Eradicating a flea infestation is a long process, but hardwood, tile or linoleum flooring is a point in your favor -- fleas prefer living between carpet fibers and on pets, not on bare surfaces. Removing fleas from your flooring is just one step in your battle for a pest-free home. By undertaking a long campaign of vacuuming, thorough cleaning and flea-treating any pets you may have, you can rid your home of these parasites for good.
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The Flea Life Cycle
By the time you've noticed a flea infestation, you are sharing your home with fleas in all stages of development: eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. No one flea-control measure targets all of these stages, so take a multi-pronged approach to rid your home of fleas for the long term. Most insecticides on the market target adult fleas, making them the easiest to kill.
Cleaning Your Floors
Begin by thoroughly vacuuming your hardwood floors. This catches many of the adult fleas and can remove some of the eggs, larvae and pupae as well. Use the vacuum's nozzle attachment to access corners, crevices and the edges of baseboards.
If you have throw or area rugs on your floors, vacuum them on both the tops and bottoms, and then vacuum the floorboards underneath them. Fleas are more likely to be hiding in rug fibers than on hardwood, so vacuum the rugs from all angles to get as many of the fleas as possible.
Also vacuum any furniture in infested rooms, paying particular attention to creases, piping on pillows and the undersides of sofas and upholstered chairs.
If the infested areas contain any textiles or bedding, wash them and remove them from the area until it is flea-free.
Pay special attention to pet bedding and pets' favorite spots to lie. Fleas and eggs fall off pets and generally take up residence in these areas.
Even the most thorough vacuum job doesn't catch the entire flea population. To remove the rest, use a flea spray or flea bomb. Select a product that includes both an adulticide -- which kills mature fleas -- and an insect growth regulator, which disrupt other phases of the flea life cycle. Entomologists Mike Merchant and James Robinson, writing for the Texas A&M Extension office, recommend sprays containing limonene or linalool as adulticides, and methoprene and pyriproxyfen as insect growth regulators. Entomologist Mike Potter, writing for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment also recommends products containing permethrin as an adulticide.
Check the label of your chosen product to verify it is safe for hardwood flooring and your rugs, and follow the product instructions precisely. This may involve shutting off pilot lights and removing any food from the area. Drape area rugs over chairs or other furniture so the insecticide can cover the rugs and the whole floor; if you're using a spray, spray both sides of the rugs as well as the floor itself.
Cleaning Area Rugs and Throw Rugs
Rug fibers can harbor surviving fleas in all stages of the life cycle, even after you have vacuumed and sprayed the rugs. If your rugs are machine washable, when the insecticide treatment has dried, use a garbage bag to carry the rugs to a washing machine, then wash the rugs with the hottest water that is safe for the fabric. Tie the garbage bag closed and immediately dispose of it in an outside trash bin for the fleas or eggs that have fallen from the rugs inside the bag.
If your rugs are not machine washable, steam clean them (but not while on your hardwood floor) or have them professionally cleaned to remove lingering fleas with your own unit or a rental. Follow the steam cleaner's instructions for the correct setting to use on your rugs' fibers and the amount of cleaning solution to use.
Catching New Hatches
Over the weeks following the initial flea treatment, hidden eggs, larvae and pupae continue to develop and eventually reach adulthood. Continue vacuuming regularly until you stop noticing any fleas in the infested areas. This is also a good time to set flea traps on your hardwood floors.
To make a simple homemade trap, fill several bowls with soapy water and set them out near sources of light or vibration, which attract fleas. When adult fleas fall into the bowls, they become trapped and drown. Keep pets out of the area while you have these bowls on the floor. Alternatively, you can opt for commercial traps that emit a light to attract fleas and then trap them on a board treated with a sticky substance.
Expect to continue finding new fleas for up to two weeks after you treat your home. Continue insecticide treatments, as necessary, if you continue to find fleas after two weeks have passed
Treating Your Pet
If you have a cat or dog, flea-treating them is a vital step to defeating fleas once and for all. Apply the pet flea treatment the same day you debug your house and floors to avoid a re-infestation. Merchant and Robinson also recommend using a flea comb dipped in soapy water. Slowly and carefully groom your pet with the comb, re-wetting it frequently in the soapy solution to remove as many fleas and eggs from your pet as possible without chemical treatment. Although this method is unlikely to remove all fleas from your pet, it can be a useful strategy for long-term flea control after you have conquered the initial infestation.