No, putting bedding in plastic bags won’t help much. However, washing pet bedding weekly will help control an infestation.
When treating bedding (or any other object in the environment), you’ll be targeting the eggs, larvae and pupae. Adult fleas live on their host and they rarely leave. The adults feed, mate and lay eggs on the animal.
Fleas are a little different from bed bugs in this regard. Bed bugs live in the environment, so plastic coverings are more effective against them.
Flea eggs aren’t sticky. They’ll fall from the animal within a couple hours of being laid. The eggs drop anywhere the flea-infested animal has access to. However, they’ll get concentrated in areas where pets frequently rest and groom themselves. Most end up developing in carpets, but pet bedding can also be a hot-spot.
When you say bedding, I’m assuming you mean pet bedding. It’s rare for fleas or their offspring to be found in human beds. However, it’s possible if a pet owner allows their animal to sleep on their bed. Regardless, treating pet bedding and human bedding is similar.
Putting bedding in a plastic bag won’t do much to kill the eggs, larvae and pupae. This will kill them eventually, but the process could take months. It’s possible for pupae to stay in a dormant (quiescent) state for 5 months. Insects are notoriously difficult to suffocate. Even when submerged in water fleas don’t drown for 24 hours. The eggs and pupae have even lower respiratory demands than the adults, and the plastic bag will trap plenty of oxygen.
Laundering the items is a better option. As mentioned, flea eggs aren’t sticky. The eggs, larvae and pupae will fall out the bedding and into the washing machine’s water. The action of washing machine will likely kill the immature fleas. If not, they’ll get flushed out with the waste water. On the off chance that they survive, placing the bedding in the drier will cause them to desiccate (kill by drying them out).
It’s recommended to wash items at 140°F for ten minutes. Then dry at the highest heat setting. Of course, follow the item’s washing directions as to not ruin them. Washing doesn’t need to be done more than once a week. Even doing laundry bi-weekly should be sufficient. In an average home environment, the life cycle from egg to adult takes 17 to 26 days. So, you’ll have approximately 17 days to kill any newly laid eggs before they become a problem.
Aside from washing, some sources recommend placing bedding outside in the hot sun for a few hours. Immature stages can’t survive the warm, dry conditions. That said, washing the items is likely to be more effective.
Keep in mind, these mechanical techniques won’t end an infestation alone. They’ll help. Using flea drops is probably your best bet, if you haven’t employed them already. There are also home interior flea sprays which can be used on bedding, but washing is often the preferred, chemical-free way to go.
Best of luck in dealing with those fleas! If you have any other questions or follow-ups, don’t hesitate to ask. I’m here to help!
P.S. Some of these linked pages are dense. I’m going through iterations trying to make finding information easier with more clarity. Many still need work.
Any suggestions for the new washing machines that don’t get hot enough on the hot water setting? My machine doesn’t get anywhere close to 140 degrees.
It’s highly unlikely that any fleas will survive the spinning action of the washer, even with cooler temperatures of water. The immature fleas will fall from the garments and get flushed out with the water. Drying the garments/bedding in a dryer will desiccate any fleas that remain. There isn’t much to worry about. The fleas have an extremely slim chance of surviving.