How to get rid of carpet beetles quickly and easily

Brown carpet beetle on white fabric, showing how to get rid of carpet beetles.
(Image credit: Getty)

Pests are unwelcome in most cases, but certainly when they start to intrude on your home. Luckily, once you know how to get rid of carpet beetles, these unwelcome guests will be easy to get rid of for good. 

There are a number of natural, non-toxic solutions for banishing carpet beetles, so if you're not a fan of harsh chemicals or just want to save money by using store cupboard ingredients, then you can still effectively remove these bugs. Maintaining a clean home is the first step, and the best vacuum cleaners will help you to keep your carpets and floors in tip-top condition. Daily vacuuming will pick up any carpet beetle larvae that are brewing on surfaces before they can hatch and cause more damage. 

It might come second nature to you when it comes to how to clean a carpet, but if you're facing an influx of carpet beetles then you'll need a few more skills under your belt. It might seem like a challenge to take on these pesky invaders, however, it's actually quite a simple task when you have the right products and know exactly how to use them. Many of these products can be purchased at local stores or online, so the carpet beetles won't have as much impact on your wallet as they do on your floors.

What are carpet beetles? 

No matter how tiny the creatures are, bugs can be particularly creepy - especially in your home. Carpet beetles are actually one of the most common household pests and aren't anything to be frightened of.

Reeko Curll, Pest Exterminator at The Pest Control, explains, “Carpet beetles are small, black, and round, and can be found in any home with carpeting. They are about the size of an apple seed and can be difficult to spot with the naked eye.”

As the name would suggest, carpet beetles are most commonly found in carpeted areas, as well as on soft furnishings like curtains and upholstery. They can also be found on clothing and bed linen, especially if the larvae are given time to spread. The larvae will feed on wool, leather, silk and pet hair before switching to eating plants and pollen as they grow. This means that if left untreated, they can quickly destroy different items around your home, so it's important to know how to spot the signs of an infestation. 

Signs of a carpet beetle issue

Carpet beetles are incredibly small, so you may not immediately spot them crawling around on your floors. The first noticeable sign of a pest issue is usually damage to fabric, so keep an eye out for any holes or marks on your rugs and upholstery. You may also notice thin areas in a piece of fabric where the carpet beetle larvae have eaten away at the surface of the material. 

Another red flag for a carpet beetle infestation is the skin of the larvae. As the larvae grow, they shed their skins and leave them behind, so you might be able to spot these on the surface. You might also find fecal pellets too, which are as small as a grain of salt.  

Adult carpet beetles can grow up to 4mm in size, so they're easier to spot than larvae. As they grow, they will start to move outdoors ready for mating so check for small, dark dots climbing towards your windows and doors.

What causes a carpet beetle issue?

There's no one answer for how carpet beetles enter your home. They might hitch a ride on fresh flowers and plants, or fabrics that have already been contaminated, like second-hand furnishings (always remember to wash thrift store purchases!). They can also enter through vents or open windows and their small size means the beetles can easily squeeze through gaps in a door or window frame.  

Carpet beetles especially love warm, natural fibers like wool to burrow into, so pay extra attention to carpets and knitted sweaters. A lack of regular cleaning around the home will give carpet beetles a chance to thrive in most environments, particularly if you're prone to skipping the vacuuming. 

How to remove carpet beetles naturally

What the expert says...

We spoke to Reeko Curll, Pest Exterminator at The Pest Control, who says "Vinegar is a natural and safe way to kill carpet beetles. It’s also a cheaper option than purchasing expensive pesticides from the store.” 

Greater awareness of our health and the health of the planet means that more homeowners are looking for natural solutions when researching how to get rid of carpet beetles. These solutions often consist of ingredients that are commonly found at home, or are easily accessible at the hardware store or online. This can help keep costs down when compared to buying specialist cleaning products or hiring a pest control specialist.

When your house becomes home to these tiny critters, there are a few proven and popular DIY tricks to try, including;

•  Vacuuming: According to Reeko Curll, regular vacuuming is key if you don’t want to come face to face with carpet beetles. He says, “Vacuuming is the best way to remove carpet beetles and their larvae from your home.” And it’s not just the main carpeted areas that need attention, as Reeko explains, “Be sure to vacuum all areas where carpet beetles are found, including under furniture and in crevices.”

• Steam cleaning: As well as killing bacteria for a more hygienic home, your steam cleaner can be a useful tool in the war on carpet beetles. Rugs that have a longer pile and are difficult to vacuum can be effectively sanitized with a steam cleaner, which will drive out beetles and larvae from the rug. A steam cleaner can also be used on upholstery and curtains that have fallen victim to carpet beetles. Using just water, this method is affordable too. 

• Vinegar: A household cleaning favorite for centuries, vinegar is a safe, non-toxic treatment for carpet beetles. Dilute apple cider vinegar in water, then apply it to affected areas of carpet. To clean a larger area or hard-to-reach spots, use a spray bottle for easy application. Vinegar will kill carpet beetles and also deter their friends from returning, as they hate the acidity of apple cider vinegar. Not suitable for use on wool, so take care with premium carpets or a luxury rug.

