Have you ever noticed how your carpets are frayed and worn at the edges in the corners of the room? At first, you may dismiss it as wear and tear, but then it seems odd that the worst damage is where there is the least foot traffic. Your car seats and fabrics may also be frayed and tattered for no good reason. If that is the case, then you probably have a carpet beetle infestation and yes, you can get them in your car as well. If you want to get rid of carpet beetles, you will need to address the problem quickly as these little critters can cause extensive damage across the home and make your car worthless. Chemical pesticides are always an option for some, but for those of us with small children, pets or just an understanding of the dangers of chemical pesticides, natural remedies are the best course of action to protect your home or car from a carpet beetle infestation. As luck would have it, there are several natural and safe ways to get rid of carpet beetles.
What is a carpet beetle?
They’re at least 200 species of carpet beetles, but only a handful of species make their way into our homes. Generally, these small (at most a quarter inch in length) beetles scavenge for food in plant and animal matter but the household variety of the beetle has unfortunately developed a taste for natural fibers such as wool and cotton. Their love of wool which is used in most carpets and the destruction that they wreak has given them their name. However, carpet beetles can inhabit any part of the house and they particularly like dark undisturbed corners of the house. As such, they often appear in chests, closets and other darkened cupboards where clothes and other fabrics are stored.
The beetles themselves are quite small and will not tend to be present in the area of damage. For it is actually the larva that causes the damage. The larvae are also small and look like short hairy caterpillars. As they mature, they shed their skin, the remnants of which can be seen as small dark specs in amongst the chewed carpet. Adults are often seen in the summer months, seeking out a suitable site for egg laying and the larvae are most active in the fall before they hibernate for the winter.
What are the signs of a carpet beetle infestation?
The most obvious sign of an infestation is when carpets look worn, holed and threadbare, yet receive no heavy foot traffic, with the affected area in a darkened corner of the room. Similarly, clothes, especially natural fabrics such as wool and cotton will have holes large enough to put your finger through. This will be distinct from holes caused by a moth infestation which tend to be much smaller. If left unattended, carpets and clothes are quickly destroyed. Tattered car seats with bugs flying around your car when the windows are closed is also a telltale sign of carpet beetle infestation in your car which is surprisingly common. Your car will quickly become junk if you don;’t deal with the issue.
If you decide to take the job on yourself, conduct a thorough search of the following
- stored clothing in cupboards, chests, and drawers
- Any natural fibers stored in the loft or attic
- check upholstery, especially in the folds
- look under rugs, edges of carpets and under furniture
- check under car mats and under car seats or anywhere where fabric is used in the car
How to get rid of carpet beetles in your house
If you want to control carpet beetles in the house without the risk of causing harm to the environment or to your household members, cider vinegar is the way to go. Vinegar is a natural pesticide and is toxic to the beetles. It is also an effective natural carpet cleaner. (1)
Early intervention or prevention is the best way to get rid of carpet beetles. Regularly applying rubbing alcohol helps repel beetles as well as prevent infestation. Alcohol can also control infestation as it kills the insects by thawing their cells. Alcohol is an excellent ingredient for any carpet beetle spray. Carpet beetles will also not crawl or lay eggs or surfaces that have been sprayed with rubbing alcohol. Due to this, spraying beddings, as well as furniture items with rubbing alcohol, is a reputable way of battling carpet beetles.
A thorough steam vacuum cleaning of the entire home can effectively help get rid of carpet beetles. Of course, the focus should be directed towards the most infested areas. The temperature of the steam will kill the beetles and their larva. Vacuuming upholstered furniture as well as areas that are covered by fabric can help ensure that all insects are removed. Give each carpet a clean a day for three days to ensure none of the larvae are missed.
Plain vinegar can also be added to the steam cleaner as a replacement for commercial chemical cleaners. The room will smell very strongly of vinegar during the clean, but the smell will soon pass. The vinegar will not only assist in cleaning the carpets but is also toxic to the beetle and maximizes the chances that the infestation is eradicated.
The application of cedar oil helps eliminate carpet beetles in various ways. Apart from causing osmotic dehydration and suffocation to mature beetles, it also dissolves their larvae and eggs. Additionally, cedar oil emulsifies the insects’ body fats and finally kills them. Cedar oil can be applied directly to infested clothing, furniture, and rugs or you can mix it with water to make a carpet beetle spray (2)
Caution: do not add essential oils to a steam cleaner. They can damage the cleaner and the fumes can be harmful to breathe.
