Anyone with a furry pet has probably dealt with fleas at some point and knows what a huge pain they can be. Of course you want what’s best for your pet, but you also want to make sure that your house isn’t crawling with fleas. So when one Twitter user posted what looked like an amazing cleaning hack, we had to investigate.
In the middle of telling a heartwarming tale about a puppy who wandered into his apartment (seriously!), Twitter user @JJFromTheBronx tweeted: “Pro tip: vacuum everywhere she went for fleas and eggs but put a flea collar in the vacuum.” People immediately commented on this ingenious strategy—but does it actually work? We asked some pet and cleaning experts to find out.
So, the general consensus is that putting a flea collar in your vacuum won’t hurt—but it probably won’t help, either. According to Russell Hartstein, a behaviorist, dog trainer and pet expert, it’s important to keep in mind that flea collars are all different. For example, some are designed to kill fleas, while others simply repel them. Also, Harstein says that the collars need to be replaced often, and are not 100 per cent effective.
In addition, Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinarian and Consultant for DogLab.com points out that a flea collar in the vacuum will only kill the fleas and eggs once they are inside the vacuum. Not only that, but fleas don’t all hatch at once, Harstein explains. “They have an incubation period, so even if you notice that fleas are gone, do not stop the cleaning cycle for at least a few months depending on what climate you live in,” he says. “Be extra vigilant in warm, humid climates where flea populations do fall off because it is usually optimal breeding whether for fleas in warm, humid climates.”
Gilles Ventejol, the founder of Animal Patient considers this flea-collar-in-the-vacuum trick is a myth. He explains that there are three types of fleas—the adults, the eggs and the larvae—and each are different. For example, adults live on the dog or cat, and a vacuum cleaner can’t or shouldn’t be able to reach them on the pet fur, Ventejol says. The eggs, on the other hand, stay where they fall and don’t move. “A vacuum can definitely suck them up, but the chemical included in the collar has no effect on eggs,” he tells Lifehacker.
And then there are the larvae, which can move and crawl on the floor. According to Ventejol, larvae tend to hide in dark and deeper locations, like between floor planks, deep in the carpet or under the cushions—places a vacuum cleaner doesn’t easily reach. So, chances are that many of the larvae won’t be sucked up. And the ones that do eventually end up in the vacuum cleaner have little chance to get out and re-infest the house, and/or get in contact with the flea collar you may have placed in your vacuum. “Finally, if a larva gets in contact with the collar, there is no guarantee that it will be killed since collars are designed to kill the fleas that are present on the animal—i.e. the adults—not the larvae,” he says.
The best way to clean up after fleas
Even if putting a flea collar in a vacuum doesn’t work, there are plenty of tried and true methods that the experts recommend:
“What works best is to vacuum several times a day, clean thoroughly, and most importantly, empty your vacuum bag and canisters in addition to the garbages where you emptied the canister or bag into,” Harstein tells Lifehacker.
Jordan Foster, a pest technician at Fantastic Pest Control recommends using a vacuum cleaner that works with water and mixing the water with flea products that contain permethrin and pyrethrin.
If your pet has fleas, Matteo Grader, a pest control expert at Panther Pest Control, suggests making sure they are getting regular baths with flea shampoo.
Give medicine to your pet
Once you know for sure that your pet has fleas, take it to the vet, who will likely prescribe a medication that best fits your pet’s size, weight, health state, age and other factors, Foster explains. “Anti-flea medicines are usually much more helpful than treatments applied externally,” Foster says. “Why? Because these medicines usually cause your dog to produce an odor that keeps fleas and other bugs away.”
Hire a professional flea exterminator
If you’ve tried getting rid of fleas on your own and don’t have much luck, it may be time to call in a professional.
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