What Causes Carpet Beetles?

close up of a carpet beetle
© Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock.com

Written by Heather Ross

Updated: September 30, 2022

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Taking care of your home often requires regular cleaning, but even the cleanest of homes can fall victim to certain pests. If you have carpeting throughout your home, even in just a few rooms, you might want to take a closer look. Carpet beetles are common in the United States, infesting any areas that they might be able to get food from. Next time you want to put off vacuuming, consider what may cause these beetles and avoid procrastination. Understanding what causes carpet beetles and what you can do to get rid of them can eliminate a lot of stress.

What Causes Carpet Beetles?

Carpet beetles are always looking for food for their larvae, and they’ll quickly cause an infestation in the home if they find what they need. One of the biggest food sources in the diet of these insects is dead skin on surfaces, though they will also seek out silk, wool, and hair. They are able to access these materials because of poor cleaning methods. They can also be found in stained carpets or on surfaces that animal-based products are left behind.

If you aren’t sure if you’re a victim of carpet beetles, one of the telltale signs of an infestation is holes in clothing and furniture. Though they aren’t the only reason that holes may show up in these fabrics, it’s hard to ignore. Before you decide what to do, you need to identify exactly what you’re dealing with.

Carpet beetles are highly destructive to fabrics and furniture.

©Levente Nuber/Shutterstock.com


Proper identification of any insect is a necessity in locating and eliminating them for good. The carpet beetle is a six-legged creature that has two antennae but basing identification on these two facts wouldn’t narrow down the insect by much.

There are a few different types of carpet beetles, which include:

Understanding the facts about the types of bugs are in your home will help you to get rid of them quickly. The oval-shaped insect is typically rounded and hard, hiding wings under its shell. The main colors of the shell are black with a yellowish-orange hue, decorating their shell in a crisscross pattern. However, they can range in colors greatly, sometimes featuring white, brown, or orange scales. They are small in size, measuring 1/8 to 3/16 inches long.

The larvae of the carpet beetle are much different. With long hair-like extensions on both ends of their body, the larvae look like fuzzy worms. They have bands across their body, though the only colors they typically have are lighter and darker shades of brown. The size of larvae is even smaller at just four to five mm. Their small size can make them more difficult to see, but they are crucial to eliminate.

Where Are They Found?

The easiest way to find carpet beetles in your home is to look for areas outside of the sunlight with fibers. As demonstrated by their name, carpets are the easiest and most common habitats for the beetles, though they will look for other areas as well.

Primarily, these pests are attracted to areas that are unclean because it is easy to find dead skin, animal products, and other particles there. Cleaning is an easy way to disrupt the habitat because they will have to find somewhere else to go. Create a home that is a poor habitat for carpet beetles to keep them away forever. If they find your home to be a perfect place to stay, they can lay up to 100 eggs and once, wreaking havoc on the fabrics and carpeting around your home.

The Damage They Cause

The diet of a carpet beetle is highly destructive. They tend to go after animal and plant materials as the main sources of nutrients in their diet, which can include dander, silk, wool, and feathers. While it may not seem like these sources cause any damage in the home, they tend to be found on surfaces that regularly collect them. Without cleaning up frequently, you essentially make your home a buffet for their preferred diet, ensuring that they will leave holes in your clothing, furniture, carpets, and other surfaces. Allowing an infestation to fester can cost you thousands of dollars in replacing your belongings.

One way to deter carpet beetles from your clothes is to allow sunlight into your closet.


Prevention Methods

The best way to deal with carpet beetles is to handle the situation before it ever becomes a problem. Knowing the facts about what can deter them is the easiest prevention method around, starting with your storage space. If you have linens or clothing, keep them out of the reach of these bugs. Store them in plastic containers or bags, keeping them away. You might even consider adding some cedar or mothballs as a further deterrent.

If your closet is usually dark, carpet beetles might use that as an invitation. Letting a little light in the closet or drawers is a great method of naturally preventing them from taking over your clothing because they hate the light.
If you’re looking for a home to rent or buy, avoid homes with natural fibers in the carpet. In fact, avoid natural fibers entirely, including in furniture and the rugs that you buy. If you choose to have these types of fibers, the only prevention is to clean them regularly and aggressively if you’ve seen signs of possible carpet beetles in the past.

Every home has a proclivity for certain pests, and addressing other possible infestations can help. Spray your home regularly for common pests or hire an extermination service to keep them away. Without other bugs making a home in your house, carpet beetles are less likely to do so as well. These prevention methods also work for you if you’ve recently eliminated an infestation.

Dealing with an Infestation

Let’s say you’re already dealing with an infestation. You’ve followed the identification tips, you’ve looked for signs of infestation, and you’ve tried prevention methods — what’s next? First and foremost, vacuum any areas that the adults and larvae have been seen to get rid of obvious beetles. After vacuuming, get a little more aggressive in your cleaning by steam-cleaning the areas you just vacuumed. Consider naturally treating with boric acid as well, sprinkling it on carpets and furniture to kill off any remaining beetles. Vacuum the dust after leaving it to dry for two hours.

Once you’ve handled the common areas, load up your washing machine with pillows and clothing, washing them with hot water to drown and kill the insects. Unfortunately, some infestations leave you with little to preserve. In those cases, it’s best to just toss the infested clothing by putting them in sealed plastic bags in the trash instead of looking for treatment methods.

Even though hard surfaces aren’t likely to be infested, they can still attract beetles looking for a food source. Use vinegar as a safe treatment to spray and wipe down surfaces that might have food residue to attract them. Indoor insecticide can also help. If you’ve tried all of these methods to naturally deal with the carpet beetles, it may be time to call an exterminator for more aggressive treatment.

The good news about exterminators is that they can utilize various forms of remediation and take the burden off your shoulders. You want to make sure you call the right company, though! You should not put your trust in a fly-by-night company or a team that doesn’t have many references. This is your home that we are talking about after all!

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It’s good to know what causes carpet beetles in order to deal with them swiftly and affectively.

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About the Author

Heather Ross is a secondary English teacher and mother of 2 humans, 2 tuxedo cats, and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading papers, she enjoys reading and writing about all the animals!

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