If you’re wondering how to get rid of fleas in carpet, you’re on the right path. But we don’t blame you if the very thought of doing so exhausts you.
Because it’s one thing to get rid of fleas on a cushion or two – but an entire house full of carpet?!
An intimidating task, to be sure, but one that absolutely must be done because this will make the biggest difference in your war against fleas.
The fight that takes place on the carpet is your very own Battle of Saratoga and if you play your cards right, it will give you decisive victory over the entire flea battalion.
Can Fleas Live in Carpet?
Not only can fleas live in carpet, but it is one of their favorite places to be. Maybe not adult fleas, mind you, but the carpet is like the perfect flea kindergarten.
The carpet is where pretty much all the flea eggs, larvae, and pupae are.
Here’s how it happens. After mating, the female will begin laying eggs within just 36 to 48 hours. And for such a short pregnancy, she produces a lot of eggs – one female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day! The thing about these eggs is that they’re not sticky so they fall off and scatter all over your carpet.
When you consider the fact that flea eggs make up around 50 percent of an infestation in a home while flea larvae and pupae make up 45 percent of a flea infestation – you can see why the winning the battle on the carpet is key to getting rid of fleas.
The carpet is where all the flea babies – 95 percent of the flea infestation – live.
Sure, it sort of makes you never want to walk on the carpet again. But it’s also good news for you because the easiest way to kill fleas is to strike when they’re at their most vulnerable, developing stages.
How Long Can Fleas Live in Carpet?
The question of how long fleas can live in the carpet doesn’t have one simple answer. Here’s why: the average adult flea doesn’t have a long lifespan. Even under absolutely ideal conditions – perfect temperature, lots of food supply, and humidity – an adult flea can only live up to 100 days.
But in reality, the average adult flea only lives for around 2 or 3 months. And without a host for food, the adult flea’s lifespan decreases significantly – it can be as short as a few days.
So you could just leave on vacation for a couple days and your flea problem would be solved, right?
Removing the fleas’ access to food may kill off all the adult fleas but that doesn’t solve your problem. Because 90% to 95% of the flea infestation is made up of juvenile fleas, you’ll soon have a whole new army of freshly hatched bloodsuckers to worry about.
And whereas adult fleas may die off without a blood host, the fleas in other life stages aren’t so dependent on blood meals.
How Long Can Fleas Live in Carpet Without a Host?
Now you’re asking the right question. The key to really understanding just how long fleas can live in carpet comes down to knowing a little bit about the flea life cycle.
Fleas go through four stages throughout their lives:
- Eggs. Fleas start their lives as eggs that female fleas usually lay on the hosts’ bodies. The eggs aren’t sticky so they roll off and scatter around the house. Flea eggs take just 1 to 10 days to hatch.
- Larvae. The eggs soon hatch to become flea larvae that feed on adult flea feces and dead flea larvae and seek dark cracks and crevices to hide in. Because larvae do not require blood meals, they don’t need a host to grow and develop. This stage lasts around 4 to 18 days.
- Pupae. The larvae then creates a pupa, which is sticky and gets covered in dust and debris, camouflaging it while it matures into an adult flea. In normal conditions, this stage lasts around a week or two.
- Adults. The fully matured adult flea then emerges from its pupa in search of blood.
As you already know, adult fleas will die out in a couple days without a blood host to sustain them.
But fleas in earlier stages are much less dependent on a host.
Flea larvae, for example, don’t need a host at all and get all the nutrition they need from the blood content found in adult flea feces. They happily hide, munch and grow in this larval stage, which can last from 4 to 18 days.
And once the larvae become pupae, things get really tricky.
Flea pupae are considered the most difficult life stage to get rid of because pupae don’t need a blood meal at all during this period. They simply hibernate and wait for the best possible conditions to hatch.
If they sense no viable host, flea pupae can remain cocooned for as long as a year!
So how long can fleas live in carpet without a host? All in all, for about a year.
