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Agnes is the owner and Editor-in-Chief of PetCareLink, website dedicated to first time pet owners looking for help in looking after their animals. Agnes is a pet enthusiast and a devoted owner of Cookie the ragdoll cat. She combines her passion for improving pets and their owners' lives with her background in medicine and research to promote responsible pet ownership.

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