Does Washing Clothes Kill Fleas?

Fleas are common throughout the world, but dog and cat owners are the people most likely to encounter these hopping, bloodsucking pests in the home. Fleas often get indoors by stowing away in the fur of untreated pets and, once inside, can quickly spread throughout your house.

Flea extermination is a multi-faceted process. However, when it comes to removing fleas from clothing and linen, washing them on high temperature is the easiest way to kill them. The heat will kill both the adult fleas and their eggs so, provided they don’t come into contact with other flea-infested items or animals, no further treatment will be necessary.

Unfortunately, keeping fleas off your pets and out of your home in the long-term is a task that requires careful management.

Keep in mind!

An integrated pest control plan is the best way to prevent flea infestations in your house, and to keep them off your linen!

How can you tell if you have fleas in your house?

Fortunately, fleas are easy to spot, allowing you to identify and deal with invasions before they get out of hand. If you suspect there are fleas in your house, or if you own a cat or dog, keep a lookout for the following signs of fleas:

  • Flea dirt: Flea dirt (or droppings) is a sure sign of fleas. These tiny, roundish black specs show up everywhere fleas are present, and you may see them in your linen, clothing, or in the coat of your cat or dog.
  • Live or dead fleas: Live fleas are easy to spot, thanks to their distinctive leap. If you see bugs hopping around in your clothing, bed linen or on your pets, these are almost certainly fleas.
  • Itchy, scratchy pets: Fleas often come indoors on the backs of your beloved pets, as animal blood is their main food source. Flea bites are as itchy for cats and dogs as they are for humans, so if you notice your pet scratching a lot check their coats for signs of live or dead bugs and flea dirt.
  • Flea bites: Fleas prefer the blood of your pets, but will also occasionally bite humans, especially if there are a lot of them around. Flea bites usually show up on the ankles and will appear as clusters of small, red, very itchy bumps on the skin.

How do fleas spread to your clothes and linen?

Fleas can quickly spread throughout your home. However, the adults are dependent on animals for a steady supply of food (i.e. blood) are rarely stray far from their host. How, then, do fleas end up in your wardrobe and bed linen?

The answer lies in the reproductive cycle of the flea. These insects lay their eggs in the fur of animals but, unlike lice eggs, they are smooth and do not stick to the hairs. Instead, they soon drop out of the animal’s coat to land on carpets and furnishing around your home, where they hatch and develop into adult fleas after a few weeks.

Flea eggs can, therefore, easily make their way into your bedroom, utility room, closet, or anywhere else you store clothes.

Can you kill fleas by washing your clothes?

Washing infested clothing and linens can effectively rid them of fleas and their eggs. This method is highly effective thanks to a double mechanism of action.

Fleas and their eggs are killed by temperatures above 95°F (35°C), so washing your clothes at a medium-high temperature should eradicate them. While adding laundry detergent to your load will make the treatment even more effective, as most laundry powders contain boric acid. Boric acid is known to kill a wide variety of insects, including fleas, therefore, washing your clothes can effectively rid them of bugs.

Can fleas drown in the washing machine?

Washing your clothes is an effective way to clear them of fleas. However, this effect is due to the deadly, dual action of heat and laundry powder, as fleas are very unlikely to drown in the washing machine.

Fleas are impressively resilient bugs and can survive for up to a week in water. Even when fully submerged it takes at least 24 hours for fleas to drown, so they should have no trouble surviving for the duration of a spin-cycle.

Do fleas die in the dryer?

If fleas die at high temperatures, does the dryer kill fleas? Although this method doesn’t use laundry detergent (a highly effective flea-killer), the heat of the dryer alone should be sufficient to kill fleas and their eggs.

Unfortunately, this is of little use if you don’t take steps to eradicate fleas from the rest of your home and to prevent more from coming in.

Implementing an integrated pest control plan is the best way to stop fleas from getting in and infesting your clothes, linen, and furniture.

This is especially important if you have pets, or if you live in an area with large populations of outdoor fleas. Treat your animals for fleas, use repellents around your home and check your pets, clothes, and furnishings for signs of fleas to stop infestations from taking hold.


Keeping your home free from fleas can be a full-time job if you have pets, or if you live in an area with large populations of fleas. Once inside, these jumping, bloodsucking insects can quickly invade every corner of your home, including your clothes and linen.

Fortunately, washing your clothes is an easy and effective way to kill fleas and their eggs, helping you to get a better handle on your infestation. The high temperatures inside your washing machine, coupled with the deadly action of boric acid-containing washing powders, can quickly eliminate fleas from fabrics.

Besides washing your clothes, you must implement an integrated pest control plan (combining both preventative and active control measures) to rid your home of fleas completely and stop them from coming back.

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