Will putting something non-washable in a plastic bag get rid of fleas?

Here's a question e-mailed in by Bonnie:

"Stuffed animals aren't really washable.  Will placing stuffed animals in a plastic bag for a few days get rid of fleas?"


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That's not going to work for getting rid of them. There are a couple of reasons. I'm guessing that you're thinking the fleas might die from not having any oxygen to breathe - this actually used to be a pretty common belief that led to people trying to kill them by sticking clothes in airtight trunks, etc. However, fleas don't have lungs. They actually get their oxygen kind of like a fish, from little holes called spiracles. A flea is extremely small, and unlikely to use up all the oxygen in a plastic bag. Even if the adults did suffocate, the larva and eggs would still be around. So that won't work to kill them all off. You could probably be safe if you left it in there for a month or so, taking it outside once a week and running the tube of your vacuum over it. By that time, all of the fleas would have hatched and you would likely get them all vacuuming.

Your kids might not want to be without the toy for that long, so one other thing to try would be sticking it in the freezer. Putting them in plastic bags and leaving them in the freezer for a few days is actually a common remedy for dust mites, and fleas die in freezing temperatures as well. I can't speak to whether your particular stuffed toy would be damaged by this at all, but searching around the Internet it looks like a lot of people have done this. I'm guessing the plastic bag is to stop damage to it. If you're worried about that, you can always go buy a cheap one for a couple of bucks and throw it in for a day first to test it out.   

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