Does steam cleaning kill fleas?

Summary

Steam cleaning will kill fleas. Unfortunately, it also reduces the activity of insecticides. Steam cleaners are useful for initially establishing environmental control. But once carpets are sprayed with insecticide, it’s best to switch to a vacuuming routine instead. Vacuums won’t reduce insecticide activity.

Details

Steam Cleaning Kills all Flea Stages

Steam cleaning will kill fleas in the environment. It’s a useful technique for eliminating fleas deep within carpets, as well as other hard-to-reach areas, such as in and around furniture.

Steam cleaners, and other water-based carpet cleaners, are more effective at removing debris than vacuums. Likewise, they’re superior at removing and destroying fleas at all stages. Larvae and cocoons are particularly difficult to remove with dry vacuuming. The bristled larvae live at the base of carpets and coil up when they’re disturbed. And the cocoons’ fibers get tightly bound into carpeting. Both stages are removed easier when exposed to steam.

The high temperature of steam is lethal to fleas. They can’t survive extreme temperatures. All life stages die when temperatures exceed 100.4°F (38°C). Experiments weren’t done above this temperature, and they weren’t done with acute exposure. Still, steam’s heat more than doubles any studied temperature. It’s unlikely that fleas could survive exposure.

Steam Cleaning Reduces Insecticide Activity

Unfortunately, steam cleaning and shampooing carpets will significantly reduce the residual activity of insecticides. As a result, it’s best to steam clean before treating the environment. Steaming is a useful technique for establishing control in severe infestations with large numbers of fleas.

After insecticides are applied, avoid steam cleaning in order to preserve residual activity. Instead, employ a vacuuming routine. Dry vacuuming and walking on treated carpets won’t significantly affect insecticide activity.

Carbamate Insecticides & Staining

Carbaryl can sometimes stain carpets. Staining occurs when carpets are steam cleaned, or cleaned with an alkaline shampoo, and then a carbamate insecticide is applied. This is a relatively rare situation, because carbamates are no longer used for indoor pest control in many regions.

Steam Cleaning won’t End Infestations

Steam cleaning alone isn’t an effective control strategy. It’s a useful component, but other measures must be employed to end an infestation. The same goes for rental carpet cleaning machines.

The problem is that adult fleas permanently live on their host. Each female lays an average of 25 eggs a day. The eggs aren’t sticky and fall into the environment within a few hours of being laid. Eggs hatch into larvae in 2-3 days. So, without treating pets, there will be continual re-infestation pressure.

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