May 27, 2005 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Yuck: Our house has a flea infestation. Looking for the best treatment option.

We have two dogs and a cat (all indoor/outdoor), who have all been treated with spot treatments recently and do not appear to have any fleas on them. If it matters, our 1200 sqft house has pergo floors throughout (no worry about them being in the carpet, but of course we have furniture and fabric to worry about). We'd prefer to go organic but don't want to shell out money for something that won't work. Should we DIY or go professional? Cost is a concern, but getting rid of the fleas is a bigger concern.

Also, we've applied beneficial nematodes in the yard in the past, but our yard is so huge it's hard to cover the whole area effectively.
posted by kmel to Home & Garden (21 answers total)
Do NOT buy any flea products from Hertz, under any circumstances; some cats have had extremely bad reactions, including death or permanent nerve damage.
posted by Jeanne at 8:18 AM on May 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

We had a similar problem, so we sprinkled 20 Mule Team Borax around the house. That helped a bit, but didn't necessarily kill all the eggs and a few days later it was back to the same problem. We then took a vacation and fogged the place, as well as sprinkling more borax on the floor and furnitures, taking our dogs with us and leaving the cats in the bathroom with food and water (with a wet towel on the floor near the door to block out any lingering chemicals.) That got 'em all.

Leave a bowl of water underneath a little night light, and fleas jump towards the light and gets trapped in the water. Sadistic, but fun.
posted by icontemplate at 8:47 AM on May 27, 2005

Do the fleas jump up onto your bare legs? If it is that bad, then go professional. Pyrethrins are probably the safest insecticide, but they are still nasty.

If the infestation is local, perhaps a local application by you might suffice. The fleas die off without a host so avoid the area yourselves and keep the pets treated. I have heard of people treating with a boric acid powder but I somehow doubt that will really work.

Having lived through one bad infestation I would not hesitate to go with a professional service again. Regardless of what they say, I would stay out of the house for a day or two afterward.
posted by caddis at 8:52 AM on May 27, 2005

Diatomaceous earth may help.
posted by Specklet at 8:53 AM on May 27, 2005

I would not sprinkle Borax (sodium borate) around my house. This from a medical text: Boric acid and borates are toxic to all cells. And the people who make diatomaceous earth say you can eat it without ill effects, but they fail to mention the dangers of inhalation (silicosis). You might as well inhale microscopic razor blades. It cuts up your lungs like it does the fleas, but you don't notice because your lungs are bigger.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:09 AM on May 27, 2005

I'm surprised no one has said this yet. Talk to your vet and get "frontline." There are many similar products with different names, but they'll know what you mean. It's a somewhat expensive treatment- maybe $70 for three months- but it is highly effective. That will keep fleas off the animals and keep them from getting new fleas.
posted by yesno at 9:16 AM on May 27, 2005

Response by poster: Yesno, the pets have been treated, the problem is that we have fleas all over the house.
posted by kmel at 9:23 AM on May 27, 2005

Whoops, should have paid more attention. Sorry.
posted by yesno at 9:31 AM on May 27, 2005

Response by poster: No problem!
posted by kmel at 9:47 AM on May 27, 2005

wgp, the diatomaceous earth links above do in fact talk about the dangers of inhalation.
posted by Specklet at 10:31 AM on May 27, 2005

One more thing I remember from our infestation, vacuuming. Careful vacuuming followed by immediate disposal of the vacuum bag can get rid of fleas if there aren't too many. This did not work for us but might for you. You have to vacuum all potentially infested areas carefully at least once a week, especially dark protected areas such as closets. You say you have no carpeting so perhaps this will help you. The key here is to stop their reproduction cycle and keep the infestation minimized in the process. Vacuuming gets the adult fleas, and perhaps some eggs. I could never get a definitive answer as to whether steam would kill the eggs. In the meantime give the fleas no meals so they can not lay more eggs. The pets won't be a meal because you treated them. Between the vacuuming and avoiding infested areas the humans should not be meals either. Eventually the eggs will stop hatching and the fleas will be history. This is nice story, but my wife had no patience for this process, especially as she kept providing them a meal.
posted by caddis at 10:37 AM on May 27, 2005

I sprinkle salt in the carpets and vacuum two days later.. Not sure why, but it seems to help.
posted by eas98 at 11:31 AM on May 27, 2005

