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How to get rid of fleas

A flea on white fabric

Most people worry about their pets when you mention fleas. But a flea infestation is notoriously difficult to shift and can harm everyone in the home. Find out how to get rid of fleas with this handy reference guide.

Fleas are traditionally active from April through November, but modern central heating has led to them becoming an all year round problem. They spread discomfort, disease and infection that can affect humans and animals.

Regardless of the time of year, your home can become flea-free with careful planning and a rigorous treatment regimen!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What kills fleas at home?
    Only a comprehensive pest control treatment of vacuum cleaning, pest control and pet care can fully remove fleas from your home. Pyrethrin-based flea powders are safe to use around pet bedding and highly effective at eliminating fleas in the home.

  • Are fleas hard to get rid of?
    They can be! Fleas are small, highly mobile, reproduce quickly, live on pets and can hide in soft furnishings. Effective pest control products and a thorough cleaning regime are a must.

  • Is my house dirty if I have fleas?
    Not at all! Fleas can live on grass in your front or back garden. They’re normally introduced into the house by pets who pick fleas up outside.

  • Can fleas live in a clean house?

    Yes! Although a regular thorough vacuuming habit in combination with an intensive pest control strategy will rid your house of fleas.

  • Does washing everything get rid of fleas?

    Not necessarily. Regularly washing soft furnishings and carpets helps, but fleas are so small and reproduce so quickly that using pest control options like pyrethrin-based flea powders are also necessary.

  • Why is my house suddenly infested with fleas?

    Fleas usually enter your home on pets, soft furnishings, or clothes. They reproduce on pet bedding and settle in the crevices of your home. Fleas do not stick around long on your clothes, and they only need to stay long enough to find a new home… yours!

  • What does a bad flea infestation look like?

    Look out for black, brown and red spots on furnishings and carpets. Raised and swollen marks on pets and humans. Excessive scratching in pets.

  • Should I be worried if I see a flea in my house?

    Fleas are very common. They can be very harmful to pets, so always treat the whole home with a pest control strategy as soon as the infestation is confirmed.

  • How long will fleas live in a house without pets?

    They may survive a few months. Fleas cannot survive longer than 2 weeks without a host and may live in your garden.

  • How long does it take to get rid of a flea infestation in your house?
    As your home could be infested with thousands of fleas, all in different stages of their lifecycle, it could take up to 4 months to properly 100% rid fleas from your home. Remember: it only takes a few missed eggs and time for a full infestation to re-emerge.

What do fleas look like?

Super macro close-up of brown flea Siphonaptera

Fleas are generally very small (1–8 mm in length), so they can be difficult to identify. A lone flea can be almost impossible to spot. Look closely: you may be able to make out their distinctive bulbous abdomens and furry legs. Their bodies are laterally compressed and covered in armour-like chitin. This makes them difficult to squish and gives them the ability to squeeze through tight spaces.

All of the above means that fleas on pets and around the home can fall under the radar unless the infestation is extreme. Fleas jump from pet to person to place to get around the home with ease. Powerful legs combined with diminutive size gives them super-powered jumping abilities.

According to Guinness World Records, one 1910 experiment recorded a common flea jumping 33 cm in distance and 19.7 cm high. Not bad for 130 times its own height! 

How many types of fleas are there?

There are 2,500 species of fleas (categorised by the order Siphonaptera). Two of the most common types of flea are similar: the Common Cat Flea (Ctenocephalides felis) and the Dog Flea (Ctenocephalides canis). Despite their namesakes, both of these types of fleas can be found on cats or dogs. There is also a Human Flea (Pulex irritans), although this is a much rarer type of flea in the UK. Bird Fleas (Ceratophyllus gallinae, also known as the European Chicken Flea) may also be present in homes with chickens. 

All of these fleas may bite humans even if they will not drink our blood. They have to bite first to check!

How can you detect a flea infestation?

Look closer around the home for dark brown/red or black spots if you suspect an infestation. This is colloquially called ‘flea dirt’ and is a mix of flea faeces and their victims’ blood.

  • Pet bedding and pet toys
  • Carpets
  • Furniture
  • Soft toys

The threat of fleas are more present in homes with pets. Pay attention to your animals and look out for the following signs:

  • Red spots or bald patches on pets
  • Persistent itching and swollen patches
  • Flea dirt on your animal’s fur

Always consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your pets. Regular grooming can help with early flea detection and general pet health.

The RSPCA estimates that 95% of flea larvae, pupae and eggs live in your home and not on your pets. This figure highlights the importance of regular vacuum cleaning.

DIY flea detection methods

Suspect fleas but haven’t found any of the little blighters yet? Try these easy tests:

White sock test

Put on a pair of clean knee-high socks and walk around the house. Rub your feet against the carpet to generate heat and attract fleas. Any fleas in the area will leap on your white socks in search of a meal — making them easy to spot.

