Rug-Eating Bugs. What to do about them.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately on bugs eating rugs – so I thought I’d share some tips for both rug owners and rug cleaners.

Moths ate the wool, left behind the cotton foundation.

The two biggest wool rug culprits are moths and carpet beetles.

Moths: rug enemy #1.

Carpet beetle: rug enemy #2.

For some more extensive ways to get rid of theses critters from your home, visit this site for moths, and this site for carpet beetles.

For rugs, there are several steps you can take to keep the bugs from digesting your oriental rugs.

VACUUM REGULARLY

These bugs like nice, quiet, undisturbed places. You will generally find them doing their dirty work under the corner of your sofa, behind a drape, along the cracks in the planks of your wood floor, or on the back side of a rug hanging up still on your wall.

You do not need to “beat” the rug with your vacuum, just give it a good once over on the front every few weeks, and flip over the corners to see if there is anything to be wary of. Moth larvae looks like sticky lint and they do their damage when they emerge from those cocoons HUNGRY.

I like to run my vacuum upholstery tool over the back of the corners of my rugs, just to be safe, and once a quarter I completely vacuum the back side of my rugs to make enough chaos to have bugs look for another place to feast.

For rugs hanging on the walls, at least once a quarter take them down to vacuum. If they are delicate you can use the upholstery attachment instead of a beater bar or super-sucker type vacuum. Because of this needed maintenance for hanging textiles, this is why we like to suggest using velcro to hang rugs – it makes it easy to take down and put back up.

WASH REGULARLY

Rugs under normal to heavy use should be washed annually.

This means sending them out to be washed in a rug cleaning plant, and NOT having them just surface cleaned in your home. (BIG difference, especially if you are trying to avoid bugs.)

If you have moderate traffic on your rugs, and you vacuum at least every other week, that wash time can be extended to every 18-24 months. But longer than 2 years, you are asking for trouble. Not only from the abrasive grit that gets lodged into the base of the rug fibers (which is what causes areas to wear down faster), but also in regards to insect activity.

Washing helps dislodge bug activity and remove it. And for rugs with a big problem you are looking to solve, and you do not want to soak the rug in pesticide poisons, washing and giving the rug a vinegar rinse will help physically remove the bugs and their problem-causing ways.

FOR STORAGE – ALWAYS WASH BEFORE WRAPPING UP

Rug cleaners rarely offer “mothproofing” these days because those solutions are pesticides that kill things, and for something you may have your kids or pets rolling around on, that’s just not safe.

Even the odorless insect repellent solutions that professional cleaners have available and are not poisons still have some irritation risks. (Always read the MSDS to evaluate whether you want to use a particular product that requires leaving residue behind.)

But if a textile is going into storage for years, it is best to make sure you are not going to open up the package and find a rug disaster, so using a repellent is wise unless you are putting the piece in a cedar chest, or using other items that tend to discourage moths.

When I put something into storage, I don’t want to worry about it, so I use a repellent.

The most important step though is the wash and making sure you are not wrapping the rug up with any unwanted pest guests.

If your rug does have a visible insect problem right now, while it is out to be professionally washed you will need to bring in a professional cleaner to tackle your wall-to-wall carpet or your hard floors, wherever the problem rugs were, so that you can remove the rest of the problem.

Hot water extraction (“steam cleaning”) can take care of the problem in your carpeting – something the EPA lays out guidelines on for how often you should have this done as posted on the IICRC website.

To sum up, rug-eating bugs are kind of like unruly teens. They like to go hide in their space, and they don’t want you to bother them.

So you need to pull open the curtains to let fresh air and sunlight in, clean up their surroundings so they escape the fright of it all, and make a routine of that so you don’t end up with bigger problems down the road.

Your teens will come back (hey, they need to eat…), but the bugs will move on to another place with a less attentive rug owner in charge.

- Lisa

Comments

  1. Mark Johnson says:

    “To sum up, rug-eating bugs are kind of like unruly teens. They like to go hide in their space, and they don’t want you to bother them.”
    I have a couple of these ‘items’ that I would like to wrap and store!

    Great article that I will share with some of my customers. Thanks so much for all of your hard work- it is very much appreciated! MJ

  2. admin says:

    Thanks Mark – I appreciate you taking the time to post. =)

  3. Joe DeSouza says:

    Thanx for the info, Lisa! I liked that you mentioned that rugs should be cleaned every 12-24 months; I wasnt sure on the correct cleaning schedule for rugs, now I know what to tell my clients…

    Thanks for all your help!

    Joe

  4. admin says:

    Hi Joe – thank you for posting! Yes, rugs under normal use should be cleaned every 18-24 months, and entry rugs and rugs with kids/pets on them often should be cleaned annually. Wool fibers “grab” things really well, which makes it a great “filter” for a room, it grabs dust and contaminants and holds them in their fibers – and you need to clean that regularly. And rugs hanging on the wall, I recommend quarterly dusting with an upholstery tool from an upright vacuum (you only need to suck off the dust particles and make sure bugs are not finding a home behind the rugs…) – and a wash every 3 years. Those are the guidelines I use, because a wool rug can hold POUNDS of soil, dirt, and grit before it “looks” dirty – so when you wait until it looks bad, you have waited way too long.

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