It doesn’t matter where you live: unless it’s Antarctica there are certain kinds of insect pests that you’ll just have to deal with in life.
Some of them are unsightly, some of them spread disease. Some of them can hurt you but others will actually destroy your stuff. For instance, the carpet beetle.
As the name suggests this pest is a known destroyer of natural fiber carpets and all other natural textiles, and have been the scourge of homes, museums and fabric mills forever.
They can also be surprisingly hard to get rid of, but some people claim that vinegar is all it takes to kill these little punks. Is it true? Does vinegar kill carpet beetles?
Yes, vinegar can kill carpet beetles when used on them undiluted. Specifically, white vinegar and apple cider vinegar are most effective.
These can be sprayed directly on mature beetles and larvae or suspected nesting areas, or used as a wash or dip for infested clothing and other textiles.
It’s not an urban legend. Vinegar really will kill carpet beetles and do so without any harmful nasty poisons and other chemicals.
This is great to know, especially if you’re trying to keep your house mostly chemical-free or want to treat delicate fabrics, but there’s a lot more to know about this insect mess, including other ways to get rid of them and how to prevent them from getting at your stuff in the first place.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything you need to know…
What are Carpet Beetles, Exactly?
Time to meet our antagonist. Anthrenus verbasci, also known as the varied carpet beetle, is a common household pest that feeds on a variety of organic materials such as cereals, wool, fur, feathers, and even dried plant matter while in its larval, or “caterpillar” stage.
The adult beetles are small, round, and approximately 1/10 of an inch in length. They are typically a mottled black, brown, and white with a pattern that resembles the spots on a ladybug.
These beetles are legendary for the damage they can do inside homes, museums and textile mills.
Why are Carpet Beetles a Problem?
Carpet beetles are voracious “predators” of natural fibers, which is what makes them such a problem!
Forget moths, what makes carpet beetles especially problematic is their larvae, which are often difficult to detect due to their small size and ability to blend in with their surroundings.
These bristly caterpillar-looking critters cause significant damage to carpets, clothing, upholstery, and other natural fiber materials if left unchecked, and can eat huge swaths of material.
Many museums and other historical archives have been plagued by these things throughout the years, and some priceless relics have fallen victim to the beetle scourge.
Suffice it to say, all kinds of things in your home can be damaged by carpet beetles, and that’s why it pays to know how to get rid of them.
Do Carpet Beetles Eat More than Just Carpet?
They sure do. Among textiles, any item made with natural hair or fiber is vulnerable. This includes wool, silk, cotton, and even furs.
Carpet beetles will also eat pet hair and feathers, for the record, so nothing natural is safe.
As far as non-textile items go, they can snack on dried plant matter such as flowers, dead insects, and other organic debris found around the home.
But that’s the larva. The adult beetles are also pests, but more in line with other, traditional bugs.
It is not uncommon to find carpet beetles in the pantry and on flowers, where they feed on grain, rice, pollen and other organic material.
The bottom line is that carpet beetles are a truly unique pest, and they can make just about any natural substance in your house their next meal.
How Can I Tell for Sure it is Carpet Beetles Doing Damage?
Identifying carpet beetle damage can be tricky since it can often be mistaken for other forms of wear and tear on fabrics and materials.
The signature telltale of carpet beetle damage is a series of holes or patches of missing fibers in fabrics.
The holes may look irregular or have a “shotgun blast” distributed pattern.
When a larva is allowed to eat long enough, or there are multiple in the same place, they can completely remove huge sections of fabric!
How Do Carpet Beetles Get into My House?
Carpet beetles typically hitch a ride into the home on items such as secondhand clothing, furniture, or other used items, and adult beetles make their way into homes to find food, mate, and lay eggs.
In some cases they can also come in directly from outside through deteriorating window screens or open doors/windows.
Once they are inside, carpet beetles tend to stay put since their preferred food sources are already present and they enjoy a distinct lack of predators!
Can Carpet Beetles Hurt People?
Not really. They will hurt your feelings and your pocketbook, but they only other way they can hurt you is with their hairs while in their larval stage.
The little snots use them as defensive weapons against predators, and those hairs can cause mild skin irritations and breathing problems, depending on the severity of the infestation.
Will Vinegar Kill Carpet Beetles Reliably?
It sure will. Straight, undiluted white or apple cider vinegar will work best.
The acetic acid in vinegar is deadly to adult carpet beetles and their larvae, so it can be used as a contact killer or a preventive measure against eggs.
All you need to do is fill a spray bottle or sprayer with it and then let it rip. Once the beetles are soaked, they will be history in pretty short order.
You Can Also Use Vinegar to Treat Rugs and Clothing
Another excellent use for vinegar in the fight against carpet beetles is to treat clothes, carpets, rugs and other textiles where the infestation is or was occurring.
Not only does vinegar kill any beetles present in or on the items, including tiny crevices and seams where they like to hide, but it also kills off any eggs that might have been laid.
An adult female beetle can lay over a hundred eggs in a clutch, and they hatch in mere days, so you’ll want to act fast!
To treat your items, just immerse them in straight vinegar as best you can, or else soak them thoroughly in it. Leave it on for at least 15 minutes before you wash everything off.
Won’t Vinegar Make My Fabrics Stink?
Yes, it will. But you can tame the stink by using white vinegar instead of ACV and eliminate the residual odor by washing fabrics promptly after the prescribed treatment interval.
What are Some Other Ways to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles?
You have other methods for getting rid of carpet beetles.
Regular vacuuming is one of the most effective ways to remove carpet beetle larvae and adults from carpets, upholstery, and other accessible textiles.
Be sure to carefully dispose of the vacuum bag or canister contents to prevent reinfestation.
Some items that are difficult or impossible to launder, such as stuffed animals or antiques, can be placed in a sealed plastic bag and frozen for a few days to kill any beetles or larvae.
Insecticides are, as always, effective in eliminating carpet beetles, but care should be taken to choose a product that is safe for use on the affected materials and follow the instructions carefully.
Professional pest control services can also provide insecticide treatments as necessary.
4. Diatomaceous Earth
Sprinkling diatomaceous earth around affected areas can also help to remove or prevent an infestation of carpet beetles.
This natural, safe substance is extremely effective in killing off insects, but it takes time to work, and won’t squash a raging infestation quickly.
How Can I Prevent Carpet Beetle Infestations in the First Place?
If you can keep them out of your home, the battle will be won before it starts. Follow all the usual tips for preventing insect intrusion:
- seal any cracks, crevices and other points of entry;
- keep screens in good shape and doors closed;
- keep storage areas clean and tidy;
- dispose of garbage regularly
- and don’t bring questionable items into your home.
If you have known carpet beetle activity in your area or on your property, use traps.
Carpet beetles are highly vulnerable to both pheromone and sticky traps, so you can set a few up to kill adults and effectively reduce future generations.
Sticky traps are great around areas where you keep items that beetles tend to target, such as furniture and closets
Remember: a little prevention goes a long way in keeping your home safe from carpet beetle infestations!
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.