How do I (and do I need to) deflea a car?
October 23, 2015 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Someone who lives in a flea-infested house got a ride in one of our company-owned cars (we found out about the fleas later). A co-worker just sat in the car for a few minutes this morning, and she found a flea on her person a few minutes ago. She does not have pets, so we're pretty sure the flea came from the car. I have to drive the car home. I have cats. What, if anything, should I be doing to deflea the car? Car is a four-door with cloth upholstery.
posted by jaguar to Pets & Animals (10 answers total)
Response by poster: Sorry, meant to include: person we think brought the fleas into the car rode in the car yesterday.
posted by jaguar at 1:46 PM on October 23, 2015

Best answer: Go to the vet, get one of those kill-o-flea spray cans, and spray everywhere inside the car then leave it for the length of time denoted on the can.
posted by tel3path at 2:02 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How much time since the fleas are known to have arrived in the car via the flea-infested house resident? If only a day or two, and if the car is not wet inside, it's not likely the fleas have really "infested" or taken up up residence and multiplied in the car. Take it to a car wash with one of those giant vacuum cleaners and vacuum the hell out of it, and it should be fine.
posted by beagle at 2:03 PM on October 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: We used a single can of room spray in my car and left it parked in the sun for two days; haven't had any flea bites or appearances in the car since. It was just the purple can of Raid from the grocery store, nothing fancy.
posted by SMPA at 2:29 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The second you get home you should throw your clothes in the washing machine. Fleas don't like humans, but would love your kitties. I also second the idea of using a large, carwash vacuum in the car.
posted by LilithSilver at 2:46 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Fleas don't like humans

Human fleas do — there are various species that will often opportunistically feed on other mammals but prefer their specific host species.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 6:10 PM on October 23, 2015

Best answer: As beagle notes above, thorough vacuuming ought to take care of it if the flea infestation isn't really established. If you want to be extra sure, follow up with a flea spray. This Adams spray took care of a mild-to-moderate flea infestatino in my old car once; YMMV.

I second LilithSilver's advice to wash your clothes as soon as you get home. Best-case scenario, your washing machine is in the garage and you can strip down there before entering the house. Worst-case scenario, there's no laundry in your building. If that's the case, throw your clothes into a plastic bag you can seal tightly until it's laundry time. Either way, hop in the shower right after for added peace of mind/stress relief.

Good luck!
posted by Owlcat at 7:02 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OK, thank you all! A coworker suggested that I take a different car home, which I did, and I stopped at the gym so I showered there and threw my clothes (including gym clothes) in the wash the moment I got home (and on preview: yes, Owlcat, the washer's outside, so I didn't even go in the house first). I'll buy some sort of flea spray over the weekend and treat the car on Monday, and either take it to be vacuumed or (I hope) get someone who's actually supposed to be doing car maintenance to do so.

I totally get that vacuuming today would have been better, but I would have had to drive a bit to get to a carwash with a vacuum, and I just didn't want to do that until I had sprayed the upholstery.

I have been scratching all day because I drove the car into work this morning and am highly suggestible to the idea that I have bugs on me, but I haven't seen any fleas, so I suspect I'm ok. I might see how much of a fuss I can make about not driving that car for a while, but I don't know how well that will fly. And I'll of course keep an eye on the cats.

If anyone has any different advice for a car that's been sitting outside in 70+ degree weather for three days, please let me know! And I so appreciate the advice -- I try to be as crunchy-granola-natural as possible in treating my own space, but this car is used to transport a lot of clients with a lot of hygiene issues, and I really just want to kill anything non-human that's living in the carpets or upholstery, and I was a bit at a loss.
posted by jaguar at 7:09 PM on October 23, 2015

Response by poster: Oh, and LilithSilver and Quinbus Flestrin, thanks for that info -- that was my understanding as well, that different fleas have different "preferred species." I know the client with the flea infestation has numerous pets, so I'm working on the assumption that the car-transferred fleas prefer dogs or cats rather than humans, but it's good to have more info because I was trying to explain that to my coworkers today and they were all looking at me like I was making stuff up.
posted by jaguar at 7:14 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Once fleas are established, they're unfortunately rather less particular about their choice of food. Our cat brought in fleas and then had a drastic behavior change that left him hiding under a small end table for three weeks except when physically carried to the litter box, and I got several hundred flea bites because they were everywhere and they were hungry. It was awful, and them jumping onto me is the reason they ended up in the car.

Once he started moving around again, however, my bites vanished (he was completely covered in bites; my sister was seeing dozens of bugs every time she brushed or bathed him.) So we know these were fleas with a preference for cats.

For what it's worth, the temperature in your dryer is more than enough to kill anything on your clothes. They'll survive freezing, but even relatively unimpressive high temperatures (like 140 degrees) should be sufficient. We were washing and drying everything twice, but it turned out to be excessive.

I hate fleas. I hope they all die in a painful and grotesque fashion.
posted by SMPA at 7:32 PM on October 24, 2015

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