If you suspect you have carpet beetles living in your home, you’re likely trying to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to keep carpet beetles away for good.
Adult carpet beetles will often follow the scents of animal products into the home to seek food sources for their larvae. You can confuse a carpet beetle’s sense of smell and repel them with clove oil, neem oil, vinegar, peppermint oil, cedar oil, lavender oil, citronella, and eucalyptus oils.
If this is a chapter of your life that you’re wishing you could skip, but unfortunately need to face it head-on, read on to learn some naturally effective defenses to use in your home against this world-renowned pest, the carpet beetle!
Why Keep Carpet Beetles Away?
I don’t know about you, but I treasure my wool garments, wool rugs, natural fabrics, and upholstered furniture! In the larval stage, carpet beetles will leave their mark on any of these items. They will feed on their natural fibers and leave behind unwanted holes.
Gone unchecked, an infestation could likely spread over your entire house, assuming you have natural materials in your home for them to feed on.
The larva will consume other things like dead insect exoskeletons, pet hair, and anything with the fibrous animal protein keratin in it. This applies to mounted animal specimens and even felts and hammers in a piano!
The most likely signs you have an infestation, (other than seeing their damage in fabrics) will most likely happen in the springtime.
If you notice small adult beetles in your window sills, it could be a sign there are larvae in the house who have just completed a life cycle. Be careful, because these adults are now ready to lay eggs and start the next larval phase of destruction!
Cedar Repels Carpet Beetle Larvae
Plants have always played an important role in every ecosystem, even as bio-insecticides. Many plants have naturally occurring insecticidal properties that also protect them in the ecosystem from an insect attack.
A great example of this is the evergreen cedar tree. Numerous indigenous cultures, such as the Kwakwaka’wakw, refer to this tree as the “Tree of Life”, as it has a history of providing housing, transportation, tools, and even clothes.
A common practice for many people over the generations has been to store woolen clothes and blankets inside of a cedar chest, and for good reason! With cedar’s strong insecticidal properties, it naturally protects fabrics against an insect infestation and smells so much more pleasant than mothballs.
The problem here is, cedar can lose its effectiveness and potency. Over time, the fumigant properties of the essential oils found in the wood deteriorate. If the chest box remains tightly sealed, and the garments inside are dry cleaned regularly, then the chance of an infestation is low.
Carpet beetle larvae will often find their way into your chest through unlaundered materials, hiding under collars, in seams, and other folds in the fabrics.
If you’re concerned carpet beetles are in your bedroom, read our post: Is That A Carpet Beetle In My Bed?
You’re more likely to notice evidence of their handy work, as they leave small holes and their shed skins as they eat and grow.
One way to keep the cedar chest functioning as one of nature’s finest insect repellents is to add fresh cedar to the inside of the chest every few years. Simply layer some fresh Cedar Space Cedar Blocks into the chest and fabrics to keep the space repulsive to unwanted insects. You can use these for years to come because as soon as the scent fades, you just have to sand the block to return that beautiful fragrance!
Another great option if you love using essential oils is to use Cedarwood essential oil, and make a spray. The benefit of using a spray is it can freshen a room, and effectively cover whole garments in a specific scent. Consider making your own spray by mixing with water and cedar essential oil!
Here is a Cedarwood Himalayan Essential Oil made with Siberian Cedar and claims a little goes a long way. Use it to freshen the cedar blocks, spray in a closet, or any other creative way suited to your needs!
Carpet Beetles Hate The Scent Of Cloves
Clove oil proved 100% effective in studies as the strongest repellent against carpet beetle larvae, as noted in a research article published in the Journal of Innovations in Pharmaceutical and Biological Sciences (JIPBS). This study suggests clove essential oil may act as a fumigant, insecticide repellent, and antifeedant that may also affect reproduction, life span, and growth rate of the carpet beetle.
Now while the study above used specific clove oil concentrations, we’re going to discuss plain ol’ clove and clove oil below not using concentrations found in the study. This may decrease the effectiveness just a bit, but it still SHOULD be effective.
So, with findings like those listed above, it is worth learning more about how to use clove essential oil in any eradication or prevention strategy!
