If you’re currently researching how to get rid of carpet beetles forever, we can assume two things about you.
The first is that one warm day, you left the windows open to get some of that sweet summer breeze. Unbeknownst to you, a pregnant carpet beetle realized that your home would make a beautiful nesting ground for its young.
And that brings us to the second assumption. You most likely have a lovely home with plenty of high quality fabrics and furnishings, which incidentally happen to be some of the carpet beetle larvae’s favorite things to eat.
This is precisely why you need to get rid of carpet beetles as soon as possible. These household pests have voracious appetites and expensive tastes. And you are in a race against time to save your precious fabrics and furnishings from becoming carpet beetle snacks.
And when it comes to getting rid of bugs, knowledge is power. Knowing how to tackle carpet beetles means learning a little more about these troublesome creatures.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What are Carpet Beetles?
Carpet beetles are small, oval-shaped bugs that belong to the family of dermestidae, which comes from the Greek translation of “skin” and “to eat.” True to that name, carpet beetles are scavengers with big appetites for anything of animal origin.
As such, they are a common pest not just in homes but also in museums and warehouses – anywhere that offers plentiful food sources. They are so common, in fact, that they are known to be responsible for more damage to carpets, fabrics and other woolens than even clothes moths!
What Do Carpet Beetles Look Like?
Google “carpet beetles pictures” and you’ll find a lot of images of beetle-like bugs with various patterns. But here’s the thing: carpet beetles go through a complete metamorphosis in their lifetime. Which means that carpet beetles will look and behave very differently at every stage in their life cycle.
The carpet beetle life cycle consists of four stages:
Carpet beetle eggs are white or cream-colored and very tiny – they’re smaller than a grain of salt. If you manage to look very closely, you can see that there is a small protrusion that looks a little like spine at one end. But it’s more likely that you’ll never even spot these eggs – their size and color helps them easily blend into the environment.
Once they are in the larval stage, however, carpet beetles are much easier to spot.
Carpet beetle larvae look nothing like beetles. In fact, they look much more similar to caterpillars or hairy worms.
When in the pupal stage, carpet beetles look like tiny, white cocoons.
It is only when they emerge as full-fledged adults that carpet beetles look like the oval-shaped beetles you see in most pictures.
If you find one of these beetle bugs in your home, the chances are good that it’s already laid eggs. So as see even one adult carpet beetle, you’ll want to move fast to get rid of them all before they can do real damage.
How Do You Get Carpet Beetles?
There are two ways carpet beetles get into your home:
- They sneak in. Adult carpet beetles live outdoors and are attracted to light. They can get into your home through open doors, windows, cracks and crevices, chimneys, and air vents.
- You bring them in. You may unknowingly bring carpet beetles into your home on plants and flowers as well as already infested items that are harboring carpet beetle eggs, larvae, and pupae.
As you can see, getting carpet beetles is often a matter of chance. That’s probably why so many homes have them. In 2014, the New York Times found carpet beetles present in more than 90% of the homes studied.
But whereas getting carpet beetles may be a matter of luck, there are a couple causes of carpet beetles that you can definitely control.
What Do Carpet Beetles Do?
As dermestids, carpet beetles have an important place in the ecosystem, since they scavenge dead animals and help break down even tough proteins like keratin. Adult carpet beetles are also pollinators, so they have a use in nature.
That doesn’t mean you want them in your home – especially when they are young.
You see, adult carpet beetles are mostly harmless to human homes. These slow-moving beetles prefer to feast on pollen and nectar so they will live most of their lives outside.
The problem only arises when an adult carpet beetle flies into your home to lay their eggs. Juvenile carpet beetles have a very different diet from their full-grown counterparts. It is during this stage of life that they cause the most damage to your home and belongings.
What Do Carpet Beetles Eat?
You may guess from the name that carpet beetles eat carpet. And that is partly true. Carpet beetles got their name from a bygone era when most carpets were made with wool. Nowadays, many carpets are made from synthetic fibers.
Carpet beetles don’t eat synthetic fibers.
In fact, adult carpet beetles don’t eat any fabrics at all. When they’re fully grown, carpet beetles adopt a plant-based diet and will exclusively feed on pollen and nectar.
It is the diet of the carpet beetle larvae you need to worry about. At the larval stage, carpet beetles need to feed on keratin in order to grow and develop. Keratin can be found in wool, cashmere, silk, skins, furs, and even human and pet hair.
