Getting Rid of Fleas

Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on September 13, 2022

You can get rid of fleas by taking steps to control them at every stage. First, you’ll want to think about treating your pets. But, fleas and their eggs may lurk in other parts of your home and yard, too.

It helps to understand the flea life cycle. Adult fleas lay lots of eggs. These eggs may fall off your pet and end up all over the house. Those eggs will hatch into tiny larvae. They are so small it’s hard to see them.

These larvae can end up in many parts of your home, including furniture, floors, and pet beds. There, they will spin a cocoon. Once mature, they’ll emerge as adult fleas and the cycle starts again.

Is your pet on a flea control program? If they are, it must not be working. Ask your vet what they recommend. You want a product that treats fleas at every stage -- from egg to adult bug -- and that works well in your climate. Most flea treatments take only one dose a month to keep fleas from making you and your pets itch.

If your pet is already on a flea treatment product, ask your vet about switching to something else. And make sure you treat every pet in the house.

If you rarely vacuum, fleas should inspire a change of habit.

Regular vacuuming lowers the number of fleas and their eggs from carpeting, cracks in wood floors, and on curtains and upholstered furniture. It also catches them under furniture. Don’t forget to vacuum the areas where your pet sleeps and eats. Empty the vacuum cleaner bin or throw away bags in a garbage can outside right away so the fleas can’t sneak back in.

For the parts of your home where you and your pets hang out the most, like the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms, vacuum every day. For everywhere else, do it once a week.

If regular vacuuming isn’t enough, try sprinkling some salt or baking soda on the carpet or furniture first. Salt and baking soda both can hurt fleas by cutting them and drying them out. Some people use them together. Leave it on for 24 hours or up to a week before you vacuum it up.

If you have a serious flea invasion, have your carpets steam cleaned. The heat will kill the fleas, but it may not kill all the eggs. They may hatch later, and you may have to steam clean again.

For very bad cases, you might consider calling an exterminator. Just make sure whatever you do to get rid of the fleas will be safe for you and your pets.

Hot, soapy water kills fleas, so wash your cat's or dog’s bed every week. And if your pets sleep in your bed or with your kids, make sure to wash everyone else’s bedding too.

It may seem old school, but a flea comb with tiny teeth can do a good job of removing fleas from your pet. Do it outside, and focus on the neck area and the base of the tail. Keep a cup of warm, soapy water beside you. Use it to dip the comb so you can drown the fleas.

Regular flea combing will also let you know how your flea control efforts are working.

Once you vacuum the house and wash the bedding, give your dog a bath. Bathing your pet regularly will also help rid your home of fleas. Any soap will kill them, so you don’t have to use a flea bath. But make sure that the soap you use is safe for a cat or dog.

Some people like to finish the bath with a nice-smelling essential oil that may also help keep fleas away.

Before you do, know that some dogs and cats may have problems with oils with:

  • Citrus
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • D-limonene
  • Geranium
  • Tea tree
  • Lavender
  • Linalool
  • Bay
  • Eucalyptus
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rue

These essential oils are less likely to cause problems if you use only a little bit:

  • Lemongrass
  • Cedar wood
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Your pets can continue to pick up fleas outside in your yard. To control them outdoors, try these tips:

  • Keep the lawn mowed and clear away yard waste, including clippings, branches and leaves. Fleas like dark, humid, and shady spots.
  • Keep your pets out of crawl spaces or other areas where wild animals with fleas might go.
  • Treat kennels, dog runs, or dog houses where your pets spend time outdoors.
  • Repel fleas by planting fennel, lavender, mint, pennyroyal, or other plants that fleas don’t like. These plants are generally safe for your pets to be around, but they shouldn’t eat them.

Show Sources


American Kennel Club: “How to Get Rid of Dog Fleas in 4 Steps.”

ASPCA: "Pet Care: Fleas," "Fleas and Ticks,” “Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List."

Government of Western Australia Department of Health: "Fleas."

Natural Resources Defense Council: "Control Fleas Without Chemicals," "Chemical Culprits: Flea-Control Chemicals." "Bathing and Shampooing Your Dog."

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: "How to Manage Pests."

University of Florida Entomology & Nematology: “Cat flea.” “Kill Fleas Naturally.”

Michigan State University Extension: “Questions and Answers About Fleas.”

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens: “Companion Planting.”

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