How To: Get Rid of Carpet Beetles
Stop the insect invasion that’s intent on destroying the textiles in your home.
They enter your home in a myriad of ways: hitching rides on cut flowers, clothing, or pets, or simply flying in through open windows. Once inside, carpet beetles (Dermestids) can settle in and lay eggs, and their larvae can really wreak havoc on rugs, curtains, upholstery—even your clothing. Don’t give them a chance to do any real damage. As soon as you spot one of the little buggers, follow this multi-pronged strategy for how to get rid of carpet beetles fast.
What To Know About Carpet Beetles
Carpet beetles are among the most destructive insect invaders. In the adult stage, these creepy culprits are less than ¼ inch long and either black or a combination of tan, white, and black. They tend to congregate around windows and doorways—so check these areas if you suspect an infestation. While irksome, adult carpet beetles are harmless; only in the larval stage—when they look like small, hairy worms—are they a threat to natural fibers.
Where They Live
Don’t assume from the common name alone that these pests dwell only in carpet. As a general rule, they favor dark areas, so can be found behind baseboards and in pantries, closets, and dressers (especially where furs or wool clothing is stored). They can also lodge in the crevices of sofas, armchairs, and other upholstered furniture. Dust bunnies under furniture and in corners, especially if pet fur and dander are present, are likely spots for carpet beetles, too.
What They Eat
While synthetic fibers are safe, pricier natural textiles such as cotton, linen, silk and wool clothing, blankets, and of course rugs and carpets, are the carpet beetles’ primary food sources. The family pantry, unfortunately, may also serve these pests, as some species of carpet beetles feed on pasta, flour, corn meal, and dry pet food. There are types of carpet beetles that eat dried flowers and potpourri, and even animal hides, as well.
How They Reproduce
The life cycle of a carpet beetle may be a mere two months to several years in length. Adults may deposit more than 100 eggs, which hatch within seven to 35 days. While carpet beetle larvae can survive for several weeks without food, it’s at that stage when the insects are most destructive.
Identifying an Infestation
Carpet beetle eggs are tiny and very hard to see, so most folks don’t notice an infestation until they spot damage to fabrics or other items. This can appear as bare spots in rugs or small holes in clothing or furniture fabrics. With carpet, evidence can appear as a shorter nap or irregular open spaces in the weave. Larger holes indicate where carpet beetles have munched en masse and the eaten areas have joined together.
DIY Extermination: How to Kill Carpet Beetles and Carpet Beetle Larvae
The good news is that once you’ve identified their presence, carpet beetles can usually be banished without the expense of an exterminator. Here are six ways to attack destructive larvae, plus a treatment to get rid of adult carpet beetles for good.
Stop an active larvae infestation by treating carpet or upholstery with an insecticide that contains at least one of the following ingredients: deltamethrin, bifenthrin, or cyfluthrin (view example on Amazon). Test in an inconspicuous area before treating the entire carpet to ensure the product won’t stain. Many insecticides warn against use around people and pets so follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions carefully.
Boric acid, which acts as a poison on insect metabolism, is only hazardous to humans if ingested or inhaled in large quantities. Find it in powder form at pharmacies or in the laundry aisle of supermarkets. Sprinkle it lightly and evenly on carpet, then use a broom or brush to distribute it into the fibers. Wait several hours and vacuum thoroughly. You may also prepare a larvae-killing spray by adding a tablespoon of boric acid to 2 cups of hot water and stirring until the powder dissolves. Fill a plastic spray bottle with the solution and mist curtains, upholstery, baseboards, and dark nooks and crannies.
Another natural product, diatomaceous earth (available via agricultural-feed stores and various online retailers) is a desiccant that quickly kills by dehydrating larvae. Treat rugs in the method described for boric acid above, and also sprinkle some in the back of cabinets and closets and in pet beds. Choose “food grade” diatomaceous earth, which is safe for pets and humans, but wear a respirator or mask to keep from inhaling the fine dust particles when applying.
Although they’re no longer chewing your possessions, adult female carpet beetles can be a nuisance by flying around the house. More importantly, left alone they can lay eggs and can start the whole nasty process again. Use a flying insect fogger (view an example on Amazon) to effectively eradicate adult beetles, and keep flying insect spray on hand (view an example on Amazon) to attack any strays or newcomers.
Both white and apple cider vinegar are effective against carpet beetles. Pour straight vinegar into an empty spray bottle and mist well on furniture, carpets, and clothing. If you discover signs of a carpet beetle infestation in a closet or dresser drawers, you may wish to wash clothing stored there in a vinegar and water solution to kill larvae and/or eggs.
Vacuuming and Steam Cleaning
Regular vacuuming can get rid of carpet beetles, sometimes before they have a chance to do much damage. Be sure to work the right attachments to get into crevices and clean drapes and upholstery. Heat is another powerful weapon against carpet beetles, so steam cleaning your home will kill larvae and eggs and then suck them up.
How to Prevent Future Infestations
Once you’re rid of carpet beetles, make a few smart preventive moods to keep them from coming back. Stop adult carpet beetles from entering your home by hanging sticky flypaper strips near windows. If you find yourself dealing with repeated infestations, place sticky pheromone-type traps on windowsills and in closets to keep carpet beetles from laying eggs.
Note that carpet beetles prefer to feed on soiled fabrics, so clean clothing of spills, perspiration, and other substances before storing. Keep dry foodstuffs like noodles and flour closed in airtight containers. Stick to a weekly dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming schedule so carpet beetles can’t get a comfortable footing in your home.
FAQ About How to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles
If you’re looking for further information on carpet beetles, consider the answer to these frequently asked questions.
How many carpet beetles is normal?
Ideally, none! If you happen to notice one carpet beetle, be it worm-like larvae or a flying adult, chances are others exist in your home—or will be invading soon enough! Follow the steps listed above to avoid a carpet beetle infestation.
Why do you get carpet beetles?
Adult carpet beetles have wings and can fly into a home through open doors and windows, or through holes in screens, most often in springtime. Once indoors, they lay their eggs in dark areas. A lax attitude toward dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming can make a home more hospitable to carpet beetles, so an infestation may be more likely to occur in an unkempt space.
Are carpet beetles dangerous?
No, carpet beetles do not harm people or pets. They don’t bite or sting, nor do they carry disease or emit any poisonous substances. But they can certainly be a danger to pricey home goods like wool rugs, quality silk and linen clothing, and other natural fibers.