Depending on the type of carpet beetle you’re dealing with, there can also be slight variations in the diet.
- Varied carpet beetles eat other insects
- Black carpet beetles will eat stored foods like nuts, seeds, and flour
- Furniture carpet beetles get their name from their habit of feeding on upholstered furniture, but they will also eat dead insects and animals, cheese, rice, and even dried blood
As you can see, carpet beetle larvae are not picky eaters. And their tastes can range from the disgusting, i.e. dead insects, to very expensive, i.e. cashmere.
But the thing that should give you the most concern is this: The carpet beetle larva stage can last a long time – anywhere from 66 to 330 days. That’s a lot of time to destroy your carpets, blankets, clothing, and shoes.
Are Carpet Beetles Harmful?
Carpet beetles don’t have poison, venom, nor disease-spreading germs. But that doesn’t mean they are harmless.
The main way carpet beetles harm people is through skin irritation. Many people mistake this red, itchy skin as carpet beetle bites but the truth is that carpet beetles don’t bite. The skin irritation is in fact a carpet beetle rash, which is an allergic reaction to the tiny hairs shed by carpet beetle larvae.
If you’re particularly susceptible to carpet beetle allergens, you may experience more than skin irritation. You can even develop rhinitis symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, congestion, and red, itchy eyes.
Apart from the allergic reaction that carpet beetles can trigger, the vast majority of the harm caused by carpet beetles is in the form of carpet beetle damage.
What Does Carpet Beetle Damage Look Like?
One of the most common signs of carpet beetle infestation is carpet beetle damage. This can look like:
- Large clusters of holes in cashmere, woolen, and silk clothing
- Bare areas and holes on wool and wool-blend carpets and rugs
- Hairs falling out of furs and sheepskin rugs
- Damage to leather and suede shoes and clothing
An easy way to tell if the damage is caused by carpet beetles vs clothes moths is to look for webbing. Clothes moths tend to spin silken patches of webbing as they feast on the surface of infested items. Carpet beetles don’t do this.
Apart from carpet beetle damage, other signs of carpet beetle infestation include:
- Shed larval skins in dark, hidden areas
- Carpet beetle poop
- Finding holes in cardboard or paper packing for cereals and grains
- Small beetle-like bugs on your walls and around windows
If you find evidence of carpet beetle damage, you already have an infestation on your hands. You’ll want to move quickly to salvage your belongings.
How Do Carpet Beetles Spread?
Once carpet beetle larvae hatch from their eggs, they move about in search for food. The tiny bristles that cover their bodies help them to move. They also shed little hairs and leave traces of blood as they squirm along, which is why living with an infestation can cause carpet beetle rash.
For such slow-moving creatures, carpet beetle larvae are fairly active and can migrate from room to room looking for food, which is exactly how a carpet beetle infestation can spread.
How Fast Do Carpet Beetles Spread?
On average, it takes anywhere from 180 to 300 days for a carpet beetle to go from an egg to a fully-fledged adult. Once they emerge, the adults only live for about 2 to 6 weeks, but that’s more than enough time to have lots and lots of hairy babies who will munch on your carpets, furniture and clothing.
With humans, people start looking at you funny if you have more than about four or five kids. But when you consider that a single carpet beetle can have more than 90 babies, and sometimes over a hundred, it’s easy to see how quickly an infestation can get out of control.
And because it’s the larvae that do the real damage, it’s important that you make sure to find them wherever they are hiding when treating carpet beetles. Miss a few larvae, and you have a problem that will just repeat itself over and over.
How to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles
Now that you know just how quickly a carpet beetle infestation can spread, you want to know how to get rid of them quickly and thoroughly so that you can wash your hands of them for good.
Luckily, there are a number of ways of doing that.
Unfortunately, almost all of them involve at least a little bit of work on your part. Still, isn’t it worth it to protect that expensive wool carpet or fancy silk dress you’ve been waiting for a chance to wear?
Here are some of the best ways to get rid of carpet beetles. Keep in mind that using a combination of all the below methods is going to be your best chance at getting rid of carpet beetles quickly and completely.
Let’s start with the basics.
Okay, it’s not glamorous. But it works. Carpet beetles, as you would imagine, often live in the carpet, so vacuuming thoroughly is one of the most effective methods you can use to get rid of them.
