13 Ways to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles

13 Ways to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles

Most beetles eat plants, and adult carpet beetles do too. But the caterpillar form of carpet beetles prefers animal products, making it one of the most destructive household pests. It’s fairly easy to manage though, so let’s find out how to get rid of carpet beetles permanently.

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Problems Caused by Carpet Beetles

Many insects go through four life stages – egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The pupa is usually a cocooned stage where the insect doesn’t actively eat, so it’s the larva and adult stages that are destructive. Carpet beetles are no different. Adults eat pollen, grains, flowers, and pet food. Carpet beetle larvae are unique because they feed on animal fats and proteins like keratin.

They’re attracted to hair, skin, wool, fur, feathers, felt, dead bugs, silk, animal horns, and leather. They dislike plant-based fabrics like cotton, hemp, linen, or jute. They also avoid synthetics such as rayon, nylon, or polyester. But if the artificial cloth is blended with animal fibers or stained with blood, sebum, or fats, the carpet beetle larvae might still attack them.

Carpet beetles don’t bite humans or cause any diseases. But their caterpillars or larvae nibble all sorts of things including dead skin, human hair, stuffed toys, clothing, and bedding, so they might come into contact with your skin. Their hairy bodies can cause rashes and allergic reactions. The remnants of their food might also irritate your eyes and respiratory passages.

When carpet beetle larvae infest something, it gets holes and pills that look similar to the damage done by clothes moths. So when you’re figuring out how to get rid of carpet beetles, you need to be sure which of these two pests you’re dealing with. The clue is in the adult bugs since you’ll either see a cluster of black and brown beetles or some small grey fluffy moths.

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How to Identify Carpet Beetles

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Based on their color and diet, carpet beetles are classified as black, varied, or furniture carpet beetles. Adult carpet beetles are about half a centimeter. Larvae aka woolly bears are squat and hairy, with brown-and-white stripes. Their white bellies have gold or yellow accents. Adults eat pollen, so you typically see them in flower gardens and window sills.

But the larvae or grubs like to nibble on carpets and rugs, though you can also find them on woolen scarfs, fur coats, and leather jackets. They’ll usually focus on items that have been stored and forgotten since they like to stay in dark, undisturbed spaces. The female beetle will find one of these quiet food supplies and lay 50 to 100 eggs that hatch in 10 to 20 days.

The larvae that come out are twice the length of a grown beetle. It’s their longest life stage, since carpet beetles stay in their grub form for 2 months to two years, ruining your rugs and destroying your animal-based clothing. Since these shoes, hats, and coats are often stashed for long periods, you might not notice the infestation until your stuff is full of worm holes!

On the other hand, the easiest way to know you have carpet beetles is to spot their parents hanging out. The mom lives for six weeks while the dad only lives for four. Notably, carpet beetles stay in their cocoons for 10 to 13 days, so their pupa stage is the shortest at roughly two weeks. They don’t do any damage during this phase since they’re inside their cocoons.

Carpet Beetle Hiding Spots

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Apart from looking through stored items for carpet beetle grubs, you can inspect other areas where they might like to hide. Remember, they like animal fibers, so any spot with hair or dead skin can attract them. If you have cats or dogs that shed a lot, check their beds and their favorite spots to curl up. You can also check your combs, brushes, and grooming products.

Baseboards, corners, air vents, floor ducts, and the spaces under your sofas or beds can be convenient breeding grounds. This is because a lot of dead skin, lint, loose hairs, and fibers pile up there. In the attic, storage shed, or garage, you might have nests, rodent habitats, or even dead animals during the cold season, and carpet beetles love to lay eggs among these.

Clean out the basement or crawlspace, particularly if you use it to dump trunks and boxes of clutter for long-term storage. Your pantry can be an unexpected source of carpet beetles too since the adults can feed on your grains and dry goods before they look for animal fibers to lay their eggs in. Freezing these food items is an effective way to keep beetles under control.

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Getting Rid of Carpet Beetles

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Since carpet beetle larvae would rather be undisturbed, keep them away by disrupting their rest. Here are some basic tips, tricks, tactics, and ideas on how to get rid of carpet beetles.