• Boric acid: A more severe infestation requires a drastic approach – enter boric acid. Boric acid kills most insects, including carpet beetles, on contact, and is available to buy online. Sprinkle a carpet with boric acid, leave for a few hours, then vacuum to kill beetles, larvae, and eggs. You can also add a tablespoon of boric acid to 2 cups of hot water in a spray bottle. Use this to treat upholstery, curtains, and dark corners where beetles can hide. Keep pets and children away from the affected area for several hours after treatment, and avoid using boric acid on darker colored fabrics.

• Diatomaceous earth: Made from the sediment of fossilized algae, diatomaceous earth is a natural desiccant – meaning it dries things out, in this case insects. Use as you would boric acid, sprinkling over infested areas before vacuuming up after a few hours. Supplied in powder form, this product can also be used in hard-to-reach areas like the back of cupboards. Always buy food-grade diatomaceous earth which is safe for both people and pets. And remember to wear a dust mask when applying to avoid inhaling small particles.

Cedarwood oil: An essential oil commonly found in skincare products and known for its antibacterial and antiseptic properties, cedarwood oil is an all-natural solution. It is also a great pesticide, hence why woolen clothes and blankets have historically been stored inside a cedar chest. To use cedarwood oil to eradicate adult carpet beetles as well as larvae and eggs, mix the oil with water and spray or wipe down infested areas. This is only recommended for use in pet-free households as it can be harmful to cats and dogs and you should wear goggles when applying to protect your eyes.

• Neem oil: A naturally-occurring pesticide, neem oil is another good product to have on hand when getting rid of carpet beetles – but be warned, it has a rather sulfurous smell. If you can hold your nose for long enough, it can be used to kill carpet beetle larvae – simply mix two tablespoons of neem oil with one gallon of water, then wipe or spray the affected area. Best to keep children and pets at bay during treatment, as neem oil can be harmful if ingested, and its pungent scent isn’t pleasant either.

• Pheromone traps: These traps work by using pheromones or hormones to attract the carpet beetles to the trap, where they are then caught on sticky glue. Place at entry points or in areas where you have spotted signs of carpet beetles and remember to check the traps regularly and replace them when full.

Washing laundry: Hungry carpet beetles may make a beeline for your closet when they have had their fill of carpet, leaving your favorite outfit sporting unfashionable holes. When you are facing a serious infestation, gather up all machine-washable items from around your home and soak them in hot, soapy water to kill any beetles or larvae. This includes clothes, towels, cushion covers, curtains, and bed linen, and after soaking these items should be machine washed at the highest temperature using a quality detergent. 

How do carpet beetles spread? 

Adult carpet beetles have wings, which allow them to enter your home by flying through open windows and doors, or via holes in a screen. Their tiny size means that carpet beetles can gain access through even the smallest of gaps. These pests may also enter your home via air conditioning and heating vents, or via a chimney. 

Once inside, adult carpet beetles will lay their eggs on fabric surfaces, laying up to 100 eggs at once. After 10 days, these eggs will hatch, and carpet beetle larvae will appear, ready to consume as much of your carpet or soft furnishings as they can.

Do carpet beetles live anywhere else? 

Despite their name, carpet beetles are not only found in carpeted areas or rugs. In fact, you may discover you are sharing your home with these unwanted visitors even if none of your rooms are carpeted. Carpet beetle larvae feed on fabrics, including wool and cotton. Although they are more partial to natural fibers, carpet beetles can also consume polyester and nylon, so very few of your home fabrics or soft furnishings will be safe from these hungry critters.

From clothing and curtains to bedding and towels, carpet beetles can be found in almost every area of the home, which is why it’s important to know how to get rid of carpet beetles if they become your house guests. 

How to keep carpet beetles away

Once you have got rid of carpet beetles, there are a few steps you can take to ensure they are less likely to make a return appearance. Clean your home regularly, paying particular attention to carpets and soft furnishings. Daily vacuuming is the best way to prevent a resurgence of carpet beetles, but don’t miss the spots beneath or behind furniture, as these dark and overlooked areas are a favored habitat for carpet beetles.

To protect clothes and bedding from beetles, store items that you aren’t using regularly in plastic containers or storage bags. As well as keeping fabric safe from pests, this will help linen stay fresh and dust-free.

Any fabrics that have been badly infested by carpet beetles should be disposed of to prevent the infestation from spreading. That might mean throwing away your best rug or most-loved sweater, but it’s a small price to pay to get rid of carpet beetles. 

Nicholas Martin, Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Pest Control Hacks, recommends continuing to use apple cider vinegar once an infestation has been removed to prevent a recurrence. As he explains, “Carpet bugs hate the smell of apple cider vinegar, so you can add it to the water you use for cleaning and clean previously infested areas with a water and vinegar solution.”

Lastly, try to avoid filling your home with natural fibers, including wool or animal furs. Organic materials are particularly delicious to carpet beetles, so stick to synthetic fabrics if you want to limit the food options for any bugs.

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Hayley Francis

Hayley Francis is a freelance writer based in the UK with an interest in travel, culture, and the great outdoors. When not busy writing for a variety of clients, she can be found planning her next trip or hiking a new trail.

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