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How To Treat Mattress For Fleas

Fleas In The Bed Mattress

My friends and I recently headed to my family cabin for a weekend in the woods. After an eventful first day, I woke up the next morning with itchy bite marks. At first, I thought they were from bed bugs since we had already endured an infestation a few months earlier.

However, a closer look revealed multiple fleas and flea dirt. I was intrigued since we hadn’t brought our dog along on any recent trips. However, my research showed that even humans could unknowingly transport fleas, resulting in the infestation of mattresses, beds, and houses.

I decided to eliminate the infestation myself since only one mattress was affected. I successfully used many methods to kill the fleas and their eggs in the mattress and the room.


Treating a mattress for fleas requires taking quick and careful action, including washing the bedding, applying flea-killing substances and sprays such as Diatomaceous Earth, camphor water, vinegar, peppermint oil, and baking soda, vacuum cleaning the mattress, using steam treatment, and treating pets for fleas while avoiding contaminating other areas of the house.

Let’s learn about the signs of fleas in a mattress, what attracts fleas to beds, and ways to treat a mattress for fleas.

Signs of Fleas in a Mattress

Although I initially suspected a bed bug problem, a closer look soon revealed a flea infestation.

Here are some signs that helped me put the pieces together and take quick action.

1. Flea Bites

Flea Bites On Kid Hand

I had small, reddish bumps on my body with yellow rings around some. These bumps usually appear as large clusters or in straight lines. Remember that a single bite does not pinpoint a flea problem since it can be any other bug.

Flea bites on dogs form small raised red dots, which could become more inflamed and irritated upon scratching. On cats, flea bites appear pink and crusty, different from bumpy, swollen, and larger tick bites.

2. Flea Dirt

Man Wiping The Flea Dirt

Fleas leave a lot of residues behind in the form of dark pepper grains consisting of feces and blood, raising health concerns.

3. Distressed Pets

Fleas Bites A Reddish Dog

Fleas usually hitch-hike into houses and beds on pets such as cats and dogs. They feed on the pets’ blood, resulting in many irritating bites, causing them to repeatedly scratch the areas around the bites. Cats and dogs occasionally lick on the bites, hoping for some relief.

4. Flea Eggs

Flea Under The Microscope

Mature fleas usually do not infest mattresses for more than two weeks since they need to find hosts for food. However, they typically leave eggs on the beds, mattresses, and bedding.

Flea Eggs are oval-shaped, white-colored tiny specs that can be easily mistaken as sand or dry skin. Fleas also lay eggs on their hosts. I identified flea eggs on my dog’s fur after a close inspection.

5. Flea Skin or Molt

Hand Woman With Magnifying Glass Detecting Bugs

The development of flea larvae is marked by molts, where they shed the old skin twice before entering the pupae stage of their lives. These sheds are a sign of fleas, flea eggs, and a fresh batch of fast-growing young fleas on a mattress.

Flea sheds are small, soft, light-colored tubes that are difficult to see by the naked eye. A magnifying glass is an excellent way to confirm its presence on a mattress.

6. Adult Fleas

Flea On Human Skin

Although adult fleas do not stay in mattresses for long, there is still a good chance of observing them. Grown fleas have narrow and long bodies compared to bedbugs with flat and oval-shaped bodies.

Fleas also jump fast, often disappearing before getting close enough to catch them.

What Brings Fleas to Mattresses

Young Mix Puppy Scratching On Bed

Although I initially suspected my furry friend of bringing fleas to the bed, I later learned that it could have been many other things, including myself. Poor maintenance of beds can also attract fleas to nest in them.

Pets Who Sleep in Beds

This is the most common flea that finds its way into beds and mattresses. Many pet owners, including myself, don’t mind my pet getting on the bed. However, this habit needs to be broken if there are signs of the pet having fleas or if the pet hasn’t been treated for fleas.

Pests and Wildlife

Cats and dogs get fleas from pests and wildlife such as squirrels, raccoons, and possums. In some instances, these pests themselves can leave fleas in mattresses, mainly rarely used beds in attics and basements.