  1. Regularly vacuum your rugs, carpets, baseboards, under beds, and beneath furniture.
  2. Clean your hair brushes, make-up applicators, combs, and personal beauty products.
  3. Check your seasonal storage areas and occasionally move stuff around.
  4. Introduce natural and artificial light to closets and trunks e.g. skylights, LEDs, etc.
  5. If the fabrics can stand the heat, wash and dry them at high temperatures.
  6. You can also go to the other extreme and freeze items to kill grubs and eggs.
  7. Dry-cleaning is a good trip for carpet beetle control as well.
  8. Routinely inspect target items like hats, pillows, stuffed toys, sweaters, scarves, etc.
  9. Look closely at the hems and folds of fabrics – that’s where carpet beetles hide.
  10. Pay special attention to risk-prone attic items e.g. feather duvets, taxidermy, etc.
  11. Blow-dry the seams, cuffs, and collars of vintage coats, hats, and upholstery.
  12. Pack your animal-based clothing in vacuum-sealed bags for prolonged storage.
  13. Seal cracks and use bug screens to keep adult carpet beetles out of the house.

Winterwear makes the ideal target for carpet beetle larvae. Many people will stash their coats, comforters, scarves, and hats in the attic or closet until they’re needed again. These clothes and blankets will remain in chests, boxes, and trunks for at least a year! So before you lock them away, dry-clean them, freeze them, then wrap them tightly in plastic sheeting.

You can also leave them out in strong sunlight or a dryer on high heat before you store them. But check the laundry labels first to ensure you don’t damage the fabric. Also, if you do your winter shopping at thrift stores, dry-clean or apply extreme temperatures (e.g. freezers, dryers) to destroy carpet beetles before you put on the clothes or spread them on your bed.

Preventing and Managing Carpet Beetles

If you work outdoors a lot or have kids who play intense sports, your home is probably full of sweaty, greasy uniforms. Apart from the unpleasant stink, these fabrics invite carpet beetles, even if they’re made of cotton or sweat-wicking synthetics. The beetles can even be drawn to the trunk of your car, team van, or sports locker. From there, they’ll migrate into your home.

Avoid dumping your gym bag and or sports gear unattended. A good way to get rid of heavy perspiration on fabrics is to spritz them with methylated spirit, rubbing alcohol, or vodka. All three kill the bacteria that cause the sweat and sebum to smell, and you can later clean the fabrics, shoes, and clothing based on their laundry labels and manufacturer’s instructions.

Cedar oil is great at keeping pests like carpet beetles away because they don’t like the smell. But trunks and chests made of cedar aren’t vacuum sealed so they won’t keep the critters out. Also, you need a lot of cedar essential oil for it to be effective so that’s not a practical option. Cold vaults can work but are pricy. People use them for fancy furs and high-end antiques.

Check your attics, crawlspaces, and basements for bird nests, wasp holes, spider webs, or the habitats of mice, rats, squirrels, and other unwanted rodents. In the wild, these are favored spots for carpet beetles to lay their eggs. Pantries and grain stores attract birds and rodents as well. Carpet beetles can easily use these outdoor pests as a free ride to access your home.

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Chemical Options for Carpet Beetle Control

Vacuuming and steam cleaning are efficient ways to manage carpet beetle larvae, but you have to be careful. Be sure to access the hidden areas along the edges, under carpets, below the cabinets, within the closet, behind the rugs, and inside the vents. Empty the vacuum (and dispose of any infested clothes) in sealed plastic bags to avoid spreading woolly bears and eggs.

As for chemical control, pesticide dusts and sprays that target fleas can work on carpet beetles too. Have these professionally applied, especially on carpets and clothing, since this could contaminate household residents. Insecticides aimed at fabric pests can work too, but it’s risky to spray bedding and clothing. Besides, the spray or dust might not penetrate the fabric.

While we’ve mostly focused on how to get rid of carpet beetles at home, other susceptible areas include upholstery shops, rug suppliers, museums, flea markets, cloakrooms, and goodwill stores. So if you work or buy stuff in these areas, examine items carefully and heat, freeze, or dry-clean them before use. Always check what you’re wearing for stowaway bugs.

Inspect your stocks and supplies for bald spots, grazed areas, droppings, or carpet beetle molts while also checking the windows for live bugs. Glue traps are a useful detection tool. They only trap a few carpet beetles at a time so they’re not effective control tools, but they confirm the presence of these bugs. That way, you can employ other tactics to get rid of them.

Do you know any other carpet beetle trivia? Share your knowledge in the comments section!

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