You imagined a lot of possibilities when you bought your 2018 Ford Escape, but having a compact SUV jumping with fleas wasn’t one of them. Even if you faithfully treat your dogs’ fur, keep them bathed, and make sure they have their regular dose of flea prevention medicine, the nasty pests can sometimes be wilier than you thought.
At this point, you can’t ignore the situation. Immediate and proper action is the only way to go. But how best to treat an SUV or any vehicle that’s infested with little buggers who want to feast on drivers and passengers–four-footed and two-footed alike? That’s where you need some insider help.
Understanding the Flea and Its Life Cycle
First, it’s always important to know your enemy. In this case, it’s the common flea. Fleas have a long history of making life miserable for livestock, pets, and humans. After all, the black plague has been linked to an infestation of fleas on rats.
While you shouldn’t worry so much that you’re going to get the plague from the fleas in your SUV, you do need to realize that fleas will not leave on their own. The flea life cycle is a fast-turning one. In as little as two weeks’ time, a flea can go from the larval stage to annoying, leaping adult. And as long as they have blood to feast upon, fleas can keep going for a year.
To be sure, if you were willing to simply leave your SUV empty for a month or longer, your flea problem would go away on its own. Without a host, the fleas would die one by one. Yet this isn’t a practical solution for most drivers who rely on their SUVs to carry them to and from the workplace, grocery store, soccer practices, the dog park, etc.
In other words, the choice to do nothing doesn’t really exist in today’s busy world.
Kicking Fleas to the Curb
You didn’t set out to become an Uber driver for the flea population, but that’s what’s occurred. Why the fleas got into your Escape doesn’t matter. The only thing that makes a difference is how you’re going to oust them from their current residence.
The first goal is to do a thorough cleaning of your vehicle’s interior. Not only is this a good excuse to get rid of any garbage and unnecessary junk, but it gives you better sight lines for scouring the inside of the SUV. During this stage, remove anything that you can, such as cloth seat covers and even rubber floor mats. Your objective should be to strip your vehicle down to the bare necessities inside.
Then, rent a heat-based steamer to carefully and completely clean all the surfaces in your SUV. Expect to spend some time literally going over every place that’s likely to be a flea hangout. Give the Escape at least two go-rounds of the steamer, and you should eradicate a significant portion of any fleas. Fleas cannot live in extreme heat conditions, so do your best to make the vehicle uninhabitable to the pests.
After steaming the surfaces hit them up with a strong vacuum. Really get into the crevices between the cushions on the seats and underneath the seats as well. Remind yourself that fleas are tiny and may not be in view, but they’re obviously hiding somewhere. Most of the time, they’re not going to be in plain sight, so you’ll have to hunt for them.
If you’re using your home vacuum, be sure to thoroughly clean it before returning it to your house. Otherwise, you may just track your flea problem into the house, which will give you one more headache.
People lucky enough to catch a flea infestation early may be able to get away with steaming and vacuuming daily for a few days to kill off the flea population. However, if you’ve been hit hard with fleas, you may need to move on to other tactics in addition to steaming and vacuuming.
The first is to get a flea and tick spray designed for carpeting and fabrics. Look online for ones with the best reviews so you can ensure you’re buying a product that will be worth your investment. After spraying, let the spray work its magic for about an hour to two hours. Then, air out the vehicle and re-vacuum.
A similar product to sprays are flea powders. These work in much the same way as sprays, but are obviously in a different form. Again, you’ll want to vacuum the powder up along with any dead flea carcasses.
One special note: Some people have allergic reactions not just to flea bites, but to sprays and powders. If you or someone in your family is sensitive to certain flea toxins, you may need to choose an all-natural, organic flea and tick remedy rather than a more potent, chemically infused one.
Keep Your SUV Humming After a Flea Infestation
A single flea infestation is one too many, so take measures to avoid a repeat performance of this tiring, exasperating, and itchy experience.
Get your dog’s flea situation under control before any more rides. You may even have a whole-house flea problem, but with consistent cleaning and application of flea powders, sprays, and possibly a home “bomb”, you can rid yourself of these nasty pests.
Stay up to date on your dog’s flea prevention. Place a reminder on your online calendar so you never forget to apply medications or schedule veterinary appointments.
Carefully inspect your pet for fleas and ticks after you’ve been in woodsy areas. For instance, after every walk through your local park, do a once-over with a comb. Flea combs can reveal far more than you expected, and it’s best to know early that a few fleas hitched a ride with your furry friend!
Avoid allowing others to bring their pets into your SUV. Sure, they’re your friends or relatives, but are you certain they have taken care of their dogs? Not everyone is as conscientious as you might be, and they could wind up bringing fleas into your Escape.
Be on the lookout for first indicators of fleas in both your vehicle and house. Typically, fleas stick closely to pets; they only move to humans when they get in the carpeting and furniture. A sure sign of fleas is a mass of red, itchy bumps on the lower part of your legs.
Fear not: Fleas aren’t an insurmountable issue. Yes, they’re annoying as anything, but with proper care, you can bring your SUV back to its pre-flea condition.