How to Get Rid of Fleas

If you have an flea infestation, learn about flea control and which flea spray kill fleas.

Flea Identification

Flea percentage graph
Flea percentage graph

Whenever you see adult fleas crawling on your pet, it is only a symptom of a much larger problem. Current studies indicate that adult fleas account for only 5% of the total flea population. Eggs account for 50%, larvae account for about 35%, and the remaining 10% are the pupa cocoons. That means that for every single adult flea living on your dog or cat, there are ten eggs, seven larvae, and two cocoons.

For more information: Flea Biology and Habits

Get Rid Of Fleas (Inside and Outside Premises)

Steps To Get Rid of and Kill Fleas Inside

  1. Inside your home, prepare the floor surfaces by dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping all surfaces where pets have been frequently. Eggs are laid on the pet and drop off as it moves. All affected pets should be treated and removed from the premises for 4 to 6 hours. Remove birds from home before treatments with liquid insecticides or aerosols. Cover or remove fish, and turn off the tank pump.
  2. Choose from one of the two methods outlined below as flea control treatment options and which flea sprays to use.
  3. We suggest using the liquid/IGR method or our recommended flea spray aerosols with IGRs. Use these products on all floor surfaces, paying attention to where your pet spends its time. If your pet is on the couch, treat it as well (after testing a small inconspicuous spot for staining).
  4. Keep covered shoes on until all treated areas have dried (4-6 hours).

1.Inside Flea Control Treatment (Using liquid insecticides combined with IGRs in a hand-pump sprayer)

Liquid Residual Insecticides and IGR (Insect Growth Regulators) combinations:

FenvaStar EcoCap or FenvaStar Plus are liquid insecticide residual treatments.

Using a residual insecticide flea spray concentrate controls the adult flea and combining it with an insect growth regulators (IGR) such as Martin's IGR Insect Growth Regulator or Tekko Pro IGR.

The IGRs prevent the larvae from developing into the cocoon stage, stopping the cycle. This flea control treatment lasts 4-6 months.

To get rid of fleas, it is essential to stop the flea cycle with an IGR, which may take up to six weeks.

You may apply the IGR by itself if you start before the cycle begins. Flea season starts in the spring time and lasts thru the fall months.

Unfortunately, some IGRs do not work well outside, since the sunshine will break them down. We recommend Tekko Pro IGR for the outside

Carpets/Rugs Surfaces

If you have mainly carpets and rugs, use the FenvaStar Plus and Martin's IGR or Tekko IGR combination mixed with water in a pump sprayer (see mixture below).

  1. Fenvastar Plus- 16 oz yields 20 gallons at the recommended concentration (good only on carpet and rugs; has an odor)
  2. FenvaStar EcoCap-8 oz yields 4 gallons; gallon yields 64 gallons at the recommended concentration (good on all floor surfaces: carpet, rugs, and hard surfaces, has a low odor)

Mix the residual insecticide and growth inhibitor in a pressure lawn and garden sprayer according to directions.

For every 1,000 square feet of carpeted surface, mix:

  1. Cover fish aquariums and pets' food and water dishes before spraying and remove pets. Keep all people off the treated wet surface. Restrict these areas until the floor surfaces dry.
  2. 2.0 oz - FenvaStar Eco Cap + 1 oz of your choice of an IGR (Tekko Pro IGR or Martin's IGR or Precor) + 1 gallon of water (Recommended for concrete surfaces, carpets, rugs, and hard floor surfaces)
  3. 0.83 oz.- FenvaStar Plus +. 1 oz of your choice of IGR (Tekko Pro IGR or Martin's IGR or Precor) + 1 gallon of water (Recommended for rugs and carpets)
  4. The recommended rates above are for maximum strength and effectiveness.
  5. NOTE: For hardwood or tile, these formulations will cover 1,500 sq; however, the FenvaStar Plus doesn't work as well as the FenvaStar EcoCap on hard floor surfaces.
  6. Use all mixed solution the same day you mix it because it does not store well.
  7. Expect to continue seeing fleas during the first month. These are pupae that continue to emerge. Results from the growth inhibitor cannot be judged for about four-six weeks after initial treatment. Re-treatment with the residual insecticide will probably be necessary during the first 30 days.
  8. The IGR will last on average about four months and can last 6 to 7 months
    • ( Recommended flea control aerosols may be used on all types of floor surfaces (except concrete), which most people choose for convenience.)