Soapy water test

An alternate method is to fill a warm bowl of water and add washing-up liquid. Put the bowl on the floor and shine a light near it. Any fleas present in the home will follow the light and jump into the bowl.

Are fleas harmful?

Like bed bugs, fleas are parasites that thrive on blood. They can pass on diseases like Cat Scratch Disease and parasites like tapeworms. Fleas can spread the bubonic plague and typhus, although modern medicine has mostly eliminated those in the UK in 2024. Flea bites in humans may cause itchy red rashes and are caused by flea saliva being introduced into the bloodstream. Flea bites can also cause allergic reactions in pets and humans.

Adult fleas can live for up to a year. Female fleas lay around 20-30 eggs per dayIt’s easy to see how the population can quickly grow out of control if left unchecked!

The flea lifecycle

A diagram showing the flea lifecycle - flea eggs, flea larva, flea pupa, flea adult to host

Fleas go through four distinct stages in life:

  • Flea eggs
  • Flea larvae
  • Flea cocoon (or pupa)
  • Flea adult

The entire flea lifecycle generally lasts a few months, but this is dependent on the environment and access to food.

Flea eggs generally take between one and three days to hatch. Larvae feed on flea dirt in the surrounding area. The larvae spin a cocoon within 5–20 days. They emerge 7-11 days later as adult fleas. They detect heat and close movement to find their hosts.

Adult female fleas mate, then lay eggs on their hosts to begin the cycle again. They may fall off before hatching and can be found in carpets, between floorboards, in pet bedding, and anywhere quiet and warm. 

Flea eggs will hatch faster in warm and humid environments. At around 32 °C and 75%-92% humidity, eggs can hatch as quickly as 36 hours after being hatched.

The lifespan of an adult flea may vary. They can only live about a week or two without a host and in colder areas. That means they generally won’t survive long in a house without pets, although they can stick around for up to three months in humid and cold conditions.

How do you get fleas?

Flea infestations in the home usually start when an outside pet (usually a dog or cat) carries them into the home on their bodies. They can also travel in through pre-owned furniture or clothes. Fleas can get into the home on clothes and hair, but they don’t live on humans.

House pets normally catch fleas from wild animals or in long grass either in the garden or out on walks. Remember — fleas are very small and very quick, so they can easily hitch a ride without the host noticing!

Where do fleas live in the home?

Fleas like to live on compatible hosts like pet cats and dogs. Fleas lay eggs on their hosts, but these eggs cannot adhere to an animal’s fur. Every scratch, shake or roll can deposit hundreds of tiny eggs all around your house.

They gravitate towards dark and warm spaces where they can live undisturbed if a host is not available.

How to get rid of fleas in the home

Fleas can be disruptive, but they are not impossible to get rid of. Your home can be flea-free with a focused and organised pest control strategy.

  • Regularly groom and treat your cats, dogs, or pets. Always engage with a vet for advice and the appropriate treatment.
  • Clean all pet and human bedding on a high heat.
  • Vacuum thoroughly around the home. Pay special attention to floors and skirting boards to reach eggs and larvae. Steam clean carpets if you are able to.
  • Deploy pest control measures around the home. Cypermethrin-based flea sprays like NOPE! CP kill on contact. Pet-safe chrysanthemum-based flea powders can be safely used on and around pet bedding. Aerosol bug bombs and wick-based smoke bombs provide superior coverage to reach fleas hidden from sight.

How to get rid of fleas in the garden

You’ve deflead the house. You’ve treated the pet, you’re regularly washing and vacuuming, using flea powder and you still have fleas? They may be living in your garden.

Fleas hide in long grass so keep your grass regularly cut. Fleas can hide in bushes and bundles of dead leaves, grass and wood. Make sure you dispose of your garden clippings and keep your garden free and clear of places fleas may hide. Fleas like shady areas as direct sunlight is often too warm for them.

Some garden treatments to remove fleas are available. Nematodes are a type of microscopic worm that can be deployed into the garden. They spread throughout the garden and eat all flea eggs, larvae and pupae. The types of nematode used for biological garden control cannot infect animals, humans or plants, making them well-suited for targeted flea control. Different types of nematodes can be used as pest control for many types of invasive garden pests like Leatherjackets. Steinernema Carpocapsae nematodes are most effective against flea larvae. Always take care when using biological pest control; nematodes are living creatures with a very short shelf-life.

Pest control for fleas

NOPE! CP Flea Killer Spray is an effective, fast-acting and long-lasting flea spray for home use. It eliminates and disinfects to provide a barrier against fleas.

  • Use directly on carpets, floors, curtains, soft furnishings and areas of flea activity away from pets, pet or human bedding
  • Solvent-free
  • Odourless and non-staining
  • Ready-to-use
  • Effective on all stages of the flea lifecycle
  • Available in 500ml spray bottle and 5 litre can with pump-action pressure sprayer

For more information call
01403 210204