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Flea Treatments

Summary: Flea treatments may vary depending upon who is giving the advice. Some people rely upon pesticide “bombs”, while others wash and dry everything. Still others vacuum everyday. So, what is the best flea control method?

There are no good shortcuts to effective flea control. There are no magic potions or secret scientific gadgets that will make fleas disappear. It takes hard work and determination to get rid of stubborn flea infestations. Period! It requires thorough inspection and some clear thinking to figure out how the fleas got inside in the first place and how to prevent them from regaining a foothold once you have eliminated them.

So, the first step for flea control is the inspection phase. Everyone in the family must be involved because everyone will have separate, yet important knowledge about where the pet visits, rests and sleeps. Each of these areas may be harboring fleas. While you think you may know all the areas the pet visits, you may not realize that one of your family members has carried the pet into a closet or room that was previously not accessible to the pet.


Many flea infestations can be found at the foot of furniture where dogs lay at their owner’s feet. But, cats may carry fleas high above floor level. It is not uncommon to find cats resting on the backs of upholstered chairs or on the tops of a refrigerator or in a hidden shelf space. All of these odd spaces must be considered for total flea control.

Once you have mapped out your battle plan, start vacuuming. If possible, use a vacuum with a disposable bag, rather than a non-bag-type vac. It is known that flea larvae spent most of their lives living at the base of carpet fibers, deep in the carpet. You should use a vacuum with a good beater bar rather than a simple canister vacuum sweeper. Upright vacs have the best beater bars that really give the carpet fibers a good whack to dislodge entangled fleas. Don’t forget to use the crevice tool along baseboards, inside floor air ducts and under furniture. You need to physically move furniture to be sure to get the spots where the legs of the furniture rest in the carpet.

Once everything is vacuumed you need to figure out what blankets and rugs need to be cleaned. In fact, any surface the pet comes in contact with needs to be washed or vacuumed. That includes sofas, chairs, throw rugs, bed covers, seat covers, pet bedding and any other fabrics your pet utilizes as a bed or resting spot. Lots of work, to be sure.

Now it’s time to treat carpets and other surfaces with an insect growth regultor that prevents fleas from growing into adults. I like  Precor IGR. , plus an adulticide that kills the adult fleas. For that one I like Suspend SC. You mix the two products together. It’s important to include both materials for total control. These materials must be evenly applied over carpets and surfaces where the pet has had contact. Be sure to carefully read the label of any product you decide upon and follow the label instructions in total. Do not over-apply any product. There are hundreds of products listed on the web. Do your research to determine which is best for your situation.

Pet flea medicine

Treating the pet is an essential part of this process. I recommend a visit to the vet for a flea shampoo and flea medicine to keep fleas from reinfesting your pet. Read all about these medications. You will find pros and cons about the many products now on the market. Some people love them. Others swear the products are harmful to their pets. Ultimately, it must be your decision as to whether they are a good fit for your pet. Products include Frontline, Program, Pro-Spot, Proban, Advantage Flea Treatment and others.

Lastly, don’t forget to consider where the pet goes outdoors. High weeds, moisture and shady areas often breed fleas. These are the most likely places where you pet can pick up a flea. Keep weeds and grasses cut low. If possible, resolve standing water issues. Treat likely flea infestation areas with one of the many outdoor products with fleas listed on the label. Never use any product that fails to specifically list fleas as a target pest. Follow all precautions when using a pesticide. If you do not feel comfortable handling pesticides call a professional.

For flea control products, click here .

Ask Rick A Question


11 Aug 2009, 05:30
i have sand fleas in my apartment. i have had them since 6/30/09. i have bombed the apartment, had the exterminator fog, have plastic covers on the mattress, have used DE, flea powder,salt,borax,essential oils,enforcer,and vacuuming. i sprayed the bottom of the mattress and the entire apartment with enforcer, the bed frame and the entire carpet in the apartment and they are still eating me like crazy. all of my clothing has been washed and dried on high heat and i keep everything in sealed plastic bags. what else can i do? thank you
11 Aug 2009, 05:32
p.s. i do not have any pets, nor do my neighbors.
31 Aug 2009, 06:38
Thanks for a collection of great articles based on fact and written from your professional expertise.