Giving your carpets a deep vacuum will suck up and destroy many of the larvae that are causing the damage. Try to vacuum regularly to get on top of the carpet beetle’s rapid lifecycle. Every two or three days, until the infestation is under control, is a good idea.
Tip: Make use of your vacuum’s nozzle to clear carpet beetle eggs, larvae, as well as the debris they like to eat from harder-to-reach corners, cracks and crevices.
Doing the laundry isn’t most people’s idea of fun, but for carpet beetles, it’s deadly. Carpet beetles and their larvae die at temperatures of 120°F (or 48.89 °C). So run your washer and dryer at the hottest setting.
To avoid further damage to your wool, leather, silk, and other fabrics, make sure you carefully follow all directions on the label. Failing that, you could take your clothing to a professional dry cleaner.
The dry cleaner is an option. But if you can spare a bit of time, you don’t have to shell out extra money to save your harder-to-wash closet valuables like cashmeres and leather shoes.
You can simply use your freezer.
To kill carpet beetles by freezing them, you need to keep the infested items at a minimum temperature of 0°F for at least one week.
Make sure to use a garment bag or even a plastic Ziploc bag to place your infested items in and then leave them in the freezer until the carpet beetles and their spawn die out.
Because of the type of fabrics carpet beetles infest, it can be tricky to clean everything properly. You can’t exactly run your sheepskin carpet in the wash, can you? And most people don’t have a large enough freezer to host a down duvet.
Enter the trusty steamer.
Steam can be a very useful ally if you want to be even more aggressive about solving a carpet beetle infestation. The high heat produced by a steamer is lethal to all stages of the carpet beetle lifecycle, but it’s the larvae you most want to target.
Our favorite is the McCulloch Steam Cleaner. It quickly heats water to over 200 degrees °F, which is more than enough to kill all the carpet beetles and their spawn.
One filling is enough to provide up to 90 minutes of steam so you can thoroughly heat the little critters to death. And the steamer comes with a ton of attachments so you can blast steam into the tiniest nooks and crannies.
Give your carpets a good steam clean with the steamer. Don’t forget about your drapes, your furniture, and any other source of natural fibers. A good steamer can also treat your clothes, making it a highly effective way to reduce a population of carpet beetles.
It may be hard to say (and spell), but this fine powder is one you’ll want to get familiar with if you’re into non-toxic pest control. Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring mineral that is fantastic for getting rid of a variety of insects. It is actually not a pesticide in the traditional sense – instead, it kills carpet beetles and their larvae by scratching their exoskeleton and causing them to dry out.
Available in bulk through Amazon, diatomaceous earth works best when it’s lightly applied to hidden areas where carpet beetle larvae like to hide. Think behind baseboards, under sofas, and in cracks and crevices in closets and kitchen cabinets.
Widely available as a laundry detergent booster, boric acid is also a fearsome insecticide when used correctly. You can use it to treat carpet beetles by sprinkling boric acid freely over your carpet and the underside of your furniture.
Wait a few hours, then get the vacuum out and suck up the boric acid and hopefully a lot of dead carpet beetles with it.
Carpet Beetle Insecticide
Carpet beetles can be stubborn. While it’s better to use natural and chemical-free methods when possible, we don’t live in an ideal world. If you’re having a hard time shifting a persistent carpet beetle problem, pesticides for carpet beetles can be a valuable tool in your arsenal to get rid of these creatures.
For the best method of control, consider a pesticide that combines a contact poison with an insect growth regulator, such as NyGuard Plus. Available as an aerosol spray, this potent pesticide is great for spraying into the kind of cracks and crevices where carpet beetles hide.
This carpet beetle insecticide is so potent because the pyrethroid active ingredient kills any carpet beetles or larvae it touches. The included insect growth regulator then disrupts the hormonal balance of any survivors. Result? The larvae never grow to the stage where they can reproduce.
Breaking the carpet beetle lifecycle is the most effective way to treat this troublesome pest.
Dusts can also be very effective weapons to use against carpet beetles. Products like Delta Dust are effective against a broad range of pest species, including carpet beetles.
The dust formulation will stay active for a long time, making it ideal for application into places like behind baseboards, wall voids, and the underside of furniture. The dust will kill carpet beetle adults and larvae on contact.
Where Do Carpet Beetles Live?
In order to effectively use a carpet beetle killer, you’ll first have to know where to apply it to get the most carpet beetle killing bang for your pesticide buck.