At the grocery store, you can purchase ground clove powder or whole cloves for baking needs. I’d recommend using whole cloves or clove essential oil for this strategy.
Now may be a good time to call up a friend or family member who sews and ask if they’d like to sew you some little satchels to put your whole cloves in. I’ve often seen these satchels used to add scents to their wardrobe, such as with lavender flowers, but we are going to fill ours with whole cloves!
Use this satchel technique for making whole clove satchels to hang in the closet with your favorite wool coat. You can also place them in a sweater garment bag, or add them to your wool blanket storage. Really, anywhere else you need to protect from an infestation can benefit from a clove satchel.
The benefit of using clove essential oil to repel carpet beetles is its extreme potency as a fumigant and its antifeedant properties. A clove essential oil spray should be a very effective tool to deter larvae from feeding on personal items, as shown by its efficacy in research.
The Eclectic Lady Store on Amazon offers a Clove Essential Oil Linen Spray designed specifically for use on fabrics. We’re not saying this is designed to repel carpet beetles in the slightest, but use this anywhere in the house where repellent is needed. The scent of this product is delicate, so adding a few extra drops of clove essential oil might be worth considering if you’re in battle.
Remember, the action of a “repellent” is an important mechanism for controlling carpet beetle behavior, as it will deter them away from their food source. Keep in mind, since carpet beetle larvae have such a diverse diet, they will only move onto the next food source as they move away from the repellent.
Your attention to your home’s cleanliness is especially important during this repellant phase! Vacuum often, and be sure to clean baseboards, carpet tassels, corners, furniture, etc. thoroughly as these carpet beetles will be on the move to find their next meal.
Peppermint Keeps Carpet Beetles Away
Peppermint has become a popular plant and essential oil to recommend here for pests of all kinds. Luckily, it keeps carpet beetles away too! Its wildlife repellent qualities seem to be matched only by clove and cinnamon for keeping unwanted pests out of our homes.
Peppermint essential oil is a well-known natural insect repellent. Carpet beetles are destructive insects and adults will enter your home through any crack and crevasse to lay their eggs in, especially if there is anything dead in the crack their larvae can feed on.
Carpet beetles live naturally outside, but will only lay their eggs near a food source. They could survive in a bird’s nest, a dead animal, sheep’s wool, or insect casings that might be in your chimney and walls, to name a few.
Consider using peppermint oil’s natural insect repellent to keep these carpet beetles out of your home, and off of your home’s textiles and décor.
There are several ways to use peppermint around your home to prevent carpet beetles from making havoc in your life.
- Spray peppermint oil. Make a spray of vinegar and peppermint oil to spritz on affected areas, or in strategic locations carpet beetles may enter as a repellent, such as on your clothes, carpets, and curtains.
- Use peppermint oil cotton balls. Drop peppermint essential oil onto cotton balls and place in cracks, woolen shirt pockets, a blanket chest, or in a small satchel that is reusable.
- Plant peppermint! Grow peppermint in a pot and keep it by the entryways or the foundation of your home where carpet beetles can enter.
Just to note, plants themselves will NEVER be as strong as their essential oil concentrates. Those will always be more effective deterrents.
Citronella, Lavender, and Eucalyptus Essential Oils Repel Carpet Beetles
Homeowners aren’t the only people battling the ravaging appetite of carpet beetles. The textile industry also has a vested interest in protecting its investment!
In a study published in the Journal of Textiles, experiments tested the effectiveness of 3 essential oils (Lavender, Eucalyptus, and Citronella) on woolen fabric. Given the option between treated vs. untreated fabric, the carpet beetle larvae were most repelled by citronella and lavender treated fabric, leaving the Eucalyptus treated fabric the most affected.
Citronella essential oil proved to be the most effective essential oil to repel the carpet beetle larvae in this study. With its pungent odor and fumigant properties, it is a scent that carpet beetles avoid, leaving fabrics intact.
This leaves me pondering if certain essential oils are enough of a repellent to keep adult carpet beetles from wanting to explore inside our houses. For example, what if we were to use the essential oils (safely) in a diffuser regularly?