I have cat fleas (and cats). My cats do not go outdoors. The fleas (and probably, eggs) came from a cat transport carrier I let someone borrow. HER cat is treated every 3 months with Frontline and wears a flea collar. Obviously, the Frontline is doing nothing to prevent or control her fleas, nor is it doing anything to interrupt the life-cycle of the flea.

Initially, I treated my cats with pyriproxyfen; one became very ill and I had to wash it off. I also sprayed my house with Dr Johnson's Flea Spray containing permethrin, s-methoprene, tetramethrin and Precor. I think that the permethrin made both my cats very ill, and made me very ill, as well, so I had to wash it off the floors.

Next, I used Capstar (nitenpryam) which worked VERY well on the adult fleas, and did not make my cats ill. I also used Zodiac house spray (s-methoprene, tetramethrin and Precor). For two days after this second treatment, I found only a few fleas in the house, but now I am finding newly-hatched fleas, about 20 per day.

I gave my cats both baths after using the Capstar and Zodiac, and found only a few fleas on them: THIS MEANS that I have still have an environmental problem. Throughout all of this treatment, I have followed all your advice about vacuuming daily, washing all fabrics, keeping surfaces dry, getting rid of clutter, cardboard boxes, and small scatter rugs.

It is possible that 1)the Precor (IGR) will take time to work, 2)I have fleas somewhere in the house that I am not aware of (possibly wood flooring), 3)the flea as an insect is becoming resistant to the treatments which are now in popular use.

I may use a second treatment of both Capstar and Zodiac House Spray in a week if I continue to find newly-hatched fleas. But I find this troubling, as the Precor is supposed to keep both eggs and larva from developing into young fleas, and it is obvious that it isn't doing that.

Thank you for putting this site up and for all your information and the comments section. 2009 seems to be a particularly flea-ridden summer in many countries. Especially here in the UK.
04 Sep 2009, 15:31
Dear Rick,

Well, it's been a rough couple of weeks, but I have to say that thanks to your expert advice and your website, the flea circus has moved on!
I also note that in my previous post I mentioned [s-methoprene, tetramethrin AND Precor], but after the hysteria of flea invasion has abated, realize that methoprene IS Precor.
You know, you're right, resolving a flea problem is a LOT of work. If I were in your neck of the woods, I would have called in your services! But since I am in the UK, I couldn't do that. So, I am really grateful for the public service education your website provides...because I couldn't have done this without what I have learned here. Thank you very much for all the hard work you have put into this website, and for putting it on the net.
Thanks, and wishing you Happiness and success in all things.

12 Sep 2009, 14:15
Well, Rick,

I wondering if you're following this saga?

I'm not quite done with the flea problem. I did not have any adult fleas or pupa to be seen anywhere in my house for two full days. But then suddenly I am beset again.
I suspect that the eggs and larva might be living in my clothes dryer. Why? Because even though I have washed towels and dishcloths and cat blankets in 180 degree water with laundry soap and bleach, and they are totally clean-looking when removed, and then I dry them in the dryer; the next day, if I put the item in a sinkfull of clear water and agitate it, I can see the pupa hatching out. Do you know, I was so shocked by this, that I tried soaking a white towel in nearly pure bleach overnight, rinsed it, ran it through the dryer, and did the "sink experiment" again, the SAME thing happened. More pupa.
Despite vacuuming daily, thoroughly, I still have pupa hatching out of wood flooring. These pupa bite as soon as they mature. My house has been treated with methoprene (Precor), and I understood that the eggs, and larva that were exposed to it would not develop into biting adults. This has not proven to be the case.
The bad news is that I ran all sorts of things through the clothes dryer. Cushion covers, pillows, a goosedown quilt, all bedding, all clothes, towels, everything that could be dried. (All else I threw away). All of these items are still infested, and as they came in contact with all my furnishings, the furniture is very infested too.
I took both cats to the vet twice. Both were treated twice (Frontline and pyriproxyfen); both cats still have fleas, one of the cats nearly died from each of the treatments. I have bathed both cats twice. The vets here do not bathe cats, so I am uncertain how to get the fleas off them. Another bath, maybe.
I am talking with a professional exterminator early in the week. It will take a full week to treat my house. I am considering replacing all my clothes, bedding, clothes dryer, and all furniture; everything. This all might sound somewhat drastic, but I have been rigorously performing a complete flea eradication program for 23 days now, and at this point it is still on-going. When I have solved this problem, I will return with the solution that worked for me.
Ask the Exterminator
12 Sep 2009, 17:14

