Usually brought into the house by your dog or cat, fleas feed on dirt and by sucking blood from animals and, sometimes, us humans. Their bites aren't harmful but they are itchy and annoying. Fleas are big enough that you might catch sight of the odd one hopping across a surface your pet frequents – perhaps the carpet, sofa or (eek!) bed. And because they breed quickly, you'll want to know how to get rid of fleas quickly.
What are the signs of a flea infestation?
The fleas that occasionally invade our homes tend to be cat and dog fleas – it's very unlikely that you'll find human fleas. So, the good news is that you're most likely to spot fleas because of your pet's behaviour, rather than because you yourself are infested.
The biggest telltale sign is that your dog or cat might be scratching or biting its fur or fidgeting constantly. This is a good time to have a look at your pet to see if you can spot the fleas – or rule out a skin infection. If you can't see any fleas on your pet, have a good look around the places they like to lie down, perhaps their beds or a particular spot on the sofa.
Flea know how
Fleas are black, and around 2.5mm long; and they can really jump – up to a metre high – which is when you'll have the best chance of spotting them.
If you're hunting about for them indoors – or perhaps in the garden – bear in mind that they like shady, humid, and warm spots.
Fleas breed quickly, with one female laying up to 20 eggs that can hatch within a couple of days. In warm, humid climates, fleas live from several weeks to several months; in colder climates, with no host to feed on, the larvae can remain dormant, waiting for better conditions to develop.
For this reason, while treating a current flea problem, bear in mind that when the weather warms up (or the heating goes on), you may need to take up the cleaning regime again. For best results, keeping up the cleaning programme for a few months beyond the infestation is a wise move.
Best ways to get rid of fleas
Flea larvae feed on organic matter in carpets, beds and soft furnishings. For best results, you need to treat both the source of the infestation (probably the dog or cat) and the house at the same time.
Once you're sure the dog/cat does have fleas, follow your vet's advice on de-lousing them. Then, thoroughly vacuum carpets, curtains and soft furnishings once a week to remove food sources and adult fleas. Use a pet-friendly vacuum cleaner for best results.
Once you've vacuumed, empty the vacuum cleaner immediately outside of the house, ideally directly into the bin, rather than, say, onto a compost heap.
Wash bedding and removable covers that can take the heat on a hot wash, too, and continue to do so once a week. It makes good sense to do the same with your pet's bedding.
Then, it's simply a case of keeping an eye on your pet and an eye out for fleas.
The best vacuums for pets (and to get rid of fleas)
Dyson is known for its powerful vacuums, and the Animal is no exception. If you have pets, then this is regarded as one of the best vacuums you can buy.
Since Dyson is known not only for suction power but also filter simplicity, this is the best vacuum easy cleaning of pet hair. You can suck up all kinds of pet hair without worry of blockage or leave stray hairs due to a lack of power. The attachment options also make cleaning a pet bed a simple task too.View Deal
This specialised vacuum for pets by Miele is designed for those who tend to suffer with allergies, particularly to dust and pet hair; making this the best vacuum for allergies to pets.View Deal
If you don’t want to lug around a big and bulky vacuum (who does?), then the Shark DuoClean Vacuum is lightweight and easy to manoeuvre, plus its thin body makes it easy to store. In fact this is one of the best vacuums for quick pet hair cleaning.View Deal
How to get rid of fleas with home remedies
There are tons of home remedies associated with getting rid of fleas – from making a flea trap out of hot soapy water and putting it where you've seen fleas (perhaps in your dog's bed or on the sofa, for example) to sprinkling the sofa/carpet/dog bed with bicarbonate of soda, salt, ground rosemary or lemon then vacuuming. However, it's unlikely that any element of these remedies works, other than the vacuuming.