Fleas in clothes can be devastating due to the simple fact that while they might not always transmit diseases, they could cause an annoying and intense itch. Also, many people are allergic to flea bites and can develop pus filled blisters or other skin infections. Therefore, read this guide if you want to learn the safest and most effective way to get rid of fleas in your clothes.
How do they get there in the first place?
Adult fleas generally live on blood meals which they obtain from animals, but pet owners have to deal with flea eggs and larvae in their carpets and rugs when the fleas reproduce. The flea larvae, in turn, feed on dandruff, discarded skin and other organic animal/human waste that is readily found in pet fur and human clothing.
For pet owners allowing pets to sleep in their beds, fleas become a common occurrence in bed clothing, linen and mattresses. Flea eggs usually drop into cracks, crevices and other hiding places that are found abundantly in bedrooms.
Fleas like warm temperatures (optimally in the range of 65 to 80 deg F) with relative humidity, all of which are readily available in human clothing. They often jump off and latch onto their animal hosts to get a blood meal, but in the absence of animals, the fleas can also bite and feed off humans.
Today, fleas are found in urban residential areas, classrooms in schools, rental apartments which previously housed pets and even grassy hiking trails or wooded areas. Fleas can even come from possums, squirrels, raccoons, birds and feral cats. For that reason, it is essential for everyone to understand how to remove and kill fleas in clothes effectively.
How to get rid of fleas in clothes
You can try washing flea infested clothes in regular temperature or cold water first, however, to remove flea larvae and flea eggs in clothes, it is best to follow some stringent and more effective laundry techniques.
1. Use bleach mixed with water
For clothes that can withstand bleach, use diluted bleach in water and immerse the flea infested clothes in the solution. For machine wash, it is recommended mixing 1 cup of chlorine bleach per 16 gallons of water. Bleach can kill and disinfect clothes to remove most fleas and their eggs.
2. Use max settings on your washing machine
Use the highest water setting, hottest temperature and longest wash cycle allowed by your washing machine for clothes that can withstand this harsh treatment. This is a sure-fire method for removing fleas in clothes and can kill eggs and fleas in their larval stages.
3. Use antimicrobial detergent
For clothes that are not bleach-safe, you can use detergents with antimicrobial action or pine oil and other phenolic disinfectants. To use these in washing machines, add 1 cup to top loading machines and ½ cup to front loading machines.
- Check if your clothes can withstand bleach
- Mix 1 cup of chlorine bleach with 16 gallons of water
- Wash the clothes on max water, temperature and wash cycle setting
- If your clothes are not bleach-safe, use antimicrobial detergent (top loading machines: 1 cup, front loading machines: ½ cup)
The integrated pest control program
Did you know that only 10% of fleas found inside a household are adults, while the remaining 90% are in various life cycle stages, like eggs and larvae?
Naturally, even if you follow the methods mentioned above for removing fleas from your clothes, you must also use an integrated pest control program to ensure complete flea elimination. This includes managing habitats of host animals, destroying resident fleas and preventing new infestations. Here are some effective ways to accomplish this:
1. Vacuum daily
Vacuum your entire house including all rugs, carpets and especially hard-to-access areas, like behind and under the furniture.
It is important that you seal the vacuum bags and immediately discard them outside the home afterwards.
2. Wash and launder regularly
Apart from washing your clothes using the steps given above, wash and clean your pet’s bedding and all household linen including towels, bed sheets, curtains, mattress covers, blankets and comforters etc. and if needed, opt for having these dry cleaned or professionally treated. You can even take bulky linen to the Laundromat for some heavy duty cleaning.
3. Protect your pets
Flea foggers, powders and sprays as well as spot treatment for pets is an important part of integrated pest control.
You can talk to your vet about the right oral or topical flea medicines to stop fleas from laying eggs and reproducing.
4. Try natural flea products
Treatment using naturally occurring flea products is another way of getting rid of flea eggs in carpets and rugs.
It is important to remember that flea eggs can remain dormant inside your home for a very long time, even during the winter. For this reason, I recommend all year round flea control if you live in an area that is heavily infested with fleas.
Wear protective clothes to prevent flea bites
While the flea treatment is taking place, you and your family can protect yourselves by wearing clothes that prevent fleas from biting you. Lighter colored clothes generally provide fewer hiding places than darker ones. You can also wear long trousers and full sleeved shirts as well as thick socks to stop the flea bites. Additionally, you must wash all these items as mentioned above to ensure the complete removal of fleas in your clothes.