So where do carpet beetles hide?
Well, carpet beetles didn’t get to where they are today by being easy to find. Although the adults are attracted to light, the larvae hide from it and prefer dark corners. They also like to be close to a potential food source, whether it’s carpet, upholstered furniture, or a supply of dead bugs.
Here’s a quick list of common carpet beetle hiding spots:
- Carpets and rugs
- Behind baseboards
- Inside pantries
- In closets, especially dark and undisturbed spots
- In dressers, especially where natural fabrics are stored
- Upholstered furniture, especially the tight crevices of sofas and armchairs
- Under furniture and in corners where dust bunnies and lint accumulate
Effectively treating a carpet beetle infestation means taking the fight to the larvae wherever they are. Let’s go into detail for a few of the carpet beetles favorite hiding spots.
Carpet Beetles in Bed
First things first, do carpet beetles live in bed? Well, adult carpet beetles don’t. So if you find bugs that looks like carpet beetles crawling on your bed, it’s likely that you have bed bugs.
That being said, it is possible for carpet beetle larvae to be in your bed, especially if your have animal-based materials on your bed – think: lovely silk sheets, a wool blanket, or a down feather comforter.
So what do you do when you, say, find the shed skins of carpet beetle larvae or the larvae themselves hiding in the seams of your mattress or in cracks and crevices in your bed frame? Washing your sheets in hot water and vacuuming or steaming your bed frame will kill them off.
To prevent any other carpet beetles from sneaking into your bed, try to clean your sheets regularly and don’t eat on your bed. Remember that carpet beetle larvae like to snack on things like the dead skin and hair that you shed every night – don’t let it pile up!
Carpet Beetles in Couch and Sofas
The underside of your sofa and armchairs, especially if they are made of natural fabric like wool or leather, is also a common place to find these bugs.
You can steam or vacuum these areas, then apply an appropriately labeled pesticide or diatomaceous earth to kill any bugs you can reach. Make sure you target cracks and crevices like the gaps around the legs of the furniture or underneath the fabric on the bottom of the sofa.
Don’t forget about your baseboards. A deep vacuum or steam followed by application of a pesticide is an effective way to drive bugs out of these hiding places.
Carpet Beetles in Cars
Although less likely, it’s even possible to have carpet beetles in your car, although fabric in vehicles tends to be synthetic rather than natural. If you do find carpet beetles in your car, inspect thoroughly to make sure there isn’t some spilled food somewhere that is feeding them.
This is especially important if you have kids as it’s all too easy for children to drop food down the side of a car seat.
Once you’re sure you’ve removed all food sources, a deep vacuum or steam clean of your car should be sufficient to get the bugs out.
If not, you can always apply diatomaceous earth or Delta Dust to finish them off. If the infestation is severe, a pesticide like NyGuard Plus could work very well. Just make sure to air properly afterwards.
How to Keep Carpet Beetles Away
You’ve done the work and gotten rid of carpet beetles. Now it’s time to make sure they never come back. Here’s a quick guide to prevent carpet beetles from ever becoming a problem in your home.
- Place screens on windows and air vents. Cover your windows with screens and secure any vents with mesh. It’s one of the easiest ways to prevent carpet beetles and other unwanted pests from getting into your home.
- Seal up cracks and crevices. If you have gaps and holes around the doorway or windows, it’s time to get some caulk and seal those up.
- Do laundry frequently. Washing and more importantly, drying your fabrics at high temperatures kills carpet beetles. It also removes food and sweat stains, which carpet beetles are particularly attracted to.
- Vacuum regularly. Vacuuming allows you to suck up carpet beetle eggs, larvae, and pupae. It also removes potential food sources for carpet beetles like lint, hair, and dander.
- Store food in airtight containers. Certain species of carpet beetles can be pantry pests. By putting all non-refrigerated foods in airtight plastic containers, you can remove the food that attracts them.
- Pack away natural fabrics in air-tight bags. If you have woolen, cashmere, silk, or any other natural fabrics that you’ll be storing away, pack them in airtight bags.
- Switch to synthetic fabrics. If you’re planning on replacing some things, choose a synthetic option for carpets, rugs, and furniture.
- Inspect everything. Check flowers, plants, and especially natural fabric items before bringing them into the house.
And there you have it – the best ways to keep carpet beetles away from your home and life. Now you can pop the champagne.