Does heat kill fleas? After all, it works for other bloodsuckers – namely, the bed bug.
Fleas and bed bugs are very different animals. They look different, they behave differently, and they require different approaches to get rid of.
But although these two insect species are not closely related, they do have certain things in common. The main one being that they both feed on human blood. And therefore, people hate them.
Also, both of these insects will readily infest human homes. And no matter how polite you are, asking them to leave is not going to help.
In recent years, the pest control industry has started using heat more and more to deal with bed bug infestations. So it’s no surprise that people often ask the same question about fleas.
Does Heat Kill Fleas?
Absolutely. In fact, high enough heat will kill anything alive, which is why my attempts to start a petting zoo on the surface of the sun quickly met with failure.
Fleas can’t survive temperatures above 95°F. Some of you who live in warmer areas may not consider that a particularly high temperature.
But remember that this kind of heat will take about two days to kill all fleas. And if the humidity is above 75%, it will take even longer than that.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can simply crank your thermostat up and keep your house hot enough to kill fleas in a couple of days.
How to Use Heat to Kill Fleas
To kill every flea, which is what it takes to clear an infestation, you need to make sure that every part of your home gets above 95°F and stays there for a minimum of two days.
That includes behind the fridge, in the basement or crawl space, the back of kitchen cabinets – everywhere. Getting your whole house to this temperature is difficult and potentially dangerous.
Still, heat can be a great weapon against fleas if used correctly. Let’s go over some of the best ways to use heat against your bloodsucking foe.
Washer and Dryer
Chances are good that you already have an extremely effective flea killing machine in your home – a regular old washer and dryer. Wash your clothes, and especially your pet’s bedding, at the highest heat they will tolerate.
The hot water will either cook or drown the fleas, and any detergent or bleach you use will also help to kill them.
Then run the items through the dryer. Use the highest heat setting you have. Not only will the heat kill the fleas, but the aridity of the air inside the dryer is also highly lethal to these humidity loving creatures.
And being bashed around inside a rotating steel drum won’t do them any favors either.
Best of all, this is a cheap way to kill a lot of fleas. Unfortunately, unless you live in a tent, you can’t put everything you own through the washing machine. So it’s best used as part of a combined approach to getting rid of fleas.
A good quality steamer will produce steam above 200°F. This will instantly kill any fleas it gets close to, as well as the eggs and the pupating larvae. And all without the use of chemicals.
Steam is often used to kill bed bugs, but it’s just as effective against fleas.
The trick to an effective steam treatment is taking your time. You want that heat to penetrate everywhere fleas or their eggs could be hiding. That’s a lot of places.
Pay special attention to the carpet, and move slowly, making sure that the heat penetrates right to the base of the carpet fibers. Make sure you also get underneath the baseboards and furniture.
Steam can be used on your carpets, baseboards, upholstered and wooden furniture and virtually anywhere else that fleas might try to hide. This makes it a highly effective weapon to use.
Make sure you use a good quality steamer. Commercial grade steamers can set you back anywhere from a couple of hundred bucks to thousands.
But if you’re spending less than $200 on a steamer, chances are you’re not spending enough. Small steamers don’t get hot enough and lack the pressure of high-end models.
Better to invest in a high quality steamer that will get the job done than waste your time and energy steam cleaning the entire house with an ineffective steamer.
Bed Bug Heaters
Heat is such an excellent way to treat bed bugs that many companies have developed new methods of applying it.
Bed bug heaters, such as those made by ZappBug, are designed to allow you to perform heat treatments at home.
They come in a variety of sizes, from a suitcase-sized model designed for heating clothes and small items, up to a giant enclosure that can cook mattresses, sofas, dressers and other bulky furniture.
Bed bugs require temperatures around 120°F to kill them, so you can be confident that this temperature will undoubtedly kill all stages of the flea lifecycle too.
The trick is to make sure they are exposed to the heat for long enough. Bed bug heaters need to run for hours to ensure that they kill all the bugs inside. But the hot, dry air that they produce is exceptionally effective at killing fleas.
The weakness of using a bed bug heater to kill fleas is that it won’t do much for those living in your carpet, or anything else you can’t load into the heat chamber.
But they do provide a great way to treat your personal items while you use a different approach on the carpet.
The nice thing about a bed bug heater is that you can simply load it up and let it do its thing for hours while you attend to the rest of the house. So they make a great weapon to have in your arsenal.
Bed bug heaters don’t come cheap. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars for the small models, and even more for the larger type. But if you’ve had enough of scratching at a multitude of proliferating bites, it may well be worth the price.
Professional heat treatment
If the above methods of using heat to kill fleas seem like a lot of work, that’s because they are. Steaming, heating, doing endless loads of laundry – it’s all very time-consuming, and no one’s idea of a fun way to spend the weekend.
If you don’t have the time or the ability to take on a project of this magnitude, you can always hire a professional to help.
Pest control heat treatments were devised as a method to treat entire houses for bed bugs, but they work equally well on fleas.
The basic idea is simple. By bringing in huge commercial heaters and fans, technicians raise the internal temperature of your home above the 95°F necessary to kill fleas. They then hold it at that heat for hours, or even days if necessary.
While simple in theory, these treatments are tricky in practice. They require specialized equipment and specialized skills, along with constant monitoring to make sure that the correct heat is achieved and held without damaging anything in the home.
They are also very time-consuming, and therefore not surprisingly, very expensive.
Expect to spend at least a couple of thousand dollars on heat treatment by a professional. And if you decide to go this route, do your research.
As with any other contractor you might hire, remember that the cheapest quote is often not the best option. Remember also that heat treatments are most effective in detached homes, where you have control over the entire building.
In apartments, fleas can simply flee ( see what I did there?) into the next unit to escape the heat, potentially making the problem worse.