Can fleas live in a vacuum cleaner?

Summary

Vacuuming kills 100% of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. And it kills 96% of adult fleas. Brushes, fans, and strong air currents violently hurl the fleas against the vacuum’s internal surfaces. There’s no need to burn or freeze vacuum bags. Likewise, adding insecticides to the collection chamber is unnecessary.

Related page: Best flea vacuums.

Details

Vacuuming Kills Fleas

100% of flea larvae and pupae are killed when vacuumed up. Eggs weren’t studied, because they’re fragile and the researcher was certain they wouldn’t survive. Adult fleas are the most hardy stage, but vacuuming still kills 96% of them. Those that survive get damaged and won’t live long.

As fleas are removed from carpets, they’re violently slammed around the vacuum’s internal surfaces by fans, beater-bars, brushes, and strong air currents. Death occurs by the time they reach the collection chamber. Pupae aren’t even recognizable when the vacuum’s bag was cut apart. The study’s author stated, “No matter what vacuum a flea gets sucked into, it’s probably a one-way trip.”

Surviving Adults

Adult fleas in the environment likely haven’t fed yet. Once they’re on a suitable host, they stay there. The fleas feed, mate, and lay eggs on the host’s body. Fleas that haven’t fed aren’t able to lay eggs. Thus, any surviving fleas in the vacuum won’t be able to lay eggs.

Vacuums cause considerable physical trauma to fleas. Surviving adults are likely critically damaged and unable to move well. It’s improbable that they’d be able to escape the vacuum and acquire a host. Instead, they’ll soon starve to death. After emerging from cocoons, fleas must feed within a week in home environments. They’ll starve even sooner, in around 4 days, if removed from a host. After feeding, fleas become dependent on a constant supply of blood.

Sanitizing is Unnecessary

Concerns about fleas surviving in vacuums are unfounded. There’s no need to take further steps to sanitize the vacuum’s bag or bagless canister. Examples: Freezing or burning the vacuum bag, throwing away the bag after every vacuuming, or adding insecticides to the collection chamber (e.g. moth balls, flea collars, or diatomaceous earth). It’s also potentially dangerous to use insecticides in a manner inconsistent with their labeling.

References

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Discussion

  • Tony September 18, 2017, 7:17 pm

    I actually found fleas in my vacuum tube & was rather surprised. I wondered if they were smart to find their way out & I am starting to think they just might be.

    • Adam Retzer September 29, 2017, 10:54 am

      Fleas are attracted to light, and orient themselves towards openings that allow light in. So they probably could find their way out of the tube.

  • Grx October 2, 2017, 11:19 pm

    Vaccum cleaners do not kill 100% of fleas. In fact, I’d say the majority survive. I don’t know where this Junk Science is coming from but I wish people who postulate this stuff would bother to do their own research. I’ve examined the contents of different vaccums and there are Tons of fleas alive and well. I’ve even seen larva alive. I can not comment on eggs as those could not be viewed. Do Not believe vaccums will kill these fleas, anymore than you should believe drowning will immeadiately kill them. Treat the contents of your vaccum as toxic waste.

    • Peter October 17, 2018, 12:41 pm

      Wonderful comment, thank you.

  • Jabre July 28, 2018, 10:28 am

    Another confirmation, vacuum dont kill fleas! After vacuuming, immidiately sterilize bag or throw it in river

    • Jeff Nolan September 15, 2018, 11:37 pm

      I have witnessed on many occasions fleas climbing right through the bag on an upright, but I believe the part about the pre adult stages, they are fragile. Spray the carpets then vacuum, and do your beds the same way and no living fleas.

  • Jessica September 18, 2018, 7:09 am

    I don’t feel this information is accurate! I have literally seen them jump out of the vacuum as I was emptying the cansiter into the trash outside. And if vacuuming kills the eggs, why am I still seeing fleas even after vacuuming everything every day for the last month?? I am so fed up with this!

    • Adam Retzer September 22, 2018, 12:31 pm

      This article was just about survival of the flea stages that do get removed by the vacuum. But vacuuming won’t remove all of the fleas from carpets. Immature stages, especially larvae, live deep in carpet fibers where vacuums can reach. Vacuuming can help with flea control, but it isn’t enough.

  • Michelle Lucas December 16, 2018, 12:03 pm

    So I have a real fussy cat that doesn’t like to be combed not trying to put my personal business out there I took her at 3 weeks cause she was in a bad envierment and then I was in a serious domestic abuse relationship so she is a little traumatized she has calmed down some since its been just her and I but how can I check her or comb her so I can see if she has any living fleas on her. I did a topical treatment and I don’t have a lot of money and live in one room that my landlord is useless. With repairs. So I’m really trying to. Catch this sooner than later and she is an inside cat. Sorry so long I’m just in need; of major help and everything I try to research says something different. Thank.you.for your.time and patience with me.
    Sincerely Michelle.

    • Adam Retzer December 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

      Michelle, cat grooming bags are available that restrain cats so they can be groomed, treated, etc. You may also want to reach out to a veterinarian that has experience with handling finicky cats. They may have some useful tips.

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