How to get rid of fleas in your home and on your pet

A beagle scratching himself on a brown couch
(Image credit: Getty)

If your cat or dog has been scratching excessively, you may be wanting to know how to get rid of fleas. These tiny insects live on your pets and in your home. They are not only an annoyance, making your furry friends itchy and uncomfortable, but they can also make them very ill, spreading disease and parasites such as tapeworm. 

This handy guide will not only show you how to prevent fleas in the first place, but if your pet does get them, it will show you what measures to take to get rid of them quickly. The first thing to understand is that only 5% of the fleas in your home are on your pet; the other 95% are the eggs, larvae and cocoons that have spread throughout your house and yard. For this reason, if you do get fleas, you’ll not only need to treat your pet, but your home and yard too. Follow these simple steps to find out how. 

How to get rid of your pet’s fleas

1. Regular grooming
Make sure you groom your pet regularly and check for signs of fleas. The sooner you spot them, the quicker you can get rid of them and stop the spread. 

2.Bath and shampoo
If your pet does get fleas find out how to give them a flea bath and wash them thoroughly using flea shampoo to kill the fleas. 

3.Use a flea comb
Fleas can usually be found in the hair on your pet’s neck and tail. Use a flea comb to pull out the fleas and then kill them by washing out the comb in soapy water. 

4. Wash your pet’s bedding
Fleas spread quickly so as well as washing your cat or dog, make sure you wash their bedding and any carpet or upholstery they lie on in hot water and dry these on the highest heat setting to kill any fleas. Repeat this every few days to ensure the fleas are gone for good.  Knowing how to wash a dog bed and how to clean a cat bed properly will pay dividends.

5. Apply flea treatment
While washing your pet will kill the fleas, it won’t ensure they won’t return as they will have already spread. Apply a vet approved flea remedy to your pet to ensure further fleas stay away. You may want to avoid a flea collar as these can be toxic, but if you do choose to use one research the best options for flea collars for dogs and for cats. If you don’t want to buy a flea treatment, you could try making your own at home. 

Natural home remedies for fleas

If you’d rather not buy flea remedy from the shops, there are lots of natural home remedies you can try. Mix two cups of rosemary leaves with hot water and let the solution cool before using it to spray or wash your pet. Essential oils such as citronella, eucalyptus, peppermint and tea tree can also be used as a flea deterrent. 

Add a few drops to around 400ml of water and apply to your pet. Similarly, you can dilute 6 cups of apple cider vinegar in 4 cups of water or ½ cup of lemon juice with 2 cups of water. Coconut oil is another natural flea repellent that you may have at home. If you want to apply something to your home instead of your pet, wipe down your hardwood floors with a mixture of salt and water or sprinkle salt on your carpets, leave and then vacuum it up. For more home remedies visit the links below:

How to get rid of fleas in your home 

1. Vacuum
To get rid of fleas in your home make sure you are deep cleaning your house and vacuuming every couple of days with a high-strength vacuum. Clean the floors, upholstery and mattresses – anywhere your pets might lie – and check you’re cleaning in any cracks and small spaces. Once you’re finished, empty the vacuum bag straight into the bin outside to prevent spreading.

2. Steam clean
As well as vacuuming, steam cleaning your carpets and upholstery will help kill off fleas using soap and high heat. 

3. Wash all the bedding
You can also get rid of fleas by making sure you wash all of your bedding and your pet’s bedding regularly using hot water and drying it all on the highest heat setting. 

4. Use a household flea spray
As well as killing fleas on all of your surfaces you need to keep them away and stop the spread. While no one is in the house, and ensuring you’re wearing gloves, use an aerosol chemical treatment spray throughout your home. Choose an insecticide with an adulticide, such as permethrin, to kill adult fleas, and an insect growth regulator, such as methoprene or pyriproxyfen, to kill the eggs, larvae, and cocoons.  

How to get rid of fleas in your yard 

Fleas thrive in warm, shaded and humid spots and anywhere your pet has been so try to eliminate these from your yard to keep them away.

1. Mow the lawn
Fleas hide in tall grasses so it’s a good idea to mow the lawn regularly and keep the grass short. Once you are done, empty the grass cuttings into a bin instead of adding it to the compost as the humidity will attract fleas. 

2. Let the sun in
While fleas like warm, humid areas, they tend to avoid full sunlight. Try to ensure your garden is in full sunlight with no shaded areas. You can do this by clearing any debris such as fallen leaves and sticks from your flower beds and shrubs. 

3. Use cedar wood shavings
Cedar wood shavings can be put out to repel fleas, particularly in areas where your pets enjoy sitting or lying.

4. Don’t overwater
Fleas will be attracted to water so don’t be too eager with your watering can when gardening and avoid leaving water out or standing. 

5. Avoid wild visitors
Wildlife in your yard such as squirrels will only add to the spread of fleas so, where possible, don’t make your garden wildlife-friendly.

6. Use nematodes
Nematodes are small worms that feed on parasite eggs. You can apply these to your lawn to kill fleas. 

How to prevent fleas

The guidance above will help you get rid of fleas, but it is easier to prevent fleas than to treat them so how can you avoid them in the first place? Make sure your house is cleaned regularly: vacuum, use flea treatment throughout the home and wash your bedding in hot water every few days. Regularly groom your pets by bathing them with flea shampoo and using a flea comb to brush them and check for the pesky insects. If the situation is bad, you could try limiting the time your pet spends outdoors or limit their contact with other animals and wildlife. 

How long does it take to get rid of fleas in your house? 

While you can get rid of fleas in a few hours (by combing your pet and killing the fleas in warm soapy water) or in a day (by washing all your bedding and thoroughly cleaning the house), it may take 3-4 months to get rid of a flea infestation as the fleas that have spread through the house go through their full life cycle. Fleas can lay up to 50 eggs a day. They then hatch into larvae and the larvae then create a cocoon, which eventually hatches into more fleas. To ensure fleas do not return, continue these practices for up to a year. 

Zara Gaspar
Zara is Editor on bookazines and covers a range of topics from cookery to travel and animals. Her latest first edition, What Your Dog Wants You To Know, is the ultimate guide to understanding your dog’s body language.  Former editor of World of Animals magazine, she has over 8 years of experience in publishing inspiring children and adults about the wonders of the animal kingdom as well as teaching them about their pets. She also has over 5 years experience working with vets, wildlife experts and animal behaviourists in her comms roles for various animal charities.  A keen animal lover, Zara can often be found researching her next wildlife destination to travel to. Having just moved into a bigger house she is currently looking at which dog and cats breed would suit her new family so she can fill her house with pets.