Hard floor surfaces

If you have mainly hard floor surfaces, use the FenvaStar EcoCap and Tekko IGR or Martin's IGR combination mixed with water in a pump sprayer (see mixture below). The EcoCap formulation adheres better to hard surfaces than the FenvaStar Plus. You may also use our recommended flea control aerosols. However, if you have real hardwood floors, you may not want a water-based product on your floors. If that is the case, choose a Flea Control Aerosol that has the insecticide and IGR combined.

Adult Flea Population That Live On Your Pets

Fleas are parasites that feed on humans and other warm-blooded animals. Fleas prefer to feed on non-humans. They will feed on humans when infestations are heavy or when other hosts are not available. Fleas usually require warm and humid conditions to develop. A flea can jump 7 to 8 inches vertically and 14 to 16 inches horizontally and consume up to 10-15 times their body weight in blood per day.

The best time to start a flea control program is in the late spring before getting adult fleas. Since most of the adult flea population live on your pets, start your flea control program with flea control pet treatments and an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) for your premises for the warm months.

Combination Flea Kits

If you have a full-blown flea infestation (eggs, larvae, pupa, and adults), fleas must be controlled at every stage of their life cycle. Adult fleas comprise only 5% of the total flea population, so use flea control products that attack both the adults and larvae. Understanding their life cycle will help you get rid of fleas.

Combination flea kits (Liquids-to be mixed in a pump sprayer ) contain flea control products to get rid of fleas both inside and outside your home, targeting every stage. They contain both a liquid insecticide to kill the adult stages and an IGR to stop the flea cycle.

2. Aerosols- Hard Surfaces

Best Choice for Hard Surfaces Inside (May be used on carpets and rugs)

Pivot Ultra Aerosols or Alpine Flea Aerosols are the best choices for hard floor surfaces, such as laminate, tile, concrete, and hardwood flooring ( and may be used on carpets or rugs). These aerosols adhere to the surface more readily than other liquid insecticides. They contain the IGRs and adult insecticides in one formulation, no mixing needed. They have a slight odor.

In most cases, you will need to spray twice. The first time to get the flea cycle cut and kill adult fleas and the second time in about 10-14 days as you wait for the complete cycle to stop. You need immediate relief (fleas are still emerging from the cocoon stages).

Flea Control Aerosols combine an insecticide and an IGR in a pressurized insecticide. Without needing to mix chemicals, flea control aerosols are a convenient way to get rid of fleas inside that works on all floor surfaces.

Alpine Flea and Bedbug IGR Spray, FLEE Plus IGR Carpet Spray, or Pivot Ultra Plus are complete aerosol products for flea treatments. They have insecticides and IGRs combined with active ingredients to provide quick knockdowns. Many people find that these aerosols are the most convenient choices to get rid of fleas because you don't have to mix any products in your tank sprayer.

Pivot Ultra Flea/Tick IGR, FLEE Plus IGR, and PT Alpine Flea and Bedbug aerosols are our recommended aerosol products because they have newer chemistry with better results than many of the current flea control aerosols on the market. Using an aerosol instead of a liquid insecticide/IGR combination is advantageous because you don't have to mix anything in a pump sprayer. This method lasts 4-6 months.

