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.
The two biggest wool rug culprits are moths and carpet beetles.
For rugs, there are several steps you can take to keep the bugs from digesting your oriental rugs.
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.
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.