Neem oil has the ability to kill insects at any stage of their life cycle. It is effective in getting rid of carpet beetles and other insects, but it has a different mechanism compared to other insecticides. Basically, the compounds found in neem oil enter the insects’ bodies and destabilize the functioning of the insects’ hormonal system. (3) Consequently, the insects stop eating, mating, laying eggs and even flying. When eggs are laid, they fail to hatch. Eventually, the population of carpet beetles dies out. Neem oil can be applied directly by mixing it with alcohol to make a carpet beetle spray
As mentioned, neem and cedar oil are the best essential oils to get rid of carpet beetle larvae naturally. However other oils such as peppermint and clove oil also natural insecticides. Depending on your preference for smell, you can make an effective carpet beetle spray from essential oils. For best results for your carpet beetle spray, add 10 drops of oil to a glass of vodka or pure alcohol. The oil will dissolve fully in the vodka and can be sprayed from any handheld sprayer. The alcohol will evaporate quickly leaving the residue of the oil to work its magic. Carpet beetle sprays are especially useful for fabrics that cannot easily be vacuumed such as the bottom of curtains.
Dusting boric acid on areas that have been infested by carpet beetles effectively eliminates these insects. Boric acid is far less toxic to humans and has a wide range of industrial applications, from cutlery to manufacture of eye medication, but it kills many insects including beetles and cockroaches. Simply get boric acid in its powder form from a pharmacy near you and dust it lightly on your carpet. Use a brush to distribute it evenly.You can dissolve some of this boric acid in hot water to make a carpet beetle spray that will kill these insects in their larval stage.
Carpet beetles are really resilient and it is better to clean infested apparel using hot water than cold water. Steam cleaning is the best. Using a detergent (choose one with a nice fragrance) is advisable since it can help choke the insects. However, clothes infested by carpet beetles can also be dry cleaned as the solvents used in this process are toxic to the beetle.
If you are uncomfortable with the solvents used in dry cleaning and you have fabrics that cannot be put through hot washes, freezing is an option to get rid of carpet beetles. The carpet beetle and its larva cannot survive a deep freeze. Put your clothes in plastic bags and pop them in the freezer for 48 hours.
This natural product rapidly and effectively kills carpet beetles including their larvae by desiccating or scorching them. You can treat your carpet or rug using diatomaceous earth by sprinkling it sparingly and then spreading it evenly using a broom (like you would use boric acid above). Also, sprinkle it in closets and areas behind the cabinets. Most importantly, select food grade diatomaceous earth that isn’t injurious to your pets as well as the rest of your household members. Remember to put on a mask/respirator during application so as not to breathe the powder. (6)
Like many other essential oils, eucalyptus oil kills carpet beetles as well as other insects. Carpet beetles consider the pungent aroma of eucalyptus oil as hazardous and avoid it. The insect repellent can be safely applied on clothes, on people as well as on pets. (7)
How to get rid of Carpet beetles in Car
Are your car seats a little tattered with random unexplained holes? Perhaps the carpets are fraying as well? You may be surprised to find out that carpet beetles are often found in cars. The adults can fly and will seek out darkened sheltered areas with a plentiful supply of natural fibers to munch on. Cars fit the bill. The carpet beetle really doesn’t care if his home is a car or a cupboard of clothes. But don’t worry, carpet beetles in car is not a reflection on your personal car hygiene habits, just a bit of bad luck that a beetle found it way into your car. To get rid of carpet beetles from your car, the solutions are almost the same for other fabrics in your home.
- Thoroughly vacuum all fabric in the car. If you can steam vacuum, even better.
- Sprinkle boric acid or Diatomaceous earth over all fabrics and leave overnight.
- Vacuum up the powder the next day and then make up a carpet beetle spray with alcohol and an essential oil (cedar is best). Spray the car regularly every time you get in the car until the carpet beetles in car are dead. This should only be a few days.
Do’s and Don’t’s of carpet beetles
- Vacuum and clean your rugs regularly to is the easiest way to get rid of carpet beetles. Regular vacuuming will suck up the beetles. Steam cleaning will kill them
- Mix essential oils with alcohol to a make carpet beetle spray. Mixing with water will not dissolve the oil.
- Clean any game that you have you have mounted. If possible, regularly freeze the game as it is not just carpet beetles that like to eat it.
- For any natural remedy, test a small piece of fabric/carpet first to make sure there is no staining.
- Store your off-season clothing in plastic container or bags. This will also protect your clothes from moths
- Carpet beetles like dark corners and cupboards. Let in some sunlight into your closet (and life!) a few hours a day
- Upholstered furniture should be cleaned just as regularly as your carpets. Carpet beetles make no distinction and love to inhabit darkened folds of fabric.
- Check and clean your curtains/draperies. The beetles often hide at the bottom, near the carpet.
- Don’t use eucalyptus oil and other essential oils around open fires or near heat sources. They’re highly flammable and can ignite.
- Don’t spray boric acid solution on dark surfaces as it has a bleaching effect