How to identify and control carpet moths


I grew up on a small, organic family farm and after a gap year spent working on an American ranch, I started studying agricultural science. Soil, organic farming practices, and plant science are what I am most drawn to. At home, when I'm not in our garden, you can find me in the kitchen, cooking and baking with our harvested fruits and vegetables.

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When it comes to carpet moth infestations, you need to act fast. In this article, we discuss how to identify carpet moths, how to get rid of carpet moths naturally, and how to prevent a renewed infestation.

carpet damaged by carpet moths
A carpet moth infestation can ruin entire carpets [Photo: Visharo/]

A moth infestation is not nice for anyone. If you do end up finding moths in your home, it is important to act quickly as these pests will not leave on their own accord. Luckily, there are some effective, natural methods with which you can eliminate moths and save your carpet. That way, you can avoid using chemicals or calling a pest exterminator in most cases.

Where do carpet moths come from?

Mostly, moths enter our houses via second-hand carpets and furniture or second-hand clothes. Moths found in carpets are usually clothes moths (Tineolabisselliella), which target both carpets and clothing – mainly made of wool or silk. However, it is the larvae and not the moths themselves that are the problem. They mainly feed on keratin, a protein found in animal and human hair, feathers and horn particles. In nature, carpet moths find plenty of food in bird and other animal nests. However, since moths are nocturnal creatures that are attracted to light, our homes are quite appealing. Our homes also provide them with ideal living conditions, without temperature fluctuations due to central heating and without predators. So, a carpet moth infestation can easily occur through no fault of our own.

moths flying around light bulb
Most moths are nocturnal and attracted to light [Photo: Ken Griffiths/]

How to identify carpet moths

Should you come across moths flying around in your home, it is important to act quickly to avoid further damage. Carpet moths can be identified quite easily by their lurching flight, shiny, ciliated wings and dark brown to yellow colour. Further signs of a carpet moth infestation include:

  • Tiny black dots on the carpet, which are probably moth droppings
  • Carpet moth larvae on carpets or in clothing – these are white-yellow and 1 mm – 1 cm long, depending on their age
  • Larval shells, as they shed their skin several times before pupating
  • Threadbare patches or holes in carpets

Note: You will probably not find the moth eggs in the carpet as they only measure 0.6 mm in size.

feeding marks from carpet moth
Carpet moth larvae leave characteristic feeding marks in the carpet [Photo: Vantage_DS/]

In order to detect a moth infestation as soon as possible and to monitor the presence of moths, pheromone traps such as our Plantura Clothes Moth Traps, have proved to be effective tools. The traps contain pheromones which are normally emitted by females to attract a mate. They are used to attract the male moths, which then get stuck to the trap. Usually, one trap per room is sufficient. Moths inhabit darker, less disturbed areas during the day, making rolled up rugs or corners under cupboards ideal spots to place the traps.

However, bear in mind that pheromone traps have no effect on female moths, so they can lay up to 250 eggs at a time. The female moths, the eggs as well as the larvae are not affected by the traps. For this reason, the traps are only meant for detecting and monitoring a moth infestation rather than as a control method.

Clothes Moth Traps 6-pack
Clothes Moth Traps 6-pack
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  • 6 odourless, long-lasting clothes moth traps
  • Ideal for detecting infestations in wardrobes & storage rooms early on
  • 100% insecticide-free & non-toxic

Carpet moth control

Unfortunately, simply removing the carpet will not help as the moths are likely to have invaded the entire room by the time you notice the infestation. Instead, you will need fast and effective control methods to get the entire room moth-free.

If you keep clothes in the effected room and you are certain they have not been infested, store them in airtight boxes for several weeks. If, however, they have been infested, read our guide on how to get rid of clothes moths in our article on moths in the wardrobe. Make sure to hoover infested rugs from both sides and throw away the hoover bag in an airtight container immediately afterwards.

If your carpet is beyond salvage, place it in an airtight container and dispose of it. However, even after the infested carpet has gone, you will most likely still have moths in the house, making further moth control essential.

carpet being vacuumed
Vacuuming several times lengthwise and crosswise helps remove larvae, eggs and moths from carpets [Photo: Ivan Krivenko/]

Tip: While you are combating moths, it is a good idea to continue using moth traps to monitor moth activity and to determine when they have been successfully eliminated.

An environmentally friendly and effective method for getting rid of carpet moths is the use of ichneumon wasps. Although it may sound strange at first to bring more insects into your home for insect control, ichneumon wasps parasitise and kill moth eggs. Also, they are completely safe as they are harmless to humans and animals.

Ichneumon wasps are tiny and, because they cannot reproduce without moth eggs, they only stay until their work is done.

Should you choose to use our Plantura Mini-Wasps against clothes moths, you will receive a total of six sets of carded dispensers at 14-day intervals. That way, you will be able to break the carpet moths’ life cycle completely. For large carpets and heavy infestations, it may be necessary to apply several cards at once to get rid of all the moths.

Mini-Wasps against Clothes Moths - Natural Moth Control
Mini-Wasps against Clothes Moths - Natural Moth Control
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  • Effective & chemical-free biological control for clothes moths
  • 1 one-time payment for 6 separate lots of mini-wasp cards delivered at 2 week intervals
  • Highest quality parasitic wasps - not harmful to humans or pets

As moths do not like extreme temperatures, try washing your rugs at a high temperature or even placing them in a sauna. You can also put them in the freezer, but make sure to leave them there for at least four weeks as moth eggs can handle cold better than heat.

Tip: Moth eggs in small cracks, for example behind skirting boards, can be killed by repeatedly blowing the area with a hair dryer.

Should all these measures fail, the only remaining options are to call an exterminator or to use chemicals. However, the active ingredients in pesticides often form pyrethroids, which are harmful to the nervous system. Natural active ingredients such as pyrethrin from chrysanthemums either lose their effect more quickly or they have been made more effective by additives, which makes them unhealthy. Make sure to air rugs after chemical treatment so that the substances, which are often a health hazard for humans and animals, can evaporate.

skirting board sealed with caulk
Seal skirting boards to prevent carpet moths from gathering on them [Photo: Andy Ginns/]

How to prevent carpet moths

There are some simple measures you can take to prevent moths from choosing your carpets as their new home. These include hoovering regularly and checking areas favoured by moths – especially dark corners under furniture. Seal cracks between the wall and floor or behind skirting boards with silicone. Set up fly screens on your windows and continue using moth traps, replacing them every three months. The traps will allow you to detect an infestation at an early stage and take appropriate control measures before the moths become a nuisance. When buying rugs, make sure they are certified as being pre-treated with insecticides.

Rolled up rugs in corners provide ideal living conditions for moths. Since they can spread all over the house from there, these pieces need special attention. Carpet moths do not like the smell of lavender or cedar wood – so soaps or scented sachets can effectively deter moths from settling in your carpet. However, moths may get used to these smells over time, which is why this method does not provide long-term deterrence.

lavender sachets ward off moths
Clothes moths avoid places that smell of lavender or cedar wood [Photo: Tero Vesalainen/]

Summary of how to prevent a carpet moth infestation:

  • Hoover regularly and check dark corners
  • Seal cracks with silicone
  • Install fly screens
  • Set up traps for monitoring infestations
  • Buy pre-treated rugs and carpets
  • Use soaps or scented sachets with lavender or cedar wood

If the moths have not only infested your carpets, but have spread further, you can find more helpful tips for combating them in our articles articles on moths in the car and moths in the closet.