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By Bonnie Stinson
Updated on Jun 15, 2022
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff, Staff Editor.
To get rid of carpet beetles, try applying insecticide, a natural repellent product, or steam cleaning the infested areas. Here’s what you need to know to reclaim your home from these pests.
Carpet beetles live in carpets, textiles, upholstered materials, and sometimes cupboards or closets. These critters are small, hairy, and can wreak havoc on your clothing, curtains, and books. But once you discover the infestation, how do you get rid of these destructive dermestids?
To guide you through chemical, natural, DIY, and professional ways to get rid of carpet beetles, Jerry has assembled this quick guide. We’re a super app for home insurance shopping—but we also love helping homeowners find smart, easy ways to keep their homes in tip-top shape.
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What are carpet beetles?
Carpet beetles are destructive home invaders about the size of your pinky nail. Their physical appearance ranges from light brown to black, with tiny hairs covering most of their body. They can live from two months to several years.
To gain access to your home, they enter through open windows or small gaps in doors. Once inside, their preferred habitat is anywhere with minimal light. Carpet beetles may settle down in dark closets, pantries, air vents, between the cracks of cushions, or under furniture where dust bunnies and dander accumulate.
What do carpet beetles eat? They mostly feed on natural fibers such as wool, cotton, silk, linen, furs, and paper. Some types will eat pasta, dry pet food, and potpourri—but they can also live for several weeks without food.
Finding carpet beetles starts with identifying damage. The most common type of carpet beetle damage is bare spots or holes in fabric. Check your carpets, rugs, couches, chairs, curtains, clothing, and other upholstered items. You may even notice pin holes in the pages of your books.
How to get rid of carpet beetles with insecticide
Preventative cleaning is always best, of course. But if you already have a carpet beetle infestation, use insecticide to discourage them by killing the larvae. Please remember that many insecticide products are not safe for children or pets.
To get rid of carpet beetles, start by vacuuming the infested material thoroughly. Then use a steam cleaner on the vacuumed areas (if they can handle heat, that is). The heat will kill the larvae.
Now, you can apply an insecticide to finish the job. The most effective ingredients for deterring carpet beetles are bifenthrin, deltamethrin, or cyfluthrin. As always, be sure to test a product in a small area first to ensure that it will not stain your carpet or upholstery.
Another good option is boric acid, a less toxic insecticide (but still lethal to carpet beetles). Apply it to the infested areas then distribute it evenly with a broom. Leave it for several hours—making sure to secure pets and children—and then vacuum it up well.
Finally, you can use rubbing alcohol or a mixture of one part bleach to three parts water on non-porous surfaces like shelves, counters, windowsills, and cupboards. Carpet beetles will not lay eggs around this substance, and it will kill eggs and larvae that already exist.
How to get rid of carpet beetles naturally
If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of insecticides—or if people in your household are very sensitive—try some natural products to get rid of carpet beetles.
- Essential oils can deter pests, especially peppermint oil and clove oil diluted with water. Spray it in the infested areas. Try not to use darker colored oils because they may leave stains.
- Vinegar can also dissuade carpet beetles. Mix white vinegar or apple cider vinegar with water and spray it lightly over areas where larvae may be found.
- Diatomaceous earth (DE) can be sprinkled around in a similar fashion to boric acid. Find it at most agricultural and feed stores. Buy a food-grade DE product to ensure it’s safe enough to use in your home, and make sure to wear a mask or respirator while applying.
Be aware that carpet beetles can be very difficult to eradicate. If your DIY efforts are not completely successful, don’t hesitate to call in a professional! It’s simply not worth the stress (or money) to keep attempting ineffective DIY solutions while carpet beetles destroy your home.
How to keep carpet beetles away
These pests typically show up in the springtime—so why not take some preemptive action now?
- Wash materials that could potentially make a home for larvae: clothing, linens, towels, pillows.
- Wipe down areas that don’t get much light, such as the insides of cupboards and closets.
- Vacuum the dark corners of your home, such as the bottoms of closets and under the furniture.
- Add cedar or mothballs to storage boxes and bags.
- Apply insecticide around the external perimeter and entry points of your home. Don’t forget the vents!
- Repair window screens and make sure the seals are tight.
- Seal dry foodstuffs tightly to prevent beetles from accessing the containers. No open bags of flour or pasta!
When you clean regularly, you reduce the likelihood that carpet beetles will find dark, dusty, dander-filled corners in your house to set up camp.
When to call a pest control company for carpet beetles
You’ve tried essential oils. You steam cleaned and even tried applying an insecticide yourself. But weeks have passed and you are still noticing new bare spots—or even larvae—throughout your home.
It’s time to call a pest company if your DIY solutions haven’t worked within two weeks. That’s about how long carpet beetles can survive without food.
Home insurance coverage and carpet beetles
A home insurance policy will reimburse you for damage caused by a number of named perils, such as windstorms and lightning strikes.
Unfortunately, bug infestations are not usually covered by homeowners insurance. This type of problem is usually caused by inconsistent cleaning—and basic home maintenance is considered the responsibility of the homeowner. In other words, if you could have prevented the infestation by cleaning more regularly, you’re unlikely to get coverage.
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