I am, indeed, following your comments. I think you should have called a professional exterminator in a long time ago. By the way, please use the "Ask" button above if you wish to have a conversation with me. I don't usually post responses in the comments box.
22 Oct 2009, 17:13
Kate, I so feel your pain. We've bombed, sprayed IGR, set out flea traps, vacuumed, washed and called out two pro exterminators and we STILL have fleas. This, despite having neither pets nor carpets. Apparently hardwood floors are the toughest to treat.

No idea what we're going to do next. We had one exterminator out twice, but his spray chemicals came closer to killing me than any of our fleas. Then we called Fleabusters, who powdered every crawlspace and all through our apartment. They said to wait 2 weeks... it's been almost that, but we still have fleas.

Exterminator, if you're reading, we did what you said and had the Fleabusters guy powder EVERYWHERE. I mean everywhere. It killed roaches we didn't know we had, but not the fleas. I even laid down more powder myself, but the little vampires are still jumping around, making little powder snowmen and biting the heck out of my legs. I'm not sure if I have any blood left.

Anyway, if we do solve this problem without moving (which is quickly becoming our only option), I'll post about it.

Good luck, Kate!
06 Jul 2010, 18:37
Chris, I understand exactly what you mean. I had a terrible flea infestation last October. I am convinced that the fleas were brought in by the work crew hired by my landlord; they were in and out of everyone's apartments back & forth for a couple months.

After the job was done the fleas were everywhere. Since I have 2 (indoor-only) cats who explore every nook & cranny, there was no one central location to check for fleas.

I had the place professionally treated, and the pamphlet from the exterminator said that I should thorougly vaccuum every other day for 2-3 weeks. I did. The flea problem was greatly reduced, but I was upset because I still saw a flea or two every day.

Though I had treated the whole place (including the bed, drapes, etc.) I hadn't washed the drapes. After I did, I never saw a single flea and my cats & I stopped scratching.
10 Nov 2010, 19:48
We have been having a flea issue, it isn't horrible, except that I get bit alot, no one else is scratching (except the cats) anyway, we just treated them with advantage, and vaccuumed really well. I'm still itching, but hoping that starts to go away. I washed bedding and blankets and stuff. If it doens't go completely away what do i do. I am afraid to use foggers or anything that puts stuff in the air, as I have birds and lots of things are really bad for them.. suggestions?
10 Nov 2010, 19:57
Hi Karen - I posted back in Oct. 2009. The sprays and foggers totally don't work... they just pollute your home.

First, try a version of what Nona said - chop up a cat flea collar and put it in your vacuum and vacuum EVERYTHING once a day for a few days.

If they're persistent (like ours were), try Fleabusters. They were the only thing that worked for us. We actually used the service, but I hear you can apply their powder yourself and it works fine. Plus it's cheap and non-toxic. Good luck! I totally empathize!
Ask the Exterminator
11 Nov 2010, 15:49

Did you read the article? It tells you exactly how to treat and with which pesticides.
11 Nov 2010, 15:55
Well, like say my birds are a concern...I dont' want a bunch of stuff int eh air to make them sick or kill them, plus i have toddler who touchs everything and then puts her hands in her mouth, so another concern there.. if I dont' see them gone shortly, i will maybe call fleabusters..maybe that will be ok, since it is supposedley non-toxic.
I'll try the flea collar vacuum idea.
Ask the Exterminator
11 Nov 2010, 16:07
Fleabusters uses sodium polyborate which is closely related to boric acid. It's a pesticide with very low toxicity, but it is a pesticide, all the same. The powder is applied to all areas of your home (carpets, cracks and crevices). So, your child will come in contact with the product.

To get rid of fleas you need to treat carpets and floors. There is no way around it. But, you can use non-toxic products like Eco-Exempt D or Eco-Exempt IC2. Totally non-toxic to humans and pets. Click on "Pest Control Products" at the top of the page to see these products and their labels.
11 Nov 2010, 16:21
Hi Karen - Didn't know about the toddler. The Exterminator is right... the powder is non-toxic for adults (because we just walk on it), but I wouldn't want to put a baby or toddler on it. (Your floors are kind of covered in powder for a few days.)

