You’re covered in flea bites and thinking that it’s finally time to do something about this menace. So how long does it take to get rid of fleas, you wonder?
Fleas are notoriously tiny. So tiny, in fact, that other insects often beat them up and steal their lunch money. Well, not really. Fleas usually bring a bagged lunch.
Given that fleas are so tiny, you may feel like getting rid of them shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. Puny fleas, you can laugh to yourself as you squish them between your fingernails.
After all, you’re so much bigger than they are. It doesn’t seem like a fair fight. Well, prepare to be surprised.
Flea Math is Horrifying
What fleas lack in size, they make up for with sheer reproductive potential. A single female flea can lay up to a staggering 50 eggs in a single day.
The entire lifecycle of the flea can take place in as little as three weeks, and in those three weeks, a female flea can lay up to 1000 eggs.
Any math fans out there? Here are some numbers to make your skin crawl: if a single flea can have 1000 babies in three weeks, those thousand babies can each have a thousand babies of their own in another three weeks.
That’s a million fleas in six weeks.
Because of this jaw-dropping reproductive rate, adult fleas generally make up only around 5% of the flea population. The rest are either eggs or larvae.
So while getting rid of adult fleas will provide immediate relief for you and your pets, it won’t solve the problem. To get rid of fleas for good, you need to eliminate the eggs and the larvae before they turn into adults and lay eggs of their own. This can take some time.
Because fleas breed quickly, you need to kill them quickly. If it helps, you can imagine your home is something like the battle of Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings, with the evil fleas swarming the parapets of your fortress like orcs.
This is no time for half measures. These insects are quite literally out for blood.
How to Get Rid of Fleas FAST
The first thing to do is to kill the adults. Only the adults can lay new eggs, so by taking them out, even though they are only a small proportion of the overall population, you will be temporarily halting the breeding cycle. But only briefly.
Treat your pets
There is a variety of flea products out there to treat your pets directly, from collars to shampoo to medication. Follow your vet’s instructions and treat your pet no matter how much it resists. You’ll both be happier when this is over.
Also keep in mind that dog flea treatments and cat flea treatments can differ quite a lot. Hint: Cats are more sensitive. To help you out, here are full guides to getting rid of fleas on both dogs and cats:
Clean like you mean it
Once your pets have been treated – and this means ALL your pets, whether they show signs of having fleas or not (although fish are probably safe) – it’s time to start cleaning.
Pick up anything that’s on the floor of any carpeted area in your home. You want as much of the carpet accessible to you as possible, because you’re about to give it the vacuum cleaning of a lifetime.
Don’t forget about inside closets and underneath beds. Move furniture if you have to. You don’t want to miss a single flea.
Vacuum the fleas away
Once this is done, it’s time to get the vacuum out. And the more powerful the vacuum, the better – check out the best vacuum cleaner for fleas! You want to vacuum every carpeted area of your home, making sure not to miss underneath the baseboards, behind furniture, and in corners.
Make use of all those different tools the vacuum has.
Vacuuming does more than simply suck up the flea larvae. It will also remove a lot of the juvenile flea’s food source, which is the droppings of the adults.
Also, the vibrations caused by the vacuum will encourage the fleas to emerge from their cocoons earlier. Flea cocoons protect the pupating bugs from a lot of insecticides, so you want the fleas to emerge before you begin to treat.
Finally, vacuuming makes the fibers of the carpet stand up straighter so that any pesticide used will penetrate deeper into the fabric.
Apply flea killers
You’ve probably guessed the next step. None of this process is what you would call fun, but this is perhaps the most fun part. Because this is where you get to actually kill the fleas.
Killing fleas requires a multi-pronged approach so choose a few of the best flea killers on the market.
It’s probably best to remove your pets and your family from the home while you do this. Make sure you apply the pesticide not only to the carpeted areas but throughout the home, including baseboards.
Break the flea reproduction cycle
Considering that 90% to 95% of a flea infestation consists of young fleas – eggs, larvae, pupae – you really want to make sure you kill these off.
And that’s tricky to do because as mentioned, flea cocoons protect the pupating bugs from pesticides.
That’s why the best weapon in your battle plan is going to be an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR). This handy little pesticide disrupt young flea hormones so that they can’t grow into healthy, biting, reproducing adults.
Instead of purchasing a separate IGR, we recommend opting for a 2-1 flea killer that combines an adulticide (to kill adult fleas) with an IGR (to sterilize juvenile fleas).
Our favorite options are PT Ultracide Pressurized Flea Insecticide and Precor 2000 Plus Premise Spray. These products are safe for indoor use and do a magical job of quickly killing off flea infestations.
Rinse and repeat
And once the pesticide has been applied, the battle isn’t over yet. You will want to keep vacuuming regularly to keep those fleas hatching out.
Vacuum as often and as thoroughly as you possibly can – there’s no such thing as overkill here.
You will probably need to vacuum at least every other day for anything from 10 days to one month to make sure the fleas all gone.
So How Long Does it Take to Get Rid of Fleas?
Wait – did you just say a month?
Afraid so. The flea’s lifecycle can be extremely fast, but this depends on a number of factors. Temperature, humidity, and the availability of food all play a role in determining how quickly fleas will mature.
Although a flea can go from newborn to ripe old age in as little as three weeks, it can take far longer.
Pupating fleas are especially tricky to deal with, as they can spend several weeks in their cocoons if nothing encourages them to emerge.
The result is that people often think they have cleared a flea infestation, only to find that the insects have returned. While they can live their entire lives in as little as three weeks, fleas can also live for 180 days if they need to. Tricky buggers.
The Silver Lining
There’s not much good news to be found. But no one wants to end an article on a downer. So let’s try and focus on the positives.
Getting rid of a flea infestation is a lot of work. But, by treating your pet directly and then vacuuming thoroughly, you will eliminate huge numbers of fleas in a short space of time. Not to mention you’ll have an exceptionally clean home.
While you may be dealing with a flea infestation for a month or more, you should start to see the number of fleas drop rapidly within the first few days.
After that, it’s just a matter of being consistent. And don’t underestimate your enemy. It would be a shame to do all the work required to clear your home of fleas and then get complacent and allow a few to slip through the net.
Chances are, you’ll end up treating for longer than you actually need to. But it’s far better to do that than to stop too early and have to do it all over again.