What have the pets been treated with? When I used Advantage, fleas were gone from the dogs AND the house in no time. But if you've already used something, don't use something again on either the pets or the house until you've talked to the vet or you could run into an overdosing problem.
posted by sageleaf at 11:35 AM on May 27, 2005

We dealt with a sever flea infestation one summer. It was so bad the cats walked through the house jumping from one piece of furniture to another to avoid the floors. But since you have treated the cats, they're no problem. Fog the house (securing food, pets, etc) and go on vacation for a couple of days. And while you're on vacation, launder every linen and piece of clothing you have. You'll catch the odd straggler this way (and prevent re-infestation). Good Luck!
posted by Verdant at 12:14 PM on May 27, 2005

From what I've read about Borax its about as toxic as salt in the sorts of concentrations you'll be dealing with by sprinkling it around the house. It will help things, but will not be the only answer.

We used Advantage for three cycles and it rid both pets and home of fleas. From my understanding, the fleas in your house will die of eventually if they have only have "poisonous" pets to feed on. You should be diligent with the medicine and use it according to directions (i.e. you may need more than one application).
posted by trillion at 12:57 PM on May 27, 2005

Fogging has always been the only option that really worked for me, but yeah, you do have to leave the house for a couple of days and so do your pets. Put a fogger in each room, close up all the windows and doors, and leave. When you get back, vacuum up the dead fleas. Gross, inconvenient, toxic - but efficient, and cheaper than the pros.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:26 PM on May 27, 2005

We just had a similar problem -- came back from a month vacation (we had a cat sitter visit and play with our kitties every couple of days) to find the house full of little jumping bastards.

Used Frontline on the cats, and Zodiac Fleatrol (in the trigger pack, not a fogger) on what few carpety areas we have. Vacuum first. Also wash chair covers (hot water), sheets, laundry, etc. Throw away anything that can't be washed/sprayed that the cats like to sleep or scratch on.

Two weeks later, vacuum really thoroughly again, and repeat the process.

We're now flea-free, and keep the kitties well Frontlined, and haven't had any more problems.

The nice thing about using the trigger pack is that you can direct the spray where it needs to go -- no need to clean windows/TV screens/etc afterwards, plus you don't have to leave the house for days afterwards.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 3:03 PM on May 27, 2005

Fogging the house is good but you still need to spray the yard. There are foggers especially for flea infestation. I think they have additional chemical aimed at the eggs.
posted by Carbolic at 3:08 PM on May 27, 2005

icontemplate is right. you do not have to use chemicals in your house .Fleas tend to retreat to the edges of a room at night and move toward the center by day, and when they detect warmth they move toward it, so leave a desk lamp about six inches above the pan of soapy water on the floor overnight, fleas cannot resist the warmth.Fleas have an elevenday gestation period so fogging outside on their
schedule helps eradicate the nasty little bastards.
I averaged about 75 fleas a night for a few days, in two weeks they were gone.
posted by hortense at 7:05 PM on May 27, 2005

Screw organic, what you really want to do is prevent the hatching of eggs and kill the adults. Best way go to the Vet (or maybe pet supply store? I can only purchase it at a vets and may be different where you live) and get, Siphotrol. It'll kill the adult fleas and prevent the eggs from hatching for 7 months or so. I've tried other things including diatomaceous earth but it's messy - you can't vacuum it up and really doesn't do anything. The Siphotrol is applied along baseboards, in cracks and crevices and works for about seven months.

Do NOT buy any flea products from Hertz ... some cats have had extremely bad reactions

Lot of that has to do with idiots buying flea control products meant for dogs and using them on their cats.
posted by squeak at 11:35 PM on May 27, 2005

From what I've read about Borax its about as toxic as salt in the sorts of concentrations you'll be dealing with by sprinkling it around the house.

That's my understanding, too, but it doesn't hurt to check with your vet and/or doctor. Also see the links in icontemplate's thread above, which lean heavily towards "it's safe to use." weapons-grade pandemonium is being a bit over the top about boric acid, I think.

For what it's worth, I had a horrible "fleas on legs as soon as you walked in the door" infestation about 10 years ago in a rented cabin. I put the cats outside, sprinkled boric acid anti-roach powder in and around the place, left it for a day, then vacuumed thoroughly and did laundry and shampooed the cats that night. The next day there were no fleas in the house. It worked like a charm. I repeated the boric acid sprinkling a week later, and didn't see any fleas for the next three years.

Not one flea.

Nowadays I just get Frontline from 1800petmeds.com.
posted by mediareport at 5:58 PM on May 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

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