Step To Get Rid of Fleas and Kill Fleas Outside

  1. Recommended Outside Flea Control Treatment Products
  2. An exterior flea problem can be caused by your pets and other animals in the area. Exterior treatment is most effective in a contained area that is kept mowed and free of debris.
  3. Liquid concentrates for flea control would be faster, but would require frequent retreatments(once a month)
  4. For short term results (but faster results), a recommended insecticide to kill the adult fleas is Bifen IT. Mix at the rate of 1 oz per gallon of water. Use about 2 gallons of water per 1,500 -3000 sq. feet. Repeat once a month. To enhance the Bifen IT, add an insect growth regulator to cut the flea cycle. Apply Tekko Pro IGR with the Bifen IT for the first two sprayings. Spray where the pets frequent or where the fleas are prevalent. Use a hand pump sprayer or a hose-end sprayer. We have Indoor/Outdoor Kits with Bifen IT, and Tekko Pro IGR combined.
  5. For long term results (but slower results), a recommended granulated insecticide to kill the adult fleas would be Bifen LP Granules. For every 1,0000 sq. ft. of ground use: Bifen LP- Granules-25 lbs. These granules should be repeated at least once every two-three months during the flea season.
  6. Bifen LP and Bifen IT will work on ticks as well at the same rate of dosage.
Flea bites
Flea bites

Skin Reactions-Flea Bites

A skin reaction to a flea bite appears as a slightly raised and red itchy spot. Sometimes these sores bleed. Many people don't realize they have a flea infestation until they are away from their house for an extended period. When they return home, they discover a flea problem. When you return, they become active because they are looking for a blood meal to lay eggs. People tend to think putting the pet outside will solve the flea problem, but that typically makes the fleas turn to human hosts instead.

flea cycle on dog

Pet's Environment-Sowing flea eggs

In the pet's environment, these various life cycle stages occur. Still, these stages are concentrated in the pet's areas most of its time, such as the pet's bed area. Remember, when the adult flea lays an egg on the pet, it will fall off the hairs in just a few minutes onto areas the pet moves. These flea eggs become tiny larvae (worm-like). The larvae seek protection deep in carpet fibers, under cushions, and cracks and crevices. After the larvae stage, they move into the cocoon stage with pupae inside, which may remain up to six weeks.

If the pet usually walks through specific paths (either indoors or outdoors), there will also be many eggs scattered in those areas, similar to sowing seeds in a garden. These paths mean that flea control must be spread over the pet's entire environment, focusing on the areas the pet spends most of its time. The sleeping areas and walking paths are the most important, both indoors and outdoors.

How To Prevent Fleas On Your Pet, In Your Home, And Yard

As we mentioned earlier fleas lay their eggs on the pet. However, these eggs don’t stay on the pet. Wherever the pet goes, they shake and scratch and jump, sprinkling flea eggs on whatever surface they are on. Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) can stop these eggs from developing and stop a flea infestation before it starts! There are products that contain IGRs for use on your pet, inside your home, and in your yard.

On the Pet Flea Prevention

If possible, consult your vet about the health and skin condition of your pet before treatment. Begin flea control treatments on the pet using a mild shampoo Then apply a flea control product containing an IGR to the pet.

  • Use flea sprays and shampoos on pets. In warm climate areas, apply pet flea products year-round and consistently.
  • Since adult fleas are only 5% of all the flea stages, use an IGR (insect growth regulator) to treat all flea stages. Keep an insect growth regulator in place in warm climate areas. IGRs break down more quickly outside than inside.
  • Wash pet bedding and accessories.
  • Thoroughly vacuum floors, carpets, and furniture; dispose of vacuum bags immediately outdoors.

In the Home Flea Prevention

There are Ready-To-Use aerosol sprays with IGRs for use indoors on floors and upholstered furniture. They do a great job of interrupting the flea’s life cycle. Take a look at Alpine Flea and Bed Bug Aerosol and Pivot Ultra Plus.

You can also mix your IGR from a concentrate and put it in a traditional sprayer. Tekko Pro and Precor Concentrate are very effective and can be mixed with water and used by themselves as a preventative or with and insecticide to kill any existing fleas.