That’s much too long for most of us to live our homes empty in the hopes of starving the flea infestation to death. You may go off on vacation for weeks – even months – but once you’re back, the fleas will emerge from their pupae and the infestation will have started all over again.
The only solution is to actually get rid of fleas in your carpet once and for all.
How to Get Rid of Fleas in Carpet
Ready to win the battle that’ll decide the war? Here’s the full guide to get rid of fleas in carpet – and keep them out.
De-Flea Your Pets First
If you have fleas without pets, you can skip this step. But chances are – if you have fleas, your pets are ground zero.
Plus, remember how flea eggs end up in the carpet in the first place? The eggs are usually laid directly onto your pets and then roll off as little Fido or Captain Meow roam around the house.
If you don’t kill off the fleas that are living on and breeding on your pets, it’s just a matter of time before more flea eggs are deposited into your carpet.
This is why the first port of call is to get rid of the fleas on your pets.
Use one of the best flea shampoos for dogs (or cats) to quickly kill off the fleas living on your pets and continue to use the most effective flea treatments for your pets so no new flea eggs wind up on the carpets.
- Best Flea Treatment for Dogs: A List of Treatments and How They Stack Up
- Best Flea Treatment for Cats: Top 9 Options Reviewed and Compared
This way, your pets get some much-needed relief and you have no more flea eggs rolling onto the carpets. Win win.
Vacuum the Carpet (Like You Mean It)
Meet the vacuum cleaner – it will be your lieutenant general in your war against fleas.
Why it’s awesome: Vacuuming seems like such a simple solution yet it is probably the best way to get rid of fleas in carpet. It not only eliminates all the adult fleas it sucks up, the vacuum also removes flea eggs, larvae and some pupae.
As mentioned above, killing just the adult fleas is a shabby solution since you’ll soon have a new generation of bloodsuckers to deal with. So vacuuming allows you to really hit them where it hurts.
It sucks up all the nastiness that comes with fleas – i.e. that disgusting pre-digested blood feces that looks like coarse ground black pepper. Not only is removing this crap much much more sanitary for you, it also removes the main food source of flea larvae (yes, they eat this stuff).
Lastly, the vibrations from the vacuum can stimulate flea pupae to leave their cocoon, which makes it easier to suck them up into the vacuum. Because the cocoon is resistant to insecticides and often spun around the base of the carpet fibers – they can be very difficult to kill or remove. Enticing them out of it is the best way to deal with them.
How to do it: Start at one end of the room and vacuum in strips so you can cover the entire carpet. Give some extra time and attention to the corners of the room as well as any dark, humid areas (i.e. under furniture) and places that you pet likes to hang around.
When you’re done vacuuming, take it outside before you remove the bags to prevent any fleas from getting back in your house.
Try to vacuum every day for at least 2 weeks.
Steam Fleas to Death
Why it’s awesome: Fleas at all life stages can’t survive temperatures above 95 degrees. And even if the steam doesn’t reach deep enough to kill all the fleas hidden in the carpet, the heat alone could be enough to stimulate dormant flea pupae to leave their cocoons – which makes them much easier to kill since their cocoons are often attached to the carpet fibers.
It’s also a totally natural way to kill fleas and sanitize your space at the same time, which is great if you’ve got kids around and are looking for non-toxic ways to get rid of fleas in the carpet.
How to do it: Either rent a steamer, hire a professional cleaning service or get a home steam cleaner. We recommend McCulloch’s Heavy Duty Steam Cleaner – it heats water to over 200 degree Fahrenheit, produces strong steam and you can use it on both your upholstered furniture and carpets.
Vacuum daily even after the steam cleaning treatment to capture the newly hatched fleas.
Clean What’s On the Carpet
Why it’s awesome: You don’t want to spend all your time and effort getting rid of fleas in carpet only to have them drop back on it, right?
How to do it: Scoop up all the pet bedding, cushions and any other fabrics that are on or near the carpet and wash and dry them on the highest setting. The heat from the washer and dryer will kill the fleas that’ve been hiding out in the items.