Fleas can also squeeze through the cracks in ceilings and foundations, ending up in beds.

Through Humans

Fleas sometimes piggyback on human clothing and settle in beds. Therefore, use work uniforms when working in pest-infested yards and avoid bringing clothes worn for hunting, hiking, and camping into bedrooms or laying dirty clothes on the bed or floor.

Moist Mattresses and Bedding

Fleas and their eggs thrive in warm, moist environments. As a result, fleas often lay eggs in mattresses, bedding, and pillowcases, providing safe, warm, and humid conditions for their eggs.

A bed or mattress does not need to be damp for fleas to consider it warm and moist. Humid conditions in bedrooms are often good enough to make bedding and mattresses attractive enough for fleas.

Therefore, open the windows of bedrooms and maintain dry and cold surroundings to make bedding and mattresses undesirable nesting areas for fleas.

Ways To Treat Mattress For Fleas

Flea infestation in a mattress can quickly get out of hand, spreading to other areas of the house. Therefore, it’s essential to take quick action while preventing them from transferring from the mattress to other hiding places.

1. Treat Pets for Fleas

The Dog Is Treated With A Flea Remedy

Start by bathing pets such as cats and dogs and treating them for fleas. Always follow veterinary advice when treating pets for fleas. Continue bathing and applying treatment until there are no signs of fleas on the pets or the house.

Maintain boundaries and avoid bringing them into the infested area until it is pest-free.

2. Wash All Bedding

Woman Holding A Pile Of Bedding For Washing

Remove all the blankets, sheets, pillows and cases, and the mattress pad. Place them in a sealed storage container or plastic bag to avoid transferring fleas to other house areas.

Wash and dry the bedding in high heat, at least 95 degrees, for 30 minutes, which should kill any fleas and eggs. Upon finishing washing and drying, clean the storage container with boiling water or use new plastic bags to transfer them from the laundry area, avoiding cross-contamination.


High heat can damage certain fabrics. Carefully read washing instructions on bedding labels to avoid damaging them.

3. Cleaning Dry-Clean-Only Bedding

Cleaning Service, Deep Cleaning And Disinfection Of Mattress

Place any dry-clean-only bedding in airtight plastic bags, and sprinkle or spray one of the substances or mixtures below before sealing it and leaving it aside for two weeks.

After two weeks, shake the sealed bag to encourage pupae to hatch from their cocoons. Spray or apply the same substance or mixture, reseal it, and leave aside for a few days. Finally, take the bag to a dry cleaner.

4. Clean Pet Bedding

Pet Bedding Cover With Pet Hairs

Follow the same steps above to clean pet bedding. Repeat cleaning pet bedding daily until all the fleas are eliminated.

5. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

Diatomaceous Earth Also Known As Diatomite Powder On Spoon

Purchase some food-grade Diatomaceous Earth, a natural and unharmful substance that kills almost any bug. Wearing gloves and a mask, sprinkle DE on the mattress and thoroughly distribute it around the bed.

Leave the substance to rest for a few hours, killing all the fleas that touch it by severely dehydrating them. It’s also an excellent idea to use DE to create a protective layer around the bed or mattress, preventing fleas from escaping into other areas of the house.

6. Spray Camphor Water

Spraying Camphor Water On Bedroom Bed

Camphor is another powerful natural pesticide. Combine 30 milliliters of camphor with a liter of water before thoroughly spraying the mixture all over the mattress, bed, the surrounding area, and underneath the bed. Any fleas coming to direct contact with the mix will die.

7. Spray Vinegar

Hand Spray Vinegar Solution On Molding Mattress

Here’s another natural weapon against many insects. Combine two cups of water with a cup of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar. Spray the mixture on the mattress and the surrounding area to eliminate fleas and their eggs.

8. Spray Peppermint Oil

Spray Bottle For Cleaning With A Lemon And Peppermint Leaves

Some essential oils, especially peppermint oil, contain excellent insecticidal qualities, proving to be highly effective against fleas. Combine a quarter cup of peppermint essential oil and three cups of rubbing alcohol to create a spraying mixture potent for fleas and their eggs.

