How to get rid of carpet beetles

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

Sometimes, we find ourselves sharing our homes with uninvited guests. Fortunately, once you know how to get rid of carpet beetles, these unwelcome intruders will be no match for your cleaning skills.

There are lots of natural, non-toxic solutions for getting rid of carpet beetles. So, if you want to save money by using store cupboard ingredients, or prefer to avoid harsh chemicals around the home, you can still effectively remove these pesky bugs. Regular cleaning is a good place to start, and the best vacuum cleaners (opens in new tab) are your secret weapon against carpet beetles. Daily vacuuming will pick up any carpet beetle larvae that are feasting on household fabrics before they can cause serious damage. 

You might be an expert when it comes to how to clean a carpet (opens in new tab), but if you’re in a battle against carpet beetles, you will need a few extra skills and supplies. It might seem daunting to take on these tiny invaders, however, getting rid of carpet beetles is much easier when you have the right products to hand. Luckily, many of these products can be purchased at a hardware store or online, and some might even be in your cupboards already. 

What are carpet beetles? 

The tiny terrors of the pest world, carpet beetles are one of the most common household pests. 

Reeko Curll, Pest Exterminator at The Pest Control (opens in new tab), 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.”

Carpet beetles are found in carpeted areas, as well as on soft furnishings like curtains and upholstery. They can also be found on clothing and bed linen. Carpet beetle larvae feed on wool, leather, silk, pet hair, and other materials, before switching to eating plants and pollen as they grow. Left untreated, an infestation can destroy items around the house, so it’s important to learn how to get rid of carpet beetles once you spot the signs of these bugs. 

Signs of a carpet beetle issue

As carpet beetles are incredibly small, the first sign of a pest problem is usually damage to fabric, including carpets, rugs, and upholstery. You may notice thin areas in a piece of fabric, or holes where carpet beetle larvae have eaten away at the surface of the material.

When the larvae grow, they shed their skins, leaving behind light brown skin cases which are another red flag for an infestation. If you look closely, you might find fecal pellets too, which are as small as a grain of salt.

Growing up to 4mm in size, adult carpet beetles are easier to spot than larvae. As they grow, they begin to move outdoors ready for mating. Look for small, dark dots climbing toward windows or around window sills.

What causes a carpet beetle issue?

Carpet beetles can hitch a ride into your home via a variety of materials, including fresh flowers and plants, or fabrics that are already contaminated, like second-hand soft furnishings. Carpet beetles can also enter through vents or open windows. Their small size means the beetles can easily squeeze through gaps in a door or window frame.

Natural fibers like wool (think carpets and knitted sweaters) are particularly attractive to hungry carpet beetles. However, a lack of regular cleaning around the home will give carpet beetles a chance to thrive in most environments, particularly if you tend to skip the vacuuming when tackling household chores.

How to remove carpet beetles naturally

What the expert says...

We spoke to Reeko Curll, Pest Exterminator at The Pest Control (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab), 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.

Discover more guides for the home…

Best top load washers (opens in new tab)
Best dishwashers (opens in new tab)
Best dryers (opens in new tab)
Best steam mops (opens in new tab)
Best robot vacuums (opens in new tab)

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.

With contributions from