How to get rid of carpet beetles — and stop these 'woolly bears' coming back

A closeup of an adult carpet beetles on an isolated white background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Learning how to get rid of carpet beetles is crucial to stopping these pesky insects from causing significant damage to your home and your belongings. 

Carpet beetles might be tiny in size, but their presence can have a big impact on your home. These common household pests are notorious for their ability to infest and feed on various organic materials, including certain types of carpet, fabrics, and even stored food.  

In this article, we'll take a look at how to identify them, the telltale signs that you have a carpet beetle infestation, and most importantly, natural methods to get rid of them and prevent their return.

How to get rid of carpet beetles: Identifying them

Close ups of an adult Carpet Beetle and Woolly Bear larvae

Woolly bear larvae (left) and an adult carpet beetle (right) (Image credit: Getty Images)

The destructive habits of these creepy crawlies extends beyond just carpets. These tiny beetles have a diverse diet that includes natural fibres, fur, feathers, leather, pet hair, and dried food products. So as you can imagine, it's not ideal to have an infestation in your home. 

Adult carpet beetles are attracted to light and can often be found around windowsills or light fixtures. They typically measure around 1/8 to 1/4 inch in length and adult varied carpet beetles have a distinctive pattern of coloured scales on their wings that resembles a mosaic. Black carpet beetles are solid black or dark brown, while furniture carpet beetles are similar in appearance to varied carpet beetles but have a more uniform colouration.

The tiny larvae of the carpet beetle are often called "woolly bears" due to their furry appearance. They are covered in brown hairs and will roll up into a ball when disturbed. 

What are the signs of a carpet beetle infestation?

Now you know how to identify the critters, let's look at how to know if you have an infestation. Catching signs of this early on is crucial to prevent widespread damage. According to the British Pest Control Association 'carpet beetles have outstripped the clothes moths as the major British textile pest'. 

Here are some telltale signs to watch out for:

1) Shed skins: As they grow, woolly bear larvae will moult and shed their skins, leaving behind tiny, shell-like remnants. Finding these in your home is usually the first sign of an infestation.

2) Tiny holes: Woolly bears tend to chew through material, so look out for small irregular holes in fabric or items of clothing.

3) Pellets: You might spot small granular pellets that resemble sand or sawdust. This is actually the larvae's excrement.

Think you might have a carpet moth infestation instead? Check out our guide on how to get rid of carpet moths.

How to get rid of carpet beetles

"The first step in getting rid of carpet beetles is to eliminate their food sources" advises Adam Juson, co-founder of Merlin Environmental. "That means thoroughly cleaning rugs, draperies, upholstered furniture and closets. Also pack woollens, silks and furs away in airtight containers". 

Once their food source has been removed, it's time to target those pests. "Heat all fabrics that may have been affected by carpet beetles at a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes or more. You can use a tumble dryer or washing machine to achieve this, on a high heat setting. This will kill all adults, eggs and larvae."

"You can also make traps using double-sided sticky tape. Place the tape along windowsills and other sunny spots. Carpet beetles enjoy basking in the sun. if they crawl across your tape they will get stuck. You can also buy carpet beetle pheromone traps. These are non-toxic sticky traps that contain the pheromones that attracts the beetles. Once lured to the trap, they will become stuck to the sticky surface."

 

Does vacuuming get rid of carpet beetles?

Vacuuming is an effective method to eliminate carpet beetles. Regular vacuuming can help remove eggs, larvae, and adult beetles from your home. Just be sure to vacuum thoroughly, paying attention to areas where infestations are suspected, and dispose of the vacuum bag afterward (or clean the canister) to prevent their return. 

"You should vacuum on high setting to suck up all eggs, larvae and adult beetles", says Adam. "Leave no crevice overlooked. Eggs are tiny and easy to miss. If possible, steam clean carpets because hot steam is an effective way to kill the pests"

Try natural remedies 

Most carpet beetle problems can be resolved without the need to call pest control or resort to toxic chemicals. Natural Remedies, such as diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled in infested areas to kill larvae. Diatomaceous Earth acts swiftly to dehydrate and eliminate larvae. However, make sure you wear a respirator or mask during the application process and opt for 'food grade' varieties to ensure the safety of both yourself and any household pets.

Cedar chips and essential oils - like lavender and eucalyptus - can also deter carpet beetles. Try lightly spritzing a blend of diluted peppermint and clove essential oils over the affected areas. Alternatively, you could try spraying a blend of equal parts apple cider vinegar and water to deter carpet beetle. 

Preventing future infestations

Once you think you've cleared your home of carpet beetles, it's important to stop them coming back again. The following methods will help keep your house pest free:

  • Seal cracks and gaps that could potentially serve as entry points for carpet beetles to enter your home.
  • Store natural fibre clothing and fabrics in sealed containers to prevent infestations.
  • Keep dried food products in airtight containers to prevent beetles from accessing them.
  • Regularly groom and clean your pets to prevent shedding hair from becoming a food source.
A headshot of Adam Juson, co-founder of Merlin Environmental
Adam Juson

Adam is Co-founder and Director of Merlin Environmental, offering commercial pest control to businesses of all types and sizes across the UK. His encyclopaedic knowledge of common household pests makes him an excellent resource for ridding your home of destructive insects and rodents.

Gabriella Dyson
Assistant Editor

Gabriella is Homebuilding & Renovating's Assistant Editor. She is a DIY enthusiast and a lover of all things interior design. She’s spent the past decade crafting copy for regional publications, award-winning architects, and leading UK homeware brands. 

She has a particular passion for historic buildings and listed properties, and she is currently in the process of renovating a Grade II-listed Victorian coach house in the West Country. At Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine, Gabriella is responsible for curating the magazine's home case studies and regularly contributes to the Homebuilding website.