Thoroughly spray the bed, mattress, and the surrounding area to eliminate the fleas.


Remember that some DIY sprays can stain mattresses, bedding, and carpeting. Do a simple staining test to see if a particular mixture stains a surface before application.

9. Sprinkle Baking Soda

Baking Soda In A Bowl With Spoon

The alkaline qualities of baking soda powder dehydrate and kill adult fleas, eggs, and pupae. Mix two cups of baking soda with a cup of salt and sprinkle the mixture over and around the bed and mattress. Leave the powder to rest for as long as possible, ensuring that all the fleas come to direct contact with it over time.

10. Vacuum the Mattress and the Room

Man Disinfecting Mattress With Vacuum Cleaner

Thoroughly vacuum the mattress, turning it around and covering its edges. Move on to the surrounding area, underneath the bed, and the entire room, removing any living or dead fleas and their eggs. Vacuum every day for up to three days until there are no signs of fleas.

Use disposal vacuum bags when vacuuming mattresses and rooms infested with fleas. Properly dispose of the disposable bags to prevent fleas from coming back.

11. Steam-Clean the Mattress

Cleaning And Disinfection Of The Mattress With Steam

Fleas and their eggs can’t withstand temperatures above 95 degrees, making heat treatment an effective weapon against them. Vacuum the mattress and the area before steam-cleaning, removing any dirt and residue that might leave marks.

Fit an upholstery attachment on the steam cleaner or create a make-shift extension using a towel and apply heat all over the mattress and bed. Seeing more fleas after heat treatment is expected since it causes premature hatching.

Repeat heat treatment to eliminate all the fleas.

12. Inspect the Mattress and the Room

Woman With Magnifying Glass Detecting Bed Bugs

Carefully inspect the mattress and the room for any signs of fleas following treatment and daily vacuuming. Retreat the bed and the room upon observing any signs of persistent fleas.

13. Get Professional Help

Professional Pest Exterminator

Flea infestations are sometimes difficult to eliminate, requiring the help of professional pest exterminators. Keep a close eye on the mattress and the entire home for signs of fleas. Call for professional help if fleas persist for more potent treatment before the infestation spreads around the house.


Fleas infesting beds can cause a lot of discomfort and pose health risks. As a result, I quickly got my hands dirty, stomping the infestation before it worsened.

I used a range of methods to eliminate the fleas and their eggs infesting the mattress, including washing the bedding in high heat, applying a range of natural insecticides, including Diatomaceous Earth, camphor water, and baking soda, thoroughly vacuuming the mattress and the area, and steam treatment.

Although I was open to getting professional help if the problem was beyond my control, I didn’t need to. The measures I took worked, and our good old cabin has been flea-free since.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can I Put On a Mattress To Kill Fleas?

Spraying vinegar, peppermint oil, and camphor water and sprinkling Diatomaceous Earth and baking soda on the mattress, bed, and the surrounding area effectively kill fleas.

Can Fleas Survive In a Mattress?

Yes, fleas can survive in a mattress for approximately two weeks before finding a host to feed from. However, they are likely to leave fertile eggs in the bed, which can cause a widespread infestation.

How Do I Know If I Have Fleas In My Mattress?

Common signs of fleas in a mattress include getting flea bites, observing flea dirt, flea eggs or cocoons, and dead skin shed by molting young fleas and adult fleas. Pets in households with flea infestations show signs of distress with repeated scratching due to irritations caused by flea bites.

What can I do about fleas in my bed?

Start by removing the bedding, covers, pillows, and pillowcases and sealing them in plastic bags before washing and drying in temperatures above 95 degrees. Then, treat the mattress by spraying vinegar, peppermint oil, and camphor water or sprinkling Diatomaceous Earth and baking soda.

Finally, vacuum the mattress and the surrounding area before steam cleaning it to kill any remaining fleas and their eggs.

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