Hopefully the vacuum thing will work. It did actually help our situation more than the spray pesticides. Just make sure you vacuum everything - floors, corners, furniture (even in the little cracks under the cushions). And even though exterminators told us the fleas don't live on fabric, we washed & dried all of our bedding. Sounds like Nona tackled her drapes, too. Just do a full blitz and then follow it up with a few days of vacuuming and hopefully that will do the trick.

My fingers are crossed!
24 Apr 2011, 19:24
After doing a follow-up on this page, I wanted to add something that Chris mentioned from my previous comment:

I had underestimated the resiliency of the fleas, and overlooked the fact that since cats spend time in window sills, fleas have easy access to fabrics surrounding that area. Spraying the drapes & curtains was futile.

In my case, before I laundered the drapes, I did notice a flea or two on my socks whenever I approached the windows; but I thought they were somehow nesting inside the creaky floorboards or hardwood panels.

Laundering the drapes was the final key to eliminating the fleas (and I stress that this was *my* particular case).

For cat owners like myself, this task can be especially challenging, because cats find nooks & crannies you never knew existed in your home. :p

But be encouraged: The article covers every thing possible, in my opinion. If readers follow it to a tee (lots of work, as it says) -- they will definitely win the battle against the fleas. I did, and you can, too! :D
25 Jun 2011, 11:38
new to florida my cat of 14 never had fleas he is in door.. i freaked out... but i hate chemicals ive made a spray of lemons oranges n rosemary boiled it an hour let it sit over night put in spray bottle been spraying every thing pets included lol.. it works..... house smells great also can use viniger garlic i used all but the lemons work great on furniture rugs floors everything.. i did reserch fleas are alergic to citrus hope it keeps working lol jean i hate fleas ugghhh
07 Sep 2011, 23:34
Well I guess we are all in the same miserable boat. Its sad that something so small can literally run you out of your own home. This is my first experience with fleas in 10 years as thats how old my cat is and we have neve had them. Currently she STILL does not have them. She is an indoor cat but I treat her with Frontline. I just moved into an apartment with hardwood and carpet and within 2 weeks they have bitten me so much that I hate to go to sleep at night like I am preparing a meal for them. They are not at all interested in the cat but the bites are increasing on me. I think they were already in the apartment and waiting for a host and since the cat was unavailable they are eating me. I have even tried spraying myself with insect repellant before laying down at night but you can't put it in "delicate" areas and your face. Wouldn't you know I ended up with bites to my face, inner thighs, behind and breast area and under my arm because I couldn't put the spray there but it doesn't seem to help much. I have tried Sentry spray, Zodiac, borax detergent and none of them helped and the amazing thing is I have yet to SEE one but I know they are here. We checked for bedbugs and its not them and I have no furniture (sofa, loveseat, matress)but the area and frequency I know its fleas. I also wanted to mention to everyone that you might want to consider treating your vehicle if you don't have leather seats because they travel and I have been bitten there too. So I called a professional and he came out and said I didn't have to move my moving boxes and the stuff he used would kill them all and if some new ones walked out they would walk through this pesticide and die. So I paid all of this money, put the cat in boarding they gave her a capstar and I went to a hotel. Well today I came back and vaccumed as instructed and I am still being eaten alive. I plan on moving (for other reasons) but am afraid they will come with me? Does anyone know if they can come in my moving boxes and what to do at the next place? The professional assured me that they would not but I am also still being bitten. I am sleeping on an air matress right now which is very helpful for the fleas but I am glad I have it because if I had to sleep on the carpet they would enjoy more of my blood. They are such a nuisance and I have never had to deal with them and again my cat is not bothered by them. The itching is horrendous I actually had to get a prescription strength cream from my doctor.Well I have told you everything I have tried and as of yet hasn't been successful. Am I being impatient because I am being bitten literally day and night (I work from home)or should I try something else?
07 Nov 2011, 10:32
I am so glad I found this site. I am in a hotel now for 3 days while my landlord treats the apartment they said they would pay for it for the weekend but I know the fleas will still be there. Trying not to be frustrated and will willing to try the citrus combo mentioned by Jean. Thanks for the tip.
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