Think about it, during the spring and summer are when the adults are most likely going to try coming inside to lay their eggs. So what if our houses were so pleasant with smells of peppermints, lavenders, and cloves they become disgusted enough to just stay out!
Here is a great ‘whole house’ ultrasonic diffuser, the Essential Oil Diffuser Aromatherapy Humidifier, for use with essential oils. This one is great because it holds so much water, works up to 12 hours, and looks nice sitting on a shelf.
Neem Oil Is Repulsive To Carpet Beetles
Neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide found in the seeds of the neem tree. It has been used for hundreds of years to control pests and diseases.
The National Pesticide Information Center states that azadirachtin is the most active component extracted from neem oil that is used for repelling and sometimes killing pests. It works by interfering with insect hormone systems. Other components of neem oil hinder insects’ ability to feed.
This product comes in a few different forms, and most of them are going to have a very unpleasant smell. Neem is a very common, natural insecticide to use outside in the garden to protect plants, more than inside the house. The Bonide Ready to Use Neem Oil is a perfect, and very convenient to use, example of such an insecticide.
Research has found neem to be 50% less effective than clove oil when used as a repellent, but still provided results indicating carpet beetle’s repulsion to neem oil.
White And Apple Cider Vinegar Repel Carpet Beetles
Carpet Beetles hate the scent of vinegar. White vinegar and apple cider vinegar are especially effective when mixed and used for cleaning areas where you have found carpet beetle larvae.
Personally, I would use white distilled vinegar over apple cider vinegar as in some cases, apple cider vinegar may smell sweet and attract other pests and insects besides carpet beetles.
White vinegar is not only repulsive to carpet beetles, its acidity is also effective at eliminating eggs that may remain in an affected area. This could include under a rug or in a chest. Use caution if using on a hardwood floor, however, as it might dissolve the protective finish.
When cleaning with vinegar, simply mix equal parts vinegar and water and spray. Make sure to check your products specifications for clear cut details.
What If Carpet Beetles Are Already In My Home?
Where do you begin when you have discovered evidence of these unwanted critters in your home?! Here are some guidelines to get you started:
- Eliminate the source. This may require you to toss out badly infested items. Clean, vacuum thoroughly and treat with scents provided in this article.
- Protect fabrics from further damage. Take what you can to the dry cleaner, put in a freezer, steam clean (if the fabric allows), and thoroughly wash fabrics in hot water. This includes curtains, rugs, garments, upholstered furniture, and other textiles.
- Practice good storage. Place clean storage items in airtight plastic bags, plastic totes, or tightly sealed cedar chests. Seal any holes or cracks.
- Place game trophies in a freezer for 10-14 days. You should be clean and inspect these regularly, but take extra care if you have an infestation. Air them out annually in the sun, and brush them thoroughly (my suggestion here would be to do this in the cold winter months!) Launder and dry clean these items as possible before returning them to storage.
- Call a professional. If the problem seems bigger than what you can handle on your own, call a professional to come in and help you with the infestation.
If you may have a different kind of beetle in your home, such as Japanese beetles, check out our piece here on scents that Japanese beetles hate!
Wrapping Things Up!
So, now you know what to do when carpet beetles decide to make your home theirs. With some items you may already have in your cabinets, you can reclaim your space and be free of these pests.
If you have tried it all and they continue to be a problem, check out our nationwide pest control finder to get connected with an exterminator near you in seconds. Thanks, bunches!
Repellent activity of Nigella sativa, Syzygium aromaticum and Azadirachta indica essential oils against the skin and skin product pest (Anthrenus verbasci) in Museums Fatma Faheem*, Abduraheem K Department of Museology, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, 202002, UP-India. Journal of Innovations in Pharmaceutical and
Biological Sciences (JIPBS) ISSN: 2349-2759 Available online at www.jipbs.com
Back, Ernest Adna. Carpet beetles and their control. No. 1346. US Government Printing Office, 1923.
Hindawi Publishing Corporation Journal of Textiles Volume 2014, Article ID 673619, 10 pages http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/673619
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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