Vacuum everything that cannot be thrown into the wash – upholstered furniture, cat towers, armchairs, etc. Make sure to also vacuum the underside of furniture.
For upholstered furniture (i.e plushy, cushion-y couches) – remove all the cushions, wash and dry the covers on the highest setting and vacuum everything.
If you can, go the extra step and steam clean it as well – fleas at all life stages can’t survive temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit so the heat will kill the ones it reaches. The heat can also cause dormant flea pupae to wake up, making them easier to kill.
We recommend McCulloch’s Heavy Duty Steam Cleaner – it heats water to over 200 degree Fahrenheit, produces strong steam and you can use it on both your upholstered furniture and carpets.
Use the Best Flea Killers On Your Carpet
Now comes the very fun part: learning how to kill fleas in carpet.
There are a lot of things things you can use to kill fleas in carpet – what you choose to go with depends on whether you prefer natural or chemical methods, how sensitive your pets are, and how severe the infestation is.
Here are your best options, ranging from what’s appropriate for light to heavy infestations:
Diatomaceous earth (DE)
Diatomaceous earth is safe, natural and great for all levels of infestations, but unless you absolutely need an all-natural solution, we recommend that you combine it with other flea killers below.
That’s because DE works by dehydrating the adult flea to death but it only works on bugs with an exoskeleton. So whereas it can start to kill adult fleas within hours, it won’t work on flea eggs, larvae or pupae.
That means treating with DE alone is going to take time and patience, which you may not necessarily have when you’re dealing with a full-blown flea infestation.
How to use it: Sprinkle a light layer of DE onto your carpet, apply a heavier layer in your pet’s favorite hangout areas and under furniture. Leave it on your carpet for around 4 to 5 days and then vacuum it all up. Repeat as many times as necessary.
Natural flea sprays
Natural and safe, flea killer sprays made from essential oils are good for light to medium infestations. A great one is Vet’s Best Home Spray – it uses peppermint and clove oils and kills fleas and their eggs on contact.
Another one we like is Wondercide’s Flea and Tick spray. It uses cedarwood and lemongrass oil and kills adult fleas, flea larvae and flea eggs on contact.
How to use it: Spray, wait until dry and vacuum.
Flea fogger (with IGR)
If you have a severe flea infestation and you want a quick solution, this is it.
We typically don’t like foggers – aka bug bombs – but when it comes to quickly killing fleas in the carpet, there is nothing like the Precor 2000 Fogger.
One fogger can cover up to 750 square feet and it uses a combination of pesticides – permethrin to quickly kill adult fleas – and Precor Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) to effectively sterilize juvenile fleas so that they cannot reproduce.
The fogger is formulated to penetrate easily into upholstery fibers and the hard-to-reach cracks and crevices where flea larvae like to hide.
Best flea pesticide sprays
Last but not least, there is the chemical option: flea killer sprays that contain pesticides. This option has varying levels of toxicity depending on what you choose but the ones we recommend are safe to use indoors as long as you remove your children, pets and yourself until it dries.
These pesticide sprays are best for severe infestations and will quickly knock down your flea population.
So what are the best ones? There are adulticides (kills adult fleas) which work very well but can only kill adult fleas. But you don’t want to waste time – nope, you want to get rid of fleas at all stages of life and wipe out the infestation for good.
Which is why we recommend you go for one that combines an adulticide like Permethrin, Phenothrin, or Deltamethrin with Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs ) like Methoprene or Pyriproxifen. While the adulticides kill the adults, the IGRs kill off the larvae.
Virbac Knockout Area Treatment is top notch – it’s deep-reaching, doesn’t stain and kills fleas and sterilizes juvenile fleas for up to 7 months. A single can covers 2,100 square feet.
Ultracide Spray is another potent combination. It also gets rid of the flea problem for up to 7 months and one can covers up to 2625 square feet.
Flea Killers to NOT Use On Carpet
There are a number of flea killers out there that work remarkably well but come with a couple complications when it comes to using them on carpet.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them – simply that you need to be aware of what it entails when it comes to using it on your carpet. Here’s what you need to take extra precautions with.
Boric acid for carpet
Boric acid is a natural chemical that is very effective at killing both adult fleas and especially flea larvae. As a natural pesticide, it is relatively safe to use.
But natural, of course, doesn’t mean not toxic. Boric acid in high enough doses can be toxic when ingested, especially for small and sensitive animals. If you have a dog who likes to taste whatever is left out or a cat who constantly grooms itself, be cautious about using boric acid on your carpets.
You can choose to use it only along baseboards or areas that your pets don’t normally hang out in or use a thin scattering when applying.
It doesn’t take much to work. In fact, it was found that applying a small amount of boric acid – a rate of just 6.6 ounces per 1000 square feet – resulted in 90% suppression of flea larvae.
So keep toxicity to pets in mind when applying.
Flea powder for carpet
We love the efficiency and effectiveness of the best flea sprays above but another, more affordable option is to use a similar solution in powder form.
The best flea powders for carpet work in a similar manner: they combine pesticides that quickly kill adult fleas with an IGR that sterilizes juvenile fleas. The only difference is that they come in powder form.
That slight difference is enough to reduce the overall cost to a fraction of what the best flea sprays cost. For example, you can pick up a comparably-sized bottle of flea powder for less than $10.
The affordability, though, is the biggest advantage flea powders have over sprays.
As for the downsides? The first is that flea powder may not penetrate as deeply as the liquid molecules that are found in sprays. So if you have thick carpets or rugs, your results may not be as good.
But the biggest downside is that whatever money you saved is going to be paid for in time. Here’s what we mean: the best flea sprays allow you to cover a huge area in a short amount of time. Each can should easily cover up to 2,000 square feet.
With flea powders for carpet, even the best ones aren’t designed to be used as a broad carpet treatment. Hartz UltraGuard Plus Flea & Tick Carpet Powder is to be used only on spots that are “less than 3 feet by 3 feet per room.” Plus, you’re only supposed to use it once a month.
PetArmor Carpet Powder is similar and its recommended use is 200 to 400 square feet. That adds up to a long time that you’re going to fighting fleas on the carpet when you’re only allowed to cover such a small surface are at a time.
Last but not least, another huge issue to be aware of is that with flea sprays, you only need to stay clear until the application has dried, which takes around a couple hours.
With powder, you need to make sure your pets and yourself stay clear of the carpet until you’ve completed the treatment – which can take up to 24 hours – and then thoroughly vacuumed all the powder up. Sprays pose a health risk when they’re wet but with powders, the toxicity is present until it’s completely vacuumed up.
For that reason, we don’t recommend flea powders for carpet. Sure, it has its uses – for example, if you have a small rug that has an active flea infestation. But overall, the best flea sprays do a better job of clearing fleas and their spawn from carpet.
How to Prevent Fleas in Carpet
Once you’ve managed to get rid of fleas in carpet, you’re going to want to make sure no new fleas move back in. Here are the best practices going forward to keep your carpet flea-free.
Monitor the situation (while killing more fleas)
We recommend you do this even as you’re fighting the good fight and the fleas living in your carpet are on their way out.
Keep tabs on the situation by leaving flea traps out on your carpet – you can measure how quickly your flea infestation is being destroyed by checking to see how many victims the traps have claimed each day.
This is the easiest step here since all you have to do is lay them out and check on them (and replace them, of course).
You can get a ready-made flea trap here or make your own by mixing dish soap and water in a bowl.
This way, you can constantly monitor the situation and catch a flea infestation before it ever becomes full-blown again.
An ounce of prevention…
The last thing you want after doing all this to get rid of fleas in your carpet is to have to do it all over again.
To discourage fleas from moving back into your carpet, continue to spray the carpet – especially under the furniture, places your pets hang out, and dark places – with a natural flea repellent.
And remember that the best way to make sure you get rid of fleas in your carpet completely is to clear not just your carpet – but your pets, all areas of the house (including your bed if the flea infestation was severe), and even your yard.