In the Yard Flea Prevention

A couple of new products have made a big impact on lawn flea treatments. Proflex Encapsulated Solution and Duraflex CS both contain insecticides to kill adult fleas and they contain IGRs to stop the flea’s life cycle. The encapsulation of these products keeps them from breaking down outdoors so they will continue to prevent fleas for months!

Understanding Fleas: Biology

Flea
Flea

The two most common fleas in the USA are the cat and dog fleas. Cat and dog fleas closely resemble each other. Cat fleas are more common and, most often, found in and around homes.

Cat fleas can host tapeworms, a parasite of dogs and cats.

When a flea bites, it contains flea saliva that stimulates an immune response that causes itching. It may produce an allergic reaction in pets.

Fleas are parasites that feed on humans and other warm-blooded animals. Fleas prefer to feed on nonhumans. They will feed on humans when infestations are heavy or when other hosts are not available. Fleas usually require warm and humid conditions to develop. A flea can jump 7 to 8 inches vertically and 14 to 16 inches horizontally. A skin reaction to a flea bite appears as a slightly raised and red itchy spot. Sometimes these sores bleed.

  • When a flea infestation is discovered, putting the pet outside is not a solution. The hungry fleas will direct all of their attention to the human hosts.
  • The cat flea is the most common type of flea. It feeds on dogs and humans also.
  • Fleas are attracted to body heat, movement, and exhaled carbon dioxide.

Habits and Biology of Fleas

Fleas require warm (70-85 degrees F) and humid (greater than 50% relative humidity) conditions to develop flea infestations.

The larvae are very sensitive to humid conditions, so flea problems seem to peak in the spring, summer, and fall seasons. Fleas have a hard time surviving outside under dry conditions.

Fleas go through a complete metamorphosis. There are four distinct stages: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults. Flea eggs are laid on the host or are deposited on the floor or ground. These eggs do not remain attached to the host but fall to the ground, such as the pet's bedding or floor surface. They are often found in upholstery or pet's bedding.

A female flea lays a few eggs every day until she has yielded up to 200 to 400 eggs. These eggs develop into flea larvae within two days to several weeks, depending on the temperature and humidity. Flea larvae are active and look like maggots. The larvae feed on organic debris but particularly like to feed on feces of the adult fleas. This "flea diet" contains undigested blood. The flea larvae are hard to spot and are found deep in the carpets or the cracks and crevices of floors and upholstery.

They are very difficult to vacuum because they get entwined in the carpet fibers.

The pupae or cocoon stage are also hard to spot. Under warm/moist conditions, many adult fleas emerge from this protective cocoon within 7 to 14 days, longer under less favorable conditions.

Fleas on dog
Fleas on dog

In the pet's environment, these various life cycle stages occur but are concentrated in the pet's areas most of its time, such as the pet's bed area.

Remember, when the adult flea lays an egg on the pet, it will fall off the hairs in just a few minutes onto areas the pet moves. These flea eggs become tiny larvae (worm-like). The larvae seek protection deep in carpet fibers, under cushions, and cracks and crevices. After the larvae stage, they move into the cocoon stage with pupae inside, which may remain up to six weeks.

If the pet usually walks through certain paths (either indoors or outdoors), there will also be a substantial amount of eggs scattered in those areas. These scattered eggs are similar to sowing seeds in a garden. This behavior means that environmental flea control must be spread over the pet's entire environment, focusing on the areas the pet spends most of its time. The sleeping areas and walking paths are the most important, both indoors and outdoors.

Key Takeaway

Flea problems don't happen overnight. You won't get rid of them overnight either.

Patience and persistence are key!

Q: I sprayed for fleas last week, and now they are back. Why didn't the spray work?

A: Even sprays that contain insecticides and growth inhibitors have difficulty penetrating the pupae cocoon. Flea larva that has entered a cocoon state will require to follow up the insecticides' applications after they hatch. This process is usually a 3 or 4-week process.

Written by our resident